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Input, Output, and Communication

hispanic-children.jpgCultural Aspects

I teach a self-contained ELL Kindergarten class. All of my students are Hispanic. They all come from a Spanish speaking home and most of their parents speak very little English. Some speak absolutely no English. One of the biggest challenges I face with my students is with sentence structure. In the Spanish language, the noun comes before the adjective, where as in English, the adjective comes first. For example, one of my little girls has a favorite red dress. The way she describes it to me is, “I have a dress red”. Another challenge is teaching my students to make the correct vowel sounds in English, while in Spanish, the sounds made by vowels is very different. Many of my students will spell the word, me, as “mi” when writing. They are spelling it the way it sounds in Spanish. It is very important to be aware of your students’ cultural language when teaching ELLs.

writing_pencil.gifTips for teachers:

ü Make a point of knowing your students’ background language information.

ü Invite parents in for a “Show and Tell” day to highlight different cultures in your class.

ü Try to find books that highlight the different cultures present in your class.

Here is a link with activities for promoting cultural diversity in the classroom:



Input is language that students read or hear that is slightly above their level of language development. Second language learners need comprehensible input to learn a second language. They need to hear, see, and experience the language in order to be able to reproduce the language. Comprehensible input needs to happen on a daily basis with ELL students. Teachers need to be aware of the proficiency levels of their students, and give them input that is understood and can be used at their levels.

writing_pencil.gifTips for teachers:

ü Know your students’ language proficiency levels in order to give them accurate input that they can use.

ü Use real life objects as a basis for discussions.

ü Use various games/songs/manipulatives to keep students motivated.

Here is a link for ways to give your students comprehensible input.


Output is the language that students produce. ELL students need to use language at their level in order for more language learning to take place. Students should feel safe to use their language without fear of ridicule or consequences. Cooperative learning groups are a great way for ELL students to get the input they need to produce comprehensible output.

writing_pencil.gifTips for teachers:
ü Create ways for your students to interact with each other.

ü Give your students “Talking Partners” so they can use their newly acquired language.

ü Create a classroom environment that promotes risk taking and encouragement of others. Students need to feel safe to make a mistake.

Here is a link for ways to help your students with comprehensible output.

interaction.pngThe Role of Interaction

Interaction plays an important role in SLA. Students need interaction with others to learn grammar rules, sentence structure, and to continue developing in the target language. When students interact, they are not only hearing language from others, but they are also using and negotiating language. They are receiving feedback about their language use at the same time as they are practicing language.

writing_pencil.gifTips for teachers:

ü Give your students many opportunities during the day to interact with others.

ü Plan interactions so they are meaningful.

ü Use various means for students to interact with each other: songs, games, center activities, and work stations.

Here is a link with ideas for cooperative learning strategies.



In order for comprehension to take place in second language learning, input and output must occur. Students need to receive input that they can process and understand so they can create meaningful output. These processes must happen within the framework of interaction with students in the target language. ELL students must hear language, process what was heard, and be able to use that language with peers. Only then will comprehension take place.

writing_pencil.gifTips for teachers:

ü When grouping students for cooperative work, make sure there are students with different language levels within the group.

ü Model the way you want the groups to work.

ü Vary the groups of students often.

Here is a link for ways to help your students with achieving comprehension through cooperative learning activities.


help.jpgIf you need further assistance, please contact me at


or at 615-847-7317, ext, 100