1.2 Theory: We all acquire language the same way: by
understanding messages, or comprehensible input. We
understand and learn from the message we receive.
Whatever helps get the message across (pictures,
knowledge of the world) helps build language.
Important corollary: simply talking is not practicing if
there is no understanding of the message
1.3 Application: Teachers need to stress the message behind their words, instead of repeating
phrases, talking louder, or simply talking a lot in English to the student. Teachers can use
gestures, pictures, and cultural knowledge (like movies) to get their message and point across.
Teachers should not assume that students are understanding if they are repeating back the
2 BICS vs. CALP
2.1 Jim Cummins
2.2 Theory: Three parts to the English Language: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
(Conversational), Discrete Language Skills (the rule-governed aspects of language, like
grammar) and Cognitive Academic Skills (text-based or school/content language). Students
pick up these skills at different times: BICS comes first, then fluent CALP five years into
schooling. Students may seem proficient in English but lack CALP.
2.3 Application: Do not assume that students who are proficient in conversational English
understand academic/content language. This distinction is especially important knowledge
for assessment in writing/reading. Teachers need to implement the discrete skills of
grammar and vocabulary into academic language learning - not make them separate. To
do that, students should be reading academic texts and begin writing earlier rather than
3 Universal Grammar
3.1 Noah Chomsky
3.2 Theory: All human language has the same basic building blocks. Each
language has interactions between nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The only
difference is the applications/flourishes in each language.
3.3 Application: Teachers should emphasize the similarities in the grammatical structures of language
to aid ELLs. They should also point out cognates and similar functions of words to aid students
who are learning English as well as native speakers in understanding their peers' language.
4.1 B.F. Skinner
4.2 Theory: Any behavior can be learned through a pattern of stimulus, response, and positive/negative reinforcement. The goal is for
the behavior to be performed spontaneously, without reinforcement. Since language is a behavior, it can be learned through S-R-R.
4.3 Application: Teachers should reward students for speaking correct English. Rewards would be given for words, then sentences, and so on as students gain knowledge in
English. A drawback to this theory is that a teacher does not know if students are understanding English, or just mimicking the sounds around them.
5 Adaptive Control of Thought
5.1 R.C. Anderson
5.2 Theory: Intelligence is gathering together and fine-tuning many small parts of knowledge into complex thinking. In language, there are two different types of knowledge: declarative (facts - made through images
and schemas, or thought organizational patterns) and procedural (knowledge of how to do something). Declarative knowledge is gained rapidly, and procedural knowledge is built slowly. Learning happens when
declarative knowledge becomes procedure, through practice.
5.3 Application: Teachers need to teach students the facts of language like grammar rules and vocab but also have students practice using those words in correct phrasing and contexts. Teachers need to model how to write and speak the
language, while building students' knowledge of vocabulary and grammar rules. Both the vocab as well as the way in which students express themselves is important for students to learn.
6 Social Interaction
6.2 Theory: The social context and linguistic environment around the student affects how students acquire the
language. Conversational interactions are especially important to students learning the language.
6.3 Application: Teachers should allow students ample time to talk with other students in social as well as
academic contexts. By interacting with their peers, students can practice the language and learn from others
instead of simply learning from the teacher.