The most important advice for mainstream teachers

This page summarises the most essential advice for mainstream teachers with ESL students in their classes.


There is a great deal of information for mainstream teachers in this section of the website. In my opinion, however, the essential advice can be summarized in just three words:

* Make it comprehensible. *

Comprehensible input

The term comprehensible input was first used more than 20 years ago by Professor Stephen Krashen, a researcher into language acquisition. He postulated that a sufficient condition of learning a language is to receive input that is appropriate to the current level of language competence.

In the case of a young child learning its own language, this will be predominantly spoken input from parents and siblings. In the case of second language learners, this input can come from a variety of sources and can be both spoken and written.

By appropriate to the current level of language competence Krashen means that the input should be pitched so that it slightly stretches the learner - being neither too easy nor too difficult. Krashen calls this level i + 1.

If the mainstream teacher can shape the input that each of the ESL learners receive at this i + 1 level, then she is creating the most favourable conditions for her students, not only to learn English but also to learn the subject content as well.

@ Ways to shape the input include modulation of the written and spoken language to which students are exposed, appropriate classroom organization and careful choice of activities and tasks. ~ Furthermore, it is also important that the cognitive challenge of the activities is also at i + 1 level - or in what Vygotsky called the zone of proximal development.

Krashen also stresses the need for the tasks to be interesting and relevant as well as simply comprehensible. And that ESL students should experience neither anxiety nor stress during lessons.

- Read more about Krashen's second language acquisition hypotheses.


Much of the advice elsewhere on this teachers' site is focused on what the mainstream teacher should know and do in order to achieve this goal of task comprehensibility, interest and relevance.

Of particular importance are the following pages:

Final thought

Finally, another thought which I believe is crucial in ensuring that ESL students can derive the maximum benefit from each class they attend:

* All teachers are language teachers. *


Krashen, S. & Terrell, T. (1983) The Natural Approach - Language Acquisition in the Classroom Oxford: Pergammon

Vygotsky, L. (1962) Thought and Language Cambridge: MIT Press