Language Acquisition Theories And Literacy English Language Essay

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This paper will give you an overview of the stages in second language acquisition theories. There are two theories that will be looked at; one has four stages in language acquisition and the other have five stages. This paper will also explain the elements that balanced literacy consists of. Along with getting an overview of the stages of language acquisition and balanced literacy, this paper will explain how balanced literacy can aid in English acquisition of an English Language Learner (ELL) no matter what stage the student is in. Learning about phonetics, morphemes, and syntax in the English language will be covered in this paper as well.


Developing English language acquisition can be a struggle for many teachers. When teachers follow the balanced literacy model for teaching English Language Arts, teacher can use differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students no matter what stage in the English Language acquisition the child is in. Although there are several different theories as to how many stages are in language acquisition, most theories agree with the first four stages and their development.

There are several different theories involving the stages of language acquisition. There is a debate between how many stages are in language acquisition. In comparing the two language acquisition stage theories, the first stage in both theories is Pre-production. In this stage, English Language Learners (ELL) is in a silent period. They know about 500 English words. Often times the ELL students will mimic what the teacher and others are saying. ELL students will be able to answer to illustrations and other objects they see. This object can last six to eight months (Jimenez, E., 2009). One strategy in building English in this stage is to have students have a buddy or partner they can talk with. This way they can feel secure knowing they are speaking and communicating with the same person. Feeling comfortable with the ELL student's partner will help the ELL student become confident enough to speak (Haynes, J., 1998). Besides having the ELL student and partner speaking and making conversations, having them read together or buddy read is another way to build the English vocabulary.

The second stage is called the Early Production stage. Children can be in this stage about six months. In the Pre-production stage, ELL could understand 500 words. In the Early Production stage, they understand 1,000 words. They are beginning to speak short phrases and can answer yes/no questions (Jimenez, E., 2009). As in the Pre-production stage, ELL students need to have a buddy or partner to work with. They can be making conversations and reading together. At this stage, writing together could be done too (Haynes, J., 1998).

The third stage of ELL language acquisition is called Speech Emergence. In this stage, children can say basic sentences and answer questions verbally using short


responses. They are even asking their own questions. They are now having conversations with other children in the class. Children can be in this stage for up to one year. They

have now tripled their English vocabulary from the Early Production stage and can now speak 3,000 words (Jimenez, E., 2009). When being read a picture story, they now understand and comprehend it. As in the Pre-production and Early Production stages, having ELL students that are in the Speech Emergent stage working with other students in the class to make conversations, read together and even share stories they have written together will help build English fluency (Haynes, J., 1998).

The fourth stage is Intermediate Language Proficiency stage. In this stage, ELL children can express how their feeling, give their opinions, and say detailed sentences. At this stage, they now have a vocabulary of 6,000 words. ELL children can be in this stage for one or more years (Jimenez, E., 2009). In the fourth stage, students can now begin to work on grammatical structure in sentences. They will be able to identify subjects and predicates of sentences. They will also be able to use correct capitalization and ending punctuation along with starting to recognize word order of English sentences (Haynes, J., 1998).

Some theories say the fourth stage is the final stage where as other theories have a fifth stage called the Advanced Fluency stage. ELL children can be this stage for four to ten years. At the beginning of the stage, ELL students might need help understanding their assigned work. Working with them in small reading and writing groups will help build comprehension and understanding of what they are reading. Once they are further in the stage, they will be able to perform at grade level (Haynes, J., 1998).

Balanced literacy is a program that helps ELL students learn to read and write in English. Balanced literacy consists of guided reading, shared reading, read aloud, writer's workshop, independent reading work, and working with words (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006). All of these areas have a different way of focusing on helping ELL students acquire English which will help them become more successful in Language Arts. Incorporating all of these avenues of balanced literacy will give ELL children he experience of listening and comprehending as well as hands on reading and writing.


Having the students listening and doing hands on work independently will help build comprehension. It also exposes them to hearing and seeing English text which will help build their vocabulary.

Guided reading is when a teacher works with a small group of students, usually around six, which need the same reading skills. Guided reading focuses on reading skills and comprehension of the story. The small group works out of the same reading text that is at their instructional level. These groups can be working on letter sounds, or are reading the book on their own or with a partner. The teacher works to help build comprehension as well as reading strategies (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006). Guided reading will work for ELL students. The students in the group need to be working on the same instructional level. If one ELL student is reading at a third grade level, you would not want them in the same guided reading group as a student that is reading at a first grade level. The text selected for the guided reading group is at their independent reading level. If students are at different reading levels, the text would be too easy for one student or too hard for another. If the text is too easy, the students aren't going to gain as many skills as they need to. If the text is too hard, the students can't work at an independent reading level and will become frustrated.

With shared reading, the students and teacher can see the text. Usually, the text is large so it can be easily read by all students. In shared reading, children read along with the teacher (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006). This helps build confidence with those ELL students that are in the Early Production and Speech Emergence stages of language acquisition. It is also great for ELL students in the Pre-production stage because they are hearing modeled reading along with seeing English words and pictures. This will help all ELL students learn new vocabulary. Shared reading also shows or models how good readers read. This gives examples of how students should be reading.

Read aloud is where the teacher reads text to the student. This can be anything from a book, newspaper, or poem. This is modeling how to read and would be great for students in the early stages of language acquisition. Teachers can also do interactive read aloud. This is where the students are involved in making predictions about the story, making text-to-self connections and building on comprehension of what is being read to


them. Going over the main idea of the story, cause and effect, and inferences are all skills that can be modeled during read aloud (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006). No matter what stage the ELL child is in, it is always great from children to hear good readers reading. A teacher can also choose text that is above the student's level where more difficult words can be discussed which will help build vocabulary. This is also great for using poems and reading with fluency.

In writer's workshop, students spend time daily writing. There are whole group lessons where the teacher teaches about writing skills. There are also small group mini-lessons where the teacher can work with groups on skills they need. The teacher will meet with students one-on-one, targeting the individual writing needs of each student. This is where the teacher can point out word order and structure of sentences building acquisition of English for ELL learners. Teachers can also target grammatical skills and punctuation and capitalization of sentences. When the students finish their stories, the students get to share their writing with the class (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006). This will help students hear other students writing, modeling for ELL children good student writing. Writer's workshop is great for all stages in English language acquisition. For those students in the Pre-production stage, students can draw pictures to tell a story. For students in the Early Production stage, they can draw a picture and label it. For the other stages of language acquisition, students can write at their ability level. Writer's workshop is conducive to all ELL students, giving them the ability to work at their own writing ability level.

Independent reading is another part of balanced literacy. During independent reading, students choose books of their choice to read. The goal is for students to choose books they can read independently with 95% to 100% accuracy (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006). Independent reading allows students to use the skills they have learned in guided reading, shared reading, read aloud, and working with words. This is a great way for children to become better readers. Independent reading also builds confidence in children with their reading. Independent reading is great for all stages in English language acquisition.


In working with words, students work with letters, sounds, and words based on their ability level. Working with words is yet another great component of balanced literacy. It is great for all stages of English language acquisition. A teacher can adjust the curriculum to meet the needs of all ELL students. If the student is in the Pre-production stage, the students can work with letters and sounds of the English alphabet. If students are in the Early Production and Emergent stages, students can work on patterns, beginning letter sounds, ending letter sounds, and chunking words. If the students are in the later stages of English language acquisition, working on higher level word skills, like prefixes, suffixes, and root words can be what is done in the word study group (Chen, L. & Mora-Flores, E., 2006).

Another component of ELL acquiring language is the ELL knowing the sounds the letters and groups of letters make. The sounds the English letters make is called phonetics (Jimenez, E., 2009). During word study and guided reading, teachers work with students on alphabet sounds. When doing shared reading and read aloud, teachers are modeling how the sounds come together to make words. The students are then seeing the words in print and that the words make sentences. When students are working on phonetics, they are usually in the Pre-production and Early production stages of language acquisition.

Morphemes are sounds that mean something. They are chunks of words or base words, prefixes and suffixes. The base words have a meaning and when you add a prefix or suffix the meaning changes. This is because prefixes and suffixes have definitions (Jimenez, E., 2009). When using the component of word study from the balanced literacy method, you are teaching ELL students the definitions of words. In word study, working with words once children know sounds and letters, the teacher can introduce base words, prefixes, and suffixes. The teacher can point out words that have these components. When working on morphemes, ELL students can see words that sound similar to words in their native language. Children would usually be in one of the later stages of language acquisition to understand morphemes.

Another avenue to work on with ELL students is syntax. Syntax is the order the words are in a sentence. An example is in the English language the adjective comes


before the noun (Jimenez, E., 2009). This is something that is learned in the later stages of English language acquisition. All areas of balanced literacy provide focus on syntax. In guided practice, the strategy that can be worked with the group is word order. When doing shared readings and read aloud, the teacher is modeling word order by reading the text. Writer's workshop has students working on writing sentences. If the student is having a hard time with word order, in small group writing mini-lessons and when meeting with the student individually, the teacher can focus on this skill.

When using all of the elements of the balanced literacy model, the teacher is incorporating teaching the strategies of phonetics, morphemes, and syntax. When using guided reading, shared reading, word studies, read aloud, independent reading, and writers workshop, teachers can select what English skills need taught. They can work in small groups can meet the needs of all ELL students no matter what stage in language acquisition the student is in. Using all of the components of balanced literacy and using differentiated instruction will meet the needs of all ELL children. This will give greater success in students attaining their secondary language. After reading this paper, one can see how the balanced literacy model meets the needs of all ELL students no matter what stage of English language acquisition the child is in.