English language learners' second language development via the Natural Approach

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Elementary




English Language Learners (ELLs) learning English as a new language face many challenges and frustrations as they seek to make sense of their new academic environment (Brisk & Harrington, 2000; Snow, 1998). The use of the Natural Approach (NA) as a teaching strategy to develop oral language proficiency has been extensively researched and recommended by the national Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL, 1999). ^ This ethnographic study examined the oral language experiences of students in the L2 classroom via the Natural Approach proposed by Krashen and Terrell (1983/2000). The researcher audio-video taped a series of seven NA lessons conducted with a group of first grade Hispanic ELLs. Data generated by each NA lesson were transcribed and analyzed in terms of the factors of the NA. ^ The analyses process resulted in the following conclusions. NA lessons should be based upon specific language and content standards. Teachers and students must have high expectations of themselves and each other. The usage of the NA provides comprehensible input for ELLs' language and content development. The usage of appropriate materials is crucial for the development and the understanding of language and content. Scaffolding plays a key factor in the development of language because it uses the ELLs' past experiences to make connections and learn new language. The teacher's role is that of a facilitator who guides ELLs through the process of learning. ELLs must be provided with opportunities throughout the lesson to use their L2 naturally. A low affective filter environment where the ELL is nurtured is one conducive to language learning. ELLs should not be rushed in learning the L2, they need time to internalize and make meaning of their L2 before they can produce it. A student should not be prodded to rush through their silent period. The distance between the Early Emergence stage and the Intermediate Fluency stage is crucial; it is the “ABSORPTION PERIOD” in which ELLs absorb the rules and complex structures of the language. ^