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Reading List: General Issues in Second Language Development & Instruction

In this section we provide a series of publications that address general issues in second language development, including background on learning language, definitions and terms, and scaffolding instruction for English learners.


Background on Learning Language


**Center for Applied Linguistics. (2000). What Elementary Teachers Need to Know about Language. Available at


Based on Fillmore Wong, L. & C. Snow. (2000). What Teachers Need to Know about Language. Center for Applied Linguistics. Available at


This digest summarizes a paper by Lily Wong Fillmore and Catherine Snow entitled, “What Teachers Need to Know about Language.” This paper reviews some of the basic aspects of oral and written language that elementary teachers and other educators need to understand in order to promote literacy for English Learners.


Hakuta, K., Y. Goto Butler, & D. Witt. (2000). How Long Does it Take English Learners to Attain Proficiency? Policy Paper for The University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute. Available at


This paper synthesizes findings that address the issue of how long language minority students need special services to attain oral and academic English proficiency. The study reports on data from four school districts, including two in the San Francisco Bay Area. The author’s conclude that even in two California districts that are considered the most successful in teaching English to ELs, oral proficiency can take3 to 5 years, and academic English proficiency can take 4 to 7 years. The analysis also finds a continuing and widening gap between EL students and native English speakers.


Definitions and Terms


Linquanti, R. (1999). Fostering Academic Success for English Language Learners: What Do We Know? WestEd. Available at


This WestEd document provides a glossary of some of the most commonly used terms in EL instruction. The author reviews three categories of English language-related terminology: the types of students defined by language background and English language proficiency; instructional methods; and program models. He then outlines the various program models, including characteristics, when it is most appropriate to use the model, and elements of successful implementation of the model; and additional table reviews specific advantages and concerns associated with each of the program models.


Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners


**Gibbons, P. (2002). Classroom Talk: Creating Contexts for Language Learning in Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Available for purchase at


This chapter explores the importance of talk in the classroom context since spoken forms of language are essential for ELs as a bridge to more academic language associated with learning in school, and with the development of literacy. Gibbons discusses how children engaged in collaborative group work learn language and learn through language, as well as how teachers can provide opportunities for language development and learning. Please focus on pages 14-28 and 34-38 of this chapter.


WestEd. (2004). R&D Alert: A Framework for Teaching English Learners. Vol. 6, No. 3. Available at


This brief summarizes a conceptual framework based on Aida Walqui’s “Teacher Quality Initiative.” The TQI framework identifies six types of instructional scaffolding that engage learners, including: modeling, bridging, contextualization, schema building, text re-presentation, and metacognitive development.


**This document is considered a priority reading.