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Looking for or listening for specific bits of information to answer a query.


A theory stating that a student brings in his or her own knowledge and experiences when trying to read or listen to a text/selection.


Schwa /ǝ/ is the smallest English vowel sound. It is the most frequent vowel sound in continuous (connected) speech, yet it never carries stress.

Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

When ESL students are capable of internalizing the new (second) language and communicating effectively. The educator needs to implement modifications in classroom instruction until the second language learner has mastered English. Speaking English for simple communication will happen in the early acquisition stages; however, complete language acquisition takes at least five to seven years. (see “Acquisition”)


Individual phonemes (i.e., sounds) of vowels and consonants.


Procedures by which learners evaluate their own language skills and/or knowledge, allowing ESL students to assess their own work and observe their progress. For example, a self-assessment form may be used to record students’ thoughts and feelings about the presented work. Students are given the responsibility to assess themselves and actively be a part of their academic success.


The meaning of language, such as a word’s common synonyms, definition(s), and metaphorical meanings. 

Silent Way

A designer method whereby the teacher remains mostly silent in order to encourage students to solve their own problems. Originated by Caleb Gattegno in the 1970’s, this method was meant to foster learning through discovery. Students were given Cuisenaire rods and used these colored rods to figure out the patterns of language based on a few examples given by the teacher.


A top-down activity where a learner quickly reads some material to find the gist.


A variety of songs can be implemented in classroom activities to introduce or reinforce content-area material. The rhythms and the repetitive words sung in songs enhance the comprehension of the presented learning concepts for ESL students. ESL students tend to remember information through classroom song activities.


One distinct part of a lesson, commonly a single activity.


A grouping strategy that involves putting students together according to their language ability, either mixing strong and weak students, or grouping them at the same level.


The syllables in words that are longer, louder, and higher-pitched. At the word level, stress falls on syllables. At the sentence level, stress falls on content words (e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives, and sometimes adverbs) while function words (e.g., pronouns, determiners, prepositions, and auxiliary verbs) are de-stressed.


Student Talking Time. The amount of time that students get to talk within a lesson. In a student-centered classroom, STT should be increased, while TTT – Teacher Talking Time – should be decreased.


Language activities, techniques, and methods in which learners are the focus and the teacher plays only a peripheral role. Students are allowed some control over activities and some input into the curriculum. These activities encourage student creativity and autonomous learning. Group work is one kind of student-centered activity.


A bound morpheme attached to the end of a word that often changes the word’s part of speech, and sometimes its meaning, but (in the case of inflectional morphemes) can also simply change nouns to plural or indicate a change in verb tense.


A humanistic teaching method where instructors strive to create an environment conducive to learning by utilizing tools such as relaxing wall colors, background music, and artwork.


Speech features such as stress, rhythm, intonation, pitch, linking, pausing, and thought groups. Whereas segmentals refer to individual sounds, suprasegmentals extend past this and refer to things such as a string of sounds, syllables, words, phrases or sentence level sound features.  

Surface Culture

People’s behaviors, actions, and practices, such as language, manners, customs, food, music, clothing, art, and literature.

Synchronous Online Learning

Classes that take place entirely online and have a component which requires the student and teacher to both be online at a specified time. Synchronous courses can include phone conferencing, video conferencing, or chat.


The study of how words function together to create units like phrases, clauses or sentences.  This includes word order, sentence formation, question formation, and parts of speech (articles, nouns, verbs, etc.).

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