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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Module 3 - Language acquisition


Learning another language takes time. To be an effective teacher aide or bilingual tutor you need to know about each student’s strengths and weaknesses. You should discuss these with their teachers and work together to develop appropriate pathways to support your students’ learning.

 In this module you'll look at the importance of identifying:

  •  your students educational backgrounds
  •  what sort of learners your students are
  •  factors that affect the way your students learn

Refer to page 25 of your handbook to read the module introduction. It describes some important considerations in the process of learning an additional language. You can download the PDF of the module here:

Teacher holding a book.

Audio transcript

Ni Hao, I’m Rae Si’ilata.  

If you have completed Module 2, you will have a better understanding of the importance of:

  • supporting students to become independent learners
  • discussing the key ideas and vocabulary from a topic before the students study it in class  
  • and using activities such as Venn diagrams to improve oral language skills and develop critical thinking.

Module 3 introduces key ideas about the complex processes that occur when you are learning another language. It is important to realise that there are two main types of language, social (or conversational) language and academic language. Social language such as playground talk is acquired quickly, but the academic language required for classroom learning takes longer to learn. The language of the curriculum is nobody’s mother tongue! So even though your English-language learners (ELLs) may be able to talk to you about what they did on the weekend, they will need structured support over time to cope with the language required for the classroom.

There is a range of factors that affect learning an additional language. In order to assist ELLs more effectively, you need to know what factors in their educational background may have an effect on their learning of English. These factors include the students’ literacy levels in their first language, their age, and their previous educational experience. For some students there may be an initial period of silence as they adjust to their new circumstances.

You can record such background information in the student’s portfolio. The portfolio could also include observation notes and completed tasks from the classroom teacher and the ESOL teacher. Knowing your learners will help you assist in developing language learning activities or programmes, which focus on the ELLs’ learning strengths and areas of need.

By the time you complete this module, you will have a better understanding of the second-language acquisition process, and of your students’ educational backgrounds. You will also have begun to develop ways of structuring learning such as using note or diamond grids as shown in this module’s DVD clip.

Learning tasks

In this module you have two tasks to complete.

Note grids

In this learning task information is transferred from one source to another, in a different form.

Diamond grid

This is an oral language tool. Through oral interaction, this learning task encourages taking turns, ranking information in a defined order, and then explaining the order of choices.

After completing these tasks discuss them with your coordinating teacher.

Watch the clip below to see an example of students using a graphic organiser (grid) to describe the process of making a lantern in a technology class.



Students - It must have a holder for a candle but it shouldn’t be close to the outside of the lantern. Does it have a handle? Holder, handle?


Ok, is it close to the outside frame?


Teacher - Now, you’re going to have the opportunity, first of all to think about the sort of lantern that you’re already planning in your head that you’re going to make.  You’re going to talk to a partner about it and then you’re going to have the opportunity, on your planning sheet, to do a sketch. And also, to think about the equipment and the material you’ll need to successfully make that lantern.

Students - We can use some colours that we didn’t use like.


Yip, black, white.

No, because it won’t stand out that much.

So like something like a yellow.

But you got to remember that the candle light is very dim.

Students - Fish on one side and a fish on the other side just like the monkey they showed and in the middle I’m going to have the candle light.

What materials would you use to make yours?

Don’t really know.

Well, I’m going to probably use like cardboard or coloured paper.

Your thoughts

The Next Steps section of this module (p27-29), asks you to gather information to better help you know your learners.

Discuss the Next Steps section in the handbook with your coordinating teacher then answer these questions about your learning from this module:

  1. What are three concepts and three terms you learnt in this module?
  2. What learning tasks did you complete in this module?
  3. How will you apply the learning tasks from this module with your students?
  4. What main issues did you discuss with your coordinating teacher?
  5. What do you need to find out more about and how will you do this?
  6. What do you need to do to prepare for the next module?

When you've completed all of the questions, you've finished the module. Your coordinating teacher can sign off the module on the course completion certificate

Published on: 08 Jan 2018