Input in the ESL classroom is any information that the student is exposed to that the student can internalize, comprehend, retain and/or discard. Input is generally presented at a comfortable comprehension level or just beyond. Input is represented by someone speaking, listening to recorded audio, visuals, songs, etc.

Classroom Tip: Teachers should create a classroom environment that is rich in visual and interactive activities. "It is necessary to immerse children in the environment full of samples and messages in the target language. These should be meaningful and understandable to children. An example of such an immersion could be using stories, dramatising them, using posters with the most repeated phrase, repeatedly playing songs, dialogues, or short stories" (Strakova, 1997).

Output is what the student is able to do or say in order to relay comprehension of the he/she is exposed to. Output can be in the form of speaking, drawing or even physical motion (TPR). "Speaking does indirectly help in two ways: 1) speaking produces conversation, which produces comprehensible input, and 2) your speaking allows native speakers to judge what level you are at and then adjust their speak downward to you, providing you input that is more easily understood. (Wilson, 2000). Output "could 1) Provide the learner with opportunities for contextualized, meaningful use, 2) Allow them to test out hypotheses and 3) Force them to move from semantic to syntactic processing of the target language" (Ryan, n.d.)

Classroom Tip: "When the teacher notices a mistake it is more effective to provide numerous language samples containing the problematic item rather than offer the correct version" (Strakova, 1997). Selectively pointing out errors will likely cause the student to become self-conscious and tentative. To maintain a low stress atmosphere, try focusing on one skill or structure and practice rather than highlight all errors. Part of the learning process for the student is "trial and error" - putting the student in a position to self-correct.

Role of Interaction:
Interaction is essential to language learning. It is the opportunity for students to produce language in meaningful context while giving the student and chance to practice and self-correct in a low stress atmosphere. "It was found that the use of group work can provide the learner with an increased number of opportunities for language practice, improve the quality of learner talk, individualize instruction, create a positive affective climate in the in second language (SL) classroom environment and increase the learners' motivation to learn" (Long and Porter, 1985 as cited in Tyers, 2002).

Classroom Tip:

  • Plan lessons that are logically sequenced and that provide proper scaffolding — the instructional support that enables learners to make a leap in knowledge or skill — so that learners can be successful in their interactions (Florez & Burt, 2001).
  • Release control and step out of the role of class leader. Teachers let learners take the initiative for interactions, experiment freely, and take risks with the language.
  • Facilitate learner-to-learner interactions by monitoring and providing assistance when students request it or when students are unable to repair communication breakdowns on their own.
  • Initiate and sustain interaction by using a variety of questions ranging from knowledge questions (e.g., yes/no; choice; or who, what, where, and why questions) to evaluation questions (e.g., opinion questions).
  • Understand that interaction does not necessarily mean that student participation is always verbal. Sometimes students learn by listening to others interact.
  • Recognize that regular use of pair and small group work promotes interaction.
  • Effectively implement group work.
  • Teach learners strategies to negotiate meaning (e.g., ask for clarification, paraphrase, and use circumlocution). (Moss, 2005)

By providing students with input that is understandable, an opportunity to observe, practice and interact with other speakers gives students experience with language along with a low stress atmosphere, will give students meaningful exposure to the target language and experiences that are memorable and hopefully be comprehended for use later. If there are "increased opportunities for L2 learners to talk in the TL [it] gives them a chance to practice, test their own hypotheses about how the TL works, and negotiate for comprehension" and "the need for, and the success in, negotiating for comprehension in interaction activities is a motivating factor for the students" (Farraghas-Paras 2003).

Classroom Tip:

  • A small group setting allows for more comprehensible input because the teacher or classmates modify or adapt the message to the listener’s needs.
  • Speakers can more easily check on the understanding of the listener.
  • There is more opportunity for oral practice and for repetition of content information as peers help new learners of English negotiate meaning.
  • Student talk in this small group is centered on what is actually happening at the moment as the task is completed.
  • Feedback and correction are non-judgmental and immediate. (Haynes, 2005)

Teacher-Student Interaction
ESL Listening Comprehension Exercises

Farraghas-Paras, Kelly (2003). The Role of Planned Interaction in the Second Language Classroom. Retrieved on May 30, 2010, from

Haynes, Judie (2005). Comprehensible Input and Output. Retrieved on May 30, 2010, from

Moss, Donna (2005). Teaching for Communicative Competence: Interaction in the ESOL Classroom. Retrieved on May 30, 2010, from

Ryan, Jack (n.d.). A Review of the Role of Output in Second Language Acquisition with anecdotal examples from a Japanese learner's experience [sic]. Retrieved on May 30, 2010, from

Strakova, Zuzana (1997). Second Language Acquisition and the Role of Input in the Classroom. Retrieved on May 30, 2010, from

Tyers, Claire J (2002). Role Play and Interaction in Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved on May 30, 2010, from

Weddell, (2008). ESL Teacher Language for Effective Classroom Interactions. Retrieved on May 30, 2010 from

Wilson, Reid (2000). A Summary of Stephen Krashen's "Principles and Practices in Second Language Acquisition". Retrieved on May 30, 2010 from

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Christie Patti
Cedar Bluff Elementary
Knoxville, TN