Increase Student Interaction in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing

Authors: Monica Gonzalez, Education Specialist, ESL/Bilingual

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin


According to TEA’s reports there are 817,165 ELL students in Texas, 456,051 enrolled in bilingual education, and 310,812 enrolled in English as a Second Language.  There are over 120 different home languages represented in Texas schools. 91% of ELL students speak Spanish.  With this increase in English language learners, our approach to teaching has to evolve in order to ensure success for this group of students.  English language learners (ELLs) are tested every year to measure their language development in listening, speaking, reading and writing (the 4 language domains).  Studies have shown that the best way for ELL students to rapidly increase their linguistic proficiency in these four areas is to increase student interaction.  Do you ask yourself, “What does that mean? What does that look like?”  Read on to find the answer to these questions.


Student interaction has been called classroom interaction, cooperative learning and student engagement. Regardless of the title or term used, student interaction is a practice in which listening and speaking skills of English language learners are enhanced through meaningful conversations with classmates. This interaction enables ELLs to think critically and orally share their views with classmates.  To know how to increase student interaction, you need to understand the linguistic development of these language skills.  As you read these descriptions, think of what you would need within each of these domains if you yourself were to learn another language.


Listening is the ability to understand spoken language, and to comprehend and extract information. It is imperative that students learn how to comprehend social and academic language.  Speaking is the ability to use social and academic language appropriately and effectively in different situations. Practicing social and academic language increases student comprehension and accelerates their oral proficiency.  Reading is the ability to comprehend and interpret written tests at a grade-appropriate level. Beginning readers may need lessons in phonics to learn the sound system of the English language. Finally, writing is the ability to produce written text with content and format to fulfill grade-appropriate assignments.  The expectations of writing will differ for each writer’s proficiency level.  Drawings would be appropriate for a beginner regardless of age or grade level.


Teachers who effectively engage students at high levels of interaction utilize three steps that scaffold each of the 4 language skills.

Modeling All students need to understand the desired outcome for the lesson.  Modeling is essential for beginning ELLs because the teacher is creating comprehensible input by demonstrating the processes students need to use to fulfill lesson objectives.   Teachers can translate and/or clarify, which increases student understanding and comprehension.

Guided practice is an activity that provides students the opportunity to grasp and develop concepts or skills while the teacher monitors students’ progress.  This setting allows for a risk-free environment in which students are free to verbally express themselves without the fear of making a mistake.  Students also feel comfortable because of the support of their peers.  Guided practice is not simply assigning a worksheet, problems or questions to be completed in class.

Independent practice provides students the opportunity to apply what they have learned.  When students are aware of the final outcome with resources such as rubrics and criteria charts, they can work together to practice or edit each other’s work before it is turned in to be graded.

This process of modeling, guided practice and independent practice is commonly called “I Do”, “We Do” and “You Do.”


The following table shows student interaction activities that follow the process in each of the four language skills.

Increase Student Interaction-table



TEA, last modified October 12, 2012.  Snapshot of ELLs in Texas.

Seidlitz, John and Auer, Valerie. Navigating the ELPS in the English Language Arts and Reading Classroom. San Clemente, CA: Canter Press, 2010.


the attachments to this post:

Increase Student Interaction-table
Increase Student Interaction-table

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