Silent period and language development
Describe the silent period. How might a teacher respond to a student who is at this level of language development? Provide at least two specific examples.
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When we talk about English Language Learners, the "silent period" refers to the time period in the
development of second language skills during which the ELL is unable to speak or communicate verbally
in the second language. Although the student can demonstrate understanding of the second language
through the actions he/she performs. When students are first exposed to a second language, frequently
they focus on listening and comprehension. These students are often very quiet, speaking little as they
focus on understanding the new language.
Teachers can respond by providing hands-on activities and have their students interact in small groups;
students will then be able to participate in the existence of the classroom earlier. ELL will feel confident
in risking oral language. Classroom and subject area teachers can improve many of the beginners'
doubts by creating a language development environment in their classes. The first weeks are crucial, the
more comfortable ELLs beginners feel in your classroom, the quicker they will be able to learn. The more
anxiety students experience, the less language they will comprehend. Teach key concepts, skills, and
academic language in English using sheltered-English, methodologies and literacy development in
The silent period is a phase during learning a second language where the individual does not speak. Per
Peregoy and Boyle (2008), it is part of Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis. The critical point for the
educator to be aware of is just because the student is not speaking, does not mean they are not
learning. Often students are taking in the language and processing this new information.
Per Haynes (n.d.), teachers should not force ELLs to speak before they are ready. It is important to not
embarrass the student or put them on the spot. A second response of teachers addressing this level of
language development is to gear instruction to build these learners’ confidence. Activities suggested by
Haynes (n.d.) include: hands-on activities, use of visuals, total physical response, repetition, and
listening comprehension activities.
Haynes, J. (n.d.). Pre-production and the silent period. Retrieved August 22, 2012, from
Peregoy, S., & Boyle, O. (2008). Reading,writing, and learning in ESL: A resource book for K-12
teachers (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.