Talking to Admin About Assessment

Students acquire best when they do not feel tested (Krashen, 85).  While summative tests may be needed occasionally, most assessments should be natural, authentic observations of how much students enjoy and comprehend input.  It is sometimes difficult to communicate and document alternative assessments.

Here is a simple primer with 15 commonly asked questions and answers teachers may face about authentic assessment for second language learners.

Assessment: A Simple Approach

Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free Voluntary Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Talking to Admin About “Teacher Talk”

When talking with administrators, it is important to explain why ESL classrooms have more teacher talk than mainstream classes.  Teacher talk is an important source of comprehensible input for language learners (Krashen, 1982, 59).  The majority of English Language Learners report that teacher talk with enhanced visual clues, body language, and simplified speech helps them understand and feel engaged (Matsumoto).

Many native speakers or advanced ELLs are ready for  “student talk” and may choose to speak spontaneously.  Forcing student talk, however, may raise the affective filter.

Proponents of forced student talk argue “Talk plays a noticing role; it triggers a consciousness-raising function” (Boyd, 448).  However, language practice and noticing promotes conscious learning, not unconscious acquisition  (Truscott; Krashen 2004, 1982).   Student talk is the result, not cause of comprehensible input.  Autonomous, student-initiated responses will happen if students receive enough comprehensible input (Krashen 2004, 1982).


Boyd, M. & Reuben, D. (May 2002). Elaborated Student Talk in an Elementary ESOL Classroom. Research in the Teaching of English, 36(4):  495-530.

Gharbavi, A. & Iravani, H. (May 2014). Is Teacher Talk Pernicious to Students? A Discourse Analysis of Teacher Talk.  Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98: 552 – 561.

Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.

Long, M. H. (1983). Linguistic and conversational adjustments to non-native speakers. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 5(2): 177-193.


Matsumoto, H. (2010). Students’ Perceptions About Teacher Talk In Japanese-as-a-Second-Language Classes.  Arizona Working Papers in SLA & Teaching, 17: 53-74.


Truscott, J. (1998). Noticing in second language acquisition: a critical review. Second language Research, 14(2), 103-135.

A Story Listening Identity

My students have started to identify as folklorists.  “I know so many stories,” they boast.  Like generations before them, they succumb to the urge to retell the stories to friends and family.  On their own time, they research and request lesser known folktales.  Just like FVR, Story Listening helps children develop an identity that connects them to the world in a bigger way–a Story Listening identity.

A Print Oasis

Outside of your classroom, many children do not have a safe, clean environment where books are displayed proudly.  Jim Trelease warns that a “print desert” deprives children of access to books, reading role models, and a place to get excited about reading (108).  Send the message that books enrich our lives by decorating your classroom with books: on shelves, walls, and desks, under and on the whiteboard, and every available surface.

When Displaying Books:

  • Books should look intentionally placed, not cluttered.  Displays should be colorful and feature only books with attractive covers.
  •  Whenever space allows, books should face out (Trelease, 89).


  • Donalyn Miller cautions against labeling an “easy” section.  Instead consider placing easier books (ex. comic books) on the same shelf, but in bins facing out to lure new readers.


  • Don’t be afraid to display books by interest, or even target groups (ex. boys or girls). Switch out the books on display frequently.

Involving students in book displays:

  •  Students should have a routine for sharing what they are reading in a way that builds community.  Frank Serafini recommends ”providing space for personal collections, or book baskets, for students to organize future reading materials” (35).  Another approach is an individually-designated spot (ex. round table or edge of a white board) where books can be left at the end of the day for the group to see and share on a daily basis.


  • During daily lessons, display books in an inviting way.  Use this time to model selecting and talking about books with friends.  Encourage spontaneous response-to-text: if students have an interesting comment, let them dictate it to you.


  •  Instead of book reports, consider asking students to create book displays to show off what books they read and what they loved about them.


Miller, D., & Anderson, J. (2011). The book whisperer: awakening the inner reader in every child. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.

Serafini, F.  (2015).  Reading Workshop 2.0: Supporting Readers in the Digital Age. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Trelease, J. (2013). The read-aloud handbook. New York: Penguin Books.

Not Just Reading, Pleasure Reading

“I do not promote reading to my students because it is good for them or because it is required for school success. I advocate reading because it is enjoyable and enriching.” – Donalyn Miller, The Bookwhisperer


Everyone knows it is “good for you” to read…or join a debate team… or go to college…but these things feel overwhelmingly lofty for less traditionally academic children.  The rich get richer and poor get poorer when students consider reading for the sake of external achievements (Stanovich).

The solution is pleasure reading, also known as Free Voluntary Reading.  Reading because it is pleasurable -not just because it will get you a better grade, job, or social status- appeals to all learners. Those who have failed to make the grade before, struggling readers, benefit most from pleasure reading (Mason, 1997).  Non-English major university students, presumably less likely to read in English to promote future careers, make much higher gains with Free Voluntary Reading (Mason, 2007).

Programs like Accelerated Reader that use external rewards make it likely that students will quit reading after the rewards end (Krashen 2011, 49).  Pleasure reading shows gains on tests of reading comprehension (Krashen, 2011; Mason 2004; Yamashita).  Pleasure reading lures in all children: those who know they will be president someday and those who think they’ll drop out next year.

Mason, B. & Krashen, S. (1997). Can Extensive Reading Help Unmotivated Students of EFL Improve? International Journal of Applied Linguistics.  Retrieved from:

Mason, B. (2004). The effect of adding supplementary writing to an extensive reading program.  The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching (IJFLT), 2(2): 12-15.

Mason, B.  (2007). The Efficiency of Self-Selected Reading and Hearing Stories on Adult Second Language Acquisition s, more efficient.  “Selected Papers from the sixteenth international symposium on English Teaching.” English Teachers’ Association / ROC, Taipei: 630-633.  Accessed at:

Krashen, S. (2004).  The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited (2nd edn.).

Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Stanovich, Keith E. (1986).”Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy.” Reading Research Quarterly, 21(4): 120-125.

Yamashita, S. (October 2013). Effects of extensive reading on reading attitudes in a foreign language. Reading in a Foreign Language.  25(2): 248–263

A Teacher Tired of “Anything But Reading”

Language teachers are constantly bombarded with the latest buzz words for outputting (ex. comprehensible output , accountable talk, and academic conversations).  Educational leaders propose “Everything but what works” while ignoring what is research-proven: pleasure reading (Krashen, 2016).

In the article titled “Anything But Reading,” Krashen writes, “I am afraid to predict what people will come up with next… It remains mysterious to me why the obvious, most pleasant, least expensive, and probably the only effective way to improve reading ability- providing readers with interesting, comprehensible reading material- appears not only to be the last resort, but is often not even mentioned” (2009, 25).

Students must average 100 pages per week to provide enough comprehensible input to catch up to grade-level (Mason 2011, Mason & Krashen 2015, McQuillan 2016). Instead, text is truncated into 1-2 page reading passages with endless outputting activities and skill-building activities.

 “Educational consultants” undermine the simple, straightforward act of picking up a good book.  That’s too simple: there must be comprehension checks, drills, and activities.  The latest how-to for outputting activities makes a better GIF and gets more re-tweets than a student quietly sitting reading a book.


Krashen, S.  (Dec. 22, 2016).  Everything but what works: A comment on “Helping English-Learners Break Through Language Plateaus.” (Originally published in Education Week.)  Retrieved from:
Krashen, S. (May/June 2009). Anything But Reading. Knowledge Quest. (37)5, 19-25.
Mason, B. & Krashen, S. (2015). Can Second Language Acquirers Reach High Levels of Proficiency Through Self-Selected Reading? An Attempt to Confirm Nation’s (2014) Results. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 10 (2): 10-19.
Mason, B. (2011). Impressive gains on the TOEIC after one year of comprehensible input, with no output or grammar study. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 7(1).
McQuillan, J. (2016). Time, texts, and teaching in vocabulary acquisition: A rebuttal to Cobb (2016). Reading in a Foreign Language. 28 (2): 307-318.  Accessed at:

Sheltered Popular Literature

To develop life-long reading habits, the only true necessity is plenty of time and access to good books.  However, children benefit greatly from reading role models, adult and peer engagement, and even direct instruction in how to select books.

Sheltered Popular Literature is an approach to promoting Free Voluntary Reading.  It was envisioned and first described by Stephen Krashen, but it remains largely unused in language classrooms.  Unlike more intensive reading approaches, Sheltered Popular Literature supports but does not stifle autonomous reading; students are given choice in books and limited accountability.  Books are not limited to “classics,” as the goal is to introduce children to high-interest books to help them discover what they love to read and feel comfortable navigating the library.


Continue reading Sheltered Popular Literature