comprehension.gif Input, Output and Comprehension:

Input: What is input in the ESL classroom?

Input is the information that students receive from each other and the teacher. It is very important in second language acquisition and must be “comprehensible, developmentally appropriate, redundant, and accurate” (Kagan, 1995). So, students must be able to understand the basic message of the information they are receiving. “It is especially critical for them to receive comprehensible input from their teachers and classmates” (Haynes, 2005). The input must be received from many different sources for the information to move from “short-term comprehension to long-term acquisition” (Kagan, 1995). Also, the messages must be “slightly above their current English level” (Haynes, 2005). Krashen, working off of Vygotsky’s theory of the zone of proximal development, “devised a similar notion for the kind of input that an ESL student needs in order to make progress in acquiring English. He called this gap i+1, where i is the current level of proficiency” (ESL Workshop: Scaffolding Theory).

Output: What does "output mean and how is it important to the language acquisition process?

“Output takes an active role in the acquisition process in that output serves as an avenue for experimenting with language and for testing language hypotheses” (Module 6 Lecture Notes). It can be used as “feedback for intake because it assists the second language learner to check and correct language use,” or it “forces the second language learner to examine a syntactic rather than semantic analysis and examination of language” (Module 2 Lecture Notes). “Language acquisition is fostered by output that is functional and communicative,” as well as comprehensible (Kagan, 1995). For the output to be comprehensible, it must be ordered, structured, coherent and understandable. So, the learner must “draw on L2 syntax” (Module 6 Lecture Notes). It is important to note that “students, to a large extent, learn to speak by speaking” (Kagan, 1995). To become fluent they must be given multiple opportunities to speak about and discuss the same topic, express their own ideas and practice speaking on their own level and terms (Kagan, 1995; Excerpt from Teaching English Language Learners with Learning Difficulties; Haynes, 2005). “There are four ways in which output provides learners with opportunities for authentic language learning: testing hypotheses, receiving feedback, developing automaticity and shifting from meaning-based processing” (Module 6 Lecture Notes).

The Role of Interaction: What is the role of interaction and how does it relate to language use and acquisition?

Interaction provides ample opportunity for plenty of input and output. “Teachers must constantly involve students, ask many questions, encourage students to express their ideas and thoughts in the new language” (Excerpt from Teaching English Language Learners with Learning Difficulties, 2010). Small groups also help facilitate interaction and adaptation to different levels of proficiency. “You cannot learn a language without interaction” (Foppoli, 2008). Of course, there is the fear of miscommunication. However, miscommunication can encourage “conversational negotiation as well as negotiation of meaning – both beneficial to the process of language acquisition” (Module 6 Lecture Notes). Interaction enables the learner in developing an understanding of grammar and grammatical structures and developing knowledge of L2 syntax (Module 6 Lecture Notes).

Comprehension: How do input, output and interaction encourage and promote comprehension?

Comprehension is the result of language acquisition. The best way for a second language learner to acquire a new language is through receiving lots of input and having the opportunity to produce a lot of output. The best way for a student to have ample opportunities for input and output is through interaction.

Classroom Tips:

  • To help make input comprehensible to ELL students, make sure to give visual clues along with auditory and involve them in hands-on activities.
  • To encourage output it is important that the students talk more than the teacher. Discussions and small group activities are great ways to make sure the students have ample opportunity for output.
  • To foster interaction the teacher must make sure to have a lot of activities for the students to participate in and to limit the amount of individual and silent work they must participate in.
  • To aid in comprehension it is important that the teacher make sure instructions and information are given clearly and multiple times. Repetition can be very helpful in comprehension.

These tips and many more can be accessed by clicking the following link: Quick Tips to Help English Language Learner (ELL) Students in the Classroom


Fopolli, J. (2008). The Role of Interaction to Acquire a Second Language. Retrieved from Free Language Lessons Board:

Haynes, J. (2005). Comprehensible Input and Output. Retrieved from

Kagan, S. (1995). We Can Talk: Cooperative Learning in the Elementary ESL Classroom. Retrieved from CAL Digests:

What is Comprehensible Input? (Excerpt from Teaching English-Language Learners with Learning Difficulties). (2010). Retrieved from

ESL Workshops: Scaffolding Theory. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Ms. Cristina Hudgins

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