Social Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

You want to be able to teach a second language to your students in a way that elicits active participation. This lesson describes some strategies you can apply so your students develop language skills through social learning.

Social Learning Strategies

Imagine an English language learning class in which the teacher talks non-stop while the students listen. This would be not just boring but also ineffective. The good news for you as a teacher of language is that the nature of your classes is perfect to apply social learning strategies. These are the set of approaches you can use to get students to become active participants in class through interaction with others and sharing of knowledge they have. In other words, social learning strategies get students to learn from others and with others. Now, let's discuss how you can approach your language class by applying social learning strategies.

Let's meet Cameron. She is an English language teacher who is known for having very active sessions in which her students teach peers as well. If you want to effectively apply social learning strategies in your language learning class, the key is to always encourage in your students the habit to participate in class. You can do this through different strategies such as these below.

Social learning strategies are about giving your language learners some class activities in which they can interact with peers.

Questions Required

Your students become active participants in class the minute you ask them questions rather than just give them information. For example, Cameron introduces the frequency adverbs for the simple present tense. Then, instead of just giving examples of her own, she asks students questions like 'How often do you go to the park?' This gets students actively participating in class. However, asking questions to students is not the only way to go. It has to be the other way around as well. For example, Cameron either gets students to ask peers similar questions or to ask her so they can practice the language. A great activity to practice questions is to have students interview each other.

Clarification Requests

Your language learners need to create the habit of requesting clarification if needed. This is a key component of social learning and you have to remember that language learners are often shy to ask. However, you are the guide to a classroom environment in which students feel comfortable asking for clarification. For example, Cameron is very friendly as a teacher. This reflects in her attitude when students ask her to repeat a sentence or to clarify something; in short, her attitude is very positive and shows that she is always happy to repeat concepts and help students.


When you give speaking activities to your students, the ideal is to elicit answers that require elaboration. For example, Cameron gives her students a speaking task based on the prompt 'How was your last Christmas? Tell details of the activities you did.' This gets students talking in detail about different activities with family and around the holiday of Christmas. Activities that require elaboration get students to interact with each other because it is not simply about asking one question and giving a short answer.

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