SSR / English for Life

Please participate!

The reason for placing this portion of the SSR / English for Life unit in this location is to invite anyone who uses this unit to participate in its development and success.

Here's how it works. If you have a comment, suggestion, contribution, or question about the unit as a whole, click on the Discussion link above. It's similar to sending e-mail. If you want to comment on or contribute to one of the five lessons, especially how they might be adapted to different English proficiency levels, click on the Discussion link on their respective pages.


In the La Sierra adult ELD program, we have made a couple of significant commitments to our students as we have moved into the curriculum mapping process. One, found in our objective statement, is to enable them to become self-directed, life-long acquirers of English. The other, stated in Supplemental Standard S2, is to help our students understand language acquisition through comprehensible input well enough to make meaningful decisions about their acquisition process now and in the future, after they have left our classrooms.

This instructional unit serves two purposes: The first is to contribute to our students’ language acquisition and help them develop the habit of recreational reading by providing a period of time each day for Sustained Silent Reading (SSR).

The second is to help satisfy Supplemental Standard S2 (Language Acquisition) – Students understand comprehensible input, the essential principle of language acquisition, and what they can do to manage and promote their own language acquisition process. The English for Life portion of the unit directly addresses this standard. The intent is for you to help your students develop a basic understanding of English (language) acquisition. A variety of resources is listed in the Resource section of the unit map and below. Some are for you, others for your students. They can be used to create occasional lessons and/or to inform an on-going conversation about English acquisition with your class.

Our hope, and our goal, is that this two-pronged unit will contribute to our students' immediate as well as their long-term English acquisition needs.

Teaching this Unit

Our program is committed to the belief the most of our fluency comes from exposure to comprehensible input, reading and listening that is understandable to the student. The key principles underlying this belief can be found in a number of works, but they appear most recently in Explorations in Language Acquisition (2003) by Dr. Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California.

Our goal is to help our students understand Krashen's principles, or hypotheses, well enough to apply them to their own language acquisition. This will not be a one-time event. Most likely, it will require an on-going conversation with our students lasting throughout their time in our classes. The materials that we develop for this purpose may be used in many ways, ranging from full lessons to mini-lessons to ideas that fuel an on-going conversation.

The primary student resource for this unit is the set of five short articles entitled How it Works: Acquiring English -- An introduction to how we develop English language ability. The five articles in How it Works describe Krashen's five principles at an intermediate-high intermediate level. You can download a copy of it from the La Sierra Rubicon Atlas web site or here or below.

Where should we start? I would not necessarily teach five principles in the order they are listed. #1 and #4 are probably of most immediate importance and provide a rational for SSR. Principles #2 and #5 are valuable because they help students deal with the affective, or psychological, aspects of language acquisition. They help students understand why they are frequently frustrated by certain parts of the language and suggest positive ways to act and think about their acquisition process.

The Five Principles

Here are the five principles, with links to their resource pages (links also appear in the Quick Links in the column at the left):

Help for You

Here are a few general resources that you might find helpful for background and for teaching:

< Print Materials

  • Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) - A brief introduction to SSR with resources and suggestions for implementation. For teachers.
  • How It Works -- Acquiring English - An introduction to English (language) acquisition in five short lessons. Primary resource for students and teachers; written at an intermediate/high-intermediate reading level.
  • What happens when an ESL/EFL student reads and listens? - What would we find if Alice's red-waist-coated white rabbit led us into the depths of the human brain? This is a brief exploration of that space with some fantasy and a lot of fact. For teachers, advanced students.
  • Generalizations about Free Voluntary Reading (such as SSR). An quick overview, with references, of what the research tells us about FVR, or SSR. This is an update from Stephen Krashen.

< Internet-based Materials

  • Secrets to Improving Your English -- this 25-minute audio presentation, by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, is a wonderfully clear explanation of the principles of language acquisition. It was originally offered as a bonus for listeners to the ESL Podcast ( and would be appropriate for sharing with intermediate and higher ESL students.
  • How it Works Student Page - This page links to online versions of the six How it Works and What happens articles.