BICS and CALP

25 08 2011

Here at ISB, our new school year has begun and we are off to a great start.   Kindergarten EAL is a special place at the beginning of the year because we learn the words we need to help meet our basic needs.

“I am hungry.  I need the restroom.  How are you? Do you want to play?”

This basic needs language we call Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS).  This is basic survival  and social language.  BICS is the necessary language for day to day living, including the language we use with friends.  It is informal and cognitively undemanding.   Our learners quickly absorb and acquire this language through their experiences at school with assistance from teachers and classmates.

There is a second type of language–school language. We call this Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).  This is complex language used for discussing content in the classroom. This language is formal and cognitively demanding. Classroom language is learned and applied as it relates to abstract concepts using specialized vocabulary and complex language structures.

New English language learners (ELL’s) at ISB learn BICS and CALP simultaneously.  Growing language is hard work for these students!  Teachers, specialists and other staff members shelter our ELL’s by providing in-class support to boost student understanding.  However, some students  are more urgent with their English language needs and attend an English for Academic Purpose (EAP) pull-out class to help support their content, concept and vocabulary needs for the mainstream classroom.

We are not just ISB, we are ISBusy!


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