English language functions utilized by seventh-grade non-native speakers of English in an ESL classroom

Ana Fuentes Tejada, Fordham University


An ethnographic approach investigated the different English language functions used by seven adolescent non-native speakers of English during 1 school year in an ESL classroom. The English language produced by the participants while conducting activities in different classroom contexts was videotaped, transcribed, and analyzed. Halliday's (1975) system for functions of language was used for the analysis. The major findings of the study were: (a) while conducting activities in the classroom, the students used the informative and heuristic function most; (b) instructional activities, transitional time, and independent activities provided meaningful contexts that fostered the use of language functions, mostly the informative and heuristic; (c) the organization of teacher-led whole class and student-led small group activities promoted the use of language functions more often than informative and heuristic. Four hypotheses were generated from the findings: (1) ESL students produce the English language for informative and heuristic purposes most frequently. They infrequently use other language functions. (2) Some ESL students produce very little English for any purpose. The teacher dominates in producing English. (3) Classroom organizations influence the frequency of language produced. While engaged in teacher-led whole class and student-led small group activities, the ESL students produced the most language. (4) Transitional time enables ESL students to produce language the most of any classroom setting. Instructional time allows the least opportunities for students to produce English. Implications and recommendations were provided for further research and teaching.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Linguistics|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Fuentes Tejada, Ana, "English language functions utilized by seventh-grade non-native speakers of English in an ESL classroom" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412134.