Category Archives: teaching methods

Writing Techniques for the ESL Classroom

In-class writing is common in many many ESL context. This post will provide several different ways that teachers can get their students writing in an ESL classroom.


Perhaps the simplest way to get ESL students writing is to have them imitate what is read to them. This allows the students to learn the conventions of writing in the target language.

This is usually done through some form of dictation. The teacher reads a few words or reads slowly. This provides students with time to write down what they heard.

The actually marking of such an activity would involve the use of rubrics or some sort of count system for the number of words the student was able to write down. Often, spelling and pronunciation are not  considered major factors in the grade because of the rush nature of the writing.

Controlled and Guided

Controlled writing involves having students modify an existing writing sample. For example, changing all the verb in a paragraph from past to present. This will require them to often change more than just the verbs but other aspects of writing as well

Guided writing involves having the students respond to some sort of question or stimuli. For example, the students may watch a video and then are asked to write about and or answer questions. They may also be try to rewrite something that they heard at normal speed.


The most common form of self-writing is the writing of a journal. The writing is only intended for the student. Even note-taking is considered a form of self-writing even though it is not normally comprehensible to others.

Self-writing, particularly journals, can be useful in developing reflective thinking in students in general even with the language barriers of writing in another language.

Display  and Real Writing

Display writing is writing that is primarily intended for the teacher, who already knows the answer that the student is addressing. Examples of this type of writing include essays and other writing for the purpose of a summative assessment. The student is literally displaying what they already know.

Real writing is writing in which  the reader does not know the answer to that the student is addressing. As such, one of the main differences between display and real writing is the knowledge that the audience of the writing has.


When working with students it is important to provide them with learning experiences that stimulate the growth and development that they need. Understanding the various forms of writing that can happen in an ESL classroom can provide teachers with ideas on how to help their students.


Listening Techniques for the ESL Classroom

Listening is one of the four core skills of language acquisition along with reading, writing, and speaking. This post will explain several broad categories of listening that can happen within the ESL classroom.

Reactionary Listening

Reactionary listening involves having the students listen to an utterance and repeat back to you as the teacher. The student is not generating any meaning. This can be useful perhaps for developing pronunciation in terms of speaking.

Common techniques that utilize reactionary listening are drills and choral speaking. Both of these techniques are commonly associated with audiolingualism.

Responsive Listening

Responsive listening  requires the student to create a reply to something that they heard. Not only does the student have to understand what was said but they must also be able to generate a meaningful reply. The response can be verbal such as answering a question and or non-verbal such as obeying a command.

Common techniques that are responsive in nature includes anything that involves asking questions and or obeying commands. As such, almost all methods and approaches have some aspect of responsive listening in them.

Discriminatory Listening

Discriminatory listening techniques involves listening that is selective. The listener needs to identify what is important from a dialog or monologue. The listener might need to identify the name of a person, the location of something, or develop the main idea of the recording.

Discriminatory listening is probably a universal technique used by almost everyone. It is also popular with English proficiency test such as the IELTS.

Intensive Listening

Intensive listening is focused on breaking down what the student has heard into various aspect of grammar and speaking. Examples include intonation, stress, phonemes, contractions etc.

This is more of an analytical approach to listening. In particular, using intensive listening techniques may be useful to help learners understand the nuances of the language.

Extensive Listening

Extensive listening is about listening to a monologue or dialog and developing an overall summary and comprehension of it.  Examples of this could be having students listening to a clip from a documentary or a newscast.

Again, this is so common in language teaching that almost all styles incorporate this in one way or another.

Interactive Listening

Interactive listening is the mixing of all of the previously mentioned types of listening simultaneously. Examples include role plays, debates, and various other forms of group work.

All of the examples mentioned require repeating what others say (reactionary), replying to to others comments (responsive),  identifying main ideas (discriminatory & extensive), and perhaps some focus on intonation and stress (intensive).  As such, interactive listening is the goal of listening in a second language.

Interactive listening is used by most methods most notable communicative language  teaching, which has had a huge influence on the last 40 years of TESOL.


The listening technique categories provided here gives some insight into how one can organize various listening experiences in the classroom. What combination of techniques to employ depends on many different factors but knowing what’s available empowers the teacher to determine what course of action to take.

Planning Groupwork in the ESL Classroom

In teaching, as a teacher gives autonomy over to the students it often requires an increase in the preparation of the teacher. This is due to the unpredictable nature of entrusting students with the freedom to complete a task on their own.

For teachers who use groupwork, they need to make sure that they have carefully planned what they want the groups to attempt to achieve. Failure to do so could  lead to listless groups that never achieve the learning objectives of the lesson.

In this post, we will look at steps to take when planning groupwork for the language learning classroom.

Establish the Technique

Before groupwork begins some direct instruction is almost always necessary, which means explain to the class what they will do. There are many different techniques consistent with groupwork. These include role plays, brainstorming, interviews, jigsaw, problem-solving etc.

The role of the teacher at this point is simply to provide a sense of purpose for the class. This allows the students to focus on understand why they are doing something. This also helps the students to see why they are working in groups. This is particularly useful for those who do not enjoy groupwork.

Demonstrate the Technique

Actions always speak louder than words, what this means for groupwork is that the students need to see how the technique is done. This is particularly try if it is a complex task and or the students have never done it before.

Naturally, it may be impossible to model a group technique alone. This necessitates the need to use student volunteers as you demonstrate the technique. Most students will claim shyness but they usually enjoy participating in such activities.

While going through the technique the teacher needs to narrate what is happening so the students can follow along. After completing the technique, the teacher than examples verbally what to do. This allows the students to receive additional direction through a different medium, which helps in retention of the information.

Create Groups

There are a variety of ways to divide and place students in groups. Groups can be base don proficiency, experience, age, gender, native language, randomly, etc. The decision for the creation of groups is left to the teacher but should be consistent with the goals of the assignment.

After groups are formed it is almost always necessary to go to each group and check for understanding of the instructions. A strange phenomenon in a classroom is how understanding decrease as you move from whole-class instruction, to group, to individual. When students are in groups they are often much more comfortable in sharing misgivings than when in a whole-class setting. As such, a teacher has to re-teach every group as there is always some form of misunderstanding. Once this is done, the students are thoroughly prepared to start the task.


Groupwork can be frustrating and this can normally be due to a lack of planning. It is not enough to just throw students together and have “fun”. A teacher must plan carefully for groupwork in order to prepare for the un-expected

Critiques of Groupwork in ESL Classrooms

Many ESL teachers adhere to the principles of Communicative Language Teaching which includes such characteristics as cooperative language learning and groupwork. However, not everyone has embraced the emphasis on groupwork in modern language classrooms.

This post will explain some of the common objectives to groupwork in order to inform language teachers as to what concerns some have with the popularity of groupwork.

Use of the L1 Groupwork

If a class has a large number of students who share the same L1 there is a risk that the students will use their L1 when working in groups. This is a particular risk in EFL classrooms. However, there are several ways to address this problem

  • Make sure the task is of moderate difficulty. Too hard or too easy will encourage L1 use
  • Provide clear directions. If the students don’t understand what to do they will communicate frustration  in their own language
  • Emphasis the use of the L2. This provides relevance and accountability

Lost of Control

Groupwork usually looks chaotic and messy. Some teachers and administrators do not like the appearance of groupwork even if learning is taking place. Dealing with this problem requires the use of a reduce emphasis on groupwork but not the total removal of it.

There are times when group work should be avoided because of control issues. Below are some examples

  • Difficult students
  • Extremely large class sizes (how large depends on the teacher)
  • Inexperience teacher

Any of these situations calls for caution for the teacher. Furthermore, it is necessary for the teacher to circulate throughout the room and try to support the various groups. This is difficult but normally easier than trying to support all students individually.

L2 Use in Groups will Reinforce Errors

Some argue that students using the L2 with proper feedback will develop bad habits. This true but bad habits in the L2 may be better than not using the L2. For some, broken English is better than no English.

The concern here is looking at fluency vs accuracy. Each teacher can have their preference but constant correction often discourages language use. As such, free flowing conversation with the teacher looking the other can help in developing fluency.

Working Alone

Some students prefer to work alone. However, communication is a group experience. This means that the quiet ones must experience at least some groupwork in order to develop their language skills. Therefore, the teacher needs to encourage some groupwork regardless of student preference.


Groupwork should be a part of most language classrooms. The question is trying to find the appropriate balance of groupwork with other forms of learning. This is left for each teacher to decide for themselves.


Group Work in the ESL Classroom

Working in groups is a popular activity in many classes. Students and even teachers enjoy working together to complete task in the classroom. This post will look at the use of groups in the ESL classroom. In particular, we will look at 4 benefits of groups for ESL students.

Interactive Opportunities

Group work is especially useful for large classes where chances to speak are fewer. Students placed in groups can talk with each other and not wait for a turn in a whole-class setting.

In small groups, there is an increase in the quantity or amount of speaking opportunities as well as an increase in the quality or type of communication that takes place. Many teachers are always looking to improve these to factors in their language classrooms.


Large, whole-class activities allows students to hide and not really learn or do anything. This problem is alleviated when students are placed in groups. Small groups compel students to participate and develop autonomy.

For many teachers, developing autonomous, responsible students is a goal of their teaching. As such,  a wise use of small groups in a large class can help to at least partially achieve this goal.

Supports Mixed Abilities

The  use of groups can help to support students of varying abilities. Through combining strong students with those of moderate and low ability, the students are able to support one another in order to group. This can actual be a form of differentiated instruction support not by the teacher but by the students.

Instead of the teacher adjusting their teaching for each student. The strong students adjust how they explain and do things to accommodate the struggling students. This takes careful group selection on the part of the teacher but can be a powerful tool.


For the outgoing members of the class, group work is just an enjoyable experience. It is common for students to gain energy just from being around each other. Group work can create a synergy that is difficult to capture in a larger whole-class experience

In addition, for those who are shy, group work allows for chances to share and speak in a smaller setting. This allows for students to communicate with a lower risk of criticism. This allows for students to focus on meaning and the exchange of ideas rather than on looking good.


Group work is by no means a cure-all for the problems in a classroom.  Rather, group work provides one way in which to stimulate language acquisition. Like any strategy, group work should be used in combination with other teaching strategies in the classroom.


Series Method

The Series Method of language acquisition was perhaps the first step away from grammar translation in language teaching. This method of teaching language was developed by Francois Gouin (1831-1896).

This post will provide a brief background that led to the Series Method as well as some examples of the actually techniques used in the method.


Gouin was a French lecturer of Latin. He decided to attempt to study in the University of Berlin but realized he needed to learn  German in order to continue his studies. Being a natural lover a languages, Gouin figured a brief stop in Hamburg would be enough to learn the basics of the German language.

Gouin attempted to learn German using the grammar translation approach. He memorized thousands of words in an incredibly short period of time. Though he could decipher written text, Gouin was not able to speak or listen to German at all. His goal was not only understanding text but to understand and participate in lectures in German. After a year of studying the grammar and even translating advance text into his own language, Gouin went home discourage.

Upon returning to France, Gouin found that his 2 year old nephew, who could not talk when Gouin left, was now a 3 year old talkative child. Gouin became convince that children hold the secret to language acquisition and he began to observe children to see how they learned language.

The conclusions that Gouiin reached from his observations was that children use language to represent their thoughts. At the time, this insight was revolutionary. This insight was later used to develop the Series method.


The Series Method is a “series” of connected sentences that are easy to understand and requires little knowledge of grammar. Below is a partial example.

I walk toward the door. I draw near to the door. I draw nearer to the door. I get to the door. I stop at the door

This is focused on different ways to speak about using the door. The entire series on door is fifteen sentences in all. Through these various uses of the word door students are exposed to a wide range of grammatical uses. The success of this method was the simplicity and ease of memorization


Gouin ideas about language were ahead of their time. Despite the awkwardness of his approach Gouin’s method had a brief moment of success only to be overshadow by Berlitz’s Direct Method.

Drill Pattern Activities for ESL Students

Drill and practice is a behavioral approach to acquiring language. Through the frequent use of drills students will hopefully uncover the pattern and structure of the language.

Although there is criticism of drill and practice such as the focus on memorization and the common inability of the student to generate language on their own. This method is still used frequently in language teaching.

The purpose of this post is to provide several drill and practice activities that can be used in teaching language. In particular, we will look at the following activities

  • Inflection
  • Replacement
  • Restatement
  • Completion
  • Transportation
  • Contraction
  • Integration
  • Rejoinder
  • Restoration


Inflection involves the modification of a word in one sentence in another sentence


I bought the dog —–> I bought the dogs


Replacement is the changing of one word for another


I ate the apple —–> I ate it.


Restatement is the rewording of a statement so that it is addressed to someone else


Convert the sentence from 2nd person to third person

Where are you going?—–>Where is he going?


Completion is when the student hears a sentence and is required to finish it.


The woman lost _____ shoes—–>The woman lost her shoes


A change in word order is needed when a word is added to the sentence


I am tired. (add the word so)—–>I am so tired.


A single word replaces a phrase or clause


Put the books on the table—–>Put the books there


Two separate sentences are combined


They are kind. This is nice—–>It is nice that they are kind


These are responses to something that is said. A general answer based on a theme is expected from the student

Example say something polite

Thank you

Example agree with someone

I think you are right


The student is give several words and they need to combine them into a sentence


boy/playing/toy—–>The boy is playing with the toy


The examples in this post provide some simple ways in which English can be taught to students.  These drill and practice tools are one of many ways to support ESL students in their language acquisition.


Distributed Practice: A Key Learning Technique

A key concept in teaching and learning is the idea of distributed practice. Distributed practice is a process in which the teacher deliberately arranges for their students to practice a skill or use knowledge in many learning sessions that are short in length and distributed over time.

The purpose behind employing distributed practice is to allow for the reinforcement of the material in the students mind through experiencing the content several times. In this post, we will look at pros and cons of distributed practice as well as practical applications of this teaching technique

Pros and Cons

Distributed practice helps to maintain student motivation through requiring short spans of attention and motivation. For most students, it is difficult to study anything for long periods of time. Through constant review and exposure students become familiar with the content.

Another benefit is the prevention of mental and physical fatigue. This is related to the first point. Fatigue interferes with information processing. Therefore, a strategy that reduces fatigue can help in students’ learning new material.

However, there are times when short intense sessions are not enough to achieving mastery. Project learning may be one example. When completing a project, it often requires several long stretches of completing task that is not conducive to distributed practice.

Application Examples

When using distributed practice it is important to remember to keep the length of the practice short. This maintains motivation. In addition, the time between sessions should initial be short as well and lengthen as mastery develops. If the practice sessions are too far a part, students will forget.

Lastly, the skill should be practice over and over for a long period of time. How long depends on the circumstances. The point is that distributed practice takes a commitment to returning to a concept the students need to master over a long stretch of time.

One of the most practical examples of distributed practice may be in any curriculum that employs a spiral approach. A spiral curriculum is one in which key ideas are visited over and over through a year or even over several years of curriculum.

For our purposes, distributed practice is perhaps a spiral approach employed within a unit plan or over the course of a semester. This can be done in many ways such as.

  • The use of study guides to prepare for quizzes
  • Class discussion
  • Student presentations of key ideas
  • Collaborative project

The primary goal should be to employ several different activities that require students to return to the same material from different perspectives.


Distributed practice is a key teaching technique that many teachers employ even if they are not familiar with the term. Students cannot see any idea or skill once. The most be exposed several times in order to develop mastery of the skill. As such, understanding how to distribute practice is important for student learning.

Examples and Nonexamples in Teaching

Teaching involves the use of various techniques in order to convey meaning for the students. The available methods that are available are highly varied. In this post, we will look at the use of examples and nonexamples in providing meaning for students.


The term many of us are probably familiar with is example. In education, examples represent an idea or concept that a teacher is trying to teach their students.For example (no pun intended), if a teacher is trying to explain vocabulary they may use several different illustrations to explain the word. Consider the example below.

Teacher: Today’s vocab word is convoluted. Convoluted means something that is complicated. For example, the human body is very convoluted with all of its cells and systems.

This example above brief an illustration of the use of examples. Examples provide synonyms or other means of similarity with the unclear concept. Therefore, an example is always like or similar to whatever it is an example of.


Nonexamples are, as you can tell, the opposite of examples.Where examples provide an instance of similarity, nonexamples provide an instance of contrast. Below is the same situation with the use of convoluted is a sentence but this time the teacher shows the meaning through employing a nonexample.

Teacher: Today’s vocab word is convoluted. Convoluted means something that is complicated. Something that is not convoluted would be a rock or a ladder.

The example in the last sentence is an example of what convoluted is not. The contrast helps students to envision what the word is not and to develop there own ideas of what the word is.

Teaching Ideas for Examples and Nonexamples

Depending on the teaching method there are many practical ways to use examples and nonexamples. If direct instruction is used, it would be the teacher who provides the examples and noneexamples. If indirect instruction is employed, the students create the examples and none examples. In cooperative or inquiry classrooms, small groups develop examples and nonexamples.

For whatever reason, it is normally easier to develop examples rather than develop non-examples. The mind seems better adapted at seeing similarities rather than differences. For this reason, challenging students to develop nonexamples, may stretch their thinking more.

As a teacher, it is probably best to develop examples and nonexamples before teaching that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the learning experience. It’s difficult to create great teaching strategies while in front of the students. A methodological approach to developing teaching tools is always valuable.


Examples and nonexamples are tools that most teachers have been using without perhaps knowing it. This is especially true for examples. However, understanding how and why the tools work is highly beneficial in inspiring informed practice.

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

Robert Gagne was a psychologist in the field of education. One of his most influential ideas was his Nine Events of Instruction. The concept has had a significant impact in the instructional approach of many in the world of education.

This post will briefly explain and cover the Nine Events of Instruction and to explain there application in the classroom. The nine events are as follows.

  1. Gain learners’ attention.
  2. Inform learners of the objectives.
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.
  4. Present the content.
  5. Provide “learning guidance”
  6. Elicit performance (practice)
  7. Provide feedback.
  8. Assess performance.
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the real-world

Gain Learners Attention

Obtaining attention is critical in terms of information processing. Unfocused students cannot learn anything. How a teacher gains the attention of their students can vary. Some use classroom management techniques to obtain behavior such as ringing a bell or raising their hand to indicate that it is time to be quiet.

Inform Learners of the Objectives

It is hard for many to enjoy a journey when they do not know where they are going. The same idea applies to many students. You need to explain to them what they will do in order for them to enjoy doing it. This is one reason for sharing with the students the objectives or purpose of a class. It provides a sense of direction and perhaps relevance.

Stimulate Prior Learning

Stimulating prior learning allows students to connect new information with old. Review what they have learned in order to extend and build upon it. This is one aspect of constructivism. The review can be in the form of questions, game or some other method. Students need to see the connections among the information they are learning for schematic reasons as well.

Present Content

This the part of the teaching in which new material is presented. This can be done through any method of teaching including direct instruction, indirect instruction, cooperative learning, etc.

Provide Guidance

After learning new material, students need to use it. This first happens with a hands on example with guidance. In other words, the first few problems are done together with teacher support. This is the scaffolding aspect of Vygotsky’s model. You as the teacher guide the students through the initial experience of using new information.

Elicit Performance

At this step, the students are executing the new skill without immediate feedback. Students need the freedom to perform without instant critique even from the teacher. However, this is only temporary.

Provide Feedback

Now the students learn how they did. This can happen through going over the answers or discussion various opinions about a subjective subject. This event provides students with a way to compare their performance with that of others or some external standard.

Assess Performance

This is the giving of some sort of grade or indication of progress. There are several different methods for giving marks or grades.

Enhance Retention through Transfer to Real World

Students need to see how the knowledge they attain can be used in the real world. Therefore, the teacher needs to assist in this transfer. This can be through discussion on how to do this or through the use of some sort of authentic assessment.


Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is a fantastic model to follow when trying to teach and interact with students. The order is the most common flow and there are natural exceptions to the order developed by Gagne. However, a teacher chooses to do this they should keep in mind the nine events in order to support student learning.

Community Language Learning

Community Language Learning (CLL) is a humanistic approach to language learning based on psychological insights of Carl Rogers. The role of the teacher shifts to that of a counselor and the role of the student shifts to that of a client. The difference is that in CLL the counselor is a knower and the client is a learner.

This post will discuss the beliefs of CLL as well as its curriculum.

The Philosophy

CLL is based on interaction between learners and between learners and knowers. The goal is to strengthen social ties in order to establish a community. This is defined as intimacy in CLL lingo.

The interaction between learners and knowers goes through five stages.

  1. The learner explains what they want to say
  2. The tries to become self-assertive without success
  3. The learner becomes resentful of their dependency
  4. The learner becomes tolerant of their dependency
  5. The learner becomes independent

This five stage process is based on the development of babies as the move from helplessness to independence.

The roles of teachers and students has already been alluded too. Learning is viewed as collaborative in CLL. This explains why learners are consistently working together. The learners need to move from one affective crises to another. These crises are what encourage development in the language skills of the learners. A crisis is any challenge that pushes the learners.

The teachers role, in addition to being a knower, is to provide a stable learning environment in which learners collaborate. In addition, the teacher provides the various affective crises in order to encourage learning.


The primary goal of CLL is oral proficiency. As such, interaction is a primary characteristic of a CLL curriculum. Common activities in a CLL classroom include conversation, listening, translating, and transcribing.

Materials are developed by the teacher and are suited for the local context. The actual procedures vary and are not agreed upon among proponents of CLL.


CLL is an approach that is focused on providing students with an opportunity to learn from each other and the teacher. The environment is one in which learners are supported by a knower who provides guidance and language knowledge to the students.

Total Physical Response to Language Learning

Total Physical Response (TPR) is another lesser known method of teaching language. It relies on speech and action to help students to acquire the language. In this post, we will look at the background, assumptions, and curriculum approach of this method.


TPR is based on a theory in psychology called trace theory. Trace theory proposes that the more frequently a memory connection is made the easier it is to recall it. For example, if a student is given the verbal command “stand up” enough times, they will quickly learn what “stand up” means.

This of course, assumes that the student eventual understands what “stand up” means. This assumption of comprehension is based on the Comprehension Approach. This approach states that people understand something before they can reproduce it verbally.

Anyone who has ever seen a toddler can attest to this theory.  A toddler can obey commands much earlier than they can speak.


TPR is heavily based on imperatives as they are easy to understand as they are non-abstract. For example, it is easier to tell someone to sit down (non-abstract) then to ask them why they think rice is the best food (abstract).

TPR also takes a lot of assumptions from behaviorism and the concepts of stimulus-response. The continuous repetition of command and execution allows for the acquisition of language. Just as we see in children.

The teacher’s role is to be the center of the classroom. This is because they are the one’s providing the imperatives for the students. The teacher does not really teach but provides learning opportunities and feedback for the students. The learner’s role is primarily as a listener who becomes a performer.


The primary goal in TPR is to teach oral and listening skills. The teacher provides a large number of imperatives that the students execute, often over the first 120 hours. Eventually, the students should be using the imperatives with each other.

It is usually up to the teacher to develop the activities as there are few if any books for classroom use involving TPR. As such, TPR is a useful part of a larger learning experience and probably should not be used exclusively.


TPR is fun for getting students out of their chairs and experiencing language. However, it is limited in developing deeper language and communication skills. As such, TPR can be used for adding variety and stimulation but other approaches and methods are useful if the goal of the students is more than just lower-level communication.

ARCS Model of Motivational Design

The ARCS model of motivational design is an instructional model used in education. Instructional models are used to facilitate the learning experience of students. The ARCS model provides a step-by-step process of engaging students, building there confidence, and providing a sense of satisfaction during a learning experience.

In this post, we will look at the various aspects of the ARCS model as they are based on the acronym below

A  ttention
R  elevance
C  onfidence
S  atisfaction


Attention is the first step in the ARCS model. The goal at this stage is to help the learner to focus on the lesson.  There are several different ways to do this and they include the following.

  • Examples such as stories, and or audiovisual.
  • Hands-on experience such as experiments, skits, etc
  • Incongruity and Conflict which can be through employing cognitive dissonance. For example, making a statement that confuses students could provide a hook to get them to focus on the lesson
  • Inquiry involves having students ask questions to pull them into the lesson. The questions they develop rouse their desire to find the answer

None of these approaches are exclusive, which means that they can be used in combination with each other. For example, you could use an example to cause incongruity and or inquiry. The point is that a teacher must find a way to get their students’ attention.


Relevance is about using concepts and ideas the students can connect with to explain whatever new ideas are in the lesson. If students can see how what they are learning connect with their lives they are more inclined to learn it. Below are some ways to bring relevance into a lesson


  • Future usefulness means showing the students how what they are learning will help them later. This is not the strongest approach but it provides a platform for developing relevancy.
  • Needs matching means helping students to discover that they need to learn a particular skill or idea. When students know they need to learn something they are often motivated to learn it.
  • Modeling means being an example for the students. By demonstrating the new skill, student have something that they can imitate. This relates well with social learning theory.
  • Choice is highly motivating for many students. Through empowering students, there is often an increase in making learning relevant.


Developing confidence is about providing students with opportunities to succeed. What this means for the teacher is to provide assessment and activities that are stimulating but not impossible to complete.

A general rule of thumb is that students should be a able to successful complete 60-70% of a new skill on the first try. This allows them to have some degree of success while still indicating where they need to improve.


Satisfaction is closely related to confidence. With satisfaction, you provide the students with authentic situation in which to use their newly acquire skills. This implies the use of authentic assessments. However, authentic assessment requires feedback in order for the student to understand their growth opportunities.


The ARCS model provides teachers with an easy to follow template for developing clear instruction. The foundational principles in this model are useful for anyone who is looking for a way to vary their teaching practices.


The Natural Approach to Language Acquisition

The Natural Approach is a somewhat radical approach in language teaching. By radical I mean that it was often anti-everything that was happening in language teaching at the time of its development. Now, the Natural Approach is considered a fringe but not too shocking in terms of the philosophy behind it.

In this post, we will look at the assumptions, curriculum and of the Natural Approach


The Natural Approach is based on cognitivism and starts with the assumption that language learning emerges naturally if students are given appropriate exposure and conditions.

The focus is always upon the meaning of words and grammar is not focused upon. There is no need to explicitly analyze the grammatical structure of a language. Instead, the Natural Approach, students need time to develop gradually a knowledge of the rules. The language experience must always be slightly beyond the students ability as this stretches the student to continue to grow.

The Natural Approach also encourages maintaining an enjoyable and warm classroom environment. This is believed to help with motivation, self-confidence, and anxiety.


The Natural Approach is intended for beginners in a language. Therefore, the most basic skills are acquired from the use of this approach. The learner plays a role in the development of the curriculum. They are expected to do the following.

  • Share their goals for learning the language
  • Deciding when they want to beginning to talk in the target language
  • Make sure the communication in the class is comprehensible

The teacher’s role is to provide clear examples of the target language. The teacher is also expected to provide a friendly warm atmosphere of learning. Lastly, teacher needs to provide a variety of learning experiences.

The teacher achieves these goals through the use of games and group activities. Singing is another aspect of the Natural Approach as well. Basically, the students experience the language in a fun, low stress environment. Through this easy-going experience, language acquisition takes place.


The Natural Approach to language learning is distinct in its cognitive focused yet relax environment emphasis. This approach is highly useful in training children in particular in acquiring a new language as the focus is more on fun the the academic discipline of learning.

Cooperative Language Learning

Cooperative language learning (CLL) is the application of the instructional method cooperative learning in the language classroom. This approach to language teaching was a reaction against the teacher-centered methods of its time in favor of learner-centered methods.

This post will discuss the assumptions of CLL as well as the instructional practices associated with it.


Proponents of CLL see language as a primary tool for social interactions. Students learn the language through these social interactions. This idea is based primarily upon the work of Vygotsky. In addition, language also serves the function of communication and accomplishing task. This implies a need for authentic assessment.

The students role is to work as a member of group. CLL questions if learning a language alone is an appropriate way to learn. The teacher must provide a highly structured environment in which they serve as a facilitator of learning.


CLL has several specific goals including the following.

  • Learn the target language naturally through group interaction
  • Develop learning strategies
  • Create a positive learning environment
  • Develop critical thinking skills

These goals are partially achieved through developing interdependence among the students, individual accountability, and the formation of groups. Interdependence is useful in showing students that what benefits one benefits all of them.

Individual accountability happens through not only assigning group grades but individual grades as well for projects. Lastly, group formation is the foundation of the CLL experience.

Some common activities based on CLL includes

  • Jigsaw-Divide the work and then have the students put the pieces together
  • Projects-Any assignment that requires more than one person
  • Think-Pair-Share-Pose a question, let them think, put them in pairs, and have each pair share.

All of these activities involves collaboration with communication in the target language.


CLL involves learning in groups rather than alone. There is research that indicates that CLL is beneficial in acquiring the target language. As such, CLL is yet another way in which language teachers can support their students.

Lexical Approach

The Lexical Approach is a unique approach in TESOL methods. This approach starts from the position that language learning is not about the individual word but rather multi-word chunks. As such, a student should focus learning various combinations of word chunks.

This post will share the assumptions and curriculum of the Lexical Approach


The Lexical Approach states clearly that language acquisition happens through acquiring the chunks or collocations of a language. Learning a language is not about rules but rather about acquiring enough examples from which the learner can make generalizations. For example, I child will eventually learn that “good morning” is a greeting for  a  specific time of day.

Chunks are learned through one or more of the following strategies

  • Exposure-You see it over and over again and make a generalization
  • Comparison-You compare the target language chunk with a chunk for another language
  • Noticing-You notice a combination for the first time

Lexical approach is primarily an approach for autonomous learning. Therefore, the teacher’s role is to provide an environment in which the student can manage their own learning.

The student’s responsibility is in using what is called a concordancer. A concordancer is an online resource that provides examples of how a word is used in real literature. Each concordancer has one or more corpus from which examples of the word being used come from.


The Lexical Approach is not a comprehensive method and as such does not include any objectives. There are several common activities used in this approach.

  • Awareness activities help students to notice chunks and include. The teacher might provide several examples of sentences using the word “prediction” to allow students to try and determine the meaning of this word
  • Identifying  chunks involves having the students search for chunks in a text. The results are then compared during a discussion.
  • Retelling involves having a student make their own sentences while reusing a chunk that they have just learned. For example, if the students learn the chunk (don’t put all your eggs in one basket) they would have to use this chunk in their own unique sentence.


The Lexical approach is a useful approach for those with a more analytical way of learning a language. Digesting a language through memorizing and applying various collocations can be beneficial to many language learners.

Text-Based Instruction

Text-Based Instruction (TBI) employs the use of different genres of text in a social context to encourage language development. This post will discuss the assumptions and curriculum development of this method.


TBI starts with the belief that different forms of text are used for various situations. This leads to another conclusion that mastering a language involves exposure to these different genres.  Furthermore, each text has a distinct organizational pattern

However, exposure to different types of text is not enough. Students must also use language in a social setting. Communicating about the text is critical for language acquisition.

TBI also stresses the importance of learning explicitly about the language. This  means conscious awareness about what one is learning. This again can happen through discussion or through the illustrations of the teacher. In fact scaffolding is a key component of TBI.

Students learn through the guidance and support of the teacher. The teacher’s role, in addition to scaffolding, is to select materials and sequence the curriculum.


The objectives in a TBI curriculum depend on text that are used in the learning experiences. For example, the objectives for reading newspapers are different from reading textbooks.

Instructional materials play a crucial role in TBI. This is because of the emphasis on authentic materials. As such, actual reading samples from books, articles, and magazines are commonly employed.

A common instructional approach using TBI would include the following steps

  1. Build the context
    • This means providing a background about the reading through sharing necessary information for understanding of the topic of the text. This can be done verbally, visually, a combination of both, etc.
  2. Deonstructing the text
    • This involves comparing the writing of the text the students are using with another similarly written text. For example, comparing the structure of to newspaper articles.
  3. Joint Construction of text
    • Students, with the support of the teacher, develop their own example of the text they were reading. For example, if the text was a newspaper article. The class develops a sample newspaper article with teacher support.
  4. Independent construction of text
    • Same as #3 but now the students work alone.
  5. Reflection
    • Students discuss how what they learned can be used in other contexts


TBI is a unique approach to language teaching that focuses on reading to develop the other three skills of language. This approach is particularly useful for people who prefer to learn a language through reading rather than in other forms.


Task-Based Language Teaching

Task-base language teaching (TBLT) is an approach to language teaching that involves giving students functional task to complete that develops their ability to use the language in authentic situations. In this post, we explore the philosophy and some principles of using this approach in a curriculum


TBLT is focused not on the end result or product but rather the process that is used to complete the task. In other words, it is not the final draft that matters most in TBLT but developing the skills of writing and editing. The task need to be sequence according to difficult and reflect the real-world whenever possible.

The goal in TBLT is to exchange meaning. This means that understanding each other is more important to adhering to all the rules of the language. Language is for making meaning. When people communicate they are able to scaffold each other’s language acquisition while talking.

The tasks in TBLT serve the purpose of helping learners to see the gaps in their knowledge. This discovery provides motivation to learn what is necessary to overcome the deficiency. Since the activities simulate the real world students can see that they really need to learn something as they can see the connection of the task with reality.

The learners job is to participate and take risk in their learning. Teachers role is to motivate students, select task, and monitor students progress.


TBLT starts with a needs analysis. Task are then developed to help the students. Normally. task mirror the real-world and are called real-world task. However, there are also  pedagogical task which are not real-world but traditional learning activities. These are useful when students lack specific needs.

Some activities of TBLT includes the following.

  • jigsaw-Break an activity into several parts and have each student do a different part and then combine
  • Problem-solving-Solve a problem together
  • Opinion exchange-Share thoughts on a topic

Materials used in TBLT can include many forms of realia such as TVs, newspapers, and other forms of communication. The goal is always to be as authentic as possible.

When using TBLT there are three common steps to teaching

  1. Introduce the task-This provides an overview of what is happening in order to motivate the students. You also explain what they will do.
  2. Provide support for task performance-Scaffold the students so they can complete the task.
  3. Post-task-Provide students with an opportunity to reflect


TBLT is most useful for teachers with extensive experience who have a large amount of resources available for use. Developing the teaching materials in TBLT is a major challenge because they often have to be original and need specific.

Regardless of this, for those who are looking for a different experience in language teaching TBLT is one option.

Competency-Based Language Teaching

Competency-based language teaching (CBLT)is a language teaching focused aspect of competency-based education. In brief, competency-based education is focus on having students master specific skills that are related to real world task. CBLT takes this approach and applies it to the learning of language.

This post will focus on the assumptions, curriculum of CBLT, and the criticism of this approach.


CBLT takes an interactional approach to language learning. Language is viewed as a way to achieve social and personal goals. Language is also viewed as a concept that can be broken down into component parts. For example, breaking words down into phonemes. Lastly, there is also an emphasis on the development of skills such as decoding.

The students role is to monitor their mastery of the target competencies and to be able to transfer the skills they develop to different context. The teacher serves in the role of a needs analyst, materials developer and coach of the student.


Objectives in CBLT are usually highly specific. Examples include the following

  • Follow verbal instructions to complete a task
  • Request supplies orally
  • Read directions to complete a task

The highly detailed nature often makes it clear to both the student and the teacher how things are progressing. Instructional activities focuses on the exchange of information among all parties as well as authentic assessments.

The procedures used in CBLT often consists of the following format.

  1. Warm up
  2. Introduction
  3. Presentation of new information
  4. Check for understanding
  5. Guided practice
  6. Unguided practice
  7. Evaluation

Most of these steps should be self-explanatory. The overall point is to start with what they know, move to what is unknown, and practice the unknown until it becomes familiar.

Criticism of CBLT

CBLT has been accused of being overly behavioral. The minute objectives can almost be seen as a form of “dog training.” People are able to execute a behavior but they do not know why they are doing it. In other words, CBLT is lacking in the development of higher cognitive activity.

On a deeper level, CBLT has been accused of making passive students in a way consistent with Friere’s concept of “banking” education. This reasoning flows from the idea that the competencies prescribe for the student are based on the values of the dominant group.

This makes some sense as competencies in many fields of education are based on the demands of business.  Students are being trained not necessarily to push boundaries but to fit into a status quo.


CBLT serves the purpose of itemizing the behavior a person should have in order to use a language. The benefits of this approach are the clarity in the expectations. However, for some the minute nature of the expectations limits the development of a person. Regardless of the pros and cons, CBLT is one model of approaching language teaching.

Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education (CBE) involves focusing on the outcomes of learning in the form of standards/objectives rather than the input of learning as they are developed by the teacher. This is actually a radical shift in terms of approaching curriculum development.

This post would provide a brief explanation into CBE and it role in education

The Old vs the New

One of the original models for curriculum development was established by Ralph Tyler. His model in summary includes the following steps

  1. Decide what to teach
  2. Decide how to teach it
  3. Decide how to assess it

This model is a classic but it is lacking in including actions that the students should do. When employing the Tyler model, all the teacher has to do is get through content without concern for the progress of the student.

CBE, has a slightly different model for curriculum development

  1. Describe learning outcomes (what the student can do at the end of the course).
  2. Decide how to assess it
  3. Decide how to teach it

There are some significant differences between these two models For example, the CBE model starts with learning outcomes and progress not to how to teach but how to assess. Developing the assessment first insures that the teaching is consistent in preparing students for the assessment because the teachers knows already what they are assessing.

When developing learning outcomes the need to be specific and practical. This is in contrast to goals which are broad and immeasurable. Learning outcomes should be mastered one at a time to allow the student to focus.

Focus of CBE

CBE also emphasizes the following

  • Authentic assessment-The assessment must be based on real-world scenarios. This allows students to develop skills for functioning in society.
  • Continuous assessment–Another term for this is formative assessment. There is no benefit to assessing students only summatively from the CBE perspective as this negates the incremental use of learning outcomes.
  • Demonstration of mastery-Before moving to the next step, students must show mastery of the current information.

The focus of CBE allows for learners to know where they are in terms of their progress.


From the perspective of some, the entire standards based approach to teaching is based on principles derived from CBE. Business also use this approach in develop training materials for their workers. The extent to which CBE has influenced education is deep and far reaching.

With its focus on breaking expected behaviors into small increments, CBE is very useful in assessing people and providing data. This is perhaps the strongest reason for the success of this approach.