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 involve 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 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 actual techniques used in the method.


Gouin was a French lecturer of Latin. He decided to attempt to study at the University of Berlin but realized he needed to learn  German in order to continue his studies. Being a natural lover of 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 discouraged.

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 given 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 student’s 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 tasks that are 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 practiced 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. There must 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 their 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 nonexamples. 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) than 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 ones 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 tasks. This implies a need for authentic assessment.

The student’s role is to work as a member of a 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 involve 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 developing 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 depends on the text that is 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 an 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 focused 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 student’s role is to monitor their mastery of the target competencies and to be able to transfer the skills they develop to a 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 focus 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 its 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 ensures that the teaching is consistent in preparing students for the assessment because the teachers know 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. Businesses also use this approach in developing 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.

The Oral Approach of Language Teaching

During the early part of the 20th century, linguist in Europe developed the Oral Approach. This approach to learning a language had a major impact for several decades in language teaching. In this post, we will look at the history and characteristics of what was once a revolutionary approach to teaching language.


The Oral Approach was a direct reaction to the Direct Method. In contrast to the Direct Method, Oral Approach was based on scientific research. One of the primary desires of the developers of this approach was to have a systematic way of teaching English.


The Oral Approach stresses the following…

Vocabulary-Vocabulary is seen as a way for developing reading skills in this approach. The Oral Approach stipulates a list of 2000 words essential for reading comprehension

Grammar-In terms of grammar, it is not the same as the grammar-translation method which stresses a universal grammar. Rather, in the Oral Approach, it is the patterns of the sentences that matter such as Subject-Verb-Object. Students learn the structures in order to use and understand the language.

Curriculum-There are three main elements to curriculum development in Oral Approach selection, gradation, and presentation. Selection is the choosing of content. Gradation is the process of organizing the curriculum, and presentation is the instructional component.

Another major aspect of curriculum was the development of the PPP instructional model.  PPP stands for presentation, practice, and perform. Presentation is the teacher sharing information with students. Practice is the students having time to demonstrate their understanding without fear of failure. Perform is the students sharing their knowledge as a form of assessment.

Theories  & Teaching

The Oral Approach has a structural view of language learning as mention in the curriculum section above. With an emphasis on behavioral practices. Students learned through repetition. Teaching takes place inductively.

The Oral Approach relies on the use of situations to teach language. A situation is the use of such as pictures, objects, and or realia, to teach. Students are expected to listen and repeat what the instructor says. This means that students have little control over content.

The lessons are highly teacher-centered and the teacher is extremely active with timing, reviewing, testing, etc. The ultimate goal is to have the students use the language in non-structured real-life settings.

Another Name

The Oral Approach is also called situational language learning. The difference is really a matter of age. The Oral Approach was developed in the 1920’s while situational Language learning was developed in the 1960’s. There are other minor differences but the primary separation between these two is time.


The Oral Approach is yet another reaction to what was done before its implementation. With new information came a shift in teaching language that lasted 70 years. As perhaps the first scientifically based way of teaching a language. The Oral Approach paved the way for even more innovation in language teaching.

Understanding Procedures in Language Teaching

Procedures are the most practical aspect of language teaching. At this point, a teacher is actually apply a method that was derived from an approach. This means that procedures are the actual use of various skills in teaching a language. This post will provide insight into the role of procedures in language teaching.

Three Components

There are three components to procedures that a teacher needs to keep in mind. One, procedures involve teaching activities such as drills, discussion, etc. Second, procedures also involve how a teaching activity is used such as cooperatively or individually. Lastly, procedures also includes how feedback is given.

To say things simply, procedures involves the presentation of information, the practicing of new skills, and the giving of feedback. In other forms of teaching, procedures would be the equivalent of instructional design in that it focuses on the delivery and use of content.

Examples of Procedures

Different methods have different procedures. For now, the point is just to provide examples of various types of procedures without focusing on a particular method.

Presentation-Sharing information directly, indirectly, or some other way  with students

PracticeThis can take the form of any assignment that requires the students to use something they have just learned.

Checking-Providing students with correct answers or guidance

Homework-Additional practice of class material.

All methods have some or all of the points above in one form or another. What influences how these procedures are used is the approach that it is based on. For example, in grammar-translation method the presentation procedure would always be direct and deductive. In other styles the presentation procedure would be indirect and inductive. Despite these differences, it is likely that all language teachers would agree that some sort of presentation happens in all methods of language teaching.


Procedures is the most practical aspect of language teaching. At this point, the goal is to have various ways of actually teaching. It is at the procedure level that many teachers spend the majority of their time.

However, to truly understand what is happening in the classroom is ti know the method and approach of a particular set of procedures Knowledge of this will help a teacher to know why they are doing something as well as knowing how to explain this.


Method Design

In language teaching, the approach shapes and influences how an instructor views language learning and language in general. Once an instructor has an idea of how they see the language learning experience it is necessary to actual develop a plan or method of teaching language.

Method design is the development of the actual curriculum for language teaching. Methods are practical applications of various learning theories of language. There are several major methods of language teaching from Grammar-Translation to Silent way. The purpose of this post is to provide an overview of how people have approach the design of a method.

Consider the Objectives

Objectives are what the teacher expects the students to do. Often this is the first step in the systematic design of a method. In TESOL, there are two types of objectives. Process-oriented methods and product-oriented methods.

Process-oriented methods focus more proficiency or the actual use of the language. They are often more behaviorist in nature. For example, “the student will speak the language with clarity.” Would be an example of a process-oriented objective. Such an objective is holistic in nature and often involves several steps.

Product-oriented objectives are often focus more on knowing than doing. These objectives are about grammar and vocabulary. For example, “Students will know how to form plural words” is a product-oriented objective. This objectives usually do not focus on the big picture of complex language communication.

Develop a Syllabus

The syllabus is a document that includes the subject matter and how it is discussed. Different methods have different subject matters. Some methods focus on grammar while others focus on communication in specific situations. How the language is learned is shaped by the focus of the syllabus.

Instructional materials are the actually tools that help to achieve the content in the syllabus. For example, if the syllabus has a subject about Asian history. The instructional materials will include a reading on China as an example.

Select Learning and Teaching Activities

The activities of learning and teaching are the tools that are employed for the actual benefit of the improvement of the students language skills. Again, each method has different activities. A grammar focused method will employ grammar activities. A functional focused method will focus on communication in context. Perhaps it is becoming clear how the approach shapes so much of how a person teaches a language.

Roles of Learners and Teachers

Method design also examines the responsibilities of students and teachers. Older methods of learning a language are usually more teacher-centered. This is consistent with the era in which they were developed as most teaching was focused on the teacher. Newer methods of teaching are more focused on the student and increasing student activity. Lessons are inductive in nature rather than deductive.

Regardless of the method, it is the teachers responsibility to apply the method. This means that a teacher-centered method relies on a teacher while a student-centered method calls for the teacher to facilitate student-learning.


Method design often includes the concepts above. However, this is not the totality of developing language teaching methods. The purpose here was to provide some basic understanding of the components of a method

The Direct Method

In reaction to the grammar-translation approach that had been used for several centuries, many educators placed an emphasis on oral communication skills. By the late 19th century, the natural method was primarily a method that focused on oral skills.

Many methods are derived from the natural method approach. One of the most influential methods in language teaching that came from the natural method approach was the direct method in the late 19th century.  In this post, we will examine the characteristics of the direct method as well as its impact in teaching language.

Traits of Direct Method

The direct method stressed the use of only the target language in the classroom. Instead of using the students’ native language the teacher would demonstrate and use body language to express meaning. Due to this reliance on the target language, only common, everyday vocabulary was taught. As such, this method may not be appropriate for academic language learning.

Speaking and listening was the primary purpose of the direct method. These skills were developed through a question and answer approach. This supported the development of communication skills as well as strengthening comprehension.

Correct grammar was also important as was pronunciation. Grammar was taught inductively with the teacher sharing examples that illustrated the principle of the grammar lesson.

Impact of the Direct Method

The direct method was highly successful in private language schools were motivated students came to learn a language. However, this method never replicated this success in public schools. There are several reasons for this lack of broad-based success.

The direct method was lacking in any form of linguistic theory to support its principles. This method was basically developed by amateurs who were unfamiliar with the details of language learning but instead were trying to overcome problems strictly through the use of common sense rather than common sense with research.

The direct method also requires the use of native speaking teachers. This is not always possible. The strict avoidance of the students’ language was often too cumbersome when teaching for many people.

With these and other concerns, the direct method was mostly abandoned by the 1920s in Europe. This method was never popular in the US.


The direct method was perhaps the first major fad method in language teaching. For over 100 years language teaching went from one method to another as it searched for the perfect method for teaching language. As we well see in a future post, each method always claimed to be an improvement in relation to its predecessors. The reality is that there is no single best method but a collection of choices to be made depending on the situation one is facing.

Reaction Toward Grammar-Translation

By the mid 19th century, many language educators began to react negatively towards the grammar-translation method. This post will examine several concerns of the grammar-translation model and the proposed early solutions to these concerns.

The Problems

Among some of the problems people had with grammar-translation includes was the inability to communicate verbally and lack of context. The lack of verbal communication was a major problem particularly when grammar-translation was used to teach living languages such as English. For many, learning a living language involves learning to speak it and the grammar-translation model does not provide this.

A closely related problem was a lack of context. A large part of communication is the setting in which it takes place. Another term for this is pragmatics. The setting along with body language (paralinguistic features) determines a large portion of understanding in communication. This is all ignored with the grammar-translation method as it is focused on text exclusively.

Proposed Solutions

Several 19th century language teaching innovators offered answers to these problems. Prendergast was one of the first to notice how children learn language through context. He also found that children memorize commonly use phrases for future use. From these two observation Pendergast proposed a structural approach to language learning in which the most basic units of a language are taught first followed by more complex ideas.

Gouin also study how children learn language He proposed that language learning was easiest through using language to accomplish sequenced events that were related. For example, students might learn several phrases using the word door such as “I walk toward the door” and “I stop at the door”. Students would then learn the verb of such phrases like “I walk” and “I stop”. This experience happens in several different ways in order to help the student understand what “walk” and “stop” mean.

Gouin also supported the use of paralinguistic features such as gesturing in order to help explain ideas in a conversation with students. This support of body language influenced several methods of teaching English.


The reformers of the 19th century notice something about language that is obvious to us today, and that is the need to learn to communicate verbally.This led to many proposed reforms. However, few have heard of these reforms as they did not spread throughout the world of language teaching. This is due to inferior ways of communicating when compared today.

Though lacking recognition. The reforms suggested in the 19th century have become a part of standard practice for any teachers today.

Grammar Translation Method

The grammar-translation was developed through the teaching of Latin. This post will explain some of the traits of the grammar-translation model as well as reactions towards it.


The goal in grammar-translation is to learn read and write another language for the sake of developing mental discipline. This is consistent with the perennialist worldview of education at the time. Learning a language is focused on grammar rules used in manipulating the meaning of the text.

As such, listening and speaking are not a focus. This leads to the students’ native language being used as the mode of instruction and the foreign language is strictly for other purposes. A typical lesson involves copious amounts of translating with a goal of high accuracy.

Grammar was taught deductively which means that the teacher always explained the rules for the students who would then apply them. This is in contrast to discovery learning which relies on students learning principles of a lesson themselves.


Grammar-translation was essential the first formalized way of teaching a language. Even today, this approached is used for the teaching of English as well as many “dead” languages such as Latin, Koine Greek, and Classical Hebrew.

The result of this approach to learning a language was an endless amount of vocabulary without context combined with an emphasis on memorizing.  Many a pastor and theologian bemoan their days of taking biblical languages. This was partially due to how the language was taught. Many programs require memorizing an extensive list of word and declensions even though there are dictionaries, lexicons, and concordances readily available.

There are some advantages to this approach. For learning to communicate on an academic level via writing this method is supreme. This makes sense as the student does not have to develop speaking and listening skills. In addition, understanding the rules of a language provides insights into how and why of using it.

The grammar-translation method was easy to administer for teachers while boring for students. For teachers who lack verbal ability, it allows them to provide some sort of understanding of the language to their students. This method is also beneficial to large classes where it is difficult to monitor behavior.

With time, language teaching was becoming more and more important. Combine this with the dissatisfaction that was arising from the grammar-translation and there arises a shift and push back against the grammar-translation.

The Influences of Latin in TESOL

There are probably many TESOL teachers who are perhaps unaware of the role Latin has played in shaping the world of TESOL today. Latin has had a tremendous influence in how language teaching has been shaped as Latin was one of the first languages that was systematically taught on a large scale. As such, Latin provided the foundation for how language was taught for several hundred years.

Latin at its Role in Language Teaching

Speaking several languages was the norm for most of known history in most parts of the world such as Europe. However, with the dawn of empires such as the Greek and Romans, there came a need to have a dominating language over local languages.

The language of Rome was primarily Latin. As such, this led Latin to the spreading of Latin throughout the Western world. What was unique was how long the Roman Empire lasted. After over 1000 years, Latin was the language of education, business, and government. It was embedded in tradition and not just an outside language imposed on locals.

With the decline of the Roman empire came a growth in the use of other languages in Europe such as English, French, Italian, etc. This contributed to Latin being taught as a subject because of the prominence it use to have. Change is difficult and abandoning a language that was so ingrained in Western civilization was not easy for scholars.

Another reason that Latin was still taught after its decline was for purposes of strengthening the mind. Educators believed that study of Latin would improve intellectual prowess of students because of the challenge of learning it.

The Teaching of Latin

Latin was taught to young people through  a focus on grammar rules, declension, and conjugation of verbs. Students also translated passages to and from Latin to developing writing skills.

A deductive approach was used in developing a knowledge of the grammar. Students were taught the rules of the grammar first and then provide with opportunities to apply them. There was no discovery or inductive approaches to learning.

Furthermore, students only learned to read and write Latin. This is partly due to the fact that Latin had died as a verbal language. Therefore, there was no development of conversational skills or practical application.

Latin and Modern Language Teaching

The approach of Latin with its focus on grammar and translation was how other languages were first taught by the 19th century. Since there was no other example for how to approach language teaching it only made sense to copy how Latin was taught. Everybody was focused on text but never on context.

People learned to communicate in through text even though they were studying living languages.  Every language was taught as a mental exercise rather than as a skill for practical use.


The teaching of Latin led directly to the development of the grammar-translation method. This method laid the foundation for reactionary methods that are a part of the field of TESOL.

Rapid Instructional Design

Instructional design is a critical component of education particularly in the field of e-learning. Instructional design can be defined as the application of learning principles in order to support the learning of students. To put it simply, instructional design involves designing the teaching in a way that improves learning.

In this post, we will look at one example of an instructional design. We will look at Dave Meiers’s Rapid Instructional Design (RID).

Meier’s RID model uses learning techniques that speed up learning and includes a learning environment that emphasizes practice, feedback, and experience rather than presentations. RID is focused on active learning rather than the traditional model of passive learning through such examples as lecturing.

The RID model has the following four phases

  • Preparation
  • Presentation
  • Practice
  • Performance


Preparation is about preparing the learner for learning. In this first step, the teacher would share the big picture of the learning experience. This includes state the goals and benefits of the learning experience. Other activities at this step are to arouse the interest of the reader in an appropriate matter and to deal with any potential problems that would impede the learning.

How this can be done varies. Often, beginning a lesson with a story or illustration can arouse interest. Dealing with problem students could be one way to deal with potential barriers to learning.


At the presentation step, the learners are first exposed to the new knowledge and or skill. Whereas traditional teaching focuses on content delivery, the RID model focus on interactive activities and discovery learning.

A primary goal of RID is to use and incorporate real world phenomenon into the teaching. For example, do not only talk about math but develop lessons from the real world involving people and companies for the students. This enhances relevancy.


Practice involves having the students use whatever they just learned. This is critical as this allows them to learn through trial-and-error. As they receive feedback on their progress the students develop mastery.

Practice is easy in such fields as math, science, and even music. For more abstract fields such as critical thinking, theology, and philosophy. Practice takes place via discussion or through expressing ideas in writing. Demonstrating thought through communicating ideas verbally and in writing are forms of practice for more abstract subjects.


Performance is the application of the skill in a real-world setting. This is also known as an authentic assessment. How this is done is discipline specific.

In education, performance includes such activities as the student teaching phase of a new teacher. This allows the student to apply many of the skills they learned during their teacher training. In music, the recital serves as an excellent model of performance.


The RID model is just one of many ways to guide the learners of students. The value of this model is in the simplicity of its approach and the emphasis on active learning.

Getting and Keeping Student Attention

Getting students to focus and pay attention is a major problem in education. Fortunately, there are several strategies that a teacher can use to help students to pay attention. In this post, we will cover the following approaches for maintaining a student’s attention…

  • Indicate what is important
  • Increase intensity
  • Include novelty
  • Include movement


There are times when students are engaged but they don’t know what to do or what they are looking for. For example, a teacher my want students to summarize a paragraph. However, it is common for students to get focused on the details of the passage and never identify the main point.

To overcome this problem, a teacher may want to focus the students attention on questions that will guide the students to summarizing the paragraph. The questions breakdown the task of summarizing into individual steps. Below is an example

  1. What is the topic of the paragraph?
  2. What are some of the details the author includes in the paragraph?
  3. What is the main point of the paragraph?

The example above provides one way the task of summarizing can be broken down into several steps. This helps in focusing the students.

Raise the Intensity

Increasing the intensity has to do with the amount of stimulus a child receives while doing something. For example, if a child is struggling to write the letter ‘t’ you may have them say out loud how to write it before writing the letter. This exposes the child to new material both verbally and in a psychomotor way.

The goal of this approach is to engage more of the student’s senses in order to help them to pay attention.


This approach is self-explanatory. Students pay attention much more closely to something they have not experienced before. The only limits to this approach are the imagination.

For example, if a teacher is teaching math to small children, they may choose to use manipulatives as a new way of reinforcing the content. Another option would be to incorporate simple word problems.  There is truly no limit in this strategy.


Movement can involve the students and or the teacher moving around. When the students move it can help in breaking the monotony of having to sit still.  Movement is even beneficial for adult students. A moving teacher, on the other hand, is a moving target the students can focus upon. It is normally wise to avoid staying in one place to long when teaching children for the sake of attention and classroom management.


These ideas are some of the basics for increasing attention. Naturally, there are other ways to deal with this challenge. However, a teacher chooses to deal with this problem, they need to determine if their approach works for their students

Reflective Thinking in Small Groups

Working in groups requires making decisions together. For many people, this is a frustrating experience. However, there are strategies available that can help guide a group through the decision-making experience.

One method that may help small groups to make decisions is the reflective-thinking approach. This approach was developed by John Dewey and has been in use almost 100 years.

This post will explain the reflective-thinking approach. This approach has five steps…

  1. Define the problem
  2. Analyze the problem
  3. Develop criteria for solving the problem
  4. Develop potential solutions
  5. Select the most appropriate solution

Define the Problem

A group needs to know what problem they are trying to solve. One of the best ways to define the problem is to phrase it as a question. For example, if the problem is students struggling in English class, one way to word this problem as a question would be…

What should we do to help students with their English class?

There are several traits of a clearly worded problem. One, it is clear and specific. In the example above it is clear the English performance is a problem. Two, the phrasing of the question should be open-ended which allows for many different answers. Three, the question should only ask one question. This increase the answer-ability of the question and allows the group to focus.

Analyze the Problem

Before developing solutions, it is imperative that the group analyze the problem. This involves assessing the severity of the problem and the causes of the problem. Determining severity helps to understand who is affected and how any while determining causes can naturally lead to solutions in the next step of this process.

Returning to our English example, it may be that only 5th graders are struggling with English and that most of the 5th graders are ESL students. Therefore, the severity of the problem is 5th graders and the cause is their non-native background. This step also contributes to a deeper focus on the problem.

Develop Criteria for Solving the Problem

Before actually solving the problem, it is important to determine what characteristics and traits the solution should have. This is called criteria development. A criteria is a standard for what the solution to the problem should achieve.

Returning to the English problem, below is a criteria for solving this problem

  1. The solution should be minimal
  2. The solution  should be implemented immediately
  3. The solution should specifically target improving reading comprehension
  4. The solution should involve minimal training of the 5th grade teachers

The criteria helps with focus. It prevents people from generating ideas that are way off track.

Develop Solutions

In this step, the group develops as many solutions as widely and creative as possible. The ideas are recorded. Even though a criteria has been developed, it is not consulted at this stage but is used in the final step.

Select the Solution

All solutions that were developed are now judged by the criteria that was developed previously. Each idea is compared to the group criteria. Each solution that meets the criteria is set aside to discuss further.

Once all acceptable solutions have been chosen it is now necessary to pick the one most acceptable to the group. The first desire should be for consensus, which means everyone accepts the solution. If consensus is not possible, the next option is to vote. Voting benefits the majority while often irritating the minority. This is one reason why voting is the second option.


The reflective-thinking method is an excellent way to efficiently solve problems in a group. This method provides a group with an ability to focus and not get lost when making decisions.

Leadership in Small Groups

In education, it is common to have students work in groups. Natural, there are many problems in having students work together. One common problem is determining the direction of the group through deciding on leadership. This post will share insights into group leadership by sharing the following

  • Types of leadership
  • Functions of leadership

Types of Leadership

Leadership is the ability to influence those around you to achieve goals. In groups, leadership can take on one of many forms, such as,

  • Implied
  • Emergent
  • Designated

Implied leadership is the selection of a leader due to their higher status or rank. For example, if several freshman are working with a junior on a project, often they will defer to the junior because he or she is older and or of a higher academic rank.

Emergent leadership is the rise of a leader due to their assertiveness. This can be good or bad. It is good if the group is off track or stalemated. It is bad if the leader takes power through the force of their personality for their own benefit.

Designated leadership is leadership through election or appointment. In this example, the leader is formally chosen before the group begins working or at the beginning of the life of the group.

Teachers should make sure they have some sort of plan for setting up leadership in groups. The way this happens is context depended but not being aware of how leadership is developed in a group can lead to problems within groups.

Functions of Leadership

Leaders have several major rolls and these include

  • Procedural responsibilities
  • Task responsibilities
  • Maintenance responsibilities

Procedural responsibilities involve the various housekeeping needs of groups. This includes agenda for meetings, meetings time and location, and starting and ending meetings on time.

Task responsibilities center around getting things done. This includes assigning task to others, helping the group to stay focused, and or solving group problems.

Maintenance responsibilities are about the interpersonal relationships within a group. Some examples of how a leader deals with this includes providing support for members and helping members to get along with each other.

It is not necessary for one leader to do all of these functions themselves. Rather, it is the leaders job to make sure that all of these responsibilities are taken care of within the group or team. If any of these responsibilities are ignored serious problems can arise as the group tries to work.


Groups normally need some form of leadership, otherwise, there will be no direction. There are many ways that a leader can arise in a group. Regardless of how a leader is selected, they have certain responsibilities that they need to assure are completed by them or some other member.

Teachers most keep in mind how leaders will be selected for groups in their classes. In addition, they must be sure to explain to the leader the responsibilities they have as this will lesson confusion within the group.

Learning to Learn: Teaching Autonomy to Students

For many educators, the primary purpose of education is to equip students to learn to learn and think for themselves. How this is done is not always clear. However, one goal is to help students to understand how they learn and to develop appropriate learning strategies that work with their character. This post will provide some strategies that promote learner autonomy.


Reflection is about looking back on what happened and deciding what went well and not so well. This is an important step in autonomy in that students begin to understand what their strengths and weaknesses clearly are. However, it is not enough to define strengths and weaknesses. The next step is to have students develop a plan to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses.

For example, after completing a major project or assignment in any class, you can have the students write a 1-2 reflection paper in which they share strengths, weaknesses, and a plan to maximize strengths and deal with weaknesses. The purpose of such an assignment is not to rigorously mark it but to get the students to think about their own progress.

Another approach involves having the students develop a list of what they can do after a particular learning experience. Whatever subject is taught, the students identify what they can now do.This is a way of empowering the students to realize that they have actually learned something and can go forward able to reproduce these skills.

Provide Different Strategies

Autonomy is about choice. Therefore, providing various learning strategies for the students can play a role in developing autonomy. An example would be providing various ways to take notes. Students can learn how to develop cluster notes, a traditional outline, or some other method. After the students learn several different strategies they then choose the one that works best for them.

The opportunity for choice empowers students with responsibility. In addition, students will probably pick the approach that works best for them. If they do not, they also will get to learn that a particular strategy is not for them and they can make the decision to switch to different one.

Teaching Each Other

When students support each other’s learning it helps them to better understand themselves. Having students evaluate and comment on each other’s work is another method of developing autonomy. Evaluating is near the top of the cognitive domain and is useful in developing the thinking skills of students.

The common name for what I am trying to explain is peer-review. When students serve as teachers to one another it provides an opportunity to develop autonomous learning skills.


It is important that not everyone agrees with autonomous learning. Some people and many cultures expect the teacher to feed them the information. It is tempting to condemn this put it is better to remember that people view independence differently. For those who see that autonomy is important, this post provided some basic ways to approach this.

Tips for Lesson Planning: Part II

Before developing a plan of instruction there are many factors to consider. This post will consider the following points…

  • Needs assessment
  • Syllabus
  • Outlining purpose

Needs Assessment

Before committing to any particular plan of instruction, a teacher must determine what the needs of the students are. This is most frequently done through conducting a needs assessment.

There are many ways to find out what the students need to know. One way is through speaking with the students. This provide some idea as to what there interest are. Student interest can be solicited through conversation, interviews, questionnaire, etc. Another way is to consult the subject matter of the course through examining other curricula related to the subject.

As an educator, it is necessary to balance the needs of the students with the requirements of the course. Many things are modifiable in a course but some things are not. Therefore, keeping in mind the demands of students and the curriculum are important.

Developing the Syllabus

Once the instructor as an idea of the students needs it is time to develop the syllabus of the class. There are several different types of syllabus. A skill syllabus focuses on specific skills students need in the discipline. For example, an ESL syllabus may focus on grammar. Skill syllabus focus on passive skills not active

A functional syllabus is focused on several different actions. Going back to ESL. If a syllabus is focused on inviting, apologizing or doing something else it is a functional syllabus. These skills are active.

A situational syllabus is one in which learning takes place in various scenarios. In ESL, a student might learn English that they would use at the market, in the bank, at school, etc. The focus is on experiential/authentic learning.

The type of syllabus developed is based on the needs of the students. This is important to remember as many teachers predetermine this aspect of the learning experience.

Outlining Purpose

Developing aims and goals has been discussed in a previous post. In short, aims lead to goals, which lead to objectives, which if necessary can lead to indicators. The difference between each type is the amount of detail involved. Aims are the broadest and may apply across an entire school or department while indicators are the most detailed and apply maybe only to a specific assignment.

A unique concept for this post is the development of personal aims. Personal aims are opportunities for the teacher to try something new or improve an aspect of their teaching. For example, if a teacher has never used blogs in the classroom he/she might make a personal aim to use blogs in their classroom. Personal aims allow for reflection which is critical to teacher development.


Lesson planning begins with understand what the students need. From there, it is necessary to decide what type of syllabus you will make. Lastly, the teacher needs to decide on the various information required such as goals and objectives. Keep in mind that many schools have a specific format for their syllabus. In so, a teacher can keep the concepts of this post in mind even if the structure of the syllabus is already determined.

ESL Students and Challenges with Pronunciation

Pronunciation is often a forgotten skill in the ESL classroom. As English has become more and more internationalized many have stepped away from pronunciation with an attitude of taking whatever the student says and trying to decipher it. There are many aspects of pronunciation that an ESL teacher needs to consider. Among them includes

  • The benefits of improving pronunciation
  • The challenges of pronunciation
  • Ways to teach pronunciation

The Benefits

Helping students to improve their pronunciation helps students to overcome intelligibility issues. All ESL students have different speaking issues depending on where they are from. Despite, the difference in geographical origin, what all students have in common is that if their pronunciation improves the ability for people to understand them improves as well.

Another benefit is that practice with pronunciation helps the student to better understand spoken English. As the student learns the nuances of saying words clearly it also helps them to notices the nuances when they are listening.

The Challenges

One major problem that is faced when teaching pronunciation is the students’ inability to hear the sound that the teachers want them to reproduce. For example, Thai ESL learners always make a ‘w’ sound in place of ‘v’. Demonstration is one way to deal with this problem until mastery is achieved.

A second more obvious problem is the sound that students make. During early infancy, we lose the ability to reproduce any sound as we focus on our mother language. As such, non-native tongues are difficult to say correctly and require extensive practice.

Teaching Pronunciation

There are several ways to teach pronunciation. The examples below flow form most intensive to less intensive in terms of their focus in the classroom. The ways to teach include

  1. Whole lesson
  2. Discrete slots
  3. Integrated phases
  4. Opportunistic teaching

Whole Lesson

Whole lesson is just what it says. It is an entire lesson devoted to pronunciation. A teacher may have students use various sounds, focus on intonation, or practice key phrases. Intonation is a personal matter and it is hard to focus on all the students in such a format. In addition, it can sometimes be challenging to keep the lesson engaging since it is hard to provide feedback with everyone speaking at once.

Discrete Slots

This approach involves sneaking in little pronunciation lessons during the class. A teacher might focus on vowel sounds for ten minutes at a time or some other lesson. The point is to teach pronunciation in snippets and not all at once.

Integrated Phases

Integrated phases is blending pronunciation into a larger lesson. For example, if students are focusing on a listening assignment, the teacher may have them pay attention to the pronunciation of the speaker. Or during a reading aloud activity, students may be asked to assess their pronunciation while reading. The goal is to perform the main task with the additional feature of thinking about pronunciation.

Opportunistic Teaching

This form of pronunciation teaching happens in an extemporaneous. In other words, during the course of teaching, it becomes apparent that the students need help with pronunciation and the teacher provides assistance.


Teaching pronunciation should still be a part of a teacher’s approach. The benefits of learning pronunciation are often achieved through various styles of teaching. As such, teachers need to develop strategies to support students acquisition of the subjective nature of pronunciation

Textbooks in the TESOL Classroom: To Use or Not to Use

For the past 35 years there has been an interesting debate over the use of textbooks in English language learning context. Naturally their are three camps, those who support the use of textbooks, those who do not support the use of textbooks, and those who believe it depends. In this post, we will discus the advantages and disadvantages of using textbooks as well as tips for those who want to use textbooks but with flexibility.


Good textbooks have a coherent curriculum within them that provides all the essentials needed for teaching, such as activities, assignments, media and clearly written text. This is priceless information especially for those new to teaching who do not have the prior experiences and or resources to teach a class without a textbook.

Most students actually prefer some sort of textbook as well. It allows them to track their progress by seeing what they have done and what they still need to do. There is a sense of pace as the class moves through the text. Even if the student neglects to read the textbook it still serves as an anchor throughout the course.


Textbooks can be ridged if they are stubbornly adhered too. This can become a serious problem if there is something in the approach of the book that the students struggle to understand. Even a great textbook may not be able to meet the needs of a particular group of students.

Textbooks can have other issues as well. The book might be expensive, it might be too heavy or big for students, and or the textbook might also lack user friendly features.

For Those on the Fence

Some want to use textbooks occasionally, for those here are some tips below

  • Replace only parts of the book with what you want- Some teachers use pieces of a textbook while replacing topics that do not work for them or their students. This is a reasonable compromise between total rejection and acceptance of a textbook.
  • Modify- Sometimes, teacher modify a chapter or topic within a textbook instead of replacing it. Perhaps they add another activity or replace an assignment. Other options include changing the order information is presented, adding to a chapter, and leaving information out that is in the chapter.


Textbooks are part of education. Some appreciate this while others are looking for alternative approaches. Teachers and students will need to work together in order to see how textbooks can benefit the learning experience.

Grouping Students IV: Pros and Cons of Groupwork

Group work is another approach for having students complete assignments and task. A group is often characterized as anywhere from 3-8 students with most groups being in the 3-5 member range. As with other approaches to grouping, this one also has pros and cons. This post will explore the good and the bad of having students work together in groups


Here are some common advantages to group work.

  • Encourages collaboration and cooperation
  • Opportunity for decision-making
  • Opportunities for role-differentiation

Groups encourage students to work together and collaborate in order to achieve something. As they work together, the students are developing communication and cooperation skills. The students also are being given a chance to work on their overall social skills as well.

In groups, students need to make decisions about various matters in order to coordinate the completion of the task. This involves critical thinking as well as negotiating skills.  Students need to maneuver this process in order to develop a plan for action.

Another benefit of groups is the opportunity to assigned roles. Preferably, every group experience calls on people to work on a team in which their strengths can be utilized. This is not always the case but in reality, people often work on teams according to their strengths. As such, groups that allow people to focus on tasks that take advantage of their talents is beneficial.


Some problems with group work include the following.

  • Organizational time
  • Risk of chaos
  • Student’s preference to work alone

Groups take more time to setup and get going. Students often have to move around and begin planning and discussing. Each group needs a little personal attention to get them focused and on the right track. After this, there is still lingering confusion over what to do even when the best teachers explain the assignment.

In a related point, group work brings chaos. Students are talking, in and out of their seat, and working on something that involves several people. This is in contrast to students sitting quietly in rows working on something. As such, many teachers are not comfortable with students working in groups. There is nothing wrong with not enjoying having kids in groups. However, a little bit of group work is an experience students need to become more versatile.

Just as some teachers do not like group work so do many students disagree with it. Many prefer to work alone, are shy, or do not like the noise. As such, the proper prescription is a little bit of group work without over doing it.


Group work is part of living in this day and age. Everybody needs to do it at least some of the time. It is important that teachers and students understanding the purpose and goals of group work before the process begins. This will help in reducing the impact of the cons of group work.

Grouping Students III: Pros and Cons of Pairwork

Having students work in pairs is a classical learning activity in the classroom. As with other activities in the classroom, working in pairs has pros and cons to it. This post explores the advantages and disadvantages of having students work in pairs.


Below are some common pros to students working in pairs

  • Students working together require less guidance from the teacher
  • When students need help, the teacher works with several students at a time instead of one
  • Promotes collaboration and cooperative learning

Students who are working together can discuss and often figure out what to do without teacher intervention. Why would any teacher want to explain something he can have the students figure out? In pairs, students can teach each other and utilize the synergy that comes from working together.

When students cannot overcome an obstacle, the teacher is there to provide support. However, instead of working with only one student, the teacher is working with two students at a time. This reduces the amount of support needed significantly because as long as one student understands what the teacher says they can help their partner to grasp the information.

Pair work promotes collaboration and cooperative learning. These are critical skills that students need to compete in the world. As they work together they develop skills for real-world collaborative and cooperative learning.


To be fair, pair work is not always the best approach. Below are some disadvantages with pair work.

  • Noisy and risk of chaos
  • Lost of direction
  • Student disdain

Working in pairs can be noisy and loud. This can lead to chaos in the classroom. It will take serious classroom management skills to get students to stay the course and complete the task.

A second point that is highly related to the first is that students can lose direction when working in pairs. It is easy for them to start to talk or do anything not related to the learning activity. This can even apply to adult learners. Keeping students focused is another skill that a teacher needs when putting students in pairs.

Lastly, some students hate working in pairs. They may prefer to work with the teacher or alone. This can also be compounded if the student does not like who they have been partnered with. To successfully overcome this requires the teacher to be aware of the relationships and even the politics of their classroom.


Few would argue that students need to work together. The real question is how much? Some teachers require more pair work than others. The point is that pair work should be a part of the learning experience but not the only learning experience of any classroom.

Grouping Students II: Pros and Cons of Individual Work

There are many different ways in which a teacher can group their students. One option is to have the students work alone. This post will look at the pros and cons of having students work individually.


Some of the pros of individual learning are the following…

  • Contributes to learner autonomy
  • Responsiveness to individual differences
  • Useful for transitioning from high stress experience

Individual work helps students to develop the capacity to learn without always leaning on others. This can hopefully lead to some sense of learner autonomy, which is a critical goal of many teachers. As students rely on their own resources it strengthens them in learning to learn on their own.

Individual learning is closely related to differentiated instruction. A teacher can plan distinct experiences for each student and respond to the needs of the students personally when individualize learning happens. This catered made experience is critical for many students

After a noisy whole-class or group project experience, individual work can be used as a classroom management tool to calm the students down and transition to another activity. For example, after a science lab activity that has the students out of their sits and talking and moving around, the teacher has them write a reflection about the experience quietly in their seats. The students are reflecting on the experience and they are calmly at their desks. After this, they transition quietly to the next subject. This is preferred instead going from one loud and active activity to the next with some form of cool-off transition.


Nothing is perfect not even individual learning. Below are some concerns with this approach

  • Lack of social cohesiveness
  • If teaching is individualized as well, it significantly increases the workload of the teacher.

When students work individually they are work alone. This means that there is little social interaction and camaraderie. This can be good or bad depending on the context. In many cultures, extensive individual work is not appropriate as students naturally want to work together. In other settings, it is individual students who struggle with this approach because of their out-going nature.

If the teacher makes an effort to personalize the learning of each student it can increase their workload a great deal. If the class is small it may be doable but in larger classes this could be a nightmare. Individualized instruction is usually the preferred model of teaching but this does not mean that it is the most practical.


All modes of teaching have times when they work and when they do not work. Individualized learning has a place in the classroom. However, it is finding a balance between these various styles that is critical to the success of the learner and the teacher.

Grouping Students I: Pros and Cons of Whole-Class Teaching

Teaching the entire class at the same time has a place in education. There are times when it is most effective and beneficial to the students when they actually sit and listen to what the teacher has to say. Having said that, there are also many instances when this approach is not appropriate in learning. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of whole-class instruction.

The Pros

The following are some instances when whole-class teaching my be useful

  • When the teacher needs control
  • To increase a social cohesion
  • When it is preferred

When the teacher needs the power whole-class teaching is useful. This is most common when giving instructions, doing a demonstration, or explaining something that is completely new to the class. Other instances when whole-teaching is useful is when the teacher is presenting visuals or other forms of media.

Teaching to the whole-class is also beneficial in terms of social cohesion. In some cultures, doing things together is important. This is particularly true in collectivist societies. When everyone is listening together and laughing together it builds community. This is difficult for some to understand but it is necessary to be aware of this depending on the context.

Whole-class teaching could also be the preference of the students and teacher regardless of culture. Some students do not like to work in groups while others prefer the anonymity of being in a larger group focused on the teacher. For whatever reason, whole-class teaching works just because of the setting.

The Cons

Some problems with whole-class teaching are below

  • Passive, transmission of knowledge learning
  • Overly collective
  • Difficult for shy students

Whole-class teaching leads to the teacher transmitting knowledge to the students. This goes against active learning in which students participate in their learning. It is exceedingly boring for many people and does not help in retaining, understanding and applying new knowledge. Passive learning is not a way to make active learners who can do something with what they have learned

Whole-class teaching is also seen as overly collective. Everyone is forced to do the same thing. This goes against the idea of differentiated instruction which promotes having students do different things in the classroom at the same time. Students are usually heterogeneous in terms of their skills and abilities so it makes it difficult to support consistent use of only whole-class teaching.

Lastly, whole-class teaching makes it challenging for shy students to participate. Many students do not want to speak in front of the whole class as they do not like this kind of pressure. However, in small groups, these same students feel much more comfortable sharing their views. Therefore, occasional use of small groups, even in collectivists contexts, will allow all students an opportunity for fuller participation.


Whole-class learning still has a place in education. The question is how much of a place? The point is that a moderate approach to whole-class instruction is beneficial to students and the teacher. There are times when this approach is the best and there are many times when it does not work. It is best for the teacher to determine when to use this approach based on the needs of their students.

Using the L1 in an English Classroom

There are some teachers, whether because they learned the language of their students or the are a native speaker who mastered English, who can communicate with there students in the students’ language. This is becoming much more common as English proliferates all over the world.

However, knowing the students’ language is a doubled-edged sword. There are some obvious advantages but using the students’ L1 can lead to problems as well. This post will explore the pros and cons of using the L1 in the classroom.

The Pros

Using the L1 in the classroom can be useful when the students are evaluating their performance. In other words, the teacher and students talk about the students English performance in the L1. This does make sense from metalinguistic perspective as the students are addressing challenges and developing solutions. They are talking about their learning.

Translating activities is another instance in which L1 use is considered acceptable. The students shift back and forth between the two languages as they translate material. This allows the student to compare the two languages.

A third reason that some support L1 use is that it helps to maintain a conducive classroom environment. When students and teacher are able to just “talk” it often helps with maintaining the social cohesiveness of the class.

The Cons

One major concern with using the L1 is that it is used too much. It is tempting to only talk about English in the L1 rather than use English. Another problem is that using the L1 limits the students exposure to English, which stifles L2 acquisition.

Depending on the context, some English classes are holistic in that each class addresses all the skills of language (reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Other places address each skill separately. If a school approaches the skills separately one place where the L1 is not accepted is in the speaking class. In such an environment many support L2 only.

Dealing with the L1

Here are some ideas for use of the L1 if you consider its use appropriate

  • Think about the level of English-Lower level students need more support and thus L1 use is more appropriate. As the students advanced there should be a gradually reduction in the L1.
  • Establish rules-With the students, setup guidelines for L1 use.
  • Accept the L1-Students can feel discourage when they are harassed about their language. Understanding their desire to be understood should call for patience rather than anger when they speak in their L1.


It is up to the teacher and students to decide the use of the L1. This post just provides ideas on how to handle what could be a sensitive topic. The goal of teaching is to balance the goals of the curriculum with the needs of the students. As such, it is the context that should determine how to handle L1 use rather than a philosophy of learning acquire in a classroom or even from years of experience.