Drill patterns are tools for helping ESL students with language. In the video below we look at several examples of drill patterns.
Among educators who specialized in reading instruction there has been a long controversy over how to teach students to read. Generally, the two main schools of thought are phonics on one side and the whole language approach on the other side. In this post, we will look at both of these approaches as well as a compromise position.
Phonics is an approach that has the students decode the words that they see by sounding out individual letters and letter combinations. By blending the individual sounds of a word together the students is able to read the word. This requires that the student know what sounds different letters make. Without this phonemic awareness there is no hope for reading.
The benefits of this is that it is clear if a student can do this or not. This makes it easy to provide the needed support in order to help the students. This means that it is easy to assess the students development. Another benefit of this approach is that it focuses on the smallest aspects of speech sound. This helps a child to keep track of one thing at a time.
Problems with a phonic-based approach is that the importance of the context is lost because students only focus on sounding out the words rather than developing reading comprehension. This can lead to students who can read and sound out well but have no idea what they read nor the meaning of the text. The idea of seeing the passage as a whole is lost.
Whole language is a literature based approach that emphasizes the relevancy for the student and culture. Activities used include oral reading, silent reading, journal writing, group activities, etc. Students do not focus on sounded out words but rather on knowing the whole word through a knowledge of the context. There is even allowance made for inventive spelling in which students make for up their own words for spelling to avoid discouraging them through frequent correction of misspelled words.
An extreme example of whole language approach is when students are allowed to use substitute words in a text they are reading rather than the word the author wrote in the book. For example, if in the story the author mentions the word “pony” and the student does not understand this word. The student can substitute the word “horse with “pony” in the author’s story and this is considered okay by whole language approach standards.
Some benefits of this approach is that it is much more enjoyable in comparison to the phonics approach. Students begin reading immediately content that is relevant to their lives and interesting and their prior knowledge supposedly helps with understanding.
The drawbacks of whole language is that at times students struggle to generalize their reading skills to new contexts. In addition, the replacement of unknown to known words of the student with their own words can make it difficult for the teacher to understand where the students are struggling. If all students are doing this, it becomes difficult for them to communicate with each other about a commonly read text. This may be one reason why whole language has been reject over the pass 30 years with an emphasis on phonics.
Currently, there is more of a push for a mixture of both methods. Phonics can be taught to enhance a bottom up approach while whole language is more of a use for bottom down approach to reading. By blending the two method it is possible to capture the strengths of both approaches without the corresponding weaknesses.
How this may look in the classroom may be relevant literature for the student with reading teaching that matches the needs of the students. If the student can reading without extensive phonemic awareness, training whole word might be more appropriate. When the student cannot read a word, phonics may be beneficial;.
It is better to match the system to the student than to match the student to the system. Whenever extreme positions are taken it helps some while hurting others. A teacher needs to have the flexibility to find the best tool for the context they are working in rather than based on what they were taught as students.
In the context of TESOL, language skills of speaking, writing, listening, and reading are divided into productive and receptive skills. Productive skills are speaking and writing and involve making language. Receptive skills are listening and reading and involve receiving language.
Theories that are commonly associated with receptive skills include top down and bottom up processing. With top down processing the reader/listener is focused on the “big picture”. This means that they are focused on general view or idea of the content they are exposed to. This requires have a large amount of knowledge and experience to draw upon in order to connect understanding. Prior knowledge helps the individual to know what to expect as they receive the information.
Bottom up processing is the opposite. In this approach, the reader/listener is focused on the details of the content. Another way to see this is that with bottom up processing the focus is on the trees while with top down the focus is on forest. With bottom up processing students are focused on individual words or even individual word sounds such as when they are decoding when reading.
Type 1 & 2 Tasks
Type 1 and type 2 tasks are derived from top down and bottom processing. Type 1 task involve seeing the “big picture”. Examples of this type include summarizing, searching for the main idea, making inferences, etc.
Often type 1 task are trickier to assess because solutions are often open-ended and open to interpretation. This involves having to assess individually each response each student makes which may not always be practical. However, type 1 task really help to broaden and strengthen higher level thinking skills which can lay a foundation for critical thinking.
Type 2 task involve looking at text and or listening for much greater detail. Such activities as recall, grammatical correction, and single answer questions all fall under the umbrella of type 2 tasks.
Type 2 tasks are easier to mark as they frequently only have one possible answer. The problem with this is that teachers over rely on them because of their convenience. Students are trained to obsess over details rather than broad comprehension or connecting knowledge to other areas of knowledge. Opportunities for developing dynamic literacy are lost for a focus on critical literacy or even decoding.
A more reasonable approach is to use a combination of type 1 and 2 tasks. Type 1 can be used to stimulate thinking without necessarily marking the responses. Type 2 can be employed to teach students to focus on details and due to ease at which they can be marked type 2 tasks can be placed in the grade book for assessing progress.
This post explained various theories related to receptive skills in TESOL. There was also a look at different the two broad categories in which receptive skill tasks fall into. For educators, it is important to find a balance between using both type 1 and type 2 tasks in their classroom.
Types of writing rubrics
Writing types used in ESL
More ways to assess reading
Ways to assess reading
Ways to assess speaking in the ESL context
Examples of intensive listening
ESL students usually need to learn to write in the second language. This is especially true for those who have academic goals. Learning to write is difficult even in one’s mother tongue let alone in a second language.
In this post, we will look at several practical ways to help students to learn to write in their L2. Below are some useful strategies
- Build on what they know
- Encourage coherency in writing
- Encourage collaboration
- Support Consistency
Build on Prior Knowledge
It is easier for most students to write about what they know rather than what they do not know. As such, as a teacher, it is better to have students write about a familiar topic. This reduces the cognitive load on the students allows them to focus more on their language issues.
In addition, building on prior knowledge is consistent with constructivism. Therefore, students are deepening their learning through using writing to express ideas and opinions.
Coherency has to do with whether the paragraph makes sense or not. In order to support this, the teacher needs to guide the students in developing main ideas and supporting details and illustrate how these concepts work together at the paragraph level. For more complex writing this involves how various paragraphs work together to support a thesis or purpose statement.
Students struggle tremendously with these big-picture ideas. This in part due to the average student’s obsession with grammar. Grammar is critical after the student has ideas to share clearer and never before that.
Students should work together to improve their writing. This can involve peer editing and or brainstorming activities. These forms of collaboration give students different perspectives on their writing beyond just depending on the teacher.
Collaboration is also consistent with cooperative learning. In today’s marketplace, few people are granted the privilege of working exclusively alone on anything. In addition, working together can help the students to develop their English speaking communication skills.
Writing needs to be scheduled and happen frequently in order to see progress at the ESL level. This is different from a native speaking context in which the students may have several large papers that they work on alone. In the ESL classroom, the students should write smaller and more frequent papers to provide more feedback and scaffolding.
Small incremental growth should be the primary goal for ESL students. This should be combined with support from the teacher through a consistent commitment to writing.
Writing is a major component of academic life. Many ESL students learning a second language to pursue academic goals. Therefore, it is important that teachers have ideas on how they can support ESL student to achieve the fluency they desire in their writing for further academic success.
This post will look at several types of writing that are done for assessment purposes. In particular, we will look this from the four level of writing which are
Imitative writing is focused strictly on the grammatical aspects of writing. The student simply reproduces what they see. This is a common way to teach children how to write. Additional examples of activities at this level include cloze task in which the student has to write the word in the blank from a list, spelling test, matching, and even converting numbers to their word equivalent.
Intensive writing is more concern about selecting the appropriate word for a given context. Example activities include grammatical transformation, such as changing all verbs to past tense, sequencing pictures, describing pictures, completing short sentences, and ordering task.
Responsive writing involves the development of sentences into paragraphs. The purpose depends almost exclusively on the context or function of writing. Form concerns are primarily at the discourse level which means how the sentences work together to make paragraphs and how the paragraphs work to support a thesis statement. Normally no more than 2-3 paragraphs at this level
Example activities at the responsive level include short reports, interpreting visual aids, and summary.
Extensive writing is responsive writing over the course of an entire essay or research paper. The student is able to shape a purpose, objectives, main ideas, conclusions, etc. Into a coherent paper.
For many students, this is exceedingly challenging in their mother tongue and is further exasperated in a second language. There is also the experience of multiple drafts of a single paper.
Marking Intensive & Responsive Papers
Marking higher level papers requires a high degree of subjectivity. This is because of the authentic nature of this type of assessment. As such, it is critical that the teacher communicate expectations clearly through the use of rubrics or some other form of communication.
Another challenge is the issue of time. Higher level papers take much more time to develop. This means that they normally cannot be used as a form of in-class assessment. If they are used as in-class assessment then it leads to a decrease in the authenticity of the assessment.
Writing is a critical component of the academic experience. Students need to learn how to shape and develop their ideas in print. For teachers, it is important to know at what level the student is capable of writing at in order to support them for further growth.
This post will provide examples of assessments that can be used for reading at the perceptual and selective level.
The perceptual level is focused on bottom-up processing of text. Comprehension ability is not critical at this point. Rather, you are just determining if the student can accomplish the mechanical process of reading.
Reading Aloud-How this works is probably obvious to most teachers. The students read a text out loud in the presence of an assessor.
Picture-Cued-Students are shown a picture. At the bottom of the picture are words. The students read the word and point to a visual example of it in the picture. For example, if the picture has a cat in it. At the bottom of the picture would be the word cat. The student would read the word cat and point to the actual cat in the picture.
This can be extended by using sentences instead of words. For example, if the actual picture shows a man driving a car. There may be a sentence at the bottom of the picture that says “a man is driving a car”. The student would then point to the man in the actual picture who is driving.
Another option is T/F statements. Using our cat example from above. We might write that “There is one cat in the picture” the student would then select T/F.
The selective level is the next above perceptual. At this level, the student should be able to recognize various aspects of grammar.
Editing Task-Students are given a reading passage and are asked to fix the grammar. This can happen many different ways. They could be asked to pick the incorrect word in a sentence or to add or remove punctuation.
Pictured-Cued Task-This task appeared at the perceptual level. Now it is more complicated. For example, the students might be required to read statements and label a diagram appropriately, such as the human body or aspects of geography.
Gap-Filling Task-Students read a sentence and complete it appropriately
Other Examples-Includes multiple-choice and matching. The multiple-choice may focus on grammar, vocabulary, etc. Matching attempts to assess a students ability to pair similar items.
Reading assessment can take many forms. The examples here provide ways to deal with this for students who are still highly immature in their reading abilities. As fluency develops more complex measures can be used to determine a students reading capability.
Reading for comprehension involves two forms of processing which are bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-up processing involves pulling letters together to make words, words to make sentences, etc. This is most commonly seen as students sounding out words when they read. The goal is primarily to just read the word.
Top-down processing is the use of prior knowledge, usually organized as schemas in the mind to understand what is being read. For example, after a student reads the word “cat” using bottom-up processing they then use top-down processing of what they know about cats such as their appearance, diet, habits, etc.
In the context of reading, there are four types of reading from simplest to most complex and they are
We will now look at each in detail
Perceptive reading is focused primarily on bottom-processing. In other words, if a teacher is trying to assess this type of reading they simply want to know if the student can read or not. The ability to understand or comprehend the text is not the primary goal at this.
Selective reading involves looking a reader’s ability to recognize grammar, discourse features, etc. This is done with brief paragraphs and short reading passages. Assessment involves standard assessment items such as multiple-choice, short answer, true/false, etc.
In order to be successful at this level, the student needs to use both bottom-up and top-down processing. Charts and graphs can also be employed
Interactive reading involves deriving meaning from the text. This places even more emphasis on top-down processing. Readings are often chosen from genres that employ implied main ideas rather than stated. The readings are also more authentic in nature and can include announcements, directions, recipes, etc.
Students who lack background knowledge will struggle with this type of reading regardless of their language ability. In addition, inability to think critically will impair performance even if the student can read the text.
Extensive is reading large amounts of information and being able to understand the “big picture”. The student needs to be able to separate the details from the main ideas. Many students struggle with this in their native language. As such, this is even more difficult when students are trying to digest large amounts of information in a second language.
Reading is a combination of making sense of the words and using prior knowledge to comprehend text. The levels of reading vary in their difficulty. In order to have success at reading, students need to be exposed to many different experiences in order to have the background knowledge they need that they can call on when reading something new.
In this post, we will look at different activities that can be used to assess a language learner’s speaking ability, Unfortunately, will not go over how to mark or give a grade for the activities we will only provide examples.
In this activity, the teacher tries to have the student use a particular grammatical form by having the student modify something the teacher says. Below is an example.
Teacher: Tell me he went home
Student: He went home
This is obviously not deep. However, the student had to know to remove the words “tell me” from the sentence and they also had to know that they needed to repeat what the teacher said. As such, this is an appropriate form of assessment for beginning students.
Read aloud is simply having the student read a passage verbatim out loud. Normally, the teacher will assess such things as pronunciation and fluency. There are several problems with this approach. First, reading aloud is not authentic as this is not an in demand skill in today’s workplace. Second, it blends reading with speaking which can be a problem if you do not want to assess both at the same time.
Students are expected to respond and or complete sentences. Normally, there is some sort of setting such as a mall, school, or bank that provides the context or pragmatics. below is an example in which a student has to respond to a bank teller. The blank lines indicate where the student would speak.
Teacher (as bank teller): Would you like to open an account?
Teacher (as bank teller): How much would you like to deposit?
Visual cues are highly opened. For example, you can give the students a map and ask them to give you directions to a location on the map. In addition, students can describe things in the picture or point to things as you ask them too. You can also ask the students to make inferences about what is happening in a picture. Of course, all of these choices are highly difficult to provide a grade for and may be best suited for formative assessment.
Translating can be a highly appropriate skill to develop in many contexts. In order to assess this, the teacher provides a word, phrase, or perhaps something more complicated such as directly translating their speech. The student then Takes the input and reproduces it in the second language.
This is tricky to do. For one, it is required to be done on the spot, which is challenging for anybody. In addition, this also requires the teacher to have some mastery of the student’s mother tongue, which for many is not possible.
There are many more examples that cannot be covered here. Examples include interviews, role play, and presentations. However, these are much more common forms of speaking assessment so for most they are already familiar with these.
Speaking assessment is a major component of the ESL teaching experience. The ideas presented here will hopefully provide some additionals ways that this can be done.
In the context of ESL teaching, ~there are at least five types of speaking that take place in the classroom. This post will define and provide examples of each. The five types are as follows…
The list above is ordered from simplest to most complex in terms of the requirements of oral production for the student.
At the imitative level, it is probably already clear what the student is trying to do. At this level, the student is simply trying to repeat what was said to them in a way that is understandable and with some adherence to pronunciation as defined by the teacher.
It doesn’t matter if the student comprehends what they are saying or carrying on a conversation. The goal is only to reproduce what was said to them. One common example of this is a “repeat after me” experience in the classroom.
Intensive speaking involves producing a limit amount of language in a highly control context. An example of this would be to read aloud a passage or give a direct response to a simple question.
Competency at this level is shown through achieving certain grammatical or lexical mastery. This depends on the teacher’s expectations.
Responsive is slightly more complex than intensive but the difference is blurry, to say the least. At this level, the dialog includes a simple question with a follow-up question or two. Conversations take place by this point but are simple in content.
The unique feature of intensive speaking is that it is usually more interpersonal than transactional. By interpersonal it is meant speaking for maintaining relationships. Transactional speaking is for sharing information as is common at the responsive level.
The challenge of interpersonal speaking is the context or pragmatics The speaker has to keep in mind the use of slang, humor, ellipsis, etc. when attempting to communicate. This is much more complex than saying yes or no or giving directions to the bathroom in a second language.
Extensive communication is normally some sort of monolog. Examples include speech, story-telling, etc. This involves a great deal of preparation and is not typically improvisational communication.
It is one thing to survive having a conversation with someone in a second language. You can rely on each other’s body language to make up for communication challenges. However, with extensive communication either the student can speak in a comprehensible way without relying on feedback or they cannot. In my personal experience, the typical ESL student cannot do this in a convincing manner.
There are many different ways in which a teacher can assess the listening skills of their students. Recognition, paraphrasing, cloze tasks, transfer, etc. are all ways to determine a student’s listening proficiency.
One criticism of the task above is that they are primarily inauthentic. This means that they do not strongly reflect something that happens in the real world.
In response to this, several authentic listening assessments have been developed over the years. These authentic listening assessments include the following.
This post will each of the authentic listening assessments listed above.
An editing task that involves listening involves the student receiving reading material. The student reviews the reading material and then listens to a recording of someone reading aloud the same material. The student then marks the hard copy they have when there are differences between the reading and what the recording is saying.
Such an assessment requires the student to carefully for discrepancies between the reading material and the recording. This requires strong reading abilities and phonological knowledge.
For those who are developing language skills for academic reasons. Note-taking is a highly authentic form of assessment. In this approach, the students listen to some type of lecture and attempt to write down what they believe is important from the lecture.
The students are then assessed by on some sort of rubric/criteria developed by the teacher. As such, marking note-taking can be highly subjective. However, the authenticity of note-taking can make it a valuable learning experience even if providing a grade is difficult.
How retelling works should be somewhat obvious. The student listens to some form of talk. After listening, the student needs to retell or summarize what they heard.
Assessing the accuracy of the retelling has the same challenges as the note-taking assessment. However, it may be better to use retelling to encourage learning rather than provide evidence of the mastery of a skill.
Interpretation involves the students listening to some sort of input. After listening, the student then needs to infer the meaning of what they heard. The input can be a song, poem, news report, etc.
For example, if the student listens to a song they may be asked to explain why the singer was happy or sad depending on the context of the song. Naturally, they cannot hope to answer such a question unless they understood what they were listening too.
Listening does not need to be artificial. There are several ways to make learning task authentic. The examples in this post are just some of the potential ways
Intensive listening is listening for the elements (phonemes, intonation, etc.) in words and sentences. This form of listening is often assessed in an ESL setting as a way to measure an individual’s phonological, morphological, and ability to paraphrase. In this post, we will look at these three forms of assessment with examples.
Phonological elements include phonemic consonant and phonemic vowel pairs. Phonemic consonant pair has to do with identifying consonants. Below is an example of what an ESL student would hear followed by potential choices they may have on a multiple-choice test.
Recording: He’s from Thailand
(a) He’s from Thailand
(b) She’s from Thailand
The answer is clearly (a). The confusion is with the adding of ‘s’ for choice (b). If someone is not listening carefully they could make a mistake. Below is an example of phonemic pairs involving vowels
Recording: The girl is leaving?
(a)The girl is leaving?
(b)The girl is living?
Again, if someone is not listening carefully they will miss the small change in the vowel.
Morphological elements follow the same approach as phonological elements. You can manipulate endings, stress patterns, or play with words. Below is an example of ending manipulation.
Recording: I smiled a lot.
(a) I smiled a lot.
(b) I smile a lot.
I sharp listener needs to hear the ‘d’ sound at the end of the word ‘smile’ which can be challenging for ESL student. Below is an example of stress pattern
Recording: My friend doesn’t smoke.
(a) My friend doesn’t smoke.
(b) My friend does smoke.
The contraction in the example is the stress pattern the listener needs to hear. Below is an example of a play with words.
This is especially tricky for languages that do not have both a ‘v’ and ‘w’ sound, such as the Thai language.
Paraphrase recognition involves listening to an example and being able to reword it in an appropriate manner. This involves not only listening but also vocabulary selection and summarizing skills. Below is one example of sentence paraphrasing
Recording: My name is James. I come from California
(a) James is Californian
(b) James loves Calfornia
This is trickier because both can be true. However, the goal is to try and rephrase what was heard. Another form of paraphrasing is dialogue paraphrasing as shown below
Man: My name is Thomas. What is your name?
Woman: My name is Janet. Nice to meet you. Are you from Africa
Man: No, I am an American
(a) Thomas is from America
(b)Thomas is African
You can see the slight rephrase that is wrong with choice (b). This requires the student to listen to slightly longer audio while still have to rephrase it appropriately.
Intensive listening involves the use of listening for the little details of an audio. This is a skill that provides a foundation for much more complex levels of listening.
Washback is the effect that testing has on teaching and learning. This term is commonly used in language assessment but is not limited to only that field. One of the primary concerns of many teachers is developing assessments that provide washback or that enhance students learning and understanding of ideas in a class.
This post will discuss three ways in which washback can be improved in a class. The three ways are…
- Written feedback on exams
- Go over the results as a class
- Meetings with students on exam performance
Exams or assignments that are highly subjective (ie essays) require written feedback in order to provide washback. This means specific, personalized feedback for each student. This is a daunting task for most teachers especially as classes get larger. However, if your goal is to improve washback providing written comments is one way to achieve this.
The letter grade or numerical score a student receives on a test does not provide insights into how the student can improve. The reasoning behind what is right or wrong can be provided in the written feedback.
Go Over Answers in Class
Perhaps the most common way to enhance feedback is to go over the test in class. This allows the students to learn what the correct answer is, as well as why one answer is the answer. In addition, students are given time to ask questions and clarification of the reasoning behind the teacher’s marking.
If there were common points of confusion, going over the answers in this way allows for the teacher to reteach the confusing concepts. In many ways, the test revealed what was unclear and now the teacher is able to provide support to achieve mastery.
For highly complex and extremely subjective forms of assessments (ie research paper) one-on-one meetings may be the most appropriate. This may require a more personal touch and a greater deal of time.
During the meeting, students can have their questions addressed and learn what they need to do in order to improve. This is a useful method for assignments that require several rounds of feedback in order to be completed.
Washback, if done properly, can help with motivation, autonomy, and self-confidence of students. What this means is that assessment should not only be used for grades but also to develop learning skills.
Within language testing, there has arisen over time at least two major viewpoints on assessment. Originally, the view was that assessing language should look specific elements of a language or you could say that language assessment should look at discrete aspects of the language.
A reaction to this discrete methods came about with the idea that language is wholistic so testing should be integrative or address many aspects of language simultaneously. In this post, we will take a closer look at discrete and integrative language testing methods through providing examples of each along with a comparison.
Discrete-point testing works on the assumption that language can be reduced to several discrete component “points” and that these “points” can be assessed. Examples of discrete-point test items in language testing include multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, and spelling.
What all of these example items have in common is that they usually isolate an aspect of the language from the broader context. For example, a simple spelling test is highly focused on the orthographic characteristics of the language. True/false can be used to assess knowledge of various grammar rules etc.
The primary criticism of discrete-point testing was its discreteness. Many believe that language is wholistic and that in the real world students will never have to deal with language in such an isolated way. This led to the development of integrative language testing methods.
Integrative Language Testing Methods
Integrative language testing is based on the unitary trait hypothesis, which states that language is indivisible. This is in complete contrast to discrete-point methods which supports dividing language into specific components. Two common integrative language assessments include cloze test and dictation.
Cloze test involves taking an authentic reading passage and removing words from it. Which words remove depends on the test creator. Normally, it is every 6th or 7th word but it could be more or less or only the removal of key vocabulary. In addition, sometimes potential words are given to the student to select from or sometimes the list of words is not given to the student
The student’s job is to look at the context of the entire story to determine which words to write into the blank space. This is an integrative experience as the students have to consider grammar, vocabulary, context, etc. to complete the assessment.
Dictation is simply writing down what was heard. This also requires the use of several language skills simultaneously in a realistic context.
Integrative language testing also has faced criticism. For example, discrete-point testing has always shown that people score differently in different language skills and this fact has been replicated in many studies. As such, the exclusive use of integrative language approaches is not supported by most TESOL scholars.
As with many other concepts in education, the best choice between discrete-point and integrative testing is a combination of both. The exclusive use of either will not allow the students to demonstrate mastery of the language.
Language acquisition requires the acquisition of thousands of words for fluent communication. This is a daunting task for the most talented and eager student. Fortunately, there are some basic concepts to keep in mind when teaching students vocabulary. This post will share some suggestion and help students to develop their vocabulary in the target language.
Learn Vocabulary in Context
A common technique for teaching vocabulary in language classrooms is out of context memorization. Students are given a long and often boring list of words to memorize. There is little immediate use of these words and they are quickly forgotten after the quiz.
Instead, it is better to teach new words within a framework in which they will be used. For example, students learn business terms through role play at a bank or store rather than through a stack of index cards. The context of the bank connects the words to a real-world setting, which is critical for retention in the long-term memory.
Reduce Reliance on Bilingual Dictionaries
This may seem like a surprise, however, the proliferation of bilingual dictionaries provides the definition to a word but does not normally help with memorization and the future use of the word. If the goal is communication then bilingual dictionaries will slow a student’s ability to achieve mastery.
Children learn a language much faster due in part to the immense effort it takes to learn what new words mean without the easy answer of a dictionary. The effort leads to memorization which allows for the use of the language. This serves as a valuable lesson for adults who prefer the easy route of bilingual dictionaries.
Set Aside Class Time to Deal with Vocabulary
The teacher should have a systematic plan for helping students to develop relevant vocabulary. This can be done through activities as well as the teaching of context clues. Vocabulary development needs to be intentional, which means there must be a systematic plan for supporting students in this.
However, there are also times were unplanned vocabulary teaching can take place. For example, while the students are reading together they become puzzled over a word you thought they knew (this is common). When this happens a break with explanation can be helpful. This is especially true if you let the students work together without dictionaries to try and determining the meaning of the word.
Vocabulary is a necessary element of language learning. It would be nice to ignore this but normally this is impossible. As such, teachers need to support students in their vocabulary development.
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 actual 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 too 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 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, particular 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.
When people are learning English they will almost always bring how they communicate with them when they are speaking or writing in English. However, for native speakers of English, the written communication style of ESL students can be bewildering even if it is grammatically sound.
This phenomenon of the L1 influencing the writing style of the L2 is known as contrastive rhetoric. This post will provide examples from different cultures in terms of how they approach writing in English and compare it to how a native-speaking person from a Western country writes to show the differences.
The Native English Speaker Writing Example
Below is a simple paragraph written by a Native English speaking person.
Exercise is good for a person for several reasons. For example, exercises helps to strengthen the body. As a person moves he or she is utilizing their muscles which promotes maintenance and potentially growth of the muscle. Second, exercises helps to remove waste from the body. Strenuous exercise causes people to sweat and breath deeply and this increases the removal of harmful elements from the body. Lastly, exercise makes people feel good. Exercise encourages the release of various hormones that makes a person feel better. Therefore, people should exercise in order to enjoy these clear benefits
The writing style of an English speaker is usually highly linear in nature. In the example above, the first sentence is clearly the main idea or the point. Right from the beginning the English writer shares with you where they stand on the subject. There is little mystery or suspense as to what will be talked about.
The rest of the paragraph is supporting details for the main idea. The supporting details start with the discourse markers of “for example”, “second”, and “lastly”. Everything in the paragraph is laid out in a step-by-step manner that is highly clear as this is important for English speakers.
Unfortunately, this style of writing is what many ESL students from other cultures is compared too. The next examples have perfect “English” however, the style of communication is not in this linear manner.
Eastern Writing Style
According to Robert Kaplan, people from Eastern countries write in a circular indirect manner. This means that Eastern writing lacks the direct point or main idea of western writing and also lacks the clearly structured supporting details. Below is the same paragraph example as the one in the English example but written in a more Eastern style
As a person moves he or she is utilizing their muscles which promotes maintenance and potentially growth of the muscle. Strenuous exercise causes people to sweat and breath deeply and this increases the removal of harmful elements from the body. Exercise encourages the release of various hormones that makes a person feel better.
The example is grammatical sound but for a native English speaker there are several problems with the writing
- There is no main idea. The entire paragraph is missing a point. The writer is laying down claims about their point but they never actually tell you what the point is. Native speakers want a succinct summary of the point when information is shared with them. Eastern writers prefer an indirect or implied main ideas because being too direct is considered rude. In addition, if you are too clear in an Eastern context it is hard to evade and prevaricate if someone is offended by what is said.
- The discourse markers are missing. There are no “for example” or “second” mention. Discourse markers give a paragraph a strong sense of linear direction. The native English speaker can tell where they are in a train of thought when these markers are there. When they are missing the English reader is wondering when is the experience is going to be over.
- There are no transition sentences. In the native English speaking example, every discourse marker served as the first word in a transition sentence which moves the reader from the first supporting detail to the next supporting detail. The Eastern example has only details without in guidepost from one detail to the other. If a paragraph is really long this can become overwhelming for the Native English speaker.
The example is highly fluent and this kind of writing is common in many English speaking countries that are not found in the West. Even with excellent knowledge of the language the discourse skills affect the ability to communicate.
My students have shared with me that English writing is clear and easy to understand but too direct in nature. Whereas the complaints of teachers are the ESL students written is unclear and indirect.
This is not a matter of right in wrong but differences in how to communicate when writing. A student who is aware of how they communicate can make adjustments so that whoever they are speaking with can understand them. The goal should not be to change students but to make them aware of their assumptions so they can adjust depending on the situation and do not change them to act a certain way all the time.
In writing pedagogy, there are at least two major ways of seeing writing. These two approaches see writing as a process or as a product. This post will explain each along with some of the drawbacks of both.
Writing as a Product
Writing as a product entailed the teacher setting forth standards in terms of rhetoric, vocabulary use, organization, etc. The students were given several different examples that could be used as models from which to base their own paper.
The teacher may be available for one-on-one support but this was not necessarily embedded in the learning experience. In addition, the teacher was probably only going to see the final draft.
For immature writers, this is an intimidating learning experience. To be required to develop a paper with only out of context examples from former students is difficult to deal with. In addition, without prior feedback in terms of progress, students have no idea if they are meeting expectations. The teacher is also clueless as to student progress and this means that both students and teachers can be “surprised” by poorly written papers and failing students.
The lack of communication while writing can encourage students to try and overcome their weaknesses through plagiarism. This is especially true for ESL students who lack the mastery of the language while also often having different perspectives on what academic dishonesty is.
Another problem is the ‘A’ students will simply copy the examples the teacher provided and just put in their own topic and words in it. This leads to an excellent yet mechanical paper that does not allow the students to develop as writers. In other words, the product approach provides too much support for strong students and not enough support for weak ones.
Writing as a Process
In writing as a process, the teacher supports the student through several revisions of a paper. The teacher provides support for the development of ideas, organization, coherency, and other aspects of writing. All this is done through the teacher providing feedback to the student as well as dealing with any questions and or concerns the student may have with their paper.
This style of writing teaching helps students to understand what kind of writer they are. Students are often so focused on completing writing assignments that they never learn what their tendencies and habits as a writer our. Understanding their own strengths and weaknesses can help them to develop compensatory strategies to complete assignments. This can of self-discovery can happen through one-on-one conferences with the teacher.
Off course, such personal attention takes a great deal of time. However, even brief 5 minutes conferences with students can reap huge rewards in their writing. It also saves time at the end when marking because you as the teacher are already familiar with what the students are writing about and the check of the final papers is just to see if the students have revised their paper according to the advice you gave.
The process perspective gives each student individual attention to growing as an individual. ‘A’ students get what they need as well as weaker students. Everyone is compared to their own progress as a writer.
Generally, the process approach is more appropriate for teaching writing. The exceptions being that the students are unusually competent or they are already familiar with your expectations from prior writing experiences.
Discourse markers are used in writing to help organize ideas. They are often those “little words” that native speakers use effortlessly as they communicate but are misunderstood by ESL speakers. This post will provide examples of various discourse markers.
Logical sequence discourse markers are used to place ideas in an order that is comprehensible to the listener/reader. They can be summative for concluding a longer section or resultative which is used to indicate the effect of something.
Examples of summative discourse markers include
- overall, to summarize, therefore, so far
An example of summarizing discourse markers is below. The bold word is the marker.
Smoking causes cancer. Studies show that people who smoke have higher rates of lung, esophagus, and larynx. Therefore, it is dangerous to smoke.
The paragraph is clear. The marker “Therefore” is summarizing what was said in the prior two sentences.
Examples of resultative discourse markers include the following
- so, consequently, therefore, as a result
An example of resultative discourse markers is below. The bold word is the marker.
Bob smoked cigarettes for 20 years. As a result,he developed lung cancer
Again, the second sentence with the marker “As a result” explain the consequence of smoking for 20 years.
Constrastive markers are words that indicate that the next idea is the opposite of the previous idea. There are three ways that this can be done. Replacive share an alternative idea, antithetic markers share ideas in opposition to the previous one. Lastly, concessive markers share unexpected information given the context.
Below are several words and or phrases that are replacive markers
- alternatively, on the other hand, rather
Below is an example of a replacive contrast marker used in a short paragraph. Bold word is the replacive
Smoking is a deadly lifestyle choice. This bad habit has killed millions of people. On the other hand, a vegetarian lifestyle has been found to be beneficial to the health of many people
Antithetic markers include the following
- conversely, instead, by contrast
Below is an example of antithetic marker used in a paragraph
A long and healthy life is unusually for those who choose to smoke. Instead, people who smoke live lives that are shorter and more full of disease and sickness.
Concessive markers includes some of the words below
- In spite of, nevertheless, anyway, anyhow
Below is an example of a concessive marker used in a paragraph
Bob smoked for 20 years. In spite of this, he was an elite athlete and had perfect health.
Discourse markers play a critical role in communicating the finer points of ideas that are used in communication. Understanding how these words are used can help ESL students in comprehending what they hear and read.
Understanding and teaching pronunciation has been controversial in TESOL for many years. At one time, pronunciation was taught in a high bottom-up behavioristic manner. Students were drilled until they had the appropriate “accent” (American, British, Australian, etc.). To be understood meant capturing one of the established accents.
Now there is more of an emphasis on top-down features such as stress, tone, and rhythm. There is now an emphasis on being more non-directive and focus not on the sounds being generated by the student but the comprehensibility of what they say.
This post will explain several common factors that influence pronunciation. These common factors include
- Motivation & Attitude
- Age & Exposure
- Native language
- Natural ability
Motivation & Language Ego
For many people, it’s hard to get something done when they don’t care. Excellent pronunciation is often affected by motivation. If the student does not care they will probably not improve much. This is particularly true when the student reaches a level where people can understand them. Once they are comprehensible many students lose interests in further pronunciation development
Fortunately, a teacher can use various strategies to motivate students to focus on improving their pronunciation. Creating relevance is one way in which students intrinsic motivation can be developed.
Attitude is closely related to motivation. If the students have negative views of the target language and are worried that learning the target language is a cultural threat this will make language acquisition difficult. Students need to understand that language learning does involve learning of the culture of the target language.
Age & Exposure
Younger students, especially 1-12 years of age, have the best chance at developing native-like pronunciation. If the student is older they will almost always retain an “accent.” However, fluency and accuracy can achieve the same levels regards of the initial age at which language study began.
Exposure is closely related to age. The more authentic experiences that a student has with the language the better their pronunciation normally is. The quality of the exposure is the naturalness of the setting and the actual engagement of the student in hearing and interacting with the language.
For example, an ESL student who lives in America will probably have much more exposure to the actual use of English than someone in China. This, in turn, will impact their pronunciation.
The similarities between the mother tongue and the target language can influence pronunciation. For example, it is much easier to move from Spanish to English pronunciation than from Chinese to English.
For the teacher, understanding the sound system’s of your students’ languages can help a great deal in helping them with difficulties in pronunciation.
Lastly, some just get it while others don’t. Different students have varying ability to pick up the sounds of another language. A way around this is helping students to know their own strengths and weaknesses. This will allow them to develop strategies to improve.
Whatever your position on pronunciation. There are ways to improve your students’ pronunciation if you are familiar with what influences it. The examples in this post provided some basic insight into what affects this.
Technique development is the actual practice of TESOL. All of the ideas expressed in approaches and methods are just ideas. The development of a technique is the application of knowledge in a way that benefits the students. This post would provide ideas and guidelines for developing speaking and listening techniques.
Techniques should Encourage Intrinsic Motivation
When developing techniques for your students. The techniques need to consider the goals, abilities, and interest of the students whenever possible. If the students are older adults who want to develop conversational skills heavy stress on reading would be demotivating. This is because reading was not on of the student’s goals.
When techniques do not align with student goals there is a loss of relevance, which is highly demotivating. Of course, as the teacher, you do not always give them what they want but general practice suggests some sort of dialog over the direction of the techniques.
Techniques should be Authentic
The point here is closely related to the first one on motivation. Techniques should generally be as authentic as possible. If you have a choice between real text and textbook it is usually better to go with real-world text.
Realistic techniques provide a context in which students can apply their skills in a setting that is similar to the world but within the safety of a classroom.
Techniques should Develop Skills through Integration and Isolation
When developing techniques there should be a blend of techniques that develop skill in an integrated manner, such as listening and speaking and or some other combination. There should also be an equal focus on techniques that develop on one skill such as writing.
The reason for this is so that the students develop balanced skills. Skill-integrated techniques are highly realistic but students can use one skill to compensate for weaknesses in others. For example, a talker just keeps on talking without ever really listening.
When skills our work on in isolation it allows for deficiencies to be clearly identified and work on. Doing this will only help the students in integrated situations.
Encourage Strategy Development
Through techniques, students need to develop their abilities to learn on their own autonomously. This can be done through having students practice learning strategies you have shown them in the past. Examples include context clues, finding main ideas, identifying facts from opinions etc
The development of skills takes a well-planned approach to how you will teach and provide students with the support to succeed.
Understanding some of the criteria that can be used in creating techniques for the ESL classroom is beneficial for teachers. The ideas presented here provide some basic guidance for enabling technique development.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
Listening is always a challenge as students acquire any language. Both teachers and students know that it takes time to developing comprehension when listening to a second language.
This post will explain some of the common obstacles to listening for ESL students. Generally, some common roadblocks include the following.
- Rate of Delivery
- Emphasis in speech
Slang or colloquial language is a major pain for language learners. There are so many ways that we communicate in English that does not meet the prescribed “textbook” way. This can leave ESL learners completely lost as to what is going on.
A simple example would be to say “what’s up”. Even the most austere English teacher knows what this means but this is in no way formal English. For someone new to English it would be confusing at least initially.
Contractions are unique form of slang or colloquialism that is more readily accept as standard English. A challenge with contractions is their omission of information. With this missing information, there can be confusion.
An example would be “don’t” or “shouldn’t”. Other more complicated contractions can include “djeetyet” for “did you eat yet”. These common phrases leave out or do not pronounce important information.
Rate of Delivery
When listening to someone in a second language it always seems too fast. The speed at which we speak our own language is always too swift for someone learning it.
Pausing at times during the delivery is one way to allow comprehension with actually slowing the speed at which one speaks. The main way to overcome this is to learn to listen faster if this makes any sense.
Emphasis in Speech
In many languages, there are complex rules for understanding which vowels to stress, which do not make sense to a non-native speaker. In fact, native speakers do not always agree on the vowels to stress. English speakers have been arguing or how to pronounce potato and tomato for ages.
Another aspect is the intonation. The inflection in many languages can change when asking a question, a statement, or being bored, angry or some other emotion. These little nuances of language as difficult to replicate and understand.
Clustering is the ability to break language down into phrases. This helps in capturing the core of a language and is not easy to do. Language learners normally try to remember everything which leads to them understanding nothing.
For the teacher, the students need help in determining what is essential information and what is not. This takes practice and demonstrations of what is considered critical and not in listening comprehension.
Repetition is closely related to clustering and involves the redundant use of words and phrases. Constantly re-sharing the same information can become confusing for students. An example would be someone saying “you know” and “you see what I’m saying.” This information is not critical to understanding most conversations and can throw of the comprehension of a language learner.
Interaction has to do with a language learner understanding how to negotiate a conversation. This means being able to participate in a discussion, ask questions, and provide feedback.
The ultimate goal of listening is to speak. Developing interactive skills is yet another challenge to listening as students must develop participatory skills.
The challenges mentioned here are intended to help teachers to be able to identify what may be impeding their students from growing in their ability to listen. Naturally, this is not an exhaustive list but serves as a brief survey.
Within communication and language teaching there are actually many different forms or types of oral language. Understanding this is beneficial if a teacher is trying to support students to develop their listening skills. This post will provide examples of several oral language forms.
A monologue is the use of language without any feedback verbally from others. There are two types of monologue which are planned and unplanned. Planned monologues include such examples as speeches, sermons, and verbatim reading.
When a monologue is planned there is little repetition of the ideas and themes of the subject. This makes it very difficult for ESL students to follow and comprehend the information. ESL students need to hear the content several times to better understand what is being discussed.
Unplanned monologues are more improvisational in nature. Examples can include classroom lectures and one-sided conversations. There is usually more repetition in unplanned monologues which is beneficial. However, the stop and start of unplanned monologues can be confusing at times as well.
A dialogue is the use of oral language involving two or more people. Within dialogues, there are two main sub-categories which are interpersonal and transactional. Interpersonal dialogues encourage the development of personal relationships. Such dialogues that involve asking people how are they or talking over dinner may fall in this category.
Transactional dialogue is dialogue for sharing factual information. An example might be if someone you do not know asks you “where is the bathroom.” Such a question is not for developing relationships but rather for seeking information.
Both interpersonal and transactional dialogues can be either familiar or unfamiliar. Familiarity has to do with how well the people speaking know each other. The more familiar the people talking are the more assumptions and hidden meanings they bring to the discussion. For example, people who work at the same company in the same department use all types of acronyms to communicate with each other that outsiders do not understand.
When two people are unfamiliar with each other, effort must be made to provide information explicitly to avoid confusion. This carries over when a native speaker speaks in a familiar manner to ESL students. The style of communication is inappropriate because of the lack of familiarity of the ESL students with the language.
The boundary between monologue and dialogue is much clear than the boundaries between the other categories mentioned such as planned/unplanned, interpersonal/transactional, and familiar/unfamiliar. In general, the ideas presented here represent a continuum and not either or propositions.
Academic dishonesty in the form of plagiarism is a common occurrence in academia. Generally, most students know that cheating is inappropriate on exams and what they are really doing is hoping that they are not caught.
However, plagiarism is much more sticky and subjective offense for many students. This holds especially true for ESL students. Writing in a second language is difficult for everybody regardless of one’s background. As such, students often succumb to the temptation of plagiarism to complete writing assignments.
Many ideas are being used to reduce plagiarism. Software like turnitin do work but they lead to an environment of mistrust and an arms race between students and teachers. Other measures should be considered for dealing with plagiarism.
This post will explain how seeing writing from the perspective of a process rather than a product can reduce the chances of plagiarism in the ESL context.
Writing as a Product
In writing pedagogy, the two most common views on writing are writing as a product and writing as a process. Product writing views writing as the submission of a writing assignment that meets a certain standard is grammatically near perfection, and highly structured. Students are given examples of excellence and are expected to emulate them.
Holding to this view is fine but it can contribute to plagiarism in many ways.
- Students cannot meet the expectation of grammatical perfection. This encourages them to copy excellently written English from Google into their papers.
- Focus on grammar leads to over-correction of the final paper. The overwhelming red pen marks from the teacher on the paper can stifle a desire for students to write in fear of additional correction.
- The teacher often provides little guidance beyond providing examples. Without daily, constant feedback, students have no idea what to do and rely on Google.
- People who write in a second language often struggle to structure their thoughts because we all think much shallower in a second language with reduced vocabulary. Therefore, an ESL paper is always messier because of the difficulty of executing complex cognitive processes in a second language.
These pressures mentioned above can contribute to a negative classroom environment in which students do not really want to write but survive a course however it takes. For native-speakers, this works but is really hard for ESL students to have success.
Writing as a Process
The other view of writing is writing as a process. This approach sees writing as the teacher providing constant one-on-one guidance through the writing process. Students begin to learn how they write and develop an understanding of the advantages of rewriting and revisions. Teacher and peer feedback are utilized throughout the various drafts of the paper.
The view of writing as a product has the following advantages for avoiding plagiarism
- Grammar is slowly fixed over time through feedback from the teacher. This allows the students to make corrections before the final submission.
- Any instances of plagiarism can be caught before final submission. Many teachers do not give credit for rough drafts. Therefore, plagiarism in a rough draft normally does not affect the final grade.
- The teacher can coach the students on how to reword plagiarize statements and also how to give appropriate credit through using APA.
- The de-emphasis on perfection allows the student to grow and mature as a writer on the constant support of the teacher and peers.
- Guiding the students thought process is especially critically across cultures as communication style vary widely across the world. Learning to write for a Western academic audience requires training in how Western academics think and communicate. This cannot be picked up alone and is another reason why plagiarism is useful because the stole idea is communicated appropriately.
In a writing as a process environment, the students and teacher work together to develop papers that meet standards in the students own words. It takes much more time and effort but it can reduce the temptation of just copying from whatever Google offers.
Grammar plays a role in writing but the shaping of ideas and their communication is of upmost concern for many in TESOL. The analogy I use is that grammar is like the paint on the walls of a house or the tile on the floor. It makes the house look nice but is not absolutely necessary. The ideas and thoughts of a paper are like the foundation, walls, and roof. Nobody wants to live in a house that lacks tile or is not painted but you cannot live in a house that does not have walls and a roof.
The stress on native-like communication stresses out ESL students to the point of not even trying to write at times. With a change in view on the writing experience from product to process this can be alleviated. We should only ask our students to do what we are able to do. If we cannot write in a second language in a fluent manner how can we ask them?
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 understanding 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 trying 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.
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 unexpected
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 reduced 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 call 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.
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.
Working in groups is a popular activity in many classes. Students and even teachers enjoy working together to complete a 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.
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 two factors in their language classrooms.
Large, whole-class activities allow 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.
Student and Teacher talk refers to the variety of ways in which a language teacher communicates with their students in the classroom. Generally, teacher talk can be divided into indirect and direct influences that shape the interaction of the students with the teacher and each other. Student talk is more complex to explain but has some common traits. This post will explain the two types of influence that are under teacher talk as well as common characteristics of student talk.
Indirect influences is teacher talk that is focused on feelings, asking questions and using student ideas. The focus on feelings is accepting and acknowledging how students feel. This can also involve praising the students for their work by explaining what they have done well.
Other forms of indirect influences include using student ideas. The ideas can be summarized by the teacher or they can be repeated verbatim. Either way, allows the students to contribute to the class discussion.
Lastly, another indirect influence is asking questions. This is a common way to stimulate discussion. The questions asked must be ones in which the teacher actually expects an answer.
Generally, indirect influences are often soft and passive in nature. This is in direct contrast to direct influences
Direct influences are more proactive and sometimes aggressive in nature. Examples include giving directions and or information. In each case, the teacher is clearly in control and trying to lead the class.
Other types of direct influences include criticism. Criticism can be of student behavior or of the response of a student. This is clearly sending a message to the student and perhaps the class about what are acceptable actions in discussions.
When students talk it is usually to give a specific or open-ended response. A specific response is one in which there is only one answer. An open-ended response can have a multitude of answers.
Students can also respond with silence. This can happen as a result of the inability to express oneself or not understanding the question. Confusion happens when students are all speaking at the same time.
Students may also respond using their native language. This is normally avoided in TESOL but there are times where native language responses are needed for clarification.
Communication in the classroom can show itself in many different ways. The insights provided here give examples of the various forms of communication that can happen in a language classroom.
Technique is a core term in the jargon of language teaching. This leads to people using a term without really knowing what it means. In simple terms, a technique is any task/activity that is planned in a language course. Such a broad term makes it difficult to make sense of what exactly a technique is.
This post will try to provide various ways to categorize the endless sea of techniques available in language teaching.
Manipulation to Interaction
One way to assess techniques is along a continuum from manipulation to interaction. A manipulative technique is one in which the teacher has complete control and expects a specific response from the students. Examples of this include reading aloud, choral repetition, dictation
Interactive techniques are ones in which the student’s response is totally open. Examples of interactive techniques include role play, free writing, presentations, etc.
Automatic, Purposeful, Communicative Drills
Another continuum that can be used is seeing techniques as an automatic, purposeful, or communicative drill. An automatic drill technique has only one correct response. An example would be a repetition drill in which the students repeat what the teacher said.
A purposeful drill technique has several acceptable answers. For example, if the teacher asks the students “where is the dog”? The students can say “it’s outside” or “the dog is outside” etc.
Restricted to Free
The last continuum that can be used is restricted to free. This continuum looks at techniques from the position of who has the power. Generally, restricted techniques are ones that are teacher-centered, closed-ended, with high manipulation. Free techniques are often student-centered, open-ended, with unplanned responses.
All levels of language teaching should have a mixture of techniques from all over any of the continuums mentioned in this post. It is common for teachers to have manipulative and automatic techniques for beginners and interactive and free techniques for advanced students. This is often detrimental particularly to the beginning students.
The continuums here are simply for attempting to provide structure when a teacher is trying to choose techniques. It is not a black and white matter in classifying techniques. Different teachers while classifying the same techniques in different places in a continuum. As such, the continuums should guide one’s thinking and not control it.
The context in which language teaching happens influences how the language is taught to the students and how the teacher approaches language instruction. Generally, the two most two most common context in which formal language instruction takes places is at the primary/secondary and tertiary levels.
How language is viewed at these two levels depends on whether they see the mother-tongue of the students as subtractive (negative) or additive (positive) to acquiring the target language. The purpose of this post is to explain how language teaching is approached based on these two context.
There are several language models used at the primary/secondary level. Some of these models include submersion, immersion, and bilingualism.
Submersion is a model in which the student is thrown into the new language without any or little support. This is derived from a subtractive view of the mother tongue. Naturally, many students struggle for years with this approach.
Immersion allows for students to have content-area classes with other students who have the same mother tongue with support from a trained ESL teacher. The mother tongue is seen as additive in this context
Bilingualism involves receiving instruction in both the first and second language. This can be done for the purpose of transitioning completely to the second language or to try and maintain or enrich the first language.
At the tertiary level, many of the same models of language are employed but given slightly different names. Common models at the tertiary level include pre-academic, EAP, ESP, and social.
Pre-Academic language teaching is the tertiary equivalent of submersion. Generally, the students are taught English with a goal of submerging them in the target language when they begin formal studies. This is the same as mainstreaming which is one form of submersion
EAP or English for Academic Purposes is essentially advanced language teaching that focuses on scholarly type subject matter in pre-academic language programs. This is often difficult to teach as it requires a refinement of how the student approaches the language.
ESP or English for Specific Purposes is a general form of EAP. Instead of the focus being academic as in EAP, ESP can be focused on business, tourism, transportation, etc. Students learn English focused on a specific industry or occupation.
Social programs for English provide a brief exposure to English for the sake of enjoyment. Students learn the basics of listening and speaking in a non-academic context.
There are various programs available to support students in acquiring a language. The programs vary in essentially no support to support in maintaining both languages. Which program to adopt at an institution depends on the context of learning and the philosophy of the school.
Advanced ESL students have their own unique set of traits and challenges that an ESL teacher must deal. This post will explain some of these unique traits as well as how to support advanced ESL students.
Supporting Advanced ESL Students
By this point, the majority of the language processing is automatic. This means that the teacher no longer needs to change the speed at which they talk in most situations.
In addition, the students have become highly independent. This necessitates that the teacher focuses on supporting the learning experience of the students rather than trying to play a more directive role.
The learning activities used in the classroom can now cover a full range of possibilities. Almost all causal reading material is appropriate. Study skills can be addressed at a much deeper level. Such skills as skimming, scanning, determining purpose, etc. can be taught and addressed in the learning. Students can also enjoy debates and author opinion generating experiences.
The Challenges of Advanced ESL Students
One of the challenges of advanced students is they often have a habit of asking the most detailed questions about the most obscure aspects of the target language. To deal this requires a Ph.D. in linguistics or the ability to know what the students really need to know and steer away from mundane grammatical details. It is very tempting to try and answer these types of questions but the average native-speaker does not know all the details of imperfect past tense but rather are much more adept at using it.
Another frustrating problem with advanced students is the ability to continue to make progress in their language development. With any skill, as one gets closer to mastery, the room for improvement becomes smaller and smaller. To move from an advanced student to a superior student takes several small rather than sweeping adjustments.
This is one reason advanced students often like to ask those minute grammar questions. These small questions are where they know they are weak when it comes to communicating. This can be especially stressful if the student is a few points away from reaching some sort of passing score on an English proficiency exam (IELTS, TOEFL, etc.). Minor adjustments need to reach the minimum score are difficult to determine and train.
After beginners, teaching advanced ESL students is perhaps the next most challenging teaching experience. Advanced ESL students have a strong sense of what they know and do not know. What makes this challenging is the information they need to understand can be considered somewhat specializes and not easy to articulate for many teachers.
Intermediate ESL students are often the easiest group of students to teach. Usually, they have basic skills in the language while still having plenty of untapped upside potential to develop.
Unlike beginners who have no language skills and thus require a patient and thorough teacher and advanced students who need advanced knowledge minute knowledge of the language, intermediates have some skill without expertise. Therefore, for beginning teachers, it is usually best to start their teaching career working with beginners.
This post will provide some suggestions on how to approach and teach intermediate level ESL students.
Automaticity and the Role of the Teacher
By this level, students are somewhat automatic in their speaking process. This allows the teacher to back off from being the center of the classroom in order to allow more student-student interaction as the student are able to be much more creative in their learning experience. Therefore, the learning can now be much more learner-centered with a significant reduction in the amount of talking the teacher does.
Again, for beginner teachers, the students know enough to not require intensive hand-holding but not enough to challenge the expertise of the teacher. This combines to create an excellent initial teaching experience for many.
Focus on Perfection
Intermediate students begin to become obsessed with grammar. They want everything they say to be “perfect.” This focus on over analyzing everything they say can impair fluency and accuracy as they criticized themselves for every slip-up.
The goal of the teacher at this point is to help the students take their focus off of the accuracy of what they are saying and focus on the flow of the conversation. They should be accurate enough to be understood with more complex correction coming later. Grammar has its place in a limited manner but should not dominate the learning experience.
Learning Activities and Techniques
Intermediate students can learn in a more cooperative environment. Some examples of activities suitable for intermediate students include role-plays, discussion, problem-solving and interviews.
The teacher takes on more of a supervisory role in the learning of the students. The provides guidance as necessary as the students determine what to do themselves.
Teaching at the intermediate level is good for many people new to teaching a language. A new teacher can focus on working with students with some competency without the pressure of exit-examines are people have had no clue about the language.
Beginning ESL students have unique pedagogical needs that make them the most difficult to teach. It’s similar to the challenge of teaching kindergarten. The difficulty is not the content but rather stripping what is already a basic content into something that is understandable for the most undeveloped of students. Some of the best teachers cannot do this.
This post will provide some suggestions on how to deal with beginning ESL students.
Take Your Time
Beginning students need a great deal of repetition. If you have ever tried to learn a language you probably needed to hear phrases many times to understand them. Repetition helps students to remember and imitate what they heard.
This means that the teacher needs to limit the number of words, phrases, and sentences they teach. This is not easy, especially for new teachers who are often put in charge of teaching beginners and race through the curriculum to the frustration of the beginning students.
Repetition and a slow pace help students to develop the automatic processing they need in order to achieve fluency. This can also be enhanced by focusing on purpose in communication rather than the grammatical structure of language.
The techniques used in class should short and simple with a high degree variety to offset the boredom of repetition. In other words, find many ways to teach one idea or concept.
Who’s the Center
Beginning students are highly teacher-dependent because of their lack of skills. Therefore, at least initially, the classroom should probably be teacher-centered until the students develop some basic skills. In general, whenever you are dealing with a new subject the students are totally unfamiliar with it is better to have a higher degree of control of the learning experience.
Being the center of the learning experiences requires the teacher to provide most of the examples of well-spoken, written English. Your feedback is critical for the students to develop their own language skills. The focus should be more towards fluency rather than accuracy.
However, with time cooperative and student-centered activities can become more prominent. In the beginning, too much freedom can be frustrating for language learners who lack any sort of experience to draw upon to complete activities. Within a controlled environment, student creativity can blossom.
Being a beginning level ESL teacher is a tough job. It requires a skill set of patience, perseverance, and a gift at simplicity. Taking your time and determining who the center of learning is are ways in which to enhances success for those teaching beginners.
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 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
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.