Tag Archives: tesol

Discrete-Point and Integrative Language Testing Methods

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

Discrete-point testing works on the assumption that language can be reduce 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 focus 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 includes 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 students 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.

Conclusion

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.

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Teaching Vocabulary to ESL Students

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 helping students to develop there 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 as 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 language much faster do 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.

Conclusion

Vocabulary is a necessary element to language learning. It would be nice to ignores this but normally this is impossible.  As such, teachers need to support students in their vocabulary development.

Writing Techniques for the ESL Classroom

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

Imitation

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

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

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

Controlled and Guided

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

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

Self-Writing

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

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

Display  and Real Writing

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

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

Conclusion

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.

Writing as a Process or Product

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 terns of rhetoric, vocabulary use, organization, etc. The students were given several different examples that could be used as models form 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 finally 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 provide 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 develop of ideas, organization, coherency, and other aspects of writing. All this is done through the teacher providing feedback to the student was 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 give each student individual attention to grow as individual. ‘A’ students get what they need as well as weaker students. Everyone is compared to their own progress as a writer.

Conclusion

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.

Tips for Developing Techniques for ESL Students

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 on developing speaking and listening techniques.

Techniques should Encourage Intrinsic Motivation

When developing techniques for your students. The techniques need 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 students goals.

When techniques do not align with student goals there is a lost of relevance, which is highly demotivating. Of course, as the teacher, you do not always give them what they want but general practice suggest 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 wold 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 ab 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.

Conclusion

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 Techniques for the ESL Classroom

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

Reactionary Listening

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

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

Responsive Listening

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

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

Discriminatory Listening

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

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

Intensive Listening

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

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

Extensive Listening

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

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

Interactive Listening

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

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

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

Conclusion

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.

Common Challenges with Listening for ESL Students

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 includes the following.

  • Slang
  • Contractions
  • Rate of Delivery
  • Emphasis in speech
  • Clustering
  • Repetition
  • Interaction

Slang

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

Contractions are unique form of slang or colloquialism that is more readily accept as standard English. A challenge with contractions is there 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 phrase 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 listening 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

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

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

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.

Conclusion

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 exhaustive list but serves as a brief survey.

 

Student and Teacher Talk in the ESL 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

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 includes 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 

Direct influences are more proactive and sometimes aggressive in nature.  Examples include give directions and or information. In each case, the teacher is clearly in control and trying to lead the class.

Other types of direct influences includes 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.

Student Talk

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.

Student 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.

Conclusion

Communication in the classroom can show itself in many different. The insights provided hear give examples of the various forms of communication that can happen in a language classroom.

Understanding Techniques in Language Teaching

Technique is a core term in the jargon of language teaching. This leads to people using a term without really knowing what in 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 see 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 includes reading aloud, choral repetition, dictation

Interactive techniques are ones in which the students response is totally open. Examples of interactive techniques includes role play, free writing, presentations, etc.

Automatic, Purposeful, Communicative Drills

Another continuum that can be used is seeing techniques as 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 ask 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.

Conclusion

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 classify the same techniques in different places in a the continuum. As such, the continuums should guide one’s thinking and not control it.

Institutional Context of Language Teaching

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.

Primary/Secondary

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.

Tertiary

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.

Conclusion

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.

Teaching Advanced ESL Students

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 focus 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 PhD 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 make several small rather than sweeping adjustments.

This is one reason advanced students often like to ask those minute grammar questions. These small question is 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.

Conclusion

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 some what specializes and not easy to articulate for many teachers.

Teaching Beginning ESL Students

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 amount 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 helps 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 use din 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.

Conclusion

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

 

First and Target Language Conflict and Compromise

In an interesting contradiction of language acquisition it is a given fact that the greatest challenge and blessing in learning a second language is the first language. For many people they wonder how the first language can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time.

In order to understand this mystery of second language acquisition we will look at interference, facilitating, as well as suggestion for teachers tot help students to deal with the challenges of the first language in second language acquisition.

Interference and Facilitating

A person’s first language can be a problem through what is called interfering. Interference is the assumptions a person brings from their first language to the second language.

Each language has distinct rules that governs in use in the form of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonology, etc. When a person learns a new language they bring these rules with them to the new language. Therefore, they are breaking the rules of the target language do to their obedience to the rules of their native language.

Below is an example of a native English speaker trying to speak Spanish

English Sentence: I want the red car
Spanish with English rules: Yo quiero el rojo coche
Correct Spanish Version: Yo quiero el coche rojo

In the simple example above, the native English speaker said “rojo coche” (red car) instead of “coche rojo” (car red) in Spanish. In other words, the English speaker  put the adjective before the noun instead of the noun before the adjective. This is a minor problem but it does sound strange to a native Spanish speaker.

It needs to be noted that the first language can also help in communicating in the second and this is called facilitating. In the example above, the majority of what the English speaker said is correct. The subject verb object order was correct as an example. This is because when the rules of the language are the same the facilitate the person’s learning of the target language and when the rules are different they interfere.

Helping with Interference and Facilitating

The goal of a teacher is to help a student to discard interference and hold on to facilitating. To do this a teacher needs to listen to the errors a student makes to understand what the problems are. Often it is good to explain the error the student is making and what native language rule they are clinging to that is causing the problem.

Another goal is to encourage direct thinking in the target language. This prevents translation and all of the errors that come with that.

Lastly, recognizing the benefits of facilitating by showing how the two languages are similar can help students. Generally, teachers focus on interference rather than facilitating but an occasional acknowledge of facilitation is beneficial.

Conclusion

A teacher needs to understand that the first language  of their students is not always an enemy. The first language provides a foundation for the development of the target language. Through working with what the students already know the teacher can help to develop strong language skills in the target.

Language Ego

Imagine that you are working as an ESL teacher at a university. Specifically, you are working with international students who are trying to complete their English language  proficiency in order to study for their PhD.

These students are without a doubt intelligent. They all have a master degrees. However, despite their talent and abilities, they are still babies when it comes to fluency in English. The students become exceedingly frustrated as they have to be reduce to such an elementary experience of drills and skits in order to be prepared for graduate studies. In order to achieve their dream they must develop an identity in the English language.

To make an even stronger example, imagine  you are an English teacher in your country where English is a Foreign Language and have been teaching English for years. You decide to go for a PhD in an English speaking country. You take the TOEFL or IELTS and the results indicate that you need to take ESL courses before you can study. Here you are, an experienced English teacher back home, sitting through intermediate/advanced ESL courses. This is a serious but common wake up call for many non-native ESL teachers with advanced degree aspirations.

This experience frustration and fragility  as one learns a new language is called language ego. This post will define language ego as well as strategies for making this experience more tolerably for students.

Defining Language Ego

Language ego is a sense of inferiority as one tries to learn a new language. People are excellent at communicating in their own language and communicate boldly in it. This confidence in one’s native language makes one highly resilient in one’s mother tongue. This why native speaker’s often ignore comments on how to communicate in the target language when these comments come from non-native speakers and even from native-speakers. We all know our own language and care little for feedback from others

However, this confidence, stubbornness, and resilience disappears when learning another language. Now, it is common for people to become defensive and sensitive as they try to communicate with limited tools.

This experience only becomes worst as one gets older. Children already have limited cognitive ability compared to adults so when they communicate in a new language they have much lower expectations in terms of talking and communicating. For adults, who often have complex, abstract ideas to share, it is frustrating to have to be reduce to speaking about mundane topics in a second language.

Helping Student with Language Ego

In order to support students during this experience it is important to remember the following points.

  • Task should be  challenging but not overwhelming.  This is a general concept in education but much more important in language teaching. Excessive failure will destroy the fragile ego of many ESL students.
  • Different students will struggle in different ways. This means a teacher should be strategic in terms of who they call on, correct publicly, the level of toughness, etc. as all of these decisions will affect students in different ways.
  • Acknowledging the frustration as the students learn the language can also help with coping.

Conclusion

Learning a language involves changes to one’s self. This means that the ego is often threaten when acquiring a language. The intensity of this is only increase when one learns a language a an adult when compared to a child. As such, teachers need to support adults and children during this experience.

Strategies for Relevant Language Learning

Meaningful or relevant language learning has become an important component of modern language teaching. For many students, acquiring knowledge without a corresponding context in which it can be applied inhibits the ability to assimilate the information no matter how beneficial the knowledge may be.

Defining Relevance in Learning

From a constructionist viewpoint, relevance in learning is about connecting new information with old information which strengthens the learner’s ability to retain the knowledge. An example of this would be how a child various words and sounds with specific goals of communication they may have.

The complete opposite of relevant learning may be rote learning. Rote learning focuses on memorizing for the sake of memorizing with the key component of context often missing. With the  context the learning may lack relevance for they learner which impedes their language acquisition.

One of the strongest examples of rote learning in TESOL would be audiolingualism. This method was heavy on drill and  memorization. However, this emphasis on memorizing and drill made it difficult to produce language realistically for many language students.

Strategies for Relevance

A key idea in making learning relevant in the context of language acquisition is balance. Some memorizing is fine but not in excess. This same idea applies towards the teaching of grammar, theories, and other abstract impractical concepts.

How to find balance is too complex to explain here as every classroom is different. The analogy I use when teaching fuzzy concepts such as finding balance is the use of salt in cooking. A little salt is great but too much and nobody wants to it the food. However, the amount of salt to use depends on preference/context and this also applies when striving for pedagogical balance in teaching.

Another way to improve relevance is to identify the interest and needs of the students and address these in the classroom. This makes a clear connection with practical application for many students, which enhances retention of knowledge.

Lastly, making an effort as the teacher to show how a new idea or concept relates to what a student already knows also makes learning relevant. This extends the student’s knowledge just enough to provide new information that is not out of reach for understanding.

Conclusion

Learners need to be able to understand and see how they can use something that they are learning. This requires the teacher to develop ways in which to demonstrate to the student that the learning is relevant.

Automaticity in Learning

A key prerequisite to the mastery of any skill or ability is automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to do something automatically without much thought. The avoidance of thinking is often viewed critically but in the context of developing mastery, there is a point where something needs to be done with a great deal of conscious intellectual effort.

This post will explain automaticity and provide principles to use when trying to develop automaticity in language learning students

Children and Adult Automaticity 

In comparison to adults, children are excellent at automaticity. For example, children often learn languages fairly easy because the process the language without in-depth metalingusitic thought about it.

A child’s success with automaticity in relation to language is due to the fact that children do not become obsess with understanding all the various aspects of the grammar of a language. Instead of examining tiny bits of the language a child will focus on using the language in various context. In other words, adults focus on grammar and rules which are hard to understand and remember while children focus on using the language without caring about the details.

To provide another example, whereas an adult might see language like an accountant with a focus on minute details and careful attention. A child sees language like a ceo who often focuses on the big picture. The child wants to communicate and doesn’t care too much for how it’s done or the rules involved.

This is not to say that focus on details is bad it simply impedes quick communication. A child learns to speak but has a superficial understanding of the language. The adult is slow to speak but has a much richer understanding of the language.  In other words, the child knows how to communicate but doesn’t know why they can say this or that while the adults often doesn’t know how to communicate but knows the why behind what they wish they could say.

Teaching for Automaticity

If the goal of a language teacher is for students to be able to develop automaticity they should consider the following ideas.

  • There is a place for sharing language rules. However, the teaching of rules should be related to practical use so that the student is not weighed down by rules they cannot use immediately. Often, the teaching of rules is inductive in nature in most modern methods/approaches.
  • Classroom and learning time should be devoted to the function or use of language. What this means is spend less time talking about the language and more time actually using the language.
  • Developing automaticity takes a great deal of time. In other words, classroom activities that contribute to automaticty must be consistently in the lesson plan throughout the semester so that students can become comfortable using the language.

Conclusion

Becoming a natural at anything necessitates some form of automaticity. For the adult language learning, acquiring automaticity means reduce the desire to think critically and just accept how a language is used. With the help of a teacher it is possible to develop this ability.

Interactive Learning in TESOL

Interactive learning is a foundational theory of language acquisition that has had a profound influence on many approaches/methods in TESOL. By foundational it is meant that teaching in an interactive is an assumption for ensuring language acquisition.

This post will explain what interactive learning is as well as ways in which it is used in the TESOL classroom.

Interaction Hypothesis

The technical term for interactive learning is the interaction hypothesis developed by Michael Long. This hypothesis proposes that input and output in language. As students engage with each other both in written and oral ways there communication skills will improve. This off course is obvious for most of us but credit must still be given when someone takes what is obvious and becomes the first to note it in the literature.

Communication is viewed as a negotiation between two or more people. This experience of back and forth is where language skills are developed.

Traits of Interactive Learning

If a teacher is a proponent of interactive learning. It is possible you will see one or more of the following experiences in their classroom.

  • Majority of the learning happening in groups or pairs
  • Generating authentic language using real-world activities
  • Back and forth negotiated speaking
  • Tasks that prepared students to communicate outside the classroom

This is just a partial list of learning experiences that take place  in an interactive learning classroom. The primary take away may be that it would be rare for students to work alone and or spend a great deal of time listening to lectures or on non-authentic assignments.

Approaches/Methods Influenced by Interactive Learning

The majority of approaches/methods developed in the latter half of the 20th have been partial are fully influenced by interactive learning. Communicative Language Teaching is completely about interaction. Cooperative language teaching is also highly interactive. Community language learning is also heavily influenced by interaction.

Other approaches/methods may or may not be interactive. Examples include Whole Language, Competency-Based Language Teaching, Text-Based Instruction, and Task-Based instruction. If any of these were to incorporate interactive activities it would be at the discretion of the teacher.

Conclusion

Interactive learning is perhaps the dominant foundational theory of language teaching in TESOL today. The  majority of approaches/models are at least sympathetic to learning a language in this manner. As such, a language teacher should at least be familiar with this theory or perhaps consider incorporating these characteristics into their teaching philosophy

Notional-Functional Syllabus of TESOL

The notional-functional syllabus was an innovation developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Europe. The pragmatic focus of this innovation has to this day had an influence on language teaching.

This post will define what a notional-functional syllabus is by looking at each word that makes up the phrase “notional-functional syllabus.”

Notional

In TESOL, “notions” is a synonym for the word “context” or “setting.” Notion has to do with what is called pragmatics in language acquisition  but the setting can be intellectual rather than a physical setting. As such, a notional-functional syllabus is focused on the various situations in which language is used.

There are two levels at which notions take place. General notions are highly abstract philosophically concepts such as existence, space, and time. Normally, TESOL does not deal with such concepts except when teaching about temporal relational terms such as before, after, during, etc.

The second level of notions is specific notions. Specific notions deal with clearly defined fixed situations. Examples of specific notions includes animals, politics, education, and sports.  Although these can still be considered abstract that are not nearly as abstract as general notions. As such it is better to look at general and specific notions as ideas along a continuum rather as either/or concepts.

Functional

The functional aspect of the notional-functional syllabus relates to how language is used. Prior to this focus on function language was taught with a foucs on grammar and learning was organized around grammar use. In a functional focus, language is used to do any and all of the  following

  • explain
  • describe
  • discuss
  • argue
  • agree
  • apologize
  • compare
  • contrast

As you can see, there is almost an infinity amount of variety when combining the  notion with the function. This leads to our need to understand what a syllabus is.

Syllabus

Syllabus is the European term for what is called curriculum in America. A syllabus/curriculum has been defined on this site before. In short, a syllabus/curriculum is a systematic plan toward achieving educational goals. Often, the syllabus/curriculum has goals/objectives that are in reality a combination of a notion and a or function. Below are some examples. The brackets indicated what the preceding phrase is, whether it’s a function or a notion.

  • Introduce self [function] to other people [notion]
  • Ask for information [function] at a bank [notion]
  • Give directions [function]
  • Read the text [function] and answer [function] the questions [notion]

From the examples, it is clear that you can have function with a notion, a function alone, or several functions with a notion. Without getting too technical there is endless potential in designing a syllabus/curriculum with this framework in mind.

Final Thoughts

There is little difference of notional-functional syllabus from the development  of regular objectives in curriculum. If you are familiar with how objectives are made you know objectives have an action, proficiency, and  condition.

The “action” of a regular objective is in many ways the same as the “function” of a functional-notional syllabus. In addition, the “condition” of a regular objective is similar to the “notion” of a notional-functional syllabus. Notional-Functional objectives do not address proficiency in their objectives. As such, it is common for different fields to discover similar concepts while still giving these new concepts different names.

Series Method

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

Techniques

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

The Natural Approach to Language Acquisition

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

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

Assumptions

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

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

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

Curriculum

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Cooperative Language Learning

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

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

Assumptions

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

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

Curriculum 

CLL has several specific goals including the following.

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

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

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

Some common activities based on CLL includes

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

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

Conclusion

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

Lexical Approach

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

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

Assumptions

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

Chunks are learned through one or more of the following strategies

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

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

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

Curriculum

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

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

Conclusion

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

Text-Based Instruction

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

Assumptions

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

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

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

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

Curriculum

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

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

A common instructional approach using TBI would include the following steps

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

Conclusion

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

 

Task-Based Language Teaching

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

Assumptions

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

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

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

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

Curriculum

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

Some activities of TBLT includes the following.

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

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

When using TBLT there are three common steps to teaching

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

Conclusion

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

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

Competency-Based Language Teaching

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

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

Assumptions

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

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

Curriculum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criticism of CBLT

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Whole Language Approach

Traditionally, the teaching of language in America has focused on decoding skills. This means splitting a part a word it to it phonemes. This is where the famous phonics programs came from.

However, with ever reaction there is often a reaction. The reaction to the emphasis on decoding and phonics lead to the development of the Whole Language Approach. Whole Language has to distinct camps one for first language reading acquisition and the other for ESL. In this post, we will examine the assumptions, curriculum, and procedures of the Whole Language Approach within ESL.

Assumptions

Whole Language Approach stresses that language learning happens in interactional and functional ways. This means that students learn a language through engaging one another and through the actual use of the language in real-world experiences. This means that authentic assessment is a core component of the learning.

With the emphasis on interaction, the Whole Language Approach is also heavily influenced by constructivism. As the students experience the language in authentic situations, they are building on prior knowledge they have.

The teacher is viewed as a facilitator and not an expert passing on knowledge. Students serve the role of evaluating their own and others work. The classroom environment is one of self-directed learning with the students experiences used as learning material. This heightens relevancy which is an important aspect of a humanistic classroom.

Curriculum & Procedures

A Whole Language Approach classroom have some of the following in its curriculum

  • Authentic assessment
  • Integration of the language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening)
  • Collaboration when reading and writing
  • Real-world reading and writing rather than for pedagogical purposes

It is always important to have a degree of flexibility in the curriculum when using this approach. This is due to learning new things about the students and their needs as the class progresses.

The procedures and activities used in the Whole Language Approach includes several of the following.

A primary goal of this approach is to provide an experience. The experience helps the students to acquire the language through the various activities of the class.

Conclusion

Whole Language is not a commonly used approach these days. A major problem with overly student-centered/self-directed learning is measurement of results. With other approaches such as content or task-based it is much easier to measure cause and effect in terms of language acquisition.

Another closely related criticism of Whole Language is the negative view of the approach of teaching and acquiring specific measurable skills. Students would learn but it was not always clear what they learned.

Many skills require systematic instruction such as reading. Exposure to text does not teach a person to read. Rather, learning the sounds of the individual words often leads to reading. As such, a top-down approach to reading acquisition is the favor theory currently

Regardless of the weak points, Whole Language can still be useful for English teachers. The requirement is to find ways to use it situationally rather than exclusively.

Communicative Language Learning

Communicative language learning was an approach of language teaching that was developed in reaction to the Oral Approach. One of the major differences between communicative language learning and the oral approach is former focuses on the function of language while the latter focuses on the structure.

Communicative language learning (CLL) is also has a learn by doing focus. In addition, this approach is learner-centered. The students master the language through using it in communication rather than focusing on the structure of the target language.

Approach

There are four primary competencies a student needs to develop according to CLL.

  • Grammatical competence-Grammar
  • Sociolinguistic competence-Understanding social context
  • Discourse competence-Meaning of what is said
  • Strategic competence-Ways to maintain a conversation

In CLL, language is seen as a tool for expressing meaning. Language allows people to interact with one another. These two points lead to the following principles of CLL

  • Real communication is critical to language acquisition
  • The language task must be meaningful for the students

The emphasis on interaction indicates that CLL derives heavily from constructivism in that students learn from each and build on their prior knowledge.

Design

Often, those who employ CLL approach will develop a notional-functional syllabus. Notional means ideas. For example, a teacher may develop units on leisure, shopping, business, etc. Functional means using language for real-world activities. For example, in the shopping unit, students would use language related to shopping.

This way of developing lessons is different from other methods such as grammar-translation with its focus on grammar. In CLL, the student uses the language in various real-world settings.

Two major focuses of CLL are on fluency and accuracy. The development of these two abilities takes place through such activities as role plays, sharing/gathering information, and expressing one’s opinion. During these activities, the teacher encourages and supports students through their success and failures with the language.

Instructional materials are based on text, task, realia, or technology. The goal is always to have students model real-world behavior. Text might be an actual newspaper or article. Task might be interviews. Realia might be graphs and charts. Lastly, technology could be blogs and or developing videos.

Teacher and Student Roles

The teacher in CLL is a facilitator. They conduct a needs analyst and provide a learning environment that encourages growth. The teacher provides encouragement and support while the students are engaged in various tasks.

The students are the center of the learning. They are actively involved in various activities and experiences developed by the teacher.

Criticism of CLL

CLL has been criticized as inapplicable in non-western context. Many cultures expect a teacher-centered learning environment. As such, a student-centered environment would be confusing for many language learners.

CLL also has been accused of encouraging fossilization. With so much interaction happening in the classroom it is difficult to correct mistakes. As students build confidence and learn to survive in English they may find it difficult to fix more nuance mistakes with so little feedback.

Conclusion

CLL is a useful method for those who want to motivate students from a more humanistic perspective. With this approach, students are actively learning and engaged in various real-world task. Despite the problems, this approach is yet one other way of teaching a target language.

Audiolingualism

The background to audiolingualism was discussed in a previous post. This post will look at the characteristics of audiolingualism in greater detail. In particular, we will look at the theories and design of audiolingualism

Theories

Audiolingualism is heavily influenced by a structural view of language. This view sees langauage rule-governed and systems within systems. Furthermore, language should be broken down into its smallest units. For a structuralist, things like phonemes and morphemes are highly important because these are the smallest units of a certain language structures.

Language is oral in nature for a structuralist. This is one reason for audiolingualism’s focus on speech.

Behaviorism is another influential theory in audiolingualism. People learn a language through stimulus and response. Drills and more drills with feedback is how they improve. It doesn’t matter if the student understands as long as they can execute. Analysis is not important. Instead, context is how students learn vocabulary.

Curriculum Development

An audiolingual curriculum will focus on the structure of the language. It will also include lots of repetition and memorization. This focus on repetition leads to the use of technology such as CDs which allow students to practice. The medium of instruction will primarily be oral and verbal with reading and writing be secondary.

The primary goal would be mastery in a behavioral manner. This means execution of the language in various context.  Objectives will further support this by providing measurable behaviors that show competence.

Student-Teacher Interaction

The teacher plays a critical role in this method. the learning is centered around the teacher and the students willingness to imitate. Such activities as choral responses are a part of the learning.

The student is dependent on the teacher for language acquisition. They are expected to imitate even when they do not understand what they are saying. This emphasis of action over understanding is a key characteristic.

The End of Adudiolingualism

After having time to use the method, many teachers became disappointed in the results in their students when employing audiolingualism. In other words, audiolingualism never live up to the hype in a practical sense.

Furthermore, the behavioral focus of audiolingualism was being attack by cognitivist leaning linguists such as Noam Chomsky.There was a shift from imitation to competence in language circles that undid audiolingualism.

Conclusion

The audiolingual method was a highly influential method for its time. Its focus on repetition and behavioral aspects of language was a major strength that became a weakness.

Even though this method is mostly gone. Its impact is still felt every time a student tries to imitate the speaking style of a native.

Th Birth of the Audiolingual Method

In this post, we will examine the background to the Audiolingual method. Audiolingualism is considered by many to be the first American approach to ESL.

Background

During the Great Depression, and influential study called the “Coleman Report” recommended that foreign language should be taught through the use of a reading approach. This led to many teachers teaching language using a combination of Direct Method and Oral Approach.

A major change came with the start of WWII, the US now needed people who were fluent in the languages of the enemy and those conquered by them. For many of these exotic languages, there was no textbook available. This lead the army to a creative solution called the informant method.

The informant method was simple. A native speaker of the target language teamed with a student and a linguist and they would spend time together. The native speaker would  say phrases and vocabulary for the student to learn through imitation. The linguist would provide structure for what the student was learning.

The informant method required students to study 10 hours a day six days a week for 12-18 weeks. By the end of such an intense experience, excellent languages skills were developed.

After WWII, there was a shift among many linguist towards a structural function of language combined with behavioral approaches to learning. There was also a focus on aural training  with support in developing pronunciation skills. Later did the student learn about speaking, reading, and writing. This way of teaching language became know as the Aural-Oral Approach.

Enter Audiolingualism

Audiolingualism came out of the background of the intense language experience of the informant method and the structural/behavioral emphasis of the Aural-Oral Approach. This method, with its focus on “drill, drill, drill”, was used in ESL teaching at universities throughout America at one point and is stilled used in many parts of the world today.

Audiolingualism was touted as taking language teaching from art to science. It was considered systematic and efficient in providing results. For teachers, it meant often being the center of instruction and speaking to allow the students to imitate and to correct them when they were wrong. For students, it meant parroting what was said without always knowing what it means.

For its time, there is no question as to the influence of audiolingualism. It was based on prior study and was one of the first major contribution of American linguists to ESL teaching. In a future post, we will examine in detail the audiolingual method.

The Oral Approach of Language Teaching

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

Background

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

Characteristics

The Oral Approach stresses the following…

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

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

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

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

Theories  & Teaching

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

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

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

Another Name

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

Conclusion

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

Understanding Procedures in Language Teaching

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

Three Components

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

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

Examples of Procedures

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

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

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

Checking-Providing students with correct answers or guidance

Homework-Additional practice of class material.

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Method Design

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

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

Consider the Objectives

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

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

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

Develop a Syllabus

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

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

Select Learning and Teaching Activities

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

Roles of Learners and Teachers

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

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

Conclusion

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

Theories of Learning and TESOL

Learning theories are the models that try to explain how people learn. These theories are at the foundation of educational psychology and have a profound influence on how people teach as well.

Since TESOL is focused on teaching language specifically it should not be surprising that learning theories influence TESOL as well. In this post, we will look at several common learning theories and how they influence TESOL.

Behaviorism & Skill Learning

Behaviorism states that learning is a process of developing specific actions in response to specific stimuli. Through repetition habits were developed. In many methods of TESOL, such as the audiolingual method, you can see a focus on a great deal of repetition. This style of teaching is due in part to behaviorism.

Skill learning is really another variety of Behaviorism. Skill learning focuses on the development of integrated abilities through practice. The skill is considered mastered when it becomes automatic. Most methods have some element of skills learning.

Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning is focused on how individuals store, encode, and use knowledge. Through clear carefully planned instruction, students will be able to achieve lesson objectives. Teaching happens inductively and deductively  with students using their knowledge to practice what they have learned. Situational language teaching has been influenced by this theory as it focuses on the students acquiring understanding of the knowledge to use in various settings.

Interactional Theory & Constructivism

Interactional theory believes that people learn through working together. However, the experience of working together involves an advanced student with a weaker student. The advance student teaches and guides the weaker student.

Through this experience, both students build or construct knowledge. This development of knowledge through interaction is know constructivism. Constructivism is the internal development of meaning for an individual based on their interaction with those around them. When this interaction happens with a teacher it is called scaffolding.

Methods that focus on collaboration and lots of interaction are derived from interactional and constructivism, Examples include cooperative language learning, community language learning, and task-based language.

Language Theory and Learning Theory

In a previous post, we looked at language theory. If you have been reading all these post together you might be confused over what language theory is and what learning theory is. Language theory focuses specifically on how people learn language. On the other a hand, learning theory focuses on how people learn in general.

Both language theories (how people learn languages) and learning theories (how people learn) influences approaches in TESOL. An approach is a set of beliefs in how to teach a language and how students learn a language. In other words, an approach is just a combination of language theories and learning theories.  Below is a visual.

Language Theory + Learning Theory = Approach

 

 

Approaches/Theories of Language in TESOL

In the field of TESOL, different teachers hold different views of how students learn a language. These various theories of language learning are called approaches. Approaches are significant as they influence everything that happens in a classroom from the objectives, the learning activities, and even the role of the learners and teacher.

In this post we will look at several common approaches or theories of language.

Cognitive Approach

Supporters of the cognitive view believe language reflects the characteristics of the mind. The mind is a computer . Therefore, learning language is about the acquisition of abstract knowledge. By abstract we mean general principles about a language such as the formation of nouns, developing questions, etc.

The cognitive approach suggests that there is a universal grammar that all languages have in common. Understanding and teaching this universal grammar will help individuals to learn a language. One method commonly associated with the cognitive approach is the grammar-translation method.

Structural Approach

The structural approach views language as a system related elements that provide meaning. For example, a language has phonological elements, grammatical elements, lexical elements, etc. Learning the structure of these elements helps a person to learn the language. The audiolingual method is based on this approach.

Functional & Genre Approach

The functional approach sees language as a tool for expression one’ self in real-world experiences. The ultimate goal of language is the ability to communicate with it. Therefore, an understanding of semantics and communication is most important. This focus on communication downplays the need for a deep study of grammar. One method that is based on the functional approach is English for specific purposes.

The genre approach is derived from the functional view. In this approach, people learn a language in specific genres  such as business, science, health care, etc. From learning language in specific genres people develop meaning. Academic English is one method based on the genre approach

Interactional & Sociocultural Approach

This approach sees language as being for the purpose of interacting with people. This means that people learn language through attempting authentic conversation with the people around them. Rules and grammar of a language are not of major significance. Task-based language teaching follows this approach.

The sociocultural approach is so similar to interactional that it is difficult to separate them. Socicultural approach sees language learning as a communication activity in a social context. People learn language in the context of social relationships. Task-based language learning also is based on this approach.

Conclusion

There is little reason to try and decide which approach is the best. The best approach is the one that works well with a given group of students. The benefit of approaches is that they help to explain why a teacher does what they do. If a teacher stress interaction in class it may be because they hold an interactional view of language learning.Being able to explain what one believes is a critical component of better teaching.

The Direct Method

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

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

Traits of Direct Method

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

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

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

Impact of the Direct Method

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Reform Movement in Language Teaching

By the late 19th century, there was a general push for making strong changes to how language was taught. There was a resurgence in linguistics and phonetics that serve as major influences on language teaching. This post will share some of the major reform factors of this time period.

International Phonetic Association

In the 1880’s, the International Phonetic Association was founded. Not only did this organization developed the International Phonetic Alphabet. They also laid down several influential principles of language teaching. For example, the IPA believed that the focus of learning a language should be on the spoken language. This is another indication of the shift away from reading and writing.

The focus on spoken language also led to recommending the use of proper pronunciation and the use of conversation in the classroom. There was still a prescriptive emphasis in developing “proper” speaking skills as though there is one standard for how to talk. This emphasis on verbal accuracy may have come from the stress of accuracy in the Grammar-Translation Method.

The IPA a also encouraged the teaching of grammar inductively. This means to teach grammatical concepts through the use of examples or applications of the rules. From these examples, students would extract the rule for themselves. This is a much more engaging way to teach details such as rules in comparison to the standard deductive approach in which the rule is given followed by applications of it.

Other Reform Principles

There are several other significant reforms. One key idea was the need to teach language in a matter that was simple to complex in design. One has to wonder how language could have been taught with teaching from simple to more complex content. However, this principle may have been simply stating something that had been taken for granted.

Another reform idea was a focus on reading the language before seeing it in writing. This is in contrast to the focus on text by the Grammar-Translation method. Lastly, learning should happen in context. A focus on context became a major topic of controversy in education in general in the 20th century.

One last major reform that brought an end to the Grammar-Translation Method was the belief that translation should be avoided. Translation was at the heart of language teaching up until this point. Such a stance as this may have been highly shocking for its time as it was a pushing against a tradition that dated back to the 16th century.

Conclusion

Change is a part of life. The reforms brought about in language teaching at the end of the 19th century were for the purpose of improving language teaching. The primary desire was not to throw away what had been done before. Rather, the goal was to further help in the improvement of language teaching.

Reaction Toward Grammar-Translation

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

The Problems

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

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

Proposed Solutions

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Grammar Translation Method

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

Characteristics

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

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

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

Impact

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

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

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

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

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

The Influences of Latin in TESOL

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

Latin at its Role in Language Teaching

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

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

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

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

The Teaching of Latin

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

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

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

Latin and Modern Language Teaching

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

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

Conclusion

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

Levels of Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is a key academic skill. To comprehend a reading text means to understand what the author was trying to communicate and to share the author’s intentions along with, if possible, your own perspective on the text. Doing this is not easy at all.

In general, there are three levels of reading comprehension and they are.

  1. Decoding
  2. Critical literacy
  3. Dynamic literacy

This post will discuss each of these three levels of reading comprehension.

Decoding

Decoding is the most basic level of reading comprehension. At this level, a person breaking down words into there component syllables and “sounding them out.” He or she blends the words together and reads the text. This is the experience of many people who are learning to read. The focus is on learning to read and not reading to learn.

There is a minimal amount of reading comprehension at this level. The reader can recall what they read based on memory but there is often an inability to think and comprehend at a deeper level beyond memory.

For teaching, teaching decoding normal happens either with ESL students or with native speakers in early the early primary grades. This can be taught using a phonics based approach, whole reading approach or some other method.

Critical Literacy

Critical literacy assumes that decoding has already happen. At this level, the reader is actively trying to develop a deeper understanding of the text. This happens through analyzing, comparing, contrasting, synthesizing, and or evaluating. The reader is engaged in a dialog with the text in trying to understand it.

Developing critical literacy in students requires employing teaching and learning strategies from the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Leading discussions that require higher level thinking and or writing assignments are some ways to accomplish this.

It is important to remember that readers should have already mastered decoding before attempting critical literacy. It is easy to cause cognitive overload by trying to have a reader decode text while trying to discuss the deeper meaning of the content. As such, critical literacy strategies should be avoid until upper primary school.

Dynamic Literacy

Dynamic literacy assumes mastery of decoding and some mastery of critical literacy. Dynamic literacy goes beyond analysis to relating the content of the text to other knowledge. If critical literacy is focused only on the text, dynamic literacy is focused on how the current text of the reading relates to other books.

For example, a reader who is reading a book about language acquisition may look for connections between acquisition of a language and grammar. Or they may be more creative and look for connections between language acquisition and music. This inter-disciplinary focus is unique to what is currently considered the highest level of reading comprehension.

A more practical approach to doing this would be to compare what several authors say about the same subject. Again, the focus is on going beyond just one book or one subject to going across different books and or viewpoints. In general, dynamic literacy is probably not possible before high school or even college.

Conclusion

Many people never move beyond decoding. They are content with reading a text and knowing what happen but never thinking deeper beyond that. However, for some, higher levels of reading comprehension is not a goal. For many, reading the newspaper in English is all they want to do and they have no desire for a more complex reading experience.  The challenge for a teacher is to move readers from one level to the next while keeping in mind the goals of the students