In a previous post I spoke about the importance of Positive Reinforcement in the language classroom. It’s important that teachers show learners what language they are using correctly and praise them for it.
My justification for this is because we as teachers know what language is correct and incorrect, but that doesn’t mean learners know. In fact, as long as they have executed a successful communicative act, then they have achieved the desired goal: they’ve communicated a message.
Language is a wide topic and showing examples of good language use could range from grammar through lexis to pronunciation. Today, I’d like to focus only on vocabulary. Continue reading
What do you think are the ideal conditions for learning a language?
A question like this could lead to a variety of answers with the focus on many different conditions and areas. However, in such a case it might be beneficial to concentrate on the most basic conditions which are common across all advice for language learning, namely:
- Active Receptive Engagement
- Active Productive Engagement
Whether a language is being learnt by attending a course, using a teach-yourself guide or simply extracting language from a friend or a newspaper, in all three cases the Target Language can only be extracted, processed and acquired if the learner actively engages with the language.
This means that a learner could learn a language completely on their own or with a teacher – in either case, any language they are exposed to must be under the condition that elements of it are later engaged, exploited and explored.
In much the same way a small flake of snow eventually turns into an avalanche, I think a teacher’s – and a learner’s – progress can be somewhat likened to that gradual yet ferocious process of development.
This week, a feedback session on eliciting vocabulary led to reading an article on in-class feedback, which led to reading a chapter of a book, which lead to further reading on the Internet. Eventually, it all snowballed into an epiphany: Guided Discovery.
Scrivener really spells out the fundamental idea behind Guided Discovery in chapter 7 of his book Learning Teaching with the example of the following activity: “you write some sentences (all using the past perfect) on the board, but with the words mixed up…” and the students have to order the words.
I’m currently teaching students on a summer programme largely from the Far East. This has placed different demands on my teaching – particularly in pronunciation – which is understandable: for Chinese speakers, the sounds of English couldn’t be any more foreign!
A lot of teachers I’ve met can be quite adverse to pronunciation. Many don’t demand exact pronunciation from their students – as long as the word is understandable, it’s enough, they say…
The issue there is that the vast majority of teachers are well-trained in the art of understanding poorly pronounced English. So, what happens when a student meets a regular native-speaker whose experience of speaking with foreigners goes as far as British holiday resorts in Spain? You’ve guessed it – communication breakdown.