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
Learning a foreign involves a lot: new vocabulary to learn, grammar to acquire and sounds to master. It isn’t a challenge for the light-hearted! This couldn’t be truer for English Language Learners. Not only do they have to deal with the Language Learning Process, as for any other language, but they also have to manage a language which differs greatly between its written and spoken forms.
As languages go, English is definitely not a phonetically written language. Other languages, such as Polish or German, largely spell the language as it sounds. Of course, there are sounds and special clusters of letters you have to learn, but they generally don’t change: you could say there are hard and fast spelling rules in those languages.
When it comes to English, however, there aren’t many hard and fast rules. Rough, through and though all contain the same -ough cluster, yet it is pronounced completely differently in each one.
This, of course, has a big effect on Listening Skills. Many courses, teachers and schools teach the language from the written word. Think of all the notes you get your learners to make in a single lesson – even in the very first lesson!
Listening is an important skill that needs to be practised not only regularly but authentically. So what can English Language Learners to work on their Listening Skills, even the beginners? Continue reading to find out more… Continue reading
When starting out in teaching, Newly Qualified Teachers tend to be enthusiastic collectors of in-class activities. It’s not unusual to hear in the staff room cries such as “Anyone have any good ideas that I can do with my intermediate group?” or “That sounds like a great activity, I’ll use that!” In short, new teachers will try just about anything once.
With a bit of time and experience, however, teachers come to realise that some activities work better than others. They tend to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work with their learners, making statements such as “that sounds like a nice idea but I just don’t see it working with my group.” And sometimes you have to stop using an activity because you fear you might over do it – this rings particularly true of vocab games.
With years of experience and plenty of development, some teachers then start to question the value of in-class activities. They cast a critical eye over them and start to ponder what principles of learning are behind the activity. This is when you start to hear statements, such as “well, this activity is good fun and they enjoy it, but what are the learners actually getting out it?” That is to say, you start to take a Principled Approach to activities and their design. Continue reading
During pre-service training teachers learn how to apply the PPP formula for teaching new language: Present Practise Produce. “Language” in this sense is in the specific and narrow meaning of Target Language i.e. grammar, functional exponents, lexis etc.
As teachers progress beyond their initial teacher training qualification they might continue to employ the PPP formula or they may move on to other approaches. In fact, I have come across a number of teachers who vehemently support the application of Guided Discovery to all lessons where new language is taught, or Task-Based Learning, or others who insist on a Dogme approach.
Regardless of your preference, it seems before any discussion about the best approach can take place there needs to be some understanding of what goes on in the background: what’s behind the language teaching approach?
Teacher Training programmes, development courses and INSETT sessions very often try to push teachers into going that one step further in presenting grammar: guide the learners into discovering the rules, set up tasks which demand the use of the target language, let the need for a particular aspect of grammar arise naturally during a lesson.
Vocabulary, on the other hand, seems to take the back seat in the ferocious drive to being the best. An argument for that might be the notion of grammar being more important, as it is the bare bones of language, the structure upon which words are placed. However, research carried out by the likes of Halliday with his work on functional grammar has shown that vocabulary plays a much more significant role in the structural theory of language than ever before thought. There is also the argument of logical reasoning: words carry meaning – admittedly grammar does as well – without words and only grammar, no message could be communicated.
With the importance of vocabulary established, why does it remain on the back-burners of ELT methodology? Where is the demand high movement in vocabulary teaching?