LANGUAGES WITHOUT LIMITS
If learners are to engage with and share responsibility for learning, they need to understand their part in the learning process. This implies the need for a dialogue between teachers and learners about what will be learned, and what learners need to do in order to reach that goal. This is true of learners of all abilities.
STRUCTURING A UNIT OF WORK
It helps if teacher and learners have a shared vision of the process that can be referred to as they progress though a unit of work, can help to structure an on-going dialogue, and can serve as a guide to progress. Without that vision, lessons can appear to learners as if they have no purpose other than to 'turn to page 6' and do a series of exercises that also appear to have no purpose other than that they should be completed.
The cycle below provides one possible framework for structuring such a dialogue. It can also help with lesson planning, and a provides a means of auditing current practice (see Workshop 12).
The cycle proposed here is based on a sequence of 5 stages into which teaching and learning activities might be divided. It shows what teacher and learners will do at each stage of the process. Although each stage is important, not all the stages will take up the same amount of time, and each stage may contain number of internal 'loops' as different aspects of the current theme are tackled.
Assessment (is) for Learning
If Stage 3 is omitted, or given scant attention, and if learners are moved on to Stage 4 without having 'processed' the new information, they will find the work more difficult than it need be, they will find the work difficult, or perhaps impossible. Result: lack of confidence, expectation of failure, demotivation, reluctance to engage, and - in some cases - activation of avoidance strategies.
If Stage 4 is well managed, with plenty of opportunities for games and game-like activities that allow learners to manipulate the new language for them selves in non-threatening pair and group situations, and which allow for randomised repetition (less boring than 'repeat-after-me...), then they will be ready to move on confidently to the textural activities, with much increased chance of success and consequent motivation.
The reason most often given for underplaying Stage 3 is that there isn't time. But schools that have taken the time to develop stage 3 have found that improved confidence and motivation at Stage 4 have actually sa ved time and led to more satisfying achievement.
Teachers who have made use of this structure with their classes have found it useful to explain the distinction between language for practice and language for real purposes and to make explicit the transition from Stage 3 (where it is legitimate to use English to make things clear) to Stage 4 where using the target anguage for real classroom interactions is part of the rationale.
Working towards a situation in which learners can confidently use the target language for classtroom interactions is no different from other topic work. The words and phrases need to undertake the the desired task need to be presented, modelled and practised in just the same way, before they can confidently and consistently be used for real.
[Links last checked on 13.6.11 unless otherwise indicated]
Many struggling pupils suffer from poor memory - report
For more on this subject see the Teaching Expertise website
Improving the quality of language learning in schools: Approaches to teaching and learning