ICT 1 Section 5 – What we know about language learning
Our understanding of language learning
- Outside the context of any classroom, any child who is repeatedly exposed to a language will, in normal circumstances, learn it by osmosis.
- Most (not all) adults can learn a language without studying it, providing they are in the right kind of contact with it.
- Children and adults who do acquire language successfully outside the classroom seem to share certain similarities in their learning experiences.
- They are exposed to language which they more or less understand.
- They are motivated to learn the language to be able to communicate.
- They have opportunities to use the language they are learning.
People are successful at learning a language if they are exposed to it, they are motivated to learn it and have opportunities to use it.
CLASSROOM LEARNING SHOULD BE NATURAL
All the features of "natural" language acquisition can be challenging to replicate in the classroom. Still, some elements should be imitated.
What elements are necessary for language learning in a classroom?
After presenting what will be studied (Presenting Materials) and what needs to be done (Instructions), the teaching work starts. You must engage the students' interest (motivation). Once you've done this, the students need to practice with the material and then use it. Throughout the entire process, you must maintain control.
The following few pages go through the Kolb cycle:
You'll see that after each definition that there is a sub-definition in square brackets. These sub-definitions refer to the second type of interactive teaching/learning method called ESA (Engage, Study, Activate), which will be discussed later in the course as you will be using it when you teach.
Engage, Study, Activate (ESA)
PRESENTATION + ANALYSE - [Engage]
ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS
When students are engaged, they learn better than when they are partly or wholly disengaged.
- This is when you must try to arouse the students' interest so that they want to be involved in the lesson.
- Students will "switch off" if they are bored or because they did not feel involved.
- Students will naturally want to be involved in a lesson if they are amused, moved, stimulated or challenged.
- These lessons are more "fun" and create a better learning environment AS LONG AS YOU KEEP CONTROL.
THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FUN LESSON AND A FUNNY LESSON
Activities and materials which frequently Engage students to include:
- Stimulating pictures
- Dramatic stories
- Amusing anecdotes etc
Ensure that the students engage with the subject matter, for example:
- Ask students what they think of a topic before asking them to read about it.
- Ask them to look at the picture of a person and guess their occupation.
- Ask them how it relates to what they know.
- Ask if there are any similarities between their customs and other countries.
PRACTICE - [Study]
PRACTICE = SUCCESS
Successful language Practice / Study in your classroom depends on the right mix of subconscious language acquisition and stimulating, well-presented Practice / Study activities.
Students can study in different ways ranging from teacher explanation through to individual study.
Students are asked to focus on language (or information) and how it is constructed, for example:
- Study and practice of a single sound
- Investigation of how a writer achieves a particular effect in a long text
- Examination and practice of a verb tense
- Study of a transcript of the informal speech to discuss spoken style
- Meanings of newly introduced vocabulary
- Grammatical dissection of a complex sentence
Some example study areas:
- Vowel sound in "i", "ee", an "i" with an "e" phonetic modifier
- Third-person singular of the present simple
- Study and practice of "inviting" language function patterns
- Study and practice of the way we use pronouns in written discourse
- Study and practice of paragraph organisation
- Rules for using "make" and "do"
APPLY - [Activate]
FINAL DRESS REHEARSAL
Apply, or "Activate", gives students a chance to try out real language use with little or no restriction - a final rehearsal before real-world usage.
- Get students using language as freely and communicatively as they can
- Student objective is to use all and any language which may be appropriate for a given situation or topic
- Students must have a chance to activate their knowledge in the safety of a classroom, or they may have problems using language in the real world
- Students always need to be engaged so that they can get the maximum out of the learning experience
Typical exercises include:
- Role-plays where students act out as realistically as possible
- Advertisement design
- "Describe and Draw"
- Story and poem writing
- Writing in groups etc.