Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate 5.1.1.8 How languages are learned

5.1.1.8 How languages are learned

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    • #8764

      communityadmin
      Keymaster

      What do you think? For example,

      What’s your position on the following?

      • learners’ errors
      • use of the students’ mother tongue in class
      • grammar rules
      • communication
      • motivation

      Do you have any grounds for your beliefs? Are they based on a ‘hunch’ (i.e. an intuition), experience, your reading, or something else?

      Post your ideas in a reply below and comment on other teachers’ ideas.

    • #8843

      Barbara Bujtás
      Participant

      Learners errors:
      I can put my students into two categories:
      a) the ones who are picking up English more naturally and use it naturally
      b) the ones who don’t make such good use of input

      A’s experiment with language a lot, they make mistakes and when I mention some of their mistakes they are quite surprised and try to adjust their language use.
      B’s are quite conscious, not so free, try to avoid producing language and thus making mistakes. Honestly, I can’t believe that correction is too helpful for them. I normally wait till they flip on the other side, where they actually communicate.

      L1:
      The territory of communication in the lesson (and any time when learners are exposed to the target language) should be the territory of L2. L1, however, might mean useful shortcuts.

      Grammar rules:
      Finding rules inductively is very helpful, memorizing rules I find is a waste of time.

      Communication:
      The ultimate aim of language learning is communication, so communicating as much as possible can be very motivating and useful.

      Motivation:
      Motivation is the most essential constituent that a learner can add to their own learning.

      My beliefs come from my experience as a learner and a teacher, professional dialogues, my training experience, and research-based texts.

    • #8892

      Rhett Burton
      Participant

      This is an intimidating series of questions because learners and learning are so complex. 

      Who are the students and teachers?  
      What are the teaching and learning strategies? 
      What curriculum is being used? How is the school striving towards efficacy? 
      What is happening at home?

      I am most students’ first formal language learning experience. The choices I make for my young learners will have a long-term effect on their attitude towards English. 

      I try to make informed decisions based on my observations and assessments. I always negotiate the experience through activities and the emergent language used. I am always re-evaluating the lens to which I observe my learners through reading and reflection. 

      I have general policies. However, I break them. I adjust them. I adapt them. I am both reactive and preemptive in my curriculum, teacher talk, body language, and classroom positioning. My job has me making thousands of pivots per class. And hope for the best.  

      I like John Hattie’s visible learning. 
      Teaching by Principles by H. Douglas Brown. 
      And others.
      My next action should be to learn to curate the desired support for knowledge via references.

    • #8895

      Steven Herder
      Keymaster

      SLA is certainly NOT a black and white science. I have seen enough cases of teachers having success using outdated methods simply BECAUSE they believed in them, and students responded by jumping on board and making an effort. Even if the effort was misguided, it still had impact as a catalyst to realizing that learning a language takes effort. Therefore, I would advocate that the key to answering this question is not so much in the content of the answer, but more so in the beliefs behind the answer. Doing things in class because you are told to, or because it was the way you were taught is a lousy way to teach. Taking responsibility for your actions, and knowing WHY you do what you do can result in successes for you and for your students. Thinking and leading is much more effective than just following.

      What’s your position on the following?

      • learners’ errors –
        Don’t sweat over mistakes. Some remain forever, some will disappear at specific levels.
      • use of the students’ mother tongue (L1) in class
        L1 is simply another tool, the same as a dictionary, or an eraser — use it judiciously. My own policy, which I state clearly to all my classes is, “I use as much English as possible, and as much Japanese as necessary.”
      • grammar rules
        Grammar is the foundation upon which we build language skills. The word grammar has a terrible stigma attached to it, so I don’t use that word in Japan. I use the word “meaning” instead.
      • communication
        Output, especially speaking for most students, has a huge impact on motivation. In my mind, speaking and writing are equivalent forms of output, so I always give shy students an opportunity to show their efforts by writing something they didn’t have the courage to say in front of their classmates.
      • motivation
        There is nothing more important. Whatever I can do to inspire or trigger motivation in my students pays dividends endlessly.
    • #11184

      Masatoshi Shoji
      Participant

      I have seen enough cases of teachers having success using outdated methods simply BECAUSE they believed in them, and students responded by jumping on board and making an effort.
      ↑This is very interesting and true. In any field, whether something is considered effective or not, something ineffective sometimes works especially when others follow.

      • #11332

        Indeed! If students are motivated to learn a particular way, even if it may not seem like the most effective method or approach for most people, the fact that they keep doing it can often mean that they make more progress. So, a lot can be said for the power of beliefs, and this is also good to consider in relation to fixed vs growth mindset (See Dweck, 2016 for a brief review of important points.)

    • #11185

      Masatoshi Shoji
      Participant

      What’s your position on the following?

      learners’ errors
      I thought errors should be less before. However, these days, if learners can be conscious of errors, making errors are necessary for success.
      I do believe most people never ever give a perfect speech in daily conversation.

      use of the students’ mother tongue in class
      Sometimes, it’s necessary. However, it should be limited.

      grammar rules
      Grammar is necessary. However, using grammatical terms are not effective. Focusing on forms and meanings are more effective.

      communication
      We need to communicate to have better communication skills.

      motivation
      Motivation is necessary. I wish Japan adopts more second languages in high school or university.
      If students can learn English in their favorite fields from the early stage, they will feel more personalized.

      • #11333

        I agree with you very much, Masatoshi. I think it’s a pity, too, that all students in JHS/HS have to learn only English without being able to choose other foreign languages (e.g. Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, German) until university.

    • #13682

      Rhett Burton
      Participant

      learners’ errors
      I work with YL during their first steps in English. I use the Natural approach by focusing on an emergent process elicited through exercises, activities, and tasks. Children make different errors depending on the amount of exposure, focus, and ability to manipulate their known forms.

      use of the students’ mother tongue in class
      My students are always using their mother tongue, but since I am aware of what they are saying, I can use what they say to guide what could be included in language. Ideally, I want to choose exercises, activities, and tasks that keep my students in English, but my classes aren’t just learning English but to accomplish different tasks through English.

      grammar rules

      Teaching grammar rules is something that I don’t do unless they already show comprehension and knowledge of the rule through usage. Examples – I teach all pronouns (He, she, we, they, etc), but I don’t use the word pronoun until I know that they have a high enough awareness level.

      communication
      Communication is paramount to me. I thrive on micro-interactions that may seem oversimplified but can (not always) lead to advanced form manipulations (just like first language learners have in their L1).

      motivation
      Motivation is complex. I want to make my lessons compelling enough that the students choose to engage. I hook them with easy-to-learn dynamics and maintain motivation through friendly competition, positive reinforcement, and acknowledgment of improvements/mastery.

      • #13688

        Interesting to see how you balance a more natural approach focusing on emergent language with how you’ve carefully selected, organised, and graded the language in your syllabuses at each level.

        Being able to understand your learners’ L1 is a huge advantage that makes it easier to respond to their emerging needs as well as interests, which you regularly choose to do, harnessing and fueling students’ motivation.

        How do you see the balance between what you plan to teach and what emerges from one class to the next?

      • #13693

        Rhett Burton
        Participant

        I don’t plan my lessons. I think through a few activities but I don’t regard my “Activity list” as a lesson plan. This is something I hope to change in 2021.

    • #13692

      Jessica Sohn
      Participant

      What’s your position on the following?

      Learners’ errors
      I really believe it’s good and better to make mistakes because real learning comes from those mistakes. I also see a wide range of errors from my learners and I try to give them space and freedom so they know it’s okay to make errors. I really aim for them so they can have confidence in speaking/using the Language.

      Use of the students’ mother tongue in class
      Sometimes it’s necessary and can be a fast way to go. But, I think it should be limited and as a teacher, I agree that teachers should choose to speak English as much as possible.

      Grammar rules
      I feel grammar is important and it naturally goes along with 4 skills. I feel meaning and understanding forms are the key of grammar than memorizing grammatical terms.

      Communication
      I think communication is one of the main reasons of learning English.

      Motivation
      Motivation is key for learners but it’s hard here in Korea since English is mandatory. At my learners level, and at our academy(aka hakwon) I see them having fun and enjoying language which makes them want to learn English. And it’s amazing to just see them love coming to learn English.

      My views are mostly from my teaching experience and from the learning here from iTDI Tesol.

      • #13699

        Well put, Jessica. With regards to motivation, you might be interested to explore motivation and motivational strategies further and do so with your students. For example, I did a workshop with my HS and uni students, and made a couple of videos and a survey:

        Motivation and Demotivation in language learning

      • #13700

        Motivational Strategies

    • #13701

      Motivational Strategies Survey:
      https://goo.gl/forms/9vpJgnIzmgws3lDr1

      For further reading:
      https://www.zoltandornyei.co.uk/

    • #13726

      Jessica Sohn
      Participant

      Oh Wow! Thank you for the videos. It’s going to be really helpful. I think I will try the posters with some of students too. 🙂

    • #13750

      scott gray
      Participant

      learners’ errors I think can be a gold mine and my students, especially can do really well when they learn to stop for perfection and just work on fixing the errors and not caring they made them.

      use of the students’ mother tongue in class for me as long as it is used to talk about language itself and not being used when they could use English they know I am all for it. It can greatly help with the flow of the class and be a relief valve for student worry about their understanding. It can make a quick comprehension check to say the least.

      grammar rules can be a tool but are best when they are not being obsessive about the tool. If they aren’t thinking of the language just the tool then they are a big detriment. If they are still focused on the language then they can be a great boon and help the students learn better. More in how it is used than what is used is my feeling.

      communication has to have the understanding and the context for it really to be useful to the students. When it is taking place the learning can really roll and students seem to learn way better from my experience.

      motivation, ah the grail, something that if on makes everything else work so fine but something so hard to pigeonhole. Without it it can feel like pulling teeth and drive many a teacher to despair. But it is really Upaya and differs so much from one to another student.

      Mostly I base those on my experiences and what I have read or learned from much better teachers than I.

      • #13752

        learners’ errors I think can be a gold mine and my students, especially can do really well when they learn to stop for perfection and just work on fixing the errors and not caring they made them.

        On a related note, Dr Mattson at Penn State U. promotes Intelligent Fast Failure (IFF) to encourage the acceptance of ‘failure’ as an integral part of innovation and change, together with the mantra, “Experiment, Fail, Learn and Create”.

        Elsewhere, there have been studies into risk-taking behaviour and learning strategies, drawing connections with self-efficacy. Notably, whilst it’s important to embrace risk-taking, we should also help learners to manage their risks as those who take took many ‘high risks’ and experience a high failure rate can adversely affect their self-belief and confidence in their own abilities.

        So, for example, when coaching learners to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound), it’s important to get learners thinking about how easy or challenging the goals is, how they might break it down, and how they might Evaluate and Revise the goal to make it SMARTER.

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