Focus on the Learners Assignment 1 for _________ Training Course November 3 – 28, 2008 Phuket, Thailand

Presented to: XXXXXXX By: Shelia A. Peace Date: November 10, 2008


Focus on the Learners Part A Observation: Learning Styles, Student Profiles, Strengths and Weaknesses The learning group is composed of 10 students: 9 native-Thai speakers and one native-Russian speaker. As a group, they are highly educated, and highly-motivated to learn English. The majority have attended University and now are studying English for business purposes. General learning group aspirations are to improve economic situations and/or social life by communicating with foreigners. Outside commitments include spouses, children, and work. Several are in business, as owners, managers, or self-employed. Regarding group motivation Rod Ellis (1998), wrote that learners who want to become “ . . integrated into the target language culture . . .” or need to meet an examination goal will retain communicative language skills. Six of the 10 with high motivation regularly attend the two-hour afternoon free English lessons conducted by XXXXXXXXX’s candidates. Two of this group say knowledge of another language has helped them with English vocabulary: Italian and Russian. This group is mostly Visual learners (Sheerin, S. Self Access. OUP, 1989): aided by boardwork / picture concepts that explain meaning. They are open to Kinesthetic (Sheerin) experiences, which allow them to move around the classroom and/or write at the whiteboard using target language. There are two Auditory learners (Sheerin), who listen to learn, take extensive notes and talk much less than their fellow learners.


Sheerin says that educators must recognize and provide for differences in students’ psychology, personality, and purposes for learning. I believe, the teacher must and remedy problems according to the need(s) of the student(s). The day one assignment to observe students doing pairwork resulted in the following observations: • Weaker students grouped together for mutual support.
• •

Stronger students cancelled-out one another in conversation. Quiet students write more, and need to talk more.

• Witty answers imply a higher target language knowledge. • Nearly all want to improve speaking ability. As well, these students need help with article usage (“a”/”the”), and sentence formation, as well pronunciation. And, as David Smyth stated in “Thai Speakers” this group has problems “articulating certain final consonants and consonant clusters.” Smyth also stated: “Essentially, there are no punctuation marks in Thai . This apparent, I assume the lack of punctuation marks in written Thai carries over into spoken Thai: evidenced by Lek, who finds it difficult to “intonate” despite drilling efforts by teachers. Ellis (1998) wrote that mistakes help the learner identify what he / she needs to know. Since this group understands directions and completes tasks easily, I observe their strengths to be listening and speaking (while most students insist both are their weakness). This group’s two weaknesses are word order (verb/adjective placement) and grammar (tense structure).


Part B Activities to Help Student Learning In Testing Second Language Speaking (1998), Glenn Fulcher wrote: “Word order and omission errors are almost always high gravity . . . and that in languages “. . . such as English, tense selection is probably the most common problem in speech production.” Exercises to help students arrange sentences in order would help with its “word order” weakness. One such exercise would allow word sections of a whole sentence in group projects. It’s an adaptation of a pronunciation task from How to Teach English (page 28). This jobinterview task requires students to devise a role-play: planning question and answer exchanges for a job interview. Following pairwork, the teacher notes errors / corrections, then works with students on language. I would do controlled practice word/sentence drills for word order, then activate a follow-up interview, changing partners for freer practice. A good grammar lesson, focusing on tense and time, is in Techniques and Resources in Teaching Grammar (pp. 108-109). It’s the original version of what was adapted for this candidate’s Teacher Practice lesson on present perfect / past simple tenses. This lesson uses a bar graph giving information on the Mexican economy in the area of balance of payments. Learners interpret/understand the bar graph; then work in pairs to complete a worksheet, providing focused practice through statements completed using simple past or present perfect forms. Following the worksheet, students write a paragraph about balance of payments in Mexico, correctly using simple past and present perfect, providing written record.


According to Harmer, a good lesson plan needs a blend of “ . . . coherence and variety . . . “ and students need to see “a logical pattern to the lesson.” He says, a good lesson plan should “allow the student to do different things.” Fulcher describes tense errors as “. . . low gravity . . .” having ittle impact on “ . . . the listener’s ability to understand what the speaker means.” Yet, in prescribing “tense” work for this Learning Group, we consider that most of these learners study English for business purposes: greater accuracy means higher financial returns for the Learner. Lek, for example, does phone surveys for a Time-Share operation. Incorrect “tense” usage may result in false survey results. This group needs to use Explicit (learned rules) knowledge to develop Implicit (instinctive) output (Ellis): “Good language learners seem to pay conscious attention to grammar and to learn a large number of rules . . . New rules are internalized subconsciously when learners comprehend input.” I will conclude by saying that in accordance with Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory - cited in the XXXXXXXXX Course Book - that learners have a number of intelligences, and people do function more or less efficiently in these different spheres. The Course Textbook used to teach this Learning Group, Straightforward, by Phillip Kerr and Ceri Jones, allows a multi-level approach to teaching and learning, incorporating reading (Visual intelligence), Listening (Audio and Musical skills), writing and problem-solving (using special, artistic and mathematical skills) that should allow each student to be reached at his / her optimum level of learning. Based on motivation of learners and teachers, I think this will be a successful English Class.


Works Cited Celce-Murcia, Marianne and Hilles, Sharon. Techniques and Resources in Teaching Grammar. England. Oxford University Press, 1988. Ellis, Rod. SLA Research and Language Teaching. England. Pearson Education Limited, 1998. ECC Phuket Teacher Training Center. “Cambridge ESOL CELTA Handbook,” 2008 Fulcher, Glenn. Testing Second Language Speaking. Great Britain. Pearson Education Limited, 2003. Harmer, Jeremy. How to Teach English. England. Pearson Education Limited, 1998. Sheerin, S. Self Access. (OUP, 1989) pp. 4 – 6 Smyth, David. “Thai Speakers.” In Learner English: A teacher’s guide to interference and other problems. Ed. Michael Swan and Bernard Smith. England. Cambridge University Press, 1987.


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