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58 St Aldates
United Kingdom

© 2016, Díaz Maggioli, Gabriel and Painter-Farrell, Lesley

© 2016, Ediciones Santillana S.A. Uruguay

Lessons Learned: First Steps towards Reflective Teaching in ELT

First Edition: 2016

ISBN: 978-9974-95-917-0

Publisher: Nicolás Dantaz Rico

Editor: Marina González
Proofreader: Alexia Cortés Maquieira
Art and Design Coordinator: Andrea Natero
Design and layout: Gabriela López Introini and Verónica Pimienta

Illustrations: Khalil Malcón


DÍAZ-MAGGIOLI pp. 23, 38, 55, 57, 65, 85, 89, 91, 102, 118, 202, 247, 248, 249, 273,
300; ©PIXBAY.COM pp. 45, 56, 58, 136, 148, 160, 171, 199, 246, 343, 367, 371, 405;
©WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ US Navy Photo, pp. 127 (Dribbling) / Imager23, pp. 136
(Empty Classroom) / By Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], pp. 136
(Student raising hand) / Planemad, pp. 255 (Chart of World Writing System) / John Tenniel
[Public domain], pp. 397 (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) / Jennifer (Wizards of Waverly
Place Taping) pp. 401 (Selena Gómez)

Cover Design: Gabriela López Introini

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission from the Publisher.
Richmond publications may contain links to third party websites or apps. We have no control over
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The publisher and authors have to the best of their knowledge, ascertained the intellectual
rights of the creators of all the works cited in this books. If, for any reason, they have omitted to
acknowledge a certain author, they are ready to make the necessary corrections, as they were not
aware of such authorship at the time of publication.
Gabriel would like to dedicate this book to all the teacher learners
who, over the years have inspired him to continue reflecting on
how to become a better teacher educator, and also to his teacher
education colleagues in the United States and Uruguay for being a
constant source of support, learning and encouragement.

Lesley would like to dedicate this book to all of her MATESOL

students and the MATESOL Outreach English language learners in
the New School University, New York who have shared so much.
You are inspirational.

We would like to thank all the language learners, teachers-in-

training and language teaching colleagues in the USA and Uruguay
who lent us their voices and images so that our book could be enriched
with their experiences and reflections.
Our thanks also go to our colleagues at The New School in New
York, who supported us during the writing of the book. Our gratitude,
as well, to Stella Chan for being there, and to Bonnie Tsai for her
inspired “balloons in the air” activity.
We would also like to thank the following colleagues who provided
comments on early versions of the manuscript:

• Prof. Elizabeth Ortiz y Losada – Freelance ELT consultant, Ecuador.

• Prof. Mary Jane Abrahams – Professor, Universidad Alberto
Hurtado, Chile.
• Dr. Cristina Banfi – Professor, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
• Dr. Patricia E. Grounds R. – Professor, Universidad Veracruzana,
• Dr. Barbara Scholes – Professor, Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico.
• Prof. Teresita Curbelo – Avademic Director, Instituto Cultural
Anglo-Uruguayo, Uruguay.
• Lic. Rosario Estrada – Director General, International House
Montevideo, Uruguay.

A very special thank you to our Publisher at Richmond ELT

Uruguay, Nicolás Dantaz Rico for his unyielding support for the project,
his incredible dedication and attention to detail, and his respectful and
always spot-on comments and suggestions.
Finally, our heartfelt gratitude to our families who supported us
while we worked on this book. Thank you for understanding the lost
weekends, the late dinners, and the (non) holidays. We love you!


PrEFACE .................................................................................................13
IntroduCtIon ......................................................................................15
How to usE tHIs book .......................................................................17

1. LEArnInG About our studEnts .................................................................... 21

English in the World .............................................................................................................. 24
Learners’ Needs ..................................................................................................................... 25
Language Levels .................................................................................................................... 26
Analyzing the needs and motivations of our students..................................................... 29
Criteria for a good needs analysis ....................................................................................... 30
Motivation .............................................................................................................................. 33
The many roles of the teacher ............................................................................................ 40
Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 41
Chapter wrap-up .......................................................................................................... 42
Observation task .......................................................................................................... 43
Reflective journal task ................................................................................................. 43
Portfolio task ................................................................................................................. 43
PLUG IN 1: Differentiating your teaching ................................................................ 44

2. rEFLECtIVE tEACHInG .......................................................................................... 45

Understanding reflection...................................................................................................... 47
It’s all in the questions .......................................................................................................... 48
The reflective practice cycle ............................................................................................... 51
Towards evidence-based reflection .................................................................................... 54
Seeing reflection in practice ................................................................................................ 59
Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 61
Chapter wrap-up .......................................................................................................... 61
Observation task .......................................................................................................... 62
Reflective journal task ................................................................................................. 62
Portfolio task ................................................................................................................. 62

3. obsErVAtIon: A LEArnInG tooL .................................................................... 65

What is observation? ........................................................................................................... 68
Beginning to observe: the silent phase............................................................................... 69

TA b L E O F C O N T E N T S

Reasons for observation ...................................................................................................... 69

Observation task 1 ....................................................................................................... 71
Observation task 2 ....................................................................................................... 74
Directed observation .................................................................................................... 75
The observation cycle in action .......................................................................................... 76
What is good teaching? ........................................................................................................ 79
Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 81
Chapter wrap-up .......................................................................................................... 82
Reflective journal task .................................................................................................. 82
Portfolio task ................................................................................................................. 82
PLUG IN: Classroom observation tasks ................................................................... 83

4. MAnAGInG our CLAssrooMs ............................................................................ 85

It’s all about being prepared ................................................................................................ 88
A learning community .......................................................................................................... 89
Our students ........................................................................................................................... 91
Age and management ........................................................................................................... 97
Teachers’ roles ....................................................................................................................... 99
Teacher talk in class ............................................................................................................ 100
Quantity and quality of teacher talking time .................................................................. 103
Elicitation .............................................................................................................................. 104
Question types ..................................................................................................................... 106
Problems with teacher talking time .................................................................................. 111
Interaction patterns............................................................................................................. 114
Using blackboards/whiteboards (low tech)..................................................................... 117
Discipline Management ...................................................................................................... 119
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 125
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 126
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 126
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 126
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 126

5. LEsson PLAnnInG .................................................................................................. 127

Why is planning important?............................................................................................... 130
Where to begin .................................................................................................................... 133
Knowing the context ........................................................................................................... 135
Stages in planning ............................................................................................................... 137
Qualities of a good lesson plan ......................................................................................... 140
The learning objectives ...................................................................................................... 141
Qualities of learning objectives......................................................................................... 145
Anticipation .......................................................................................................................... 146
Procedural plan.................................................................................................................... 148
A sample lesson plan .......................................................................................................... 152

TA b L E O F C O N T E N T S

Transitions ............................................................................................................................ 157

Lesson rhythms and “can do” ........................................................................................... 160
What can go wrong with a lesson plan? .......................................................................... 164
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 166
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 167
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 167
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 168
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 168
PLUG IN: Alternative lesson plan templates .......................................................... 169

6. orGAnIZInG LAnGuAGE LEssons .................................................................. 171

Lessons and methods ......................................................................................................... 174
Lessons as collection of activities .................................................................................... 175
Lessons as structured speech events ............................................................................... 178
Co-constructing knowledge with learning ....................................................................... 180
Different needs, different lessons...................................................................................... 187
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 192
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 193
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 193
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 193
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 194
PLUG IN 1: Adapting coursebooks and other materials ...................................... 195
PLUG IN 2: Technology-mediated teaching and learning ................................... 198

7. undErstAndInG And tEACHInG LAnGuAGE .......................................... 199

What is language? ............................................................................................................... 202
What is lexis? ....................................................................................................................... 207
What is grammar? ............................................................................................................... 215
Selecting and organizing what grammar to teach .......................................................... 222
What is pronunciation?....................................................................................................... 231
Teachers and pronunciation .............................................................................................. 238
Putting it all together .......................................................................................................... 240
Techniques for teaching use, meaning and form ............................................................ 242
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 252
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 252
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 253
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 253
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 253
PLUG IN: Language games ...................................................................................... 254

8. dEVELoPInG LItErACY skILLs .......................................................................... 255

Literacy ................................................................................................................................. 258
Traditional views of the four skills.................................................................................... 259

TA b L E O F C O N T E N T S

Developing writing skills .................................................................................................... 261

Approaches to teaching writing ........................................................................................ 265
Assessing writing ................................................................................................................. 275
Developing reading skills ................................................................................................... 278
Assessing reading ................................................................................................................ 290
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 291
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 291
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 292
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 292
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 292
PLUG IN 1: Using graded readers ........................................................................... 293
PLUG IN 2: Directed reading and thinking activities (DRTA) ............................. 295

9. dEVELoPInG orACY skILLs ................................................................................ 297

Oracy ..................................................................................................................................... 300
Oral and written language.................................................................................................. 301
Developing listening skills.................................................................................................. 302
An updated framework for the development of listening skills ................................... 306
Designing listening tasks .................................................................................................... 311
Assessing listening comprehension skills ........................................................................ 313
Developing listening skills.................................................................................................. 313
The knowledge and skills base of speaking .................................................................... 314
The ideal speaking lesson .................................................................................................. 321
Designing speaking tasks ................................................................................................... 323
Managing speaking tasks and activities ........................................................................... 329
Assessing Speaking ............................................................................................................. 334
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 336
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 336
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 337
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 337
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 337
PLUG IN 1: Storytelling ............................................................................................ 338
PLUG IN 2: Cooperative learning ............................................................................. 339
PLUG IN 3: Songs ....................................................................................................... 341
PLUG IN 4: Video and film ........................................................................................ 342

10. IntEGrAtInG LAnGuAGE skILLs ................................................................... 343

Skills integration: pros and cons ....................................................................................... 346
Principled integration ......................................................................................................... 349
Approaches that promote natural skill integration ......................................................... 351

TA b L E O F C O N T E N T S

Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 362

Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 363
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 363
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 364
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 364
PLUG IN 1: Learning Strategies ............................................................................... 365

11. AssEssMEnt And EVALuAtIon ...................................................................... 367

What is assessment? ........................................................................................................... 370
Summative and formative assessment ............................................................................. 371
Assessment of learning ..................................................................................................... 373
Assessment for learning ..................................................................................................... 375
Tests: types, purposes and design..................................................................................... 382
Characteristics of good tests ............................................................................................. 384
Common test items ............................................................................................................. 386
Integrated performance assessment ................................................................................ 390
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 393
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 394
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 394
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 394
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 394
PLUG IN: Writing calibration ................................................................................... 395

12. MIndFuL, CorrECtIVE FEEdbACk ............................................................... 397

Tensions in providing feedback ......................................................................................... 400
Feedback dynamics in language classroom .................................................................... 401
Errors or mistakes? ............................................................................................................. 403
Typical corrective feedback moves .................................................................................. 405
The dilemma of using peer feedback ............................................................................... 408
Providing mindful, corrective feedback in writing ......................................................... 409
Some final advice on how to give feedback .................................................................... 412
Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 414
Chapter wrap-up ........................................................................................................ 415
Observation task ........................................................................................................ 415
Reflective journal task ............................................................................................... 415
Portfolio task ............................................................................................................... 416

GLossArY............................................................................................. 417

bIbLIoGrAPHY ..................................................................................... 425

onLInE LInks ....................................................................................... 437


At the start of my teaching career in the early 90s, I remember

attending a lecture entitled “The Fifth Skill”, given by Professor John
McRae of Nottingham University. I recall rushing to the session intrigued
to know what this “Fifth Skill” could possibly be. The Communicative
Approach was in its heyday and McRae’s argument was that getting
our learners to master these “four skills” was not enough. This and our
obsession with completing the syllabus meant we overlooked the most
fundamental skill of all - the one that permeates everything we do –
“thinking”! The idea, seductive in its simplicity, is one I have returned
to time and again in 30 years as a teacher, perhaps because reflection is
not something we make enough time for in our busy professional lives.
I recall it particularly today when writing this preface to Gabriel
and Lesley’s excellent primer on teacher education and development.
It is not hard to see that the key concept here is “reflection” and, for
me, it is this pausing to reflect, review and reconsider that I see as one
of the book’s great virtues. This is evidenced most explicitly in the “pit
stop” sections found in every chapter and which encourage you to look
back in order to look forward – always a sound principle, in my opinion,
which underpins the whole text and the activities it proposes.
Importantly, this feature also allows you, the reader, to provide
your voice, lending the book a dialogic quality that makes it both
friendly and accessible throughout without ever losing its academic
rigor. This accessibility is also seen in the metaphors employed at the
start of each chapter, which anchor the book’s concepts in ways which
will be familiar to most readers, however much classroom experience
they have.
Another differentiating aspect of Gabriel and Lesley’s book is the
citing of multiple voices from diverse sources. I particularly appreciate
the way each chapter includes these distinct perspectives. We see here
quotes from academic sources as well as fellow teachers and, perhaps
most importantly, language learners themselves, including the authors’


own student teachers. This gives to the work a credibility and a breadth
of vision that I’m sure will make its reading relevant to a wide number
of professionals regardless of their particular contexts. It also helps the
book achieve its clever balancing of theoretical concerns and practical
classroom applications, as readers can engage in practicing the theory
it presents while, more importantly, theorizing their own practice.
This balance is clearly established at the start of each chapter
in which learning goals are divided into two key domains: “Learning
about…” (the theoretical) and “Learning how…” (the practical).
These then culminate in the “Learning to…” domain, which I see
as being intrinsically bound up with teacher and learner identity. By
adopting such a framework, the book explores the nature of “learning
communities” and “the small culture of the classroom” and ultimately
the key concern of learning how “to be oneself ” as a language teacher.
Finally, on a personal level, I’ve been lucky enough to be a colleague
of Gabriel and Lesley’s on the faculty of the New School’s MA in TESOL
program and, therefore, am convinced that their extensive professional
experience - both as teachers and teacher trainers – transpires clearly
through these pages. Such invaluable insights into both how teachers
develop as well as the “here and now” of the classroom can only be
gained from years of such hands-on experience.
For all the above reasons and many more, I have every confidence
that this book will become an invaluable companion to any language
teacher as well as an important addition to the field of teacher education
and development literature.
If truth be known, I wish I’d had a book like this thirty years ago
when I was taking my first steps to becoming a teacher. To all of you who
are now embarking on this journey for the first time, as well as those of
you keen to relearn the art of language teaching, I feel sure this primer
will make you reflect on the process in the best possible way.

Ben Goldstein
Barcelona, April 2016.


Welcome to “Lessons Learned: First steps towards reflective teaching

in ELT.” We wrote this book as a primer on teaching English for students
pursuing an initial teaching qualification and also as a refresher for more
seasoned colleagues. Our goal is to provide our readers with the tools
they need to successfully design and facilitate learning opportunities
for their learners, while concurrently developing as an English language
teaching professional.

We believe that courses aimed at training teachers should:

• capitalize on the course participants’ prior knowledge and

• engage course participants in experiential learning activities
which lead them to reflect on their experiences so that they
can develop principled, instructional practices.
• be organized around the idea of learning communities where
everyone has a valuable voice which supports and enriches
the learning of others.
• make explicit connections between theory, which results from
research and praxis, and actual classroom application.
• focus equally on the process of learning to teach through
cycles of reflection, experimentation and re-learning.
• clearly communicate that teaching is a complex and
multifaceted endeavor, and that although succeeding in
teaching is hard work, it provides great job satisfaction.
• highlight the fundamental role that teachers play in the
facilitation of language learning. Good learning and good
teaching require personal and professional investment by both
teachers and learners.


Bearing these beliefs in mind, we have designed, organized and

written this book so that it is a course book, which accompanies you on
your path of reflective teaching and professional development.
Each chapter provides you with reflective learning experiences,
engaging you in tasks and texts that help make the ideas we discuss
come alive. We want to establish a dialog with you, and consequently
illustrate all the theoretical points we make with examples we have
collected through our many years as teachers and teacher educators.
In those examples, we have incorporated the voices of our colleagues,
our student teachers and, more importantly, the voices of language
learners from many different parts of the world. It is our hope that
we have made their voices loud and clear and that their experiences,
opinions and ideas resonate with you, as you start your journey towards
becoming a reflective professional.


The book is organized into twelve chapters and this introduction.

Each chapter has been intentionally designed to promote various kinds
of teacher learning and to this end, includes various tasks and activity
types, which are listed here.
Malderez and Wedell (2007) posit that teacher learning comprises
three distinct domains:

• learning about teaching, our students, their context, the

materials, the many theories that help explain the processes of
teaching and learning, and so forth.
• learning how to select, adapt, design and apply methods,
techniques, procedures, and activities so that they result in
productive learning by all students alike.
• learning to be a teacher, developing a kind of knowledge
that allows us to anticipate learning needs and adapt to them

Each chapter opens with a statement of learning goals. We have

entitled the chapter takeaways as: learning about and learning how.
Learning about refers to the topics that are covered in each chapter.
Learning to indicates the actual takeaways that are the result of the
multiple layers of reflection and action readers will engage in as they
explore and complete each chapter.
After the learning goals, each chapter incorporates a metaphor,
which scaffolds your understanding of what is to come in the chapter.
It is often easier to learn and understand something new by looking
at something that you know and are familiar with. For example in the
second chapter, we discuss a walk in the snow, something that we can
easily relate to and compare it to the less familiar stages of reflection.
These metaphors provide a lens through which we can think about
issues of teaching and learning using our prior experience.


What follows is a mind map that lays out the content of the
chapter using key words and concepts and an anticipation chart. We
encourage readers to look at the mind maps, to complete the adjacent
anticipation chart and to share this anticipation with peers. The
anticipation chart is aimed at activating your existing knowledge of the
chapter contents thus making it easier to receive the new information
in the chapter.
We begin the chapter content by providing quotes from former
student teachers (teachers-in-training), our language-teaching colleagues,
and our language learners and invite you to think about your responses
to the quotes. It is our hope that you relate to these quotes and frame
them in your own context and experience.
What follows is the actual contents of the chapter, where we
explore, extrapolate, and analyze the core areas teaching a foreign
Each chapter contains the following tasks and activities:
Pit stops – when learning, it is critical that we pause every so
often to take stock of what we have learned and review what we have
covered. In a way, this is a ‘stop and look at the view’ moment. We
rethink, reword and reconsider the new information that we have read
or studied before heading further into a text, book or lesson. At these
points, we begin to frame new information in our own realities and
understanding. Pausing allows us to move forwards. Our pit stops may
mean looking back to classroom experiences (either as a teacher or as
a learner), looking back at a section of the chapter and making sure
you understand key points, or looking back at former chapters so as to
establish connections between the ideas in each part of the book.
over to you – these are tasks or activities, which engage you, in a
practical sense, with the concepts in the chapters. We believe in Dewey’s
(1934) principle of the continuity of experience. By this, he meant that
every new experience significantly affects the way we perceive not
only the new experience, but our past and future experiences, also. Our
aim is to ensure you experience this when using this book.


Ideas –these are practical classroom ideas that illustrate the

points we make. They are part of our personal repertoire of teaching
and learning techniques, which we have implemented in our classes.
Every chapter finishes with a Conclusion. Here we summarize
the main points in the chapter and establish connections with other
ideas in the book. You may choose to read the Conclusion before
reading the chapter in depth as a way of both obtaining a holistic view
of the chapter content and anticipating its content. This may help you
direct your reading and understanding.
After every Conclusion, there is a Chapter wrap-up chart that
helps you to review what you have read and informs you on what you
can do to learn more—or understand better—the ideas we presented
in the chapter.
The book also contains a glossary of terms. Many times, new
teachers entering our field complain about the amount of terms with
which they need to become familiar. The glossary is intended to help
you in this endeavor.
However, you should note that the definitions of terms sometimes
vary in materials. Some professional terms have widely accepted
definitions, for example: while “drill” means a repetition exercise,
others; however, may be less uniform. We have attempted, at all
times, to remain faithful to the originators of terms and their widely
understood meaning.
Many of the chapters also contain a section called PLuG In.
These are collections of activities that have been organized under a
common heading and that provide further tools to use in the classroom.
Lastly, as we expressed earlier, we conceived Lessons Learned as
a course book that can be used during a teacher education program,
or perhaps as a source for a reading group or other professional
development activity. Hence, we have also included three tasks for
you to complete during your course. Their aim is to provide ways that
you can become proactive about your own professional development.
Because Chapter 1, 2 and 3 are what we consider “foundation”
chapters, these activities have been woven into the text. From chapter
4 onwards, the tasks appear at the end of each chapter as follows:


1. observation tasks. These are directed observations of other

teachers or your own teaching. They aim to help you gain insights
into how theory and practice connect.
2. reflective Journal tasks. We believe that keeping a journal is
an invaluable strategy teachers can use to promote their ongoing
development. Through writing about your thoughts, feelings and
the events in your classes, you can gain great insights into your
classroom as writing provides a rich opportunity to reflect. The
Reflective Journal tasks are connected to the theory-into-practice
frame that, as you can see, we promote throughout the book.
3. Portfolio tasks. A portfolio is a collection of your work, which
evidences your learning. Each item of work, which may include
a task, a lesson plan, or a journal entry and so forth, represents
important milestones in your learning and indeed illustrates your
understanding, knowledge, or ongoing exploration of teaching
and learning. The Portfolio tasks are intended to engage you in
real life exploration and examination of classroom issues and
ultimately inform your professional development.

Finally, a note about language pronouns in the book: ours is a

very diverse profession and issues of language use related to gender
usually provoke controversies. We have used the pronouns “she” in
even numbered chapters and “he” in odd numbered chapters to refer
to teachers in our writing. We have used the reverse gender markers to
refer to students (e.g. “she” in odd numbered chapters and “he” in even
numbered chapters).
We sincerely hope you enjoy reading our work as much as we
enjoyed writing it for you. We would love to hear you reactions to our
materials, whether you are a teacher trainer/educator, teacher-in-
training or teacher-in-development. If you have comments or ideas
you can contact us via email:


New York and Montevideo, April 2016.


learning about:
• •
students’ needs.
• students’ motivations.
• •
students’ backgrounds.
learning communities
• •
the role of English in the
teachers’ roles
• teachers’ use of L2 in
• the role of English in
your students’ lives.
learning how to:
• develop and value a
learning how to:
• get to know your
learning community
• plan lessons to cater
• work with differing
for different energy
levels and attention
• perform a needs
• use the white or
Why Xxxxx
am I learning English? blackboard
• use the classroom
When will I use English?
seating arrangements
Why do I have to study English? to optimize learning.
How can I learn English?
Where will I use English?
Who will teach me English?
How long will I have to study English?
Who will I use English with?
How often will I have to use English in daily life?
Shall I take classes or learn on my own?
How far do I want to get learning English?
Can I learn English?
I tried and failed; should I try to learn English again?
Why is English a subject in the school curriculum?
Why is English so popular?
What do I really need English for?
Who else studies English?
How much English do I need to learn?
Which areas of English do I need to study?

21 21

what are
their needs?

how can they what are their

learn best? motivations?

what kind of what is their

english do Our students proficiency
they need? level?

how do we
what are their
know what
they need?
what are their
prior learning

What do you already know about the role of English in your life, your
students’ lives and their learning needs?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about your students’ need for learning English have
you heard your colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why are
they important/relevant?



The overarching aim of our teaching is to ensure that lessons run

smoothly, activities work, instructions are clear, lessons are cohesive
and ultimately that the whole process facilitates our students’ learning.
To this end, we have to consider the materials, learners, space, time,
and learning objectives we choose, and how each one impacts and
interacts with the others.

Students say…

• I study English because it is another subject at school so I must

study it. I don’t particularly like it, and I don’t know if I am going
to need it in the future.
• I’m taking an intensive course because I am going to Australia
to see my son and his wife and I plan to stay there for about two


• I study English because I did not learn enough at school and now
I want to study abroad and I need the language for that.
• I have always wanted to study English. When I studied it at school,
I did not pay attention in class and did not learn much. Then, I got
married, had kids…you know…life, right? Now that I have time, I
want to enjoy learning it.
• My kids think I am stupid because I can’t speak English- I must
learn English.
• My boss has told me to learn English.
• It’s very useful when traveling. Not only useful, but also necessary.
It’s very nice to be able to talk to people of other cultures.
• I love the sound of the language. I think my mother gave me the
pleasure of learning my first English words.
• Since I was a little child, I have experienced pleasure in learning
languages, not only English.


According to David Graddol (2006) almost one third of the world’s

population is currently learning English. Indeed, currently there are
more nonnative speakers of English than there are native speakers
(Crystal 2001; Graddol 2006). The impetus for learning English, to many
theoreticians, is a product of globalization. However, it is difficult to
discern which came first: English as a global language or globalization.
Arguably, the spread of English is a consequence of globalization, but
it is also true that English is the language through which globalizing
trends are spread. Putting this question aside, we must concede that
English is an important tool in today’s world. It is the language of
commerce, of technology, of science and of sport. Knowing English is
vital if our students are to succeed in this globalized world. However
the notion of one globalized language raises many concerns, which
affect learners and users of English around the world. For example,
how do learners feel about being obliged to learn English (e.g. when
English is one more subject in the school curriculum)? Does English
negate the learner’s first language? Where does an individual’s national


identity reside? What are the different varieties of English? Is there

a need for a Standard English? To what level of proficiency should
students be educated? In short, the learning and teaching of English
impacts people in many ways. Indeed, the idea of teaching English as
a Lingua Franca (ELF) or English as an International language (EIL)
raises varying pedagogical implications including questions about
class content (the model of English to be taught in class) and actual
classroom practices (the methods, approaches and techniques used to
teach the language). All of the issues raised compound and contribute
to the learners’ perception of their role in the language classroom in the
following ways: their motivation, their needs and their attitude toward
learning English. David Crystal, one of the most influential linguistics
in recent times, said (2006, p. 63).

“In my view, the chief task facing ELT (English Language Teaching)
is how to devise pedagogical policies and practices in which the
need to maintain an international standard of intelligibility, in both
speech and writing, can comfortably exist alongside the need to
recognize the importance of international diversity, as a reflection
of identity, chiefly in speech and eventually perhaps also in writing.”


Let’s look a little more closely at our learners. Consider these students and their learning needs:
1. A student in a Latin American public education highschool.
2. An immigrant in the US who is trying to make the US his new home.
3. A businessperson working for an international company.
4. A student who wants to travel around Australia for a few months.
5. A refugee who has been displaced from his country and is now in the US.

In each activity, the students need a variety of teacher support and guidance.
• What attitude towards English do you think these learners would bring to class?
• What source of motivation do you think they all have?
• What challenges would both their attitude and motivation present to teachers?
• How do you think you might meet some of the challenges?


Besides communicative needs and motivation, the context where

the language is studied also affects the decisions we make as teachers.
A variation in context will bring with it not just a change in the contents
to be studied, but also the way in which the language is taught. Here are
some common contexts where English is studied:

• English as a Foreign Language (EFL) – studied in countries where

English is not spoken.
• English as a Second Language (ESL) – studied in countries where
English is the dominant language.
• English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – studied in order to take
classes in universities.
• English for Specific Purposes (ESP) – studied in order to succeed
in a profession (e.g. Medicine).

The affordances of each context (e.g. in an ESL situation there are

many more opportunities for students to use English in real life than in
an EFL context; an ESP course may have a decidedly lexical emphasis,
etc.) will determine many factors: the teacher’s and students’ roles, the
materials to be used, the methods and techniques implemented in the
classroom and also, the way students are assessed.


Language courses are usually set up in a sequence. This does

not mean that language learning is a sequential, cumulative process.
However, the linear arrangement seems to work best as students
make progress towards achieving proficiency in a foreign language
by following certain pre-determined steps.
There are various ways in which proficiency in the language
is determined. In general, and in order to accommodate the linear
sequencing of courses, students are tested in order to ascertain that
they have accomplished a certain “level” before they are allowed to
move on to the next.


Language levels can be defined as a series of descriptors that tell

what students CAN DO in the foreign language at a certain stage of
their language-learning career. The most popular international system
of reference is the Common European Framework for Languages
(Council of Europe, 2001). This framework divides progress towards
proficiency in six levels:

C2 Mastery

C1 Effective Operational Proficiency } Proficient user

B2 Vantage

B1 Threshold } Independent user

A2 Waystage

A1 Breakthrough } Basic user

Hadfield and Hadfield (2008, p. 143) suggest the following “CAN

DO” statements for each of the levels described above:

Can easily understand virtually everything heard or read.

Can summarize information from different sources, reconstructing
C2 arguments.
Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely,
using finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
User Can understand a wide range of difficult, longer texts.
Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much
searching for expressions.
Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and
professional purposes.
Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects.


Can understand the main ideas of complex texts, including technical

discussions in his/her field.
Can interact with native speakers without major difficulties.
Independent Can produce clear, detailed texts on a wide range of subjects.
Can understand the main points of familiar matters in different topics
such as work, school, leisure, etc.
Can deal with most situations while travelling.
Can produce simple connected text on familiar topics.

Can understand basic sentences and frequently used expressions.

A2 Can communicate with simplicity on familiar topics.
Can describe his/her background.
Basic Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic
User phrases.
A1 Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask about personal
details, such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows, and things
he/she has.
Table 1.1 – Common European Framework Descriptors for each level
(Hadfield and Hadfield, 2008: 143).

These descriptors are a useful tool for teachers at the time of

diagnosing students’ readiness for a course. Knowing what level of
proficiency our students are roughly at, allows us to select suitable
learning outcomes, materials and learning experiences. The descriptors
can also act as a guide for the sequencing of teaching activities, as well
as for the design of tests and other assessments.
This fact notwithstanding, we should always bear in mind that
even though students may place within a certain level, that does not
mean that all of our students possess that level and can do all the tasks
in the descriptors with an equal level of proficiency. Every student is
different and every student will attain the descriptor at a different time.
So, while we will use the descriptors as a guide, we cannot limit our
teaching to what they specify. Every class is, by definition, a mixed-
ability class and it is the teacher’s main responsibility to respond to the
needs of all learners so that everyone has a chance to learn. Hence, we
now need to turn to ways in which we can discover the needs of our




In order to provide our learners with what they need in order to

succeed we have to know what their needs are. The most common
practice is to give students a needs analysis instrument, usually
a questionnaire which students answer at home or in class, in their
first language or in English. The questions are designed to find out
exactly what the students’ needs and expectations are, why they are
taking classes, their motivations as to the potential course contents
and possibly ideas on how to teach the students (e.g. Do most of the
students prefer to learn in groups or individually?).

Look at the following example of a Needs Analysis Instrument:

Name: Age:

Please write answers to the following questions in the space provided

1. Where are you from?
2. What is your job?
3. What do you like to do in your free time?
4. How many years have you been learning English for?
5. If you work or study, write what job or school/program.
6. Where do you want to use English? (for example at work?)
7. If you use English at work , how do you do so? (for example email, phone, conferences, presentations etc.)
8. Do you like studying English?
9. Can you think of an activity or lesson that you have had that you enjoyed a great deal? Describe the lesson or activity.
10. Write 3 things a good teacher usually does.
11. Write 3 things a good student usually does.
12. What else do you want to tell your teacher?


The questionnaire on the previous page is an example of a typical

needs analysis instrument. The format could vary, as may the contents,
depending on many factors, such as the teaching context and the
purposes of the course being taught. However, all needs analyses should
do the following:

1. Provide a clear picture of who our students are and why they come
to class.
2. Help generate the course goals. We may have a prescribed syllabus
to cover, but will still need to ensure that we can adapt it to meet
our students’ needs.
3. Illustrate to our students that they can and do contribute to the
syllabus thus providing them with an agentive role in what they
4. Show teachers we respect the students’ learning process and the
outcomes they expect to get from our course.

As we explained before, the questions we ask our students may

vary depending on the students and the courses we are teaching. If, for
example, we have a group of teenage students learning English as part
of their school curriculum, our needs analysis might focus on which skills
they feel they learn best, their attitudes to various classroom activities,
their likes and dislikes as well as their expectations about our teaching. If,
on the other hand, we are teaching a group of engineering students who
will travel to a university abroad in order to take a specialization course,
we need to find out exactly what they will be expected to do during the
course, what sort of materials they will be working with, how they will be
assessed, etc. In other words, their needs will be very specific.


Case (2008) suggests a thorough list of criteria for constructing a

good needs analysis instrument. We have adapted her criteria and here
is our shortlist:


A good needs analysis…

• looks at learners’ needs from various perspectives – this includes
analyzing what functions, skills, and genres students should be
familiar with. In addition, you should find out as much as possible
about the situations in which they might use English outside the
classroom, and their favorite (and least favorite) classroom activities.
• has clarity of purpose – explicitly tell students why you are collecting
this information and how you intend to use it throughout their course
in order to plan lessons, select materials and assessments and focus
on certain language areas. If necessary, send students a written
communication about the needs analysis (an informed consent form,
or even a simple email), its results and your planned curriculum.
• is culturally appropriate – be sensitive to how students may react to
the various questions you will ask. Always gauge the local culture and
refrain from simply downloading a set of questions from the Internet
and giving them out to students. Also think about your students’
expectations about the course. Lastly, allow students to skip
questions if they feel they do not want to answer them, omissions
also provide useful feedback.
• is feasible – make your needs analysis fit your work context. For
example, do not ask students if they like their textbooks when the
course books are assigned and must be used in classes. Instead, ask
students what they do like about the textbook or which topics they
would like to tackle first. Also use this information to adapt materials
and activities you might use in class.
• encourages reflection – ask students how they learn best, ask them
to provide examples of previous learning experiences that helped
them learn and to explain why. Finish up by providing ideas students
can use for self-study. These can be couched as questions (e.g. “Do
you periodically review vocabulary learned in class?”) that might lead
students to consider using these self-study techniques.
• integrates more than one skill – have students interview one another
and complete each other’s questionnaire, incorporate listening by
reading the questions out loud, and so forth, so that students are not
just reading and writing.
• is interactive and fun – make sure students also have the chance
to ask questions, not just answer them. Turn parts of the needs
analysis session into competitions (the most thoroughly answered
questionnaire, the longest answer, etc.)
• works well in a wide array of situations – the needs analysis should
work even when students do not know their needs. In a sense, it
should lead them to discover their needs as they answer the different


• diagnoses language needs – in so far as possible, the needs analysis

should also help you diagnose what level of proficiency students
have. Of course, this does not apply to complete beginners but, from
elementary level onwards, the questionnaire should help you probe
that by, for example, requiring extended answers (not just yes/no
or multiple choice). Additionally, you could include some questions
oriented towards explicitly testing their language knowledge.
• works with mixed levels – all classes are mixed level. Hence, make
sure the language you use in the questionnaire caters for students
slightly below and slightly above the supposed level of the class.
• leaves a written record – it is always good to require that students
provide an extended response in writing towards the end of the
needs analysis instrument. For example, you could ask them to tell
you what they learned about themselves by answering the questions.
Even when students are doing oral tasks as part of the needs
analysis, request that they write something down. This information
will come handy at the time of planning your course and it might
direct you to relevant areas you can tackle in your planning.
• includes functional language – make sure you use functional
language to direct students throughout the instrument. Functional
language such as “It’s your turn to ask me some questions,” or “Let’s
move on to the next section” brings the needs analysis to life.
• is an example of the kind of teaching they can expect from you – for
example, if group work figures prominently in your teaching, make
sure students have to do a diagnostic task that includes working in
• is flexible – you do not have to reinvent the wheel every time you
have to do a needs analysis. Create a questions bank that can be
flexibly adapted to the various situations in which you teach. For
example “How important is English for your work/studies/daily lives/
• is generative – think of all the information you will need to gather
in order to teach the course and make sure you include those
categories in your needs analysis, so you can go back to it over and
over again during the course.

Long (2015) makes the point that besides probing learners’ needs
we should also perform a means analysis. This implies finding out
students’ preferred teaching styles so that there are no conflicts between
the way they expect to be taught and the way you intend to teach them.
This prevents expectations being misunderstood. For example students
may want overt corrective feedback, regularly. However, the teacher


may feel indirect feedback is more useful and provides it significantly

less often than students expect. Aligning needs and means creates not
only a rich resource to inform the classroom but also an open and honest
dialog between students and teachers. This empowers the students and
the teachers and contributes to the building of a learning community.

Think back to your experience learning a foreign language. Were you ever involved in needs analyses?
What do you wish your teachers had asked you that would have made your learning more effective?


Knowing why students are learning and how they feel about
learning is the first step in ascertaining that they will come to class with
an open attitude towards learning and with the right motivation to learn.
The noted materials writer Victoria Kimbrough, once told Lesley
that students can learn anything if they are suitably motivated. Certainly
motivation is a vital part of learning. Students’ lack of motivation can
lead to boredom in class, behavioral problems, lack of progress and
attrition. Although there are many definitions and classifications of
motivation, a frequent distinction is made in language teaching between
intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within the students. They want to
learn and gain pleasure from it and so they derive their will to learn
and their predisposition to it from their own internal drives. These drives
include their learning needs, a particular liking for the teacher, the class
or the language, or their will to succeed.
Extrinsically motivated students are motivated by outside forces:
parents, bosses, exam results and so forth. To these students success is
measured by the degree of compliance with rules that are imposed upon
them by others. In general, these students are harder to motivate than
intrinsically motivated students.
Although this distinction is useful, neither one is an absolute. We
are all motivated, at different times, by internal and external forces. The
sources of our motivation are influenced by everything we have explained


so far: our learning needs and preferences, the learning context and our
current life situation. For example, a person who was a poor learner of
English during highschool may have failed because the person failed to
see the usefulness of the language (no intrinsic motivation) and because
the person did not care about grades (extrinsic motivation). Later on in
life, the person may be extrinsically motivated to learn English in order
to get a scholarship and would thus become a very effective learner
intrinsically motivated by a personal goal.
Reeve (1996) points out that motivation is a combination of both
internal and external factors. These factors are crucial as they can prompt,
maintain and enhance or diminish the levels of motivation students have.
The challenge for teachers is to sustain students’ motivation. This often
means realizing what the driving force behind students is and connecting
with that as much as possible. For example, a teacher may realize that a
student wants to learn English because they love American pop music,
in which case, it might be a good idea to play songs in class and create
activities around the song lyrics. Equally, a teacher may find out that a
student’s motivation is derived from the need to obtain a specific job, in
which case, the class content should address looking for a job, possibly
job interviews and so forth. In other words, relevant class content is an
important way to maintain students’ motivation.
In 1956, Shramm proposed that the definition of motivation can be
reduced to a simple equation:
Students’ expectation of success in a task
Students’ expectations of the amount of effort involved

Currently, the most prolific researcher and writer about motivation

in the field of L2 teaching and learning is Zontan Dörnyei (2001). He
proposes that sustaining students’ motivation is a process that includes
four stages teachers must be vigilant of when teaching:

a. creating the conditions for motivation to blossom.

b. generating opportunities for initial motivation.
c. sustaining and shielding motivation.
d. fostering opportunities for retrospective self-assessment by


The following table summarizes our understanding of the processes

involved in promoting a healthy learning environment where motivation
can thrive and thus, students can learn. It combines the ideas of both
Schramm (1956) and Dörnyei (2001).

Increased expectation of success Decreased requirement for effort

• Creating the conditions for motivation to • Creating the conditions for motivation to
blossom. blossom.
» Focus on students’ needs. » Always explore your students’
» Help students set personal goals for background knowledge explicitly.
learning. » Make sure students are prepared for
» Make your planning explicit to the task at hand.
students. » Help students understand the criteria
» Share criteria for success with students for success.
before they engage in learning. • Generating opportunities for initial
» Share examples of successful motivation.
performance of former students with » Always contextualize language to the
your current class. learners’ background knowledge.
• Generating opportunities for initial » Focus on use and meaning more than
motivation. on form.
» Grade and sequence the activities you » Use all the information in your
use so that everyone can experience needs analysis to help students set
success. achievable goals.
» Go over the lesson’s agenda and help • Sustaining and shielding motivation.
learners identify what contributions » Offer students choices.
they can make to it. » Foster collaborative work.
» Communicate high expectations. » Focus on students’ preferences and
• Sustaining and shielding motivation. needs in terms of learning, topics,
» Engage students in self-monitoring. activities, etc.
» Help learners identify success. • Fostering opportunities for retrospective
» Provide positive feedback on success. self-assessment by learners.
» Teach learning strategies. » Incorporate peer-assessment.
» Use a variety of scaffolds. » Help students perceive the successful
• Fostering opportunities for retrospective learning strategies they have applied
self-assessment by learners. in order to succeed.
» Provide formative corrective feedback » Help students keep track of their
in a variety of ways. progress in explicit ways (e.g. using
» Help students self-assess. individual progress charts).

Table 1.2 – Key issues in enhancing students’ motivation


Other ways to maintain motivation:

1. Set small term learning goals for students. Learning English

can feel like an uphill, never-ending task. However, if students work
on short terms goals such as learn four verbs to describe ways of
moving or aim to write an email to a friend in English by the end of a
semester and so forth, chances are that they will experience success
in attaining those goals. Smaller, manageable attainable tasks can
help students to conquer learner fatigue (i.e. when students’ interest
in learning wanes because it is difficult or arduous), and obtain a
sense of achievement, which is often enough to allow students to see
that they are making progress and should continue with their studies.

2. Ensure that the class community is strong. If the community

in class is both supportive and fun, students often feel motivated to
continue attending classes because they feel a sense of responsibility
to their classmates as well as an interest in the classes, which is not
purely about learning English. They enjoy seeing their friends and
share a common task.

3. Set up a rewards system. Again, to help students feel a sense of

achievement and pride in their learning create a system of rewards.
For example, a points game can be set up in which students earn
points for: good behavior, achievements, completed homework tasks
and so forth. However, note that students are not competing with
one another but with themselves, as explained in the next point.
Also, we will return to this idea in the in the chapter on Classroom

4. De-emphasize competitive learning and stress collaborative

learning – encourage students to master content and skills at their
own rate and for their own benefit. Discourage them from competing
with classmates by de-emphasizing grades and always providing
feedback that compares a particular students’ current performance
to his or her former performance, rather than the performance of
other students.


Putting students at the center

Now consider the following comments about a lesson and an

extract from that lesson taught by an adult educator in New York. What
is the overall aim behind this lesson?

Cultural Artifact Lesson by Jane Nishimura

At the beginning of the class, I introduced the notion of a

“cultural artifact” (i.e. an object that represents an important part
of either: our culture, our upbringing, our family etc.) and showed
the students a red teapot that belonged to my grandmother. I
divided the class into groups of 3s or 4s and gave each group a
large piece of paper and markers.

I wrote the following questions on the whiteboard:

• What is it?
• Whose is it?
• Where is it from?
• Why do you think it is important to me?
• How is it used?
• Who uses it?
• Where is it kept?
• How is it cared for?
• What things go with it?
• What is its meaning?

I then asked the groups to answer the questions in pairs,

guessing the answers or speculating. Later I handed out my
Cultural Artifact Story (on the next page). I read it to the students
and they compared their answers to the actual story. After the
reading, the students asked me more questions about the teapot.
I told students that for the following class, each should bring to
class their own ‘cultural artifact’ – either the actual item or a
photograph of it. Something that was personal and important.


My Cultural Artifact: The Red Teapot By

Jane Nishimura

This red teapot was my

grandmother’s and then my mother’s.
My grandparents came from Ireland to
the US and tea is a very important tradition
there. My mother said that Granny bought
this teapot when she was first married to my

When I was a child, we used to use this red teapot to make a pot of tea
on Sunday nights. Looking at it reminds me of those days. We always had
tea with milk and a little sugar.

Nobody in my family worked on Sunday. Sunday morning, we got

up and went to church. After church, my father made bacon and eggs
and toast for everyone. Then we played, read books or watched TV. At
about two o’clock we had dinner, in the dining room. My parents cooked a
big meal; usually roast beef with potatoes, vegetables, salad and dessert.
Often we would have guests and always a lively conversation. After
dinner, we had coffee and we talked and laughed. We used to stay talking
at the table for a long time after the meal.

In the evening, we had a small meal, cooked by my father. It was just

the family, the six kids and my grandfather and my parents, gathered
in the kitchen. After that, we had a pot of tea, and we talked and laughed
more. My brothers and sisters often talked about my grandmother. She
died before I was born and I never knew her. I was jealous that they had
so many memories of her, but I liked to hear the stories.

Many years later, my mother gave the teapot to me. I feel that it is a
little piece of my grandmother. I treasure this teapot because it connects
me to my childhood – my mother, my grandmother and all those Sunday
night suppers.


The previous lesson illustrates a few things that should happen in class:

1. Teacher investment. The teacher tells a personal story and shows

an item that is very important to her. This shows students how much
she values them as not only students and learners, but also as people.

2. Inclusion. By asking students to bring something that they value or

is part of their cultural heritage, illustrates the notion of ‘culture as a
resource.’ In our classes, it is often easy to negate the most important
resource that we have for classroom content i.e. our students, their
culture and their stories. Whether it means asking students about
a national holiday in their countries, a traditional dish from their
countries or describing their hometowns, it all gives value to the
students’ lives and their class contributions.

3. Values. All classes are diverse because they are made up of a

number of individuals whose life stories can be very dissimilar, even
if they are the same age and from the same background. Exploring
what we treasure and beginning to bear what is important for each
one of us is a way of disclosing our values and experience tolerance
and understanding, which are two pre-requisites to the establishment
of a successful learning community.

4. Reality. Having students’ lives at the center of the teaching

process adds a degree of reality to the classroom situation. When
we teach language in class, we are necessarily imitating reality, not
experiencing it, as we would out in the street. Hence, we can rightly
say that classrooms are, by definition, artificial environments. When
students are afforded the chance to contribute their “life outside the
classroom” to the curriculum, we are building bridges between reality
and teaching.



As we have seen so far, the teacher’s main task is to provide every

opportunity to students so that learning can happen. Because of this,
the teacher does not always behave in the same way or perform the
same functions in class. In other words, in order to accommodate
our various students’ needs so that they can learn, teachers need to
perform different roles. Hadfield and Hadfield (2008) say that teachers
may perform two macro functions: provide information that students
do not have, or act as facilitators of the students’ learning process.
These two macro functions can be achieved through a range of roles,
which are described in the following table:

Macrofunction Role Examples of the role in action

You will have to be explicit about various things such

as how to play a game or do an exercise, how grammar
Explainer works, or the meaning of words that the students do
not know. Particularly at lower levels you will often use
mime, action, pictures, tables and diagrams.

You will have to show some things to the class through

actions—for example, by miming “jump” to show them
what the word means or by showing through your own
actions how a game is played.

TEACHER AS You will have to give instructions to the class such as

INFORMATION “Now get into groups of 4” or “Turn to page 23” so
GIVER Organizer
that they can engage in productive work leading to
more learning.

Depending on the group, you may have to restore order

from time to time, for example by reminding the class
Controller to speak English, asking them to speak more quietly, or
preventing more dominant learners from interrupting

In this role, you may give your students a sense of

Route Planner direction by outlining what you will cover in the course
or in a lesson.


Instead of explaining and giving information you can

elicit information from your learners, remodeling where
necessary, so that they formulate their own explanations
of grammar or vocabulary items.

In this role, you will be listening to your students when

Monitor they are speaking to each other in pairs or groups,
noting errors to discuss with them later.

TACHER AS Again, when students are working by themselves or in

FACILITATOR Support system groups, your role is to circulate to give help and provide
language when asked.

In this role, you give students comments on their

performance by correcting their errors—or better,
Feedback giver
encouraging them to identify and correct their own
errors if they can.

In this role, you will give students advice and support

Counselor on things they can do to help themselves learn, for
example, on ways of learning vocabulary at home.

Table 1.3 – A typology of teacher roles – Adapted from Hadfield J. and Hadfield, C. (2008, p. 144).

By combining your knowledge of the various levels of language

proficiency with your awareness of students’ needs and their learning
preferences, you will be able to “inhabit” the roles that will yield the
maximum learning benefit for your students, while, at the same time,
becoming progressively more and more aware of what good teaching is
all about.


In this first chapter we have explored the first steps we need to

take to create powerful learning opportunities where language becomes
a vehicle for the construction of a learning community that revolves
around the needs and motivations of our students. They come to us in
order to fulfill these needs and motivations and it is our main task to
make sure that they succeed.


By putting students, their lives and experiences at the center of

the teaching and learning process we are building a solid foundation
upon which learning can evolve. Our vehicle for providing these
worthwhile learning experiences is English, a language that has become
the main tool for learning, communicating, and claiming our place in
a globalized world. Our classroom is the place where the process of
belonging begins for our students. Hence, we must strive to make it a
welcome place where the success of all the members of the community
is guaranteed.

Chapter wrap-up

What is the most

What lingering questions What steps will you take
important learning you
about Learning about our to find answers to these
have derived from this
students do you still have? questions?


Observation task

Observe one of the learners in your class for at least four consecutive lessons. Notice how the
learner interacts with his peers and the teacher. Notice whether the learner uses English or
makes any attempt at using English, and try to discover what this student likes about the English
class and about learning English.

reflective journal task

Make a list of all the possible ways in which your students might use English in their daily lives
(now and in the future). Then reflect about what a curriculum for these learners should be like.
What should it include? What should it not include? What kinds of materials, activities, classroom
setup would you use? Why?

portfolio task

1) Design a needs analysis instrument for your students.

2) Give it out to students and have them answer it.
3) Analyze the information you have gathered and go back to your answer to the Reflective
Journal Task above. What would you change?



what is differentiation? what can teachers differentiate?
• Carol Ann Tomlinson (2014) describes differentiation as the • Content: Teachers can differentiate
proactive response of a teacher to the needs of all the students. what is taught on the basis of
• Teachers can differentiate because of: students’ differences by capitalizing
» the students’ readiness and background knowledge regarding on students’ prior experiences,
a particular topic (e.g. some students in the class already know talents, etc.
the alphabet and others don’t. The teacher sets up a writing • Process: Teachers can create
task for the ones who know it, and concentrates on teaching differentiated paths that attend to
the learners who don’t know it). the needs of different students.
» the students’ learning profile (e.g. in the same class you have • Product: Teachers provide choices
students who are at A1 level, while others are at A2 level). The of products for students with
teacher sets up differentiated tasks so that the A1 students different levels, who have different
receive the support they need in order to progress to A2 and interests (some create a poster,
gives the students at A2 more challenging tasks. others read and act out a short play,
» the students’ interests, needs and motivations (e.g. in a class and others do an information gap
there are 15 students who are going to study Law and 5 who activity).
are going to study other disciplines. The teacher prepares a
curriculum that incorporates lessons on the language of each
of the disciplines present in the class).

how do we differentiate? (adapted from tomlinson, 2014)

• Stations: the teacher sets up various stations in the • Tiered activities: 1) the teacher identifies what the
classroom. In each station, there is a different task essential elements all students need to master are;
for students to complete. All the tasks are leveled 2) the teacher creates an activity at the level most
and related to the same topic. Students choose of the students can accomplish (the activity must be
or are directed to a station. The whole class works high level, generative, meaningful and interesting;
simultaneously. Ideally, students should progress 3) “Clone” the activity “down” or “up” by making
from one station to the next depending on their it more (or less) complex. You may need to include
readiness, profile or needs. more materials during the cloning or provide
• Agendas: these are personalized lists of tasks that additional supports; 4) Match the students to the
students must complete in a specified period of different activities and provide them with an agenda
time. Tasks could be done in class or for homework. for completion.
In general, agendas provide enough work for • Learning contracts: agendas can be turned into
a student to do over the course of two of three contracts by specifying all the tasks students must
weeks. accomplish and allowing space for the students to
• Complex instruction: tasks that require students indicate when the tasks have been completed.
to work in small heterogeneous groups and that • Tri-mind activities: Sternberg (1997) proposes three
are open-ended (there is no single right answer), modes of processing that all functional human
integrate skills, use multimedia, and require many beings have and make use of every day. Tri-mind
different talents in order to be completed. activities are sequences of activities on the same
• Centers: these are physical spaces that focus on a theme, topic, concept or skill that follow a pattern:
particular area of the curriculum and contain materials after selecting a learning goal the teacher designs
at different levels. A Reading Center, for example, is an analytic task (for analysis), a practical task
a corner of the classroom or even merely a box with (for application) and a creative task (for display).
texts on the same topic at various levels. Activities Students can choose the task they want to do with
vary from simple to complex, and incorporate a wide the help of the teacher.
range of materials, these materials are graded, and
there are record-keeping mechanisms to monitor and
record what students do.


• • Reflective Practice.
• the fundamental role
• Reflective Practice
learning communities
• plays in teacher
teachers’ roles
• development.
teachers’ use of L2 in
• directed observation.

learninghow howto:to:
• • direct your own
develop and value a
Imagine that there is a great field stretching before you of white, reflective feedback.
learning community
• • use evidence to
plan lessons to cater
untouched snow. You walk across it enjoying the apple-crunching
guide your reflective
for different energy
sound underneath your boots. Sometimes your boots dig further into feedback.
levels and attention
the snow than you expect, sometimes the snow is softer or harder • evaluate what
than you anticipate; each time, you adjust your steps to account for • is understood
use the white or
the variations. You are now on the other side of the field, you turn as constructive,
• productive feedback.
use the classroom
around to look at the footprints that you have made and the path
seating arrangements
you have taken. At first glance, your path appears straight and your to optimize learning.
footprints look similar. However, under further scrutiny, you notice that
some prints are deeper than others. Your path is not as straight as you
had first thought and the prints are not made of white snow but dark
and muddied. What happened here? Well, your observations of the
footprints changed, the longer that you looked at them.
At the beginning, you based your interpretations largely on
expectations and then slowly you recalibrated your thoughts as your
scrutiny intensified. Once you had noticed one deviation from an
expectation, you began to look more critically for other variations and
additionally began to hypothesize about what had caused them. This
thought process is similar to what occurs when we reflect on our lessons.
Initially, we make general observations based predominantly on
what our expectations of the lesson had been and the impression of the
lesson. We then look more closely and maybe see things more clearly,
we see or recall more details. We begin to consider why the things that
happened actually happened. Additionally, we try to consider how we
might do things differently. In short, we reflect, and as we do so, we grow.
45 45

back to move



Reflective reflection on
Practice action

the reflective
learning cycle

reflection in

What do you already know about reflective practice?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about reflection and reflective practice have you

heard your colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why are they



Read the following comments from teachers regarding Reflective

Teachers say…

• I don’t have time to reflect. I teach almost eight hours a day and and
then I have to plan and correct my students’ work.
• I take a few minutes at the end of every class to think about what
went well and what did not go as planned. I do this even if I don’t
have time, for example, while I walk from one classroom to the next.
• I used to reflect on teaching when I was doing my teacher training.
My instructor always insisted that I write a short reflection after each
lesson I taught. But I am experienced now and I do not need to reflect.
• I reflect systematically about my teaching. This is what helps
me grow. I am lucky to work in a school that values this kind of
practice, so I often talk to my colleagues about my teaching.
• I cannot conceive of teaching without reflection that is why, still
today, after so many years of teaching, I keep a journal where I
write my reflections.

To what extent do you identify yourself with these comments? Why?


In teaching, reflection, or the process of reflection, begins at the

planning stage. We consider how the lesson will be received by our
students, how clear our objectives are, how well staged the lesson is, and
how logical it is. Ultimately, we reflect as a way of finding out, before
teaching it, whether our planned lesson will facilitate student learning.


Along that process, we consider what could go right and wrong

Donald Schön (1983)
identified two kinds of largely based on previous experiences. In that respect, we have
reflection. Reflection- expectations about our efficacy in the classroom, based on our past
in-action – happens performance.
while teaching as Additionally, during the lesson, things change: an activity takes
we assess and act on longer than expected, students find the material easier or more
decisions in class; and challenging than expected, and a myriad of other such events that are
impossible to systematically predict. Hence, while we are teaching, we
– done either before
continually reflect and adapt our plans to suit the emerging changes
or after class, when
we plan, assess and that our interaction with students may provoke. In other words we think
evaluate the lesson. on our feet.
Once the lesson is over, we look back at how the lesson went.
We consider what worked, what was effective or ineffective and
hypothesize why our expectations and the actual lesson maybe did not
match. Again, this is reflection. For most of us, it is natural to reflect in
an effort to process our classroom experiences. However, in order for
reflection to be productive, we need to ensure that it leads to useful and
usable insights or takeaways, which inform future lessons. In other
words, we look back in order to move forwards.

Let’s look at a Lesson

Consider a lesson that you have recently taught or seen. Answer the following questions to help
frame your reflection:
1. How do I feel about the lesson overall?
2. Describe one incident in class that made you feel the above.
3. What evidence do I have that the lesson objectives were attained?
4. What was happening at the end of the lesson?
5. What would I do differently?
6. What would I do again?
7. What did I learn from this lesson (or what is the learning takeaway)?


Why did we ask the above questions? When we first walk out of
a lesson, we have an overall impression of the lesson and how it went.
We often use the words: “Good,” “It went well,” “It was okay,” “It was
a disaster” or “It was not how I expected.” This initial reflection is not


usually more than a few words and often based on a feeling, as opposed
to fact or evidence.
The first question above is an obvious one to ask but not that
useful or insightful. It only helps us process a personal reaction, at the
level of feelings. However, we need to dig deeper into the actual lesson
events, hence the second question. This question requires that we trawl
over the events of the lesson and select one incident or critical incident
(Farrell, 2008) to examine. Farrell argues that it is often only one event
or ‘critical incident’ that provides the greatest insights into overall
lessons. At this point, a few things occur, we begin to objectify the
lesson and slightly disengage from the reflective process on a purely
personal level. It is no longer simply about how we felt the lesson
went, but about the evidence that we can gain from real classroom
occurrences. We begin to look at these events in terms of what we can
learn from them and prioritize those, which are the most important or
The next two questions, questions three and four, probe further
into this idea. The subtle shift in these questions is that the focus is
removed from solely teacher actions to integrating students’ behaviors
also. This forces us to look at the lesson through the students’ lens.
This is not a minor detail, on the contrary. The ultimate purpose of
teaching is to promote effective, quality learning for all students, and
putting them and their learning process at the center of our reflection
is a fundamental trait of a reflective practitioner.
The final questions frame reflection as a means for development,
growth, and change, which is why reflective practice is critical and
ultimately can be equated to learning. As Wallace (1991, p. 54) states
“fruitful change is extremely difficult without reflection.”
Growth means change and change means taking risks, stepping
from the known to the unknown. However, growth is not easy. We all
have to ask ourselves: Am I open-minded enough to reflect?
John Dewey posited that in order for teachers to reflect effectively,
they need to be openminded, have an open heart and take responsibility.

“Reflective thinking as a distinction from other operations

to which we apply the name of thought involves (1) a state of
doubt, hesitation, perplexity, mental difficulty, in which thinking


originates, and (2) an act of searching, hunting, inquiring, to find

material that will resolve the doubt, settle and dispose of the
perplexity.” (Dewey, 1933, p. 12)

As mentioned previously, and as it can be seen from the quote

above, engaging in reflection is not easy. It is doubtful that any of us
“Expertise resides in
the practices of the truly appreciates being in a ‘state of doubt’ or ‘mental difficulty’ both
teacher.” of which imply discomfort and the necessity for effort and time,
something which is in short supply for most teachers. In addition,
Zeichner and Liston what compounds the difficulty is that the subject we are reflecting on
(1996, p. 6)
(teaching) is a highly personal and personalized endeavor. It is rooted
in our belief systems, which may have developed over many years and
may have been influenced and fostered by several factors including:
our favorite teachers, our favorite classes and our own learning styles
and preferences. We are attached to our beliefs and may find it difficult
to move away from them. There is a certain amount of vulnerability
generated when we are asked to question our own teaching. As a
consequence, we naturally have a tendency to think about lessons in
a way that suits what we are able to process or what we want to think.
In order for reflection to effect the changes in our development
that we expect to get from engaging in the process, egos and emotions
need to be set aside. This honest self-evaluation, a requirement of all
kinds of reflection, can be best described as meeting yourself.
In other words, you look at yourself and your actions completely
or, as Dewey described, with an ‘open heart’ rather than in the way the
wicked queen asked for feedback: “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the
fairest of them all?” The only thing the witch wanted to know was that
she was the fairest. The truth was not useful.
Being resistant to critically analyzing lessons usefully can lead
to teacher stagnation, ‘routinization’ (not trying new things in our
lessons) and the adoption of what van Manen described as a “narrow
doctrinaire perspective” (van Manen, 1977, p. 206). As one of our
teachers in training admitted during feedback to a practicum class
‘Because of my natural stubbornness, I did my assignments, as ever,
but I was less inclined than I should have been to be as thoughtful as I
could and should have been.’


This may not be the only problem: we can also be too critical,
or hypercritical, of our own classroom. When this happens we are
not only undermining our teaching but also our confidence and self-
esteem. There has to be a middle ground in order for us to develop as
teachers and create a healthy practice of reflection.
Beginning by acknowledging that reflection is an integral part
of teaching and teacher learning is a fundamental first step. This
should validate the practice, ensure that it is an ongoing process, and
underscore the fact that teachers are constantly striving for genuine
understanding (Loughran, 2002) of the students, of themselves, of
the context and the material. Every lesson is an opportunity to learn
something. From every lesson the students and we can gain a useful
takeaway, or point of learning, which provides information for future
lessons. As Dewey told us, “reflection converts action that is merely
appetitive, blind, and impulsive into intelligent action” (1933, p. 17).
For this reason, reflection is a practice.

Look back at the text to see where these keywords were mentioned:



Review them and consider how they relate to your teaching and lessons


As we have explained so far, reflection does not come naturally

to professionals. It is a painstaking process at the beginning and soon
it becomes a fundamental tool for teachers’ growth and development.
Various authors have tried to conceptualize the process. In our
experience, whenever we have engaged in reflection, it has been as a
consequence of finding dissonances between our teaching intentions
and the students’ actual learning in class.
The first thing that happens is that we try to fully understand
what went wrong or not according to plan (WHAT?). We then look


for potential causes or reasons (WHY?) and these generally give us

additional information about the situation (WHAT ELSE?). Using all
that information, we try to come up with a useful solution (HOW?),
which we plan and try out in class. Sometimes, that solution works.
Other times it does not work and we need to go back to our repertoire
of potential solutions and we try things out again (WHAT NOW?).
The following diagram depicts the way we have been engaging in
reflection. However, notice that this is not the only way the process
can be depicted. As we say above, this is the way we have been
engaging in reflection.

identify a
problem within
a lesson

Consider what
what caused
solutions can now
the problem?
be systematically
what could
adopted Reflective resolve it?
in class. Practice

TEST what additional
trying out factors may
the proposed impact the
solutions. problem and its

Figure 2.1 - The Reflective Learning Cycle


Can you think of an issue or problem that occurred in a class that you recently taught or observed?
Possibly a student dominated the class, and you found it difficult to use the student’s energy
effectively, or maybe you had difficulty conveying the meaning of a language structure that had
appeared straightforward before the lesson but once in the lesson seemed to unravel. Try to follow
these steps in thinking about the problem. How do you feel following these steps?

1) Define the problem.

2) Consider what caused it.

3) Consider whether your actions helped or exacerbated the problem.

4) Think of possible alternatives to address the problem in the future.

5) Test out one or two of your proposed solutions in class.

6) Once you have experimented with a few solutions, consider how successful you were in tackling
the problem and which proposed solution was most effective.

What you have just engaged in was an example of a reflective

practice cycle: noticing a problem, investigating possible causes of According to
Pennington (1992, p.
the problem and experimenting with possible solutions. This type of
5), “reflection makes
reflective practice is purposeful, directed and facilitates a dynamic
teachers confident
working relationship between you, the material and the students. and self-motivated.”
Richards (1991, p. 5) states that the process “involves conscious recall
and examination of the experience as a basis for evaluation and
decision-making, and as a source for planning and action.” This cycle
adheres to the principle that “experience plays a central role in the part
of the learning process” (Kolb, 1984, p. 20) and encourages teachers
“to view problems from different perspectives” (Loughran,1996,
p. 4). A useful summary of these points could be that meaning, and
consequently learning, are born out of experiences.



One thing to keep in mind is that reflecting for reflection’s sake

is an unproductive endeavor. Many times, the source of reflection we
have is merely a hunch or an intuition. This is because teaching can
be a solitary business. When we are in the classroom, we are with
our students but there is generally no one to guide us or to see and
comment on what is happening other than ourselves. In the reflective
practice cycle we have just described, a fundamental element—the
sources that triggers a cascade of reflective actions—is some concrete
evidence that a change is needed. Because generally we are our own
resource in the classroom, we need to use assists in order to gather
useful, concrete evidence to guide our reflection. These assists include
our students, the record of our work on the whiteboard, filming our
lessons and reviewing our plans after the lesson has been taught. All
of these assists can provide rich insights and help to further explore the
actual execution of the lesson.

Filming or audio recording our classes

It is easy to forget everything that happened or to miss critical
incidents once the lesson is over. Filming or audio recording lessons
provides a record of what actually occurred and was said in class; in
other words, we have evidence on which we can reflect. Consider this
teacher in
in training’s comment after using video to help her examine
her class:

“The Wonder of Video: The good, the bad, the ugly and the ‘eh-
not so bad.’ It is invaluable to watch videos of others teaching but even
more so of ourselves. It really keeps you honest. Once over the initial
shock of our appearance, a visual record of a lesson provides insight
into our teaching techniques, our comportment and our behavior
towards students. By seeing myself in the first video, I realized my
lesson plans were not well sequenced and I needed to prepare myself
better for the class.”


Additionally, we can transcribe our own or the student’s language in

order to further investigate our classes. Doing this can help us understand
how we communicate with students, how many opportunities for
communication we give them and also, more importantly, which the
areas of our interaction with students that need to be rethought are.

Reviewing the Whiteboard/Blackboard

A teacher trainer once said that you could judge how clear or logical
a lesson has been by looking at the white or blackboard. This might be a
slight exaggeration but what we can do once we have finished teaching,
and the students have left the room, is ask ourselves the following

• Is the learning objective evident from what is written on the

• Is the board logically planned? Is it cluttered?
• Have I used the board as a notepad for myself or as a learning
tool for my students?
• Does it look as though this was a lesson for the level of students
I had i.e. was the lesson level appropriate?


These questions, prompt us to look at what the students were looking

at while we were teaching. It also gets us to consider whether the board
was cluttered, whether we packed the lesson too full of information and,
more importantly, what the students have written in their notebooks and
taken home as a record of the lesson. If the board is planned well, was
the lesson well executed? There is no clear-cut answer to this question.
Nevertheless, we should remember that what was left on the board is the
record of the lesson that students will use in order to review or study.
Hence, it should be properly planned and intentionally used.

Looking at Students’ Notebooks

Another source of evidence for reflection entails looking at what

students have written during our lesson. This will give us evidence of
how our intended plan actually played out in reality. At the end of a
lesson, ask one or two students to show you their notebooks. Look at
how and what they have taken notes on during the lesson. Ask yourself:

• Is the organization of the notes clear?

• Is the learning objective obvious?
• Will they be able to use these notes as a study guide at home?


The answers to these questions will illustrate and evidence not

only the students’ ability to organize their own learning but also suggest
in part the clarity of your instruction. You may want to photocopy the
notebooks or take notes yourself on what the students saw as being vital
to note down and compare this to the actual lesson objectives. You may
also want to choose students’ notebooks from the two ends of the ability
range in your class, meaning you look at the student who is most able
in class and the one who is the least able. Again, you can compare what
each student has taken away from your lesson and reflect on whether or
not you have provided adequate supports at both ends as well as what
you should have done in order to support learning.

Asking the Students

During the term, you may want to institutionalize feedback sessions

with the students. These are points in the semester when you meet each
student, one on one, to check on how the students feel about the lessons
and their progress. You may want to weave into these discussions
questions about instructional techniques or overall clarity of lessons. You
may also want to ask the students to provide you with written feedback
using questions such as:


• What did you like about this lesson?

• What did you not like about this lesson?
• What did you learn during this lesson?
• What homework will you do?

You may want to do this at the end of every unit, or at the end
of each semester. Additionally, you can use proactive assessment for
learning tools (see Chapter 11) such as one-minute papers, or exit slips
to gather information about every lesson, at the point of need.
We should remember that students might feel slightly uncomfortable
about noting down things that they did not like. Because of this, you will
need to navigate how best to question your particular groups of students.
The question that is possibly the most useful is what the students learnt
during the lesson. This will give you the greatest insight into whether
you accomplished the learning objective for the lesson, or not, and what
options you have when planning lessons.

Re-writing the Plan

As already mentioned, we reflect during lessons constantly and

make changes to the lesson accordingly. Therefore, the written lesson
plan and what actually happened in class may differ greatly. In order


to understand the reason for these differences, once the lesson is over,
take out your plan again and add the changes that you made including
changes to the timing, extended or dropped activities, and so forth. These
changes will give you insights into your planning and your execution.
Additionally, you will be getting insights into your planning, your
execution and the pace of the lesson as experienced by the students. In
rewriting your plan, you will be able to analyze why a particular activity
needed to be dropped which should in turn inform future lessons.

A note to end on
As vital as it is to make reflection a practice, we must not fall into
routinized reflection-in other words reflecting because we know we
should. True, purposeful reflection has to impact teachers´ actions and
result in change.
Zeichner and Liston (1990, p. 167), question whether “teachers’
actions are necessarily better just because they are more deliberate or “Not all thinking
intentional.” This is a useful consideration. Reflection cannot simply about teaching
constitutes reflective
be something that happens after a class and ends there. It needs to be
utilized and should result in action.
Zeichner & Liston
Along the same lines, Fendler (2003, p. 6) provides this interesting (1990, p. 167)

“Today’s discourse of reflection incorporates an array of

meanings: a demonstration of self consciousness, a scientific approach
to planning for the future, a tacit and intuitive understanding of
practice, a discipline to become more professional, a way to tap into
one’s authentic inner voice, and a means to become a more effective


Read the following reflection on a lesson written by a teacher in

training. As you are reading, compare it to your own reflection and also


consider how useful the following reflection is. What evidence is there
that this teacher is analyzing her lesson productively?

Overall, I feel pretty good about this lesson— at least better than
my previous one. I felt that by planning out the rationale and really
breaking down each aspect of the lesson helped out, so it does speak
volumes to the importance of lesson planning. I chose to use technology
again (and a great excuse to use my brand spankin’ new computer).
The use of the presentation not only helped scaffold the entire lesson
for the student, but also helped me organize my thoughts and see how
each macro and micro skill was being assessed and focused on. I think
the most successful part was scaffolding the vocabulary the way I did.
The students had fewer questions about the article because I pre-taught
the vocabulary. That was a big improvement for my class and I will
continue to use this strategy in all of my Hot Topics courses. I really
enjoyed the use of the PowerPoint. The whole problem now is getting
all of my students on the same article each week so I can just create
one presentation — I don’t have time to create four or five different
One thing that the lesson did fall short on was the amount of
fluency practice the student received. We could have kept going
because I didn’t have a class afterwards, but since they are paying for
40-minutes, they get 40 minutes. So, I did run out of time.

There are a few reasons why this teacher’s reflections are

constructive. Firstly, she looks at her lesson in sufficient detail and she
identifies specific areas that were both effective and ineffective. At the
beginning of her reflection, she identifies a few key points that made the
lesson “good.” Her initial, general reflection on this lesson includes these
positive aspects: the use of technology, scaffolding, and breaking down
each aspect of his lesson. She attributes the success of the organization
to the lesson to her planning; by so doing, she provides herself with a
tool to repeatedly use and build upon in order to maintain her success.
This is one of the takeaways. She identifies one negative point: the
lack of fluency practice, and muses on how best to deal with this in the
future presenting herself with one key area to work on. By doing this, she


is reducing the number of choices, and hence, the number of things she
must attend to prior to and during the lesson. As we will keep reiterating
throughout this book, in teaching, less is usually much more.
Identifying one aspect of your teaching that you would like to
work on after a lesson is both manageable and more constructive than
presenting yourself with a shopping list of “TO DOs” which, as we have
alluded to previously, can be both unwieldy and demotivating.


In this chapter, we have looked at what reflection is, what can

impede it and what the key reasons for reflective practice are. We have
also looked at why we engage in reflective practice and how it helps
us to inform our own development as we work with specific groups of
students. Essentially, reflection is a tool to empower teachers and support
them in the classroom. Any challenge that arises in class whether it is
that students will not work in pairs, they are not motivated, they do not
do their homework or that the teacher finds it difficult to help students
improve their pronunciation should be seen as opportunities to learn.
This can and does happen mostly through reflection.

Chapter wrap-up

What is the most important What lingering questions What steps will you take
learning you have derived about reflective teaching to find answers to these
from this chapter? do you still have? questions?


Observation task

As you go about your daily teaching routine, note down in a special notebook or even in your
reflective journal, all those times when you catch yourself wondering and reflecting. Write down
the place, time and describe the situation so that you can remember it well. Also, it is important
to write down the questions you are asking yourself. Are they ‘good’ reflective questions? If you
have the chance, share your wonderings with your cooperating teacher, or a colleague and note
down their comments and reactions to your musings.

reflective journal task

Think back to when you were a student at school, college or university. Can you remember any
specific lessons? This is not an easy task but it is useful. Lesley, for example, distinctly remembers
a lesson from her elementary school days. Read about her lesson on the following page and
pay close attention to the final questions in her recount. Then, In your journal, think back to
a learning experience that you have had which has impacted your teaching. Break down the
experience and reflect on why it was important to you.

We recommend that you make a few notes after all lessons, maybe only write down one or two
things that occurred in your classroom that changed the direction of your lesson, presented an
obstacle, or were unexpected. Note down how you reacted to the incidents; try to hypothesize
why they occurred and consider what you might do differently with hindsight. Make journaling
about your in class experiences a habit.

portfolio task

Here are some definitions of reflective practice made by teachers-in-training. Which definition
aligns most closely to your view of reflective practice?

1. “Looking at what worked and what didn’t”

2. “Exploring and challenging instinctive reactions”
3. “Taking time to think about the reasoning behind what we do and do not do”
4. “Methodology must connect with practical application, reflective practice allows this to
5. “Reflective practice means we are not doing anything automatically.”
6. “Reflective practice is the ongoing willingness to learn from successes and failures.”
7. “It requires honesty and humility.”

Write your own definition of Reflective Practice to include in your portfolio.


“The memory of this lesson has remained with me

throughout my own teaching and has greatly influenced
me. It was a lesson about the Vikings. My class had just
completed a long project about marauding Vikings. We had
read about them, drawn pictures of them, and completed
worksheets about them. Sensing that we had probably had
enough of deskwork , my teacher took us outside onto the
school’s playing field. She told us to think about what we
had read and what the Vikings were really like. She told
us to think about how villagers felt when they saw Vikings
coming to takeover their villages. We divided into two
teams: villagers and Vikings and began to act out a village
being taken over by Vikings. We thought it was wonderful,
we screamed, shouted and ran about until we were
exhausted. When I look back at the lesson, I can discern a
few components that contribute to why it was and still is
important and ultimately very useful to me:

1) The teacher asked us to act. For young learners, it is

important to integrate kinesthetic activities into lessons so that they can
use their energy creatively and productively; not using this energy can
lead to not only boredom but also disruptive behavior. My teacher clearly
sensed that we needed a change of pace and more dynamic activities. I
still find it difficult to sit at a desk for long periods of time and consequently
in my lessons try to plan for stretch breaks (two minutes break of
standing and stretching).
2) Clearly, my teacher had ‘read’ her students and reflected on what
would be best for her students. She made a decision and acted on it.
(reflection in action).

The legacy of the Viking lesson questions:

1. Are the lessons that I am teaching memorable for my students?
2. Can I reflect in action?
3. Would I like to be taught by me?


• • classroom observation.
how to looK at • the key role of
a worK oF art • observation in teacher
learning communities
• education and teacher
teachers’ roles
“We all look at the • development.
teachers’ use of L2 in
same things, yet see • the value of pre and
different things.” post discussions with
the teacher who is
learning how to:
Claude Monet • being observed.
develop and value a
learning community
• plan lessons to cater
learning how to:
• recognize the
for different energy
We all have different ideas about art. These ideas can be the product usefulness of
levels and attention
of our own perspectives and our previous experiences with artistic observation tasks.
expression, and others may have been the product of the opinions of • • design an appropriate
use the white or
our teachers and parents. When we go to museums or observe a work observation task in
• order to aid a teacher’s
use the classroom
of art, we generally quickly dismiss it—if we don’t like it or understand
seating arrangements
it—or spend a long time contemplating it. The longer we contemplate it, • use observation tasks
to optimize learning.
the more we enjoy it and, perhaps the better we understand it. However, to direct teacher
we seldom stop to think why we like a specific piece of art and why we development.
dismiss others.
In general, our attitudes towards those pieces of art that we do not
like begin to change when we have the chance of having them explained
to us. It is then that we begin to perceive the nuances of the various lines
and colors, the meaning behind the shapes. This is because learning to
look requires that we develop a specific set of skills and an awareness
of the elements that compose the work of art. In other words, we need
guidance and knowledge to do more than glance at a piece of art and
make quick judgments about it.
Just as it happens with art, learning to look at what happens
during a lesson requires the skills and knowledge to notice events, make
observations, understand the complex dynamics of the lesson, as well as
the ability to respond effectively to these various simultaneous occurrences.
Observation is thus a key professional skill that we need to develop from
the start of our careers and preferably, in the company of our peers.
65 65


who for? what?

who with? Observation what types?

when? who?


What do you already know about observing teachers and learners?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about the observation of teachers and learners have

you heard your colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why are
they important/relevant?



Read the following comments from teachers in training about

their experience observing classes.

Teachers in training say…

• I saw myself grow as a teacher when I observed my colleagues.

• From every class I observe, I get something I can do in my own own
• I always get nervous when I am being observed, no matter what
the observer does to put me at ease.
• I have a cooperating teacher who tells me “Just sit back and
observe” but I do not know what to observe!
• I do a lot of observation in my teaching practice, but I never discuss
this information with anyone so, what is the use of observing?
• The best observation I participated in was during my teacher
preparation course. My supervisor met with me to discuss the
plan and based on that we agreed on areas for her to observe me.
After the class we took time to discuss what went right and what
went wrong.
• I love observing my colleagues and the school I work for insists
that we do that. There is so much I learn every time I go observe
others teach! And my colleagues feel the same when they come
and observe me.

Do you identify with these comments? Why? Why not?



One definition of observation states that it is “the action or process

of attentively and intentionally looking at something, things, a person or
people in order to gain information.”
Observation is arguably the richest and most powerful learning
tool for teacher development. It provides models of lessons and
examples of student and teacher behaviors, which can be analyzed,
detailed and compared. Sometimes what we observe validates our own
teaching, sometimes it confirms what we do, not what we want to do
in the classrooms and sometimes it provides models that we may want
to emulate.
By the time we arrive in our teacher education course, we are
expert observers of teaching and we have spent tens of thousands
of hours looking at good and bad teachers during the whole of our
schooling career. In fact, Lortie (1975) discovered that the tens of
thousands of hours spent observing teachers in our role as students
create an “apprenticeship of observation,” that is, our own definition
for good and bad teaching. This construct has relevant and powerful
influences on our development as teaching professionals as we tend
to define “good” and “bad” in terms of what helped us learn best,
and not necessarily, what might help our students learn best. Hence,
these preconceptions may constrain our repertoire of approaches to
teaching and pose the risk of limiting the impact of our teaching on our
students’ learning. Ironically, by engaging in professional observation
of teaching and learning, we can begin to counteract the negative
influences of this construct
Whatever the outcome of any observation, there are myriad
benefits and now with the advent of the Internet we can watch many
varied types of lessons with ease online. Possibly, this is not quite as
beneficial as being in the actual classroom but it is still beneficial.
Along with being able to observe models, activities, and
behaviors in class that we may or may not adopt in our own teaching,
observation helps us to engage with the lesson we are observing
from a participatory perspective. In other words, we can see lessons
through the eyes of our students, something which is difficult to do
when actually teaching. This means that we can observe how lesson


planning and teacher behavior impact student motivation and learning.

From these observations we can hypothesize why certain activities and
behaviors have the results that the teacher expected or why they did
not. Therefore, although the very word observation appears to imply
a passive activity of simply watching, the act of observation is in fact
highly active. It involves constantly processing what goes on in the
classroom, which is a complicated organism with a cast of characters,
a context and an array of materials and situations. Our ability to “read”
the classroom is fundamental to help develop our awareness of these
components and how they interact with one another develop not only
in someone else’s class but ultimately our own. Very often, when we
observe others, we are really looking at ourselves in the classroom.


Wanjryb (1992) described observation in initial teacher education as

akin to the Silent Period described by Burt, Dulay and Krashen (1982) “The development of
during which language learners are exposed to language but not the skills of observing
obliged to produce language. Similarly, observers are able to witness is integral to the
process of professional
what goes on in the classroom without the responsibility of having
decision-making in
to attend to teaching the lesson itself. This is important so that the
which teachers are
process of observing is unhindered so that teachers can fully witness constantly involved.”
and experience the lesson. Being in the classroom, in and of itself,
appears to be a fairly simple task. However, as mentioned previously, (Wajnryb, 1992,
p. 15)
it is a highly active process, involving many skills such as noticing,
recording, processing, analyzing and responding. In many ways,
we can claim that observation is both a skill and an art.


There are many situations that require observing or being

observed in the classroom. Each situation will bring with it various
motives for observation. For example, in our profession it is common
for practicum supervisors to observe student teachers and for student
teachers to observe their peers during their teacher education


classes. After graduating, we are exposed to an even greater variety

John Fanselow defines of observation: teachers observe their colleagues, Directors of Study
classroom observation observe classroom teachers on a regular basis and also, school owner
as essential because observe their faculty member.
it allows teachers to
In each case, the motivation and expectations for the observation
recognize unconscious
patterns in their differ. The practicum supervisor observes to help the teacher-in-
culture of instruction, training develop; colleagues teaching may observe each other as part
particularly in of a peer coaching scheme; the Director of Studies may observe in
what pertains order to ensure that the teacher is teaching in line with the ethos of the
unexamined practices school; and the school owner may observe to assess the teacher’s skills
and ingrained are in line with the expectations of the teacher’s contract.
assumptions about
Each observation scenario differs and each impacts the teacher
how talk and learning
being observed in a variety of ways, not all of which are positive. In this
take place.
chapter, we focus on observations for development purposes because
the focus of the book is on teacher learning and development.
Observations can create a lot of anxiety for the teacher being
Maingay (1988)
divides lesson observed, the students in the class and in some cases the person
observation into four observing. What can occur is what is known as the observer’s paradox
categories: – all of the participants in the observation, from the students to the
teacher teaching the lesson, do not act as they normally would. This
• observation for
potentially renders the whole experience of little use. Observer’s
• observation for paradox is more frequent in situations where observation is being used
development, to evaluate the teacher, as when a boss or director uses observation to
• observation for give teachers a grade or ranking, or to renew their contract. However,
assessment, and it is not uncommon also during teacher training. Eventually, we have
• observer to acknowledge that it will all depend on how the observation is
development. conducted, why the teacher is being observed and, most importantly,
what is being looked at. The more we get used to an “open door
policy” regarding our classroom, and the more frequently we engage in
collaborative observation practices the easier, and more authentic the
observations become.
Notice that the physical presence of a third party observer is
not the only situation when observer’s paradox may happen. Even
observations conducted via a camera can prompt it. In Chapter 2,
we recommended you film your lessons in order to counteract the
isolation typical of teaching. One of our colleagues engages in this
practice frequently. He puts a camera at the back of the class and films


himself teaching. He explains that students tend to “act” during the first
few classes, even turning around and looking at the camera. However,
after a few days, they stop doing so, as the camera becomes one more
normal element in the classroom.
Finally, a word of caution. Even when you are filming yourself,
make sure to request informed consent from the students (or the
students’ parents if they are minors). This is a fundamental ethical
requirement that cannot be overlooked. In order to obtain informed
consent, write down a short text where you explain:

• what you are going to film.

• why.
• when/for how long.
• how this may affect students.
• what you are going to do with the video once you have used it.
• how you are going to use the video.

Also, make sure that you give students the opportunity not to
appear on camera. Make arrangements for them to sit in a place out of
reach of the lens.
Throughout this book, we engage you in systematic observation of
teaching. Every chapter contains an observation task that helps ground
what we are discussing theoretically to the reality of the classroom.
Although in other chapters these observation tasks appear at the end,
since we are dealing with Observation here, we chose to include your
first observation task half way through the chapter. The idea is that you
carry out the task and then discuss it in class or in your reading group.

Observation task 1


Before we move on in this chapter, arrange to carry out two live observations.
• For the first observation, simply arrange with the teacher the time, the length of the
observation – we recommend roughly forty-five to sixty minutes of a lesson. Observe the
lesson and take notes on the lesson in general. For example:
- Did the students seem engaged?
- Did the teacher create a good rapport with students?


- Was the lesson effective?

You may want to use some of the observation tasks that appear in the PLUG IN at the end
of this chapter. Keep notes of your observation and bring them to class or to your reading

• For the second observation, meet the teacher that you are going to observe ahead of time.
If you do not already know the teacher well, introduce yourself, get to know him or her, find
out how long he or she has been teaching, why he or she became a teacher and make the
objective of your observation clear, i.e. that you would like to learn more about teaching and
feel that being in a live class is one of the best ways to do that. Talk to the teacher about
areas that he or she feels are strong areas of his or her teaching. Discuss areas that he or
she would like to work on. Ask the teacher what he or she would like you to focus on during
the observation, for example, the quantity and quality of teacher talking time (TTT) or how
instructions are given. Create a specific task to help you observe this area or use the ones
in the PLUG IN. Once you have observed, meet the teacher again to discuss the lesson and
the observation task findings. Ask how he or she feels the lesson went, whether or not it
went as expected, and if he or she would do anything differently. Again, keep notes of your
observation and bring them to class or to your reading group.

With your classmates or reading group colleagues discuss these


1. Were the experiences the same?

2. Did the attitudes of the teachers who were observed differ and
if so, how and why?
3. Do you think getting to know the teacher beforehand made a
difference to the observation?
4. Did the discussion after the observation help to understand the
class more comprehensively?
5. Which teacher’s class did you prefer why?
6. Did you think one teacher was better than the other? Why?

Usually, developing a relationship with the teacher before and after

the observation helps to not only relax the teacher being observed—
and thus alleviate the influence of the observer’s paradox—but it also
helps us to consider the whole picture which includes the teacher,
the plan, the instructional decision-making process behind the plan
(reflection-on-action), and the rationale for certain decisions made
during the lesson (reflection-in-action).


As we have seen, all teaching is about making decisions, either

prior to the lesson, at the planning stage, or once we are in the classroom
interacting with our students. Knowing why we do what we do in class
is the point at which our experiences, beliefs, intuitions and theory meet
practice. The analysis of these crucial crossroads is where professional
development occurs. As we observe what happens in a class, we
witness specific decisions being made, we can assess the outcome of
those decisions through the actions we witness. Similarly, we are able
to assess the influence those decisions had on the development of
the overall lesson and, more importantly, the impact they had on the
students’ learning. It is here that we can evaluate actions that we may
choose to adopt, discard or adapt to our own teaching. The process of
observing is as beneficial, if not more so, for the observer as it is for
the teacher being observed. We can decide an action was productive
and use it in our own lessons (adopt), we can decide not to use an idea
(discard) or we can take an idea and modify it for our own contexts
and student needs (adapt).

Read the following teacher’s observation report of her colleague. Is she going to adopt, adapt or
discard what she observed?

I knew that in my own lessons, I needed less material, with the goal of more learning and
fewer activities crammed into lessons. I was fortunate to observe a colleague, who embodies
this principle of less is more. There was part of me that thought “Less is More” is fine if you
are teaching in a program without grades, but impossible in an academic context with high
expectations from students and administrators. However, my colleague follows this philosophy
in her academic classes. Her teaching method is to focus on one or two sets of questions and
answers that she drills for accuracy and mastery before students move on to freer use. I saw
students allowed the time to absorb the language form, explore its meaning, and practice its use.
By the end of the class, I saw students using the language, and even catching and correcting their
own mistakes. In turn, I now use a similar technique when introducing a new grammar unit. I no
longer feel pressured to teach every example from the text or every exception to the rule.
Amy Tate

Not only is it important to see how the observation impacted Amy

but also to realize that Amy ‘noticed’ specific events in the classroom.
What were they? The lesson content, the movement in the lesson from
a focus on accuracy to a focus on fluency; she witnessed time given; she
saw students using the language and students correcting themselves.


Amy noticed a great deal that was aligned with an area that she felt
was her own area of weakness: cramming lessons with materials and
Productive observation is often most useful when we are observing
one specific area. This could mean observing an area that you feel is a
weakness, it could mean observing something that you want to learn
more about, or it could mean observing specific issues that the teacher
would like to have observed. This means either using a predesigned
observation task or creating your own. For example, the observation
tasks that appear in the PLUG IN for this chapter are some of the tasks
that we have created to work with our teacher learners. We call this
kind of observation that is guided by a concrete task and focused on
a particular area a directed observation. Over the course of a learning
teaching program, each directed observation task can focus on a
specific area and, along a sequence of observations, each one will build
incrementally on the previous ones.

Observation task 2


Now that we have seen the impact that observing can have on our own teaching, let’s observe
another lesson. This time, arrange to observe a regular lesson taught by a colleague or
cooperating teacher with the objective of:
• witnessing something in the teacher’s lesson that you like and will use in your own teaching,
• witnessing something you will not use in your own teaching
• witnessing something that you like but need to adapt for your own teaching context.
In each case, consider your rationale behind each of your choices, and write up your answers. Re-
read your notes taken during the first observation task in this chapter, and reflect on the process
you needed to go through in order to make your choices.


Contact a colleague and arrange to go into his/her classroom.
1. Meet the teacher prior to the lesson and discuss with him/her how he/she feels about her/his own
teaching. Ask him/her to identify something that she/he would like you, as an observer, to focus on.
Note that this is an extremely important part for ‘framing’ observation. Ensure that the conversation
is clearly directed and gives you a clear understanding of what the teacher would like you to ‘see’.
2. Based on the contents of the discussion, design an observation task, which focuses on the aspect
of teaching that the teacher talked about.
3. Observe the lesson and complete your task.
4. Organize a post-lesson feedback session with the teacher during which you provide feedback - use
your observation task as a guide for the discussion.

One of the most useful ways in which we can support

our own development is to film or record our classes.
It may feel uncomfortable at first but as one Summary and
teacher told us, “once you have watched your conclusions: Pre-
your observation
film three times, you remove your inhibitions
takeaways conference
and see the film for what it is, a means to
view yourself, your motives, and hone your
Whether we are observing ourselves, Lesson
or others, we generally engage in a series observation
/ Data
of actions that form part of what we can call conference
an observation cycle. Figure 3.1 presents
our own version of the observation cycle we
involve our student teachers in. Notice how and Analysis
this observation cycle is also supported by the
reflective practice cycle we discussed in the previous Figure 3.1 – The observation cycle

Before you continue reading think: How does this description of the cycle above reflect your own
experience of observation so far?


We consider that all stages in this cycle are fundamental in order

to make observation truly effective. Over the years, we have developed
specific ways of working with the stages of the cycle, and what we
share here is but one version of the many versions you may hear
teachers use to describe it. However, notice that our implementation of
the cycle is aligned with how we propose you plan your lessons, assess
your students and develop professionally. You will read more about this
in further chapters.


We start with a conversation with the person to be observed in order

to get a good idea not only of what it is that we are going to observe, but
also to gain enough background about the lesson so that we do not make
the mistake of working from our own assumptions (e.g. the apprenticeship
of observation) but from the actual needs of students and teachers.

The pre-observation conference

When we are working with beginning teachers or teachers-
in-training, we like to use a “map” that guides our pre-observation
conference. This series of steps is shared with the colleague we are going
to observe and includes five distinct steps (Diaz Maggioli, 2012), each
oriented toward gaining a deeper insight on the lesson we are going to
observe. As you move on in this book, you are going to see how these
five steps target a particular “habit of mind” that we believe permeates
all teaching action.

1. Start with the end in mind – we always start by discussing what the
learning objectives for the lesson are. These learning objectives,
couched in terms of student outcomes, will be the ones we will
use to assess the effectiveness of the lesson.
2. Specify success indicators – discuss how you and/or the person
observed will know that the learning objectives have been attained.
3. Anticipate approaches – Ask the person to be observed to “walk”
you through their lesson. Ask questions if there are things you


do not understand. We have found that this step acts as a mental

rehearsal of the lesson and helps both observed and observer
gain clarity about (and even propose some changes to) the
original lesson plan.
4. Establish a personal learning focus – tell the person to be observed
what you want to learn from observing the class. Make sure
to ask them whether they want you to observe anything in
5. Evaluate the process – we like to end the pre-observation conference
by evaluating how this particular stage of the observation cycle
has helped us prepare for a more focused observation. Make sure
you take notes of what you discuss in this step as it will be useful
during the post-observation conference.

The actual observation

The next step in the cycle involves the actual observation of the
lesson and the gathering of data. Our proposal for a kind of observation
that is directed, rather than improvised in the spur-of-the-moment entails
the creation of an instrument ahead of time to guide what is observed.
This data-gathering instrument need not be a complex tool. Some
observers use standardized observation forms, others use checklists, and
still others take “ethnographic” notes (i.e. they write down everything
that you see happening). Along the book, we have incorporated various
tools for directed observation that you will use and be able to adapt for
your own professional development in the future.

Reflection and analysis

After the lesson is over and before engaging in the post-observation
conference, it is useful to take some time individually to reflect about the
lesson. Here the person who has been observed may use the observation
task or instrument to analyze what, in his or her view went well and what
did not, while we do the same.

The post-observation conference

The post-observation conference is another crucial conversation
from which we can derive highly relevant learning. Again, we suggest
the following steps, inspired by the work of Costa and Garmston (1994).


These authors suggest that the post-observation conference is a crucial

learning moment in any observation cycle and posit that it can be best
undertaken if the observer works as a cognitive coach and using the
agenda of the teacher observed. They propose five distinct steps in any
post-observation conference:

1. Summarize your impressions of the lesson – the first step involves

both parties in presenting to each other their overall impression
on how the lesson evolved and worked. The idea here is to
provide a space that would help both parties synchronize their
views about what has just happened and prepare for further
discussion. We recommend that the observer and observed
spend some time discussing both: what worked and what
didn’t work.
2. Analyze the causal factors that contributed to success and problems –
we saw before that a lesson observed is a structured event where
many things can happen. A second step in the post-observation
conference has the two colleagues explore why things worked
or did not work, i.e. what caused the successes and the learning
opportunities in that particular lesson.
3. Co-construct new learning about teaching – the next step involves
working out, together, what has been learned from analyzing the
causal factors of the positive and negative aspects of the lesson.
This is a true learning moment for both the observer and the
observed. Think about the various motives for observation we
discussed in this chapter and how this particular moment can
act as a catalyst for new learning for all the roles we discussed.
4. Commit to applying the new learning – one of the reasons why
we observe experienced teachers is so that we can eventually
do the same in our own classrooms. The chance of working
with a more experienced colleague discussing new learning
stemming from the observation also acts as a preparation for
the application of that learning. We must come up with a clear,
intentional plan of application of the new learning so that
transfer of new teaching knowledge and skills can occur, first-


Summary and conclusions

5. Evaluate the process – the last step in Costa and Garmston’s model
invites observer and observed to assess the usefulness of their
engagement in the post-observation conference. We like to
shift and extend the focus that these authors provide to actually
summarizing what has been learned as a result of the interaction,
together with an effort to disclose the different takeaways we
have from having participated in the observation cycle.


The issue of what we are looking for in a teacher and why we feel a
teacher is ‘good’ is similar to an iceberg: on the surface there is a possible
quick answer such as he or she had a good rapport with the class, and
we can conclude this because we saw it. However, the more we think
about it the more complicated and interconnected the answer grows.
The answer may be different for each one of us due to our own culture,
our own educational experiences, our learning preferences as well as
what we believe is effective (or “works”) in a classroom. For example,
if you have had a negative learning experience due to a harsh teacher,
you might look more closely at the rapport in the classroom than at
how effectively the teacher conveys meaning or, if you enjoy teaching
grammar, you might focus on the teacher’s language awareness during
observation. All of these issues are relevant to the establishment of a
good rapport with students. Now, a lot of emphasis in teacher training
courses is placed on teacher competencies. You may have already been
observed by a supervisor. Perhaps the supervisor had a check-off list
of competencies that he or she was looking for, such as how you give
instructions or how you provide feedback to learners. A competency is
synonymous with an ability or skill.
If you were observing a teacher, what competencies would you
be looking for? In other words, what abilities does a teacher need to
possess in order to be able to teach effectively? Brainstorm what a
teacher needs to know or be able to do and make a list. Then, compare
your list to our own:


About the students

• help to facilitate the development of a learning community.
• develop a rapport with all students.
• notice and cater for students’ needs.
• create a safe learning environment.

About language and language learning

• convey and check the meaning of the language being taught
• anticipate students’ difficulties with the language
• identify tasks to practice language
• have an awareness of phonological difficulties students may have and a
range of techniques to deal with difficulties

About teaching
• grade language, explain tasks, question students
• develop a learner centered class
• transition from one task to another
• maintain a well-paced lesson

About planning
• plan a lesson which facilitates learning
• construct a board plan that efficiently and exactly records vital parts of
the lesson that students need
• ensure that the rationale behind tasks is clear and logical
• be able to adapt the lesson plan to fit learners’ ability and needs
• plan a series of lessons that fit together coherently

One problem with competencies is that the list can grow to super
human lengths and cannot account for the immeasurable ‘je ne sais quoi’
– some teachers are simply ‘wonderful’ (for want of a more scientific
word) and it is not because of one single factor but multiple that are
interrelated and often rooted in the teacher’s innate ability to meet the
students not only on their level but as individuals.
Having the chance to observe others and to observe ourselves is
one way in which we can begin to understand the complexity of teaching
as it relates to learning. Above and beyond competencies, directed
observation opens us a door into professional thinking and decision-
making that, in turn helps us learn as we develop our own, engage
in substantive dialog about teaching and learning with colleagues and
reflect on how our actions impact our students’ learning as well as their
motivations and potential.
The following table inspired by the work of Richards and Farrell
(2011, p. 103) effectively summarizes the main points made in this chapter:


The nature of the Observation acts as a catalyst for professional learning. It is an

classroom observation opportunity to see good (and bad) teaching modeled.

Observation can have different purposes: it can be a tool for

The purposes of
student teacher learning, a tool for professional development, a
classroom observation
tool for teacher evaluation and a tool for observer development.

Observation can be live or by means of audio or video recording.

The means of
The most effective kind of observation is directed by an observation
classroom observation
task that guides the observer on what to look for.

What is observed needs to be negotiated between the observer and

The scope of
the person observed and may include aspects related to teaching,
classroom observation
learning, classroom management, students or lesson planning.
Observation works best, and contributes to reflective teacher
learning when certain steps are followed: a pre-observation
The cycle of classroom
conference, a purposeful observation task, time set aside for
analysis after observation, a post-observation conference and the
opportunity to summarize conclusions and derive takeaways.

Table 3.1 – The many dimensions of classroom observation


In this third chapter, we have looked inside the language classroom

in a purposeful, directed way. We explored how the practice of
systematic observation can contribute to our professional development.
We also explored how these observations should be carried out: there
should be a clear focus for the observation, there should be preparation
for the observation (in the form of an observation task) and observed
and observed should discuss the lesson before engaging in observation.
Lastly, it is important that both observer and observed take some time
to reflect on the experience so that new learning can be co-constructed
and, more importantly, they should commit to the application of that new
learning. When observation is done in this principled way, it enhances
professional awareness and reflection and becomes a tool for teacher
empowerment at both the pre-service and in-service levels.


ChaPteR wRaP-uP

What is the most important What lingering questions What steps will you take
learning you have derived about observation do you to find answers to these
from this chapter? still have? questions?

Reflective journal task

Interview a few teachers you know (try to interview at least five). Ask them to tell you about their
experience of being observed teaching for the first time. In your journal, reflect:
• What do the stories have in common?
• What aspects do the different teachers focus on?
• How would you assess their experiences?
• How do their experiences resonate with you?
If you have already been observed, then compare and contrast their stories with yours. If you have
not been observed yet, then think about how that first observation might affect you. How can you
prepare yourself for it?

Portfolio task why?

1. Write your “observation platform” to be who for? what?

included in the portfolio. Try to answer all
the questions in this graphic organizer:

who with? Observation what types?

2. Use the notes you have gathered during
the observation tasks in this chapter to
inform your writing.
when? who?


observing the teacher: task a observing learners: task 1
Before entering the classroom, ask the teacher Draw a layout plan of the classroom and indicate where
to tell you about the objectives for today’s class. learners are sitting. Stop to watch the interaction among
Write them down as literally as possible. Are they learners for five minutes of the class. Who speaks to
language objectives or content objectives? Watch whom? Who interacts with whom? What about?
the class. How truthfully were objectives met? Reflect
Reflect Were the interactions in your school classroom similar
What aspects of the language does this teacher to these when you were a learner? What has changed?
emphasize through his/her actual teaching? What has remained the same?

observing the teacher: task b observing learners: task 2

Copy everything the teacher writes on the board Sometimes, conflicts come up in the classroom. If you
exactly as he/she does it. If the teacher erases the witness a conflict while you’re observing make a note of:
board and writes on it again, continue copying » what the incident was about.
Reflect » what caused the incident.
How does this teacher use the board? As a » who was involved (Describe each person and each
notepad or as a learning aid? person’s position in full).
» what the teacher did.
» what learners did.
observing the teacher: task C
Each teacher adopts many roles in the classroom. How much of the conflict was created by factors inside
Write what the teacher does next to each role the classroom? How did factors from outside the
• Manager: _________________________________ classroom interfere?
• Explainer: _________________________________
• Information giver: __________________________ observing learners: task 3
• Facilitator: ________________________________ One key element in learning is that learners should stay
• Instructor: _________________________________ “on task.” Make a layout plan of the classroom and
observe a section attentively for about five minutes.
• Other: ____________________________________ Indicate those learners who stay on task and those whose
Reflect attention seems to drift away.
Which of these roles are the most frequent in your Reflect
class? Which new teacher roles have you discovered? What caused these learners’ attention to drift away? Did
the teacher manage to get them on task again? What
observing the teacher: task D did the teacher do about learners who were not on task?
Something old, something borrowed, something new…
Think back to all that you have observed so far. AN IN-DEPTH LOOk AT A LESSON
Make a three-column table and label the columns:
Bring your cellphone to class and tell the teacher
OLD, BORROWED, NEW. In each column write you would like to record some minutes of the lesson.
ideas you have collected during observations. Old: Remember that allowing you to record is the teacher’s
techniques or materials you are familiar with (e.g. prerogative so, be prepared for the teacher to decline.
drills); BORROWED: something this teacher did that Focus on a moment the teacher is explaining or
you would like to use in your teaching (it may be new presenting something and interacting with the students.
or old); NEW: what is the most innovative thing you Take the recording home and transcribe it. Create a word
saw in your observations? document where you write exactly what was said and by
whom. Use synonyms to protect the anonymity of the
people involved. Next, use the transcript to reflect about
How did learners react to each of the ideas you
the issues we have discussed in this chapter.
have collected?


managing our
• • classroom
• • learning communities.
learning communities
• • teachers’ roles.
teachers’ roles
• • teachers’ use of L2 in
teachers’ use of L2 in

learninghow howto:to:
• • develop and value a
develop and value a
learning community.
learning community
• • plan lessons to cater
plan lessons to cater
for different energy
for different energy
levels and attention
levels and attention
• • use the white or
use the white or
A teacher trainer once asked a group of teachers-in-training to
Xxxxx blackboard.
• • use the classroom
use the classroom
keep ten balloons up in the air without letting any drop to the ground.
seating arrangements
seating arrangements
The group kept the balloons in the air, by hitting them high, watching to optimize learning.
to optimize learning.
them constantly to ensure balloons were not nearing the ground,
checking the action of the other members of the group and, all the
time, trying not to fall over each other. They continued until they were
exhausted. The teacher trainer then asked what they thought this
represented in teaching. It was not long before the group reached the
conclusion that the task was an analogy for the constant classroom
juggling that is classroom management.
In both cases, decisions have to be made rapidly, actions taken
swiftly and there are multiple variables, which impact the decision-
making process. Lampert and Ball described this as the ability to “make
reasoned judgments in the context of action” (Lampert & Ball,1998: 29)
Decisions include:
• Should I stop this activity or let it run longer?
• Should that student sit next to that student?
• What should the group that has finished the activity early do?
• This material is more difficult for the students than I thought,
what shall do?
85 85
THE cHaPTEr aT a gLancE

a learning

for the


Managing teacher
discipline talk


What do you already know about classroom management?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about classroom management have you heard your

colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why are they important/


sTarTing ouT

Teachers say…

• I always have a difficult time keeping students on task. No matter matter

how hard I try, they always misbehave.
• To me, keeping discipline in the classroom is second nature. I
never had issues with keeping students quiet.
• I tend to speak rather slowly because I teach Beginners, and these
students need comprehensible input.
• I plan many different short activities so as to keep my students
• It is important that students feel that I respect them and that I take
them into account at all times. For example, I use the information
in the needs analysis I give at the beginning of the course to plan
it around topics of their interest.

Students say…

• We always misbehave in class and the teacher does nothing to

stop us.
• I like lessons that are simple, not those when there are 100
activities. I can never concentrate.
• I want to learn English that I can use to communicate with others.
I am sick and tired of lessons about football and music.
• My teacher speaks in English throughout the lesson and she
speaks really fast. It is difficult o understand her.
• My teacher is very disorganized. She gives instructions but we
never know what we have to do!


How would you respond to these teachers’ and students’ ideas?


The overarching aim of our teaching is to ensure that lessons run

smoothly, activities work, instructions are clear, lessons are cohesive
and ultimately that the whole process facilitates our students’ learning.
To this end, we have to consider the materials, learners, space, time,
and learning objectives we choose, and how each one impacts and
interacts with the others.
All these considerations that we make before facing a class are
described as reflection on action (Schön, 1984). In this chapter we
are looking at reflection in action (Schön, op.cit.). Each component
of a lesson presents challenges although, ideally, all should as much
as possible harmonize in order to ensure that lessons and students’
progress. However, we will have to make important decisions as we
teach, since the unexpected can always surprise us.
To get us started, consider all of the moving parts of lessons (the
balloons we have to juggle!):

The Lesson Plan

Activity types, activity execution, lesson pattern, materials, pace.
Seating and desk arrangement, whiteboard/blackboard use, use
of space, posters, charts, classroom decoration.
Students’ Actions
Interaction patterns, movement, timing in class, pacing, students
roles in activities.
Teachers’ Actions
Roles, monitoring, instructions, routines, questions, stance,
positioning, eye contact.


Teacher Language
Type, pitch, loudness, level, amount

Classroom management is complicated. At any one time, there

are numerous things happening during lessons. Each group of students
is diverse, reacting and interacting with materials and one another
slightly in different ways. Beware of the teacher who says ‘all students
like to do this’ or ‘this always work’! because the reality is that teaching
is ever-changing with few constants.


When we enter a classroom, we enter a relationship with a group

of individuals who have the shared goal of improving their English
ability. Our relationship with them is founded on trust and there is an
implicit understanding that the classroom space is safe, supportive
and nonjudgmental. One of the most difficult tasks we face as
teachers is cultivating that relationship so that all the individuals unite
to become a strong, secure learning community where every member


enjoys being a part of the group and realizes the benefit of his or
“Collaboration is her membership. The South African word: ‘Ubuntu’ (which roughly
the cornerstone of means, if one succeeds, we all succeed) is both a useful and powerful
the educational ideal to keep in mind when considering and facilitating the growth of
any learning community. In many ways, fostering the development of
Palloff and Pratt and sustaining a learning community is like weaving each strand of
yarn that is drawn over and under other strands of yarn that in order
to create something beautiful and functional – more beautiful and
more functional than any one strand of yarn is on its own. It takes
time. The strands have to fit together. There has to be a sense of the
wholeness and not only recognition of each individual. But why is this
Most vitally because union supports and encourages all the requisite
“What children can components of language learning: experimenting, communicating,
do with the assistance making mistakes, learning from mistakes, collaborating, co-constructing
of others might be knowledge and so forth. Entering a language learning environment is not
in some sense more easy, for many students it reminds them of previous failures, previous
indicative of their hours wasted sitting at an uncomfortable desk, or humiliations. The idea
mental development,
of a community is that these past memories are replaced with a shared
than what they can
do alone.” goal. This puts forward the construct of an enmeshed view of learning,
that is supported and co-constructed with peers and teachers together
Vygotsky or socially.
Many studies on learning communities and collaborative work,
including pair work, have shown that learners are able to provide each
other with foreign/second language input, as well as opportunities for
interaction. Because they work together, students do not necessarily
produce more errors than when they are interacting with the teacher,
and they can also provide each other with feedback on errors in the
form of clarification requests and negotiation for meaning. In short, it
appears that learners benefit from the opportunity of more one-to-one
conversation rather than when they work in a teacher-centered, whole
class environment (Gass and Varonis 1994; Long and Porter 1985; Pica
1987; Yule and MacDonald 1990, Lightbown 2000). In other words, we
should heed the old adage that “Two heads are better than one.”
The teacher’s role is thus pivotal as the initial model, facilitator
and guide for the students to follow and understand how the learning
community works. The teacher’s voice, attitude, and overall skill in


class management set the precedent for expected classroom behaviors

and need to be considered carefully prior to lessons, accordingly. From
these prompts and supports the learning community can and will
develop. Simple routine phrases used by the teacher such as:

“Share the wealth”

“If you care, you share”

“Can we share our

help illustrate and instill a collaborative environment, which fosters

communal worth as well as individual worth. This brings us to the
main challenge of any group: to reach each student as an individual
while simultaneously realizing the worth of the individual within the
community. It takes time, awareness of the students and investment in
the class. Once teacher investment is evident, it is easier for students to
invest in the class and trust the learning community.



Within any learning community there is a cast of characters who may be

very different from one another, have different personalities, and have
different needs, styles and motivations for learning. Some students are
shy and some more gregarious; some are more compliant in lessons
while others have lots of questions. One teacher in training called these
students “’Yes, but….’ Students” meaning they questioned everything
in class. This is not necessarily problematic but it is something to be
aware of. Taking notes on your students is useful and, in some cases
vital, in order to keep up with the various ‘happenings’ in the class: from
rising frustration, to successes, to long working hours and so forth. The
community is constantly shifting: someone loses a job, someone gains
one, a child is born and someone has a birthday. In any one term, there
are many moments to be aware of, to commiserate, sympathize, and
celebrate. In other words, your students are people and your class an
organism. Throughout the term, we note down the following about our
students in order to remember important things about each person:

Work/school – it is useful to know our students’ work/school hours.

This may help you to recognize why students look tired or are not as
enthusiastic in certain lessons as you had hoped. it may also give you an
idea of how much outside work (homework) you can assign and what type
or give you an idea for a ‘warmer’ to set, which will energize the students –
possibly something fun. We will talk about ‘warmers’ later in the book.

Birthday – for most of us, especially younger learners, this is our very own
special day. We want to have it recognized in some way. some teachers
have small paper crowns for the birthday boys and girls and other teachers
prepare a small card for each student to write a message in to deliver, even
if the day of classes is not the actual birthday. This is a wonderful way of
illustrating teacher and student investment in the community.

Family – Younger learners usually enjoy telling teachers about their

families, whatever their family looks like. as we always say: What’s the best
type of family? The one you have got! You may want the younger learners
to draw a family portrait, add names and include pets. Equally adults may
want to share photos of their families, and see your photos.


Likes/dislikes – if you know that the students like movies, you may ask
them for a recommendation every so often or ask which movie theatre
is best to go to nearest the school. if they like certain events, you may
cut our stories from newspapers or print them off the internet to give to
the specific student to read. The key is not to give everyone the same
news articles because this negates the individual who you are trying to
recognize. You may also note down likes, dislikes in terms of English
study: for example, looked uncomfortable working with his partner during
a writing activity or did not like talking about families etc. maintaining
motivation is tough in a language class, knowing what makes students feel
uncomfortable is useful. it does not mean that you will entirely avoid the
areas but it may mean that you will discuss this with the student privately
in order to help or plan the activity differently for a better result.

It is difficult to gather all of this information in one lesson but over

time, a detailed picture of each student can be drawn. Alternatively, you
can create a needs analysis survey to give students on the first day of
class. This type of interest and investment on the learners as individuals,
as well as a group, will help to motivate them and foster a solid rapport.
It will also help to make connections between the students, for example
who likes similar things, whose family size is similar and so forth. These
connections should help to forge relationships that are strong enough to
endure the many challenges of learning a language, where one’s unique
differences are essential. Acceptance and tolerance are two key traits of
a community, which accommodate differences. The overt introduction
of friendship and collegiality into the classroom is one way to help the
group storm and then norm. Look at the following activity for young

Friendship Muffins
Procedure for the Activity:
1. Brainstorm with your class on a word map what friendship is and how we make friends.
2. Tell the class to think about what ingredients go into making friends and tell them that you are
going to make them into muffins: friendship muffins.
3. Put the students into groups of threes to create a friendship recipe.
4. Each group can share with their classmates the recipe. Possibly ask them to write their recipes
on large sheets of paper that they pin to the classroom walls.

ask all of the students to walk around the class reading each other’s recipes


Consider what the benefits of this activity are and how you might
end it. What could the students do to build on the ‘friendship’ idea- what
theme could they continue to explore in another lesson?
Also, consider other traits that a community has: respect, kindness,
helpfulness and so forth. Not only is this a wonderfully rich lexical set to
introduce to a class but it also illustrates expected behaviors. We once
observed a teacher who felt that to encourage respect in the classroom
was the most important trait of her community. She created a routine
called ‘Catching Compliments.’ On the wall, she put a table with all of her
students’ names’ on it, when she heard or saw one student help another
without being asked to, she put a star next to the name. At the end of
every two weeks, she asked the students to help her count who had the
most stars. The ‘winner’ was given a round of applause and a small prize.
We will talk about routines a little later but for now, reflect on how useful
this routine is for younger learners.
In an adult classroom, the introduction of collegiality may be less
overt but of equal importance as in the younger learner classroom. Look
at the following activity for adult learners:

Three Things in Common

Procedure for the Activity:

1. ask the students to mingle with their classmates and try to find three other students that they
have at least one thing in common with.
2. Tell the student that they will need to ask and answer many questions and should try to speak to
3. once the group has mingled for a while, ask them for feedback about the similarities that they
found with the rest of the class.

Again, consider what the rationale behind this activity is. How
might you build on this activity and possibly repeat this activity at a later
point in the term? We often observe teachers doing ‘getting to know
you’ activities at the beginning of the term only but in fact, these types
of activities are needed throughout the term. Sometimes because the
group begins to get tired or routinized with one another, for example
always working with the same person, or because a new student joins
the class, they need a refresher and, in the process, they can learn more
about one another.


Both the “Friendship Muffin” activity and the “Three Things in

Common” activity, not only help students to get to know each other
but also convene the idea of how the students are going to be actively
involved in lessons- in the case of these activities in groups with minimal
guidance from the teacher. This lays the foundation of active learning as
opposed to passive learning and that the teacher’s role can be that of a
facilitator only.
Earlier, we asked you to think how you might expand on each of the
activities. Here are some of our suggestions:
• One idea would be to engage students in a discussion at the end
of the activities about everyone’s roles including the teacher’s. This
should underscore the value of student driven, collaborative work.
• A teacher may want to discuss the development of the learning
community for example by asking: “Why do we need to think about
friendship in class?” as in the case of the friendship muffin activity.
Or, “Why do we need to get to know one another?” in the case of
the second activity.
Consider other ways you set about introducing the students to
one another, initiating bonds and ensuring that everyone in class knows
each other’s names. Possibly discuss them with a colleague and research

can you find an activity that you would like to adapt for your classroom? Try it out.
Here is an example to get you started: an old, faithful activity is ‘Find someone who…’.
This is a very traditional idea but it is also very effective.
Find someone who……
1. Likes chocolate.
2. Likes to cook.
3. …
usually this activity is conducted by giving students a copy of unfinished sentences and asking them to
mingle in class, asking each other whether they like different things. The rationale behind the activity is
for students to familiarize themselves with one another. However, there are a few other key elements to
ensuring this happens: Why do students need to mingle (walk around)? if you asked students do this task
in pairs, do you think it would be as effective as conducting it as a mingle activity? Where is the teacher
and what is the teacher doing during this activity? How would you extend this activity?


Let’s go back to the idea of a safe environment for a moment.

Walking into a language classroom can be not only intimidating but also
scary for some students. Often, students do not know anyone else in
class or what to expect. They feel nervous and subconsciously have their
defenses up. Stephen Krashen (1985) introduced the idea of the Affective
Filter Hypothesis. He wrote that the following variables impact learning
either positively or negatively:

(1) Motivation. Performers with high motivation generally do better

in second language acquisition.
(2) Self-confidence. Performers with self-confidence and a good self-
image tend to do better in second language acquisition.
(3) Anxiety. Low anxiety appears to be conducive to second
language acquisition, whether measured as personal or classroom
anxiety (Krashen: 1982).

He argued that these contribute to what he called the affective filter.

This filter is lowered when students feel highly motivated, have a strong
sense of self and are not anxious. If, however, students feel anxious, have
low self-esteem or are not motivated, their affective filters are raised. Our
aim is to try to provide the optimal conditions for learning; therefore,
encouraging, motivating and supporting learners in ways that will
minimize or altogether eliminate, any potential threats to the learners.

consider for a moment the worst learning experience that you have ever had. What made it
difficult? note some of you thoughts down.

There is a strong possibility that you felt embarrassed or intimidated and isolated from the other
students in the class. Try to identify what contributed to your feelings and how the situation could
have been rectified. How did the teacher contribute to your feelings? as we mentioned in the
previous chapter: we learn an immense amount from observing other teachers – we can use good
and bad experiences for our own development.



Age plays a significant role in how teachers deal with students.

A classroom of adult learners is not managed in the same way as a
classroom of young learners. Consider how each of the following may
differ for a class of 10-year-old Young Learners and a class of Adult

• Attention span
• Metacognitive engagement
• Activities and tasks
• Motivation
• Behavioral issues
• Teacher roles

Two concrete differences between the two age groups are that
young learners’ activities usually take a lot less time than activities in an
adult learners’ class; therefore, a lesson for young learners has to have
more planned activities per period. This in turn means more transitions
and more organization for the teacher. Additionally, young learners’
lessons themselves, in terms of time duration, are usually shorter that
lessons for adults (for example 40-45 minutes, as opposed to 90 or 120
minutes). In part, this is because young learners’ attention spans are
shorter than adults’ attention spans.
Trying to keep little ones at their desks for a full lesson is a trying
experience for all, not least for the teacher. To accommodate this
younger learner trait each lesson needs to incorporate a variety of task
types, from “sit-down” tasks, to “moving tasks;” from “quiet” tasks to
“make noise” tasks. In other words, the classroom needs to be fluid and
the space adaptable; for example, the seating area may need to turn
into a bus to allow students to ride along looking at amazing animals as
they travel through the African savannah.
Many teachers organize their classrooms into specific ‘areas’
such as reading spaces or areas for circle time so that each space is
appropriate for certain tasks or activities. This organization helps to
focus young learners and expend their energy as needed for each task.
Additionally, young learners tend to need more game-type activities


to motivate them, inject fun and release energy. Their motivation is

extrinsic, usually driven by their parents and passing grades, games
sprinkled in lessons help to keep students focused and are indeed an
integral part of how young learners learn. One teacher told us, he found
that when he moved to South Korea, what he needed the most was a
copious list of games with instructions, not a grammar reference book.
Maria Montessori once wrote that “Play is the work of the child.” Play
is a critical component of children’s healthy development. However, we
should bear in mind that play must have the following characteristics
to be effective:
“[Play] is voluntary, enjoyable, purposeful and spontaneous.
Creativity is expanded using problem solving skills, social skills,
language skills and physical skills. It helps expand on new ideas. It
helps the child to adapt socially. It helps to thwart emotional problems”
(Montessori, n/d)
The last characteristic speaks to another important difference
between adults and young learners: children in your lessons are
developing emotionally, whereas adults may be fully developed in that
respect. Therefore, while in the classroom, children are feeling out
boundaries, finding themselves as individuals, and adjusting to their
own developing maturity. For young children, this may mean tears
in the classroom when something becomes difficult or seems unjust
(many things seem unjust to them). For adolescents this may mean
that they withdraw from activities and easily become frustrated with
speaking a language that feels divorced from their reality.
From these examples we can see that the classroom presents a
rough terrain for teachers to traverse which means not only considering
how to organize learning and the learners but also, how to take their
evolving and ever-changing emotional needs into consideration.

so far in this chapter we have covered many key concepts:



Find these words in the text above and reflect on what they mean to you.
Think of concrete instances of these concepts in your own classes when teaching or as a student.



In previous chapters, we saw that during any lesson, teachers

need to perform many different roles. We adopt a different role each
time we perform a new teaching task, from writing on the board to
explain something, to monitoring students’ work in groups.
Scrivener (2007) listed the following roles that teachers perform
in class:

Facilitator Teacher Mediator Organizer Monitor

One can easily see this as wearing many hats in the classroom
at various points in the lesson to ensure that students are supported
when necessary. A traditional view of teaching would suppose that
the teacher is a teacher and knows more than the students therefore,
the teacher gives out information or downloads information into
students’ heads. Freire (1973) described this as the ‘banking concept’
Banking concept
of education, in which teachers deposit information into the passive of Education
students in front of them.
There are other metaphors that we use in our profession to describe
this situation: “mug and jug,” or “chalk and talk” type of teaching, for
example. In these metaphors, the students are the mugs waiting to
be filled and the teachers are the jugs. However, what we know is that
students do not enter our classrooms as a tabula rasa and do not or
rather should not passively receive information but rather have an
active engagement in the learning process, receiving and synthesizing
information using their own frames of reference. One teacher made the
following observation:
“Often students are able to draw on their past or present life
experiences to make connections to things we are studying in class.“
Therefore, the roles that a teacher takes are not only standing in front
of the class but walking around the classroom as students work,
supporting language experimentation, guiding students’ own discovery
and generally, empowering students.


consider what the most appropriate teacher role is for each of the following activities. note that there
may be more than one role:
• role play
• Find someone who activity
• grammar explanation
• repetition activity (drill)
in each activity, the students need a variety of teacher supports and guidance.


We have two eyes, two ears and one mouth.

What we say to the students and, more importantly, how we say it, is
critical for the self-evident reason that we are not mediating instruction
in the learners’ first language. We need to be very deliberate about our
instructional language and ensure that our students understand what
we are saying and not wasting valuable mental energy deciphering
instructional language.
Both teachers and students need to talk in class, but the correct
balance of both is vital, so it should be carefully and intentionally
planned. Students need to practice English, experiment and engage in
what Swain calls ‘Comprehensible output.’ In very simple terms we can
understand this as learning by using.
However, falling into the TTT (Teacher Talking Time) overload
Think about Freire’s
concept of the trap is easy. Sometimes, this is because the most direct route to
‘Banking System’. explaining something elludes us.
Why is this useful to Many times, as we try to describe something, we resort to
consider here? redundant, overcomplicated language and unnecessary repetition. For
example, we repeat our instructions or explanations saying the same
things, just in varying ways. We have already mentioned “mug and jug”
type teaching, which is a very traditional form of teaching and one that


we have all, most likely, experienced. Not only do we need to consider,

in this paradigm, how difficult it is to stay focused for long periods of
time, but we have to keep in mind that most of our students, when
asked, want to develop mainly their oral skills; therefore, students need
to speak. Two things help to reduce TTT: planning and grading.

Planning the estimated amount of TTT

Teachers-in-training often ask what the golden percentage of how
much a teacher should talk versus how much students should talk is.
This is a very difficult question but we can ensure that we are cognizant
of the quantity of TTT in class by planning it. Usually, in plans, there
is a column where teachers are asked to detail the forms of interaction
that each activity best promotes, or is intended to achieve. In this
column, you can note down: S (individuals working alone), S S
(pairs), T S (teacher talking to students), or Ss Ss (groups
of students speaking to one another). Once you have planned a lesson,
you can calculate how long you will talk during the lesson in minutes.
If you are planning to talk for too long and not leave space for your
students, you will need to rethink the plan (we add a little more about
this later in the chapter on Lesson Planning). However, the quantity of
TTT is only one side of the coin. The other side is the quality of TTT.

Language grading
Grading means adapting the way we speak so that our instructional
language meets the level of the students. For example, if you are
working with a group of intermediate students you probably will not
want to use long, infrequent words such as “convoluted.” Instead, you
will gear your vocabulary selection to terms that are used every day,
such as “difficult” or “complicated.”


Look at the following instructions

that appear in various everyday
products. What do they have in

If you are working with beginner students, you need to reduce

your TTT to a minimum, which will mean using visual aids to convey
meaning, relying on the same instructions in each class, rather than
changing how instructions are worded, using hand gestures to provide
instructions along with using one word imperatives. For example:

Teacher: Everyone: books, page three. Pairs. Question three (hold up

Teacher: Everyone:
three fingers and point to page).

Compare the above instructions to the following:

Teacher: Okay, everyone, please open your books to page three. We

Teacher: Okay,
are going to work in pairs to complete question three. Is that okay?

The first set of instructions may seem slightly abrupt but it

requires little processing; therefore, the aim of completing question
three is reached with little effort. Scripting your own instructional
language, especially as a novice teacher, is helpful to see what is said
and what really needs to be said. Often, little language is actually
necessary especially if language is used in conjunction with gesture,
visuals and/or mime. Many teachers find that after a few years of
teaching, they find it impossible to speak without gesticulating with
their hands to help support what they are saying, even with speakers


of their own languages. This habit is generated by the use of gesture

in class to convey meaning, for example, teachers frequently point
forward to show the future or point over their shoulders to indicate the
past. When providing corrective feedback, teachers may flatten their
hand in front of a student to show that a sentence is almost correct.

consider how you could gesture, draw or mime the following without using any words:
“Pairs” “Open your book”
“Check the sentences true or false” “Mingle!”
“the past” “the future”

Everything can be conveyed without words. You may want

to ask a colleague how they express the above in class in order
to compare you techniques. Once you have established a few
mimes, diagrams or gestures, use them throughout the semester.
Avoid changing how you give instructions because this can lead to
confusion. Again, we will expand on routine language later in the
unit but remember that students can easily learn and get used to
your cues and activity instructions and this helps maximize the time
they are communicating.
Keeping your own language to a minimum is, in general, a good
idea. As we have already mentioned, we really want our students to have
time in class to practice and use language. Caleb Gattegno, the creator of
The Silent Way, insisted that teaching should be subordinated to learning.
Hence, you should regulate your use of TTT to both support language
production by your students and also, to provide them with meaningful
language input, when they need it. This is something that Harmer (2007)
calls TTQ or Teacher Talking Quality, and it is to this that we will now turn.


Consider the following instructions:

Teacher: Please share your answers with your classmates.

Teacher: Please share your answers with your classmates.
Teacher: great, Federico, you are doing well. class can we help him?
Teacher: great, Federico, you are doing well. class can we help him?
Teacher: can we all work together to solve this problem?
Teacher: can we all work together to solve this problem?


In each instruction the teacher uses language, which includes

all students and enforces the ideal that they can and should help one
Now, consider this exchange and compare it to the previous one:

Teacher: show your partner your answers.

Teacher: show your partner your answers.
Teacher: no, Federico. Does anyone else know the answer? maria?
Teacher: no, Federico. Does anyone else know the answer? maria?
Teacher: Who can solve the problem?
Teacher: Who can solve the problem?

The differences may appear subtle but they are fairly dramatic in
terms of the underlying messages that they convey. In the first group of
commands, the students are called upon to work together; in the second
exchange, they are called upon as individuals. This can be very divisive
and may create an environment of comparison. In other words, the
students can see who can answer questions and who cannot. We may
all know who the strongest student in class is and who the least strong
one is. However, this should not be seen as a hindrance to the group.
Instead, it should be an opportunity for the group to work together
and help one another. A teacher’s attitude can promote collegiality or
promote comparative learning. When students compare their own ability
with that of others in class they may become demotivated, as they
appear to see gaps between what they feel they know, and what they
feel their colleagues know. It is destructive to the whole group and goes
directly against the ideal of Ubuntu we have discussed previously. After
all, “Ubuntu” literally means, “I am because you are.” Recently, a student
told us that her teacher read out the test scores out loud in class. The
student was demoralized by how awfully she thought she was doing in
class. This type of teacher behavior sets each student apart from one
another rather than bringing them together as a community.


One of the most important skills to have in your teacher tool kit
is the ability to elicit information from students rather than impose it,
or only ask questions that follow an Initiation Response Feedback
(IRF) pattern. It involves questions but it also combines the use of
unfinished sentences, cues, possibly visual and word prompts, use of

the white or black board all tools that lead to a specific point or set of
points. Here is an example of eliciting:

Teacher: Did any one go out night last, i went to the …….. (T shows
Teacher: Did any one go out night last, i went to the …….. (T shows
a shopping bag)
shopping bag)
students: mall?
students: mall?
Teacher: Yes, i went to the mall last night, when class ended… what
Yes, i went to the mall last night, when class ended… what
time did class end?
did class end?
student: 6
student: 6
Teacher: Yes, i (gestures pointing back over her shoulder)…. went to
Teacher: Yes, i (gestures pointing back over her shoulder)…. went to
the mall at 6 pm.
the mall at 6 pm.

We have already mentioned that students do not walk into our

classrooms as a tabula rasa. Utilizing students’ existing knowledge
to construct more knowledge is an efficient and effective way to
convey meaning and facilitate learning as well as a key scaffolding
move. Eliciting utilizes students’ frames of reference and information
they have already learned (also known as background knowledge or
schemata). It then builds on the familiar to add unfamiliar information.
The result is that students actively contribute to the lesson and, in
turn, gain confidence and agency by realizing that they are active
agents in their own learning experience. Additionally, eliciting provides
teachers with a powerful assessment tool because as you elicit, you
are able to measure how much students know as well as what they do
not know. The process is a type of “push and pull” process. Teachers
pull information from students in order to push them forward into new
areas of learning. In this respect, the process has a definite purpose
and an intentionally planned destination.
There are other added benefits when using elicitation techniques
including the prevention of teaching items needlessly because students
already know them, the recycling of information, and the opportunity
of keeping students focused, especially when they are younger learners.
One potential pitfall of eliciting is that it may become a guessing game,
rather than actual elicitation even when utilizing what students know or
what they can see via prompts or a logical line of questions, because the
students have to guess answers randomly. For this reason, it is wise to
prepare your elicitation route at the planning stage.


Consider the following exchange:

Teacher: Look at this picture (holds up a picture of a desert) What is it?

Teacher: Look at this picture (holds up a picture of a desert) What is it?
students: sand
Teacher: Yes, we can see sand, a lot of sand, yes?
Teacher: Yes, we can see sand, a lot of sand, yes?
students: Yes
students: Yes
Teacher: is it a cold place or is it…. (prompts to finish sentence)
Teacher: is it a cold place or is it…. (prompts to finish sentence)
students: Hot
students: Hot
Teacher: right very hot…is it all sand?
Teacher: right very hot…is it all sand?
students: Yes
students: Yes
Teacher: it’s a desert.
Teacher: it’s a desert.

Notice the way in which the teacher uses simple, or graded

language to support the students path of discovery and notice how she
uses a visual, questions and a unfinished sentence to arrive at desert,
the new lexical item.


In class we ask many questions in a variety of ways and for a

variety of reasons, including checking understanding, in order to
engage our students, to find out information they know as well as to
affirm knowledge. Research shows that the most-often asked type
of questions are display questions. These respond to the I R F
sequence we discussed before, among other characteristics.

Display questions

The teacher is holding a picture of a dog and a man.

The teacher is holding a picture of a dog and a man.
Teacher: What animal is this?
Teacher: What animal is this?
student: a dog
Teacher: Yes a dog. Who is next to the dog?
Teacher: Yes a dog. Who is next to the dog?
student: a man
Teacher: Yes, a man
Teacher: Yes, a man


If you notice, there is one possible answer to the teacher’s

questions, and even though it may not be entirely evident here, the
teacher expects the students to know that single, correct answer. The
aim of this type of questions may be to introduce a topic, prepare the
students for new information that will build on existing knowledge,
or engage students in the topic of the lesson. In many ways, display
questions are not “real” questions because we assume the students
know the answer.

Referential Questions
Unlike display questions, when asking referential questions we do
not assume that students know the answers. Also, referential questions
may lead to multiple, possible answers rather than a single, correct
answer. For example, look at these questions:

What is the weather like in your country?

What is the weather like in your country?
How is it similar to the weather in new York?
How is it similar to the weather in new York?

In order to be able to answer these questions, the students have

to engage in a process of critical analysis. They have to consider the
weather in their own countries and then compare it to the weather
in New York. Higher-order thinking skills are required that involve
comparing and contrasting, fact-finding and evaluating.
This type of questioning presents a greater challenge than display
questions. In all likelihood, the more able students in your class will
possibly provide an answer to the question first, or they will be able to
construct a response more quickly than the less able. This is important
to keep in mind and something we will refer to later in this chapter. As
mentioned before, research has shown that display questions outnumber
referential questions in most EFL/ESL classrooms. H.D. Brown (2007)
states that teachers need to develop a wide repertoire of questioning
strategies that foster classroom interaction, ideally augmenting display
questions with referential questions whenever possible. In other words,
we need to utilize both types of questions and realize the value and
aim of both.


Open and closed Questions

closed questions: The answer is generally a “Yes” or a “no.”

closed questions: The answer is generally a “Yes” or a “no.”
Teacher: is
Teacher: is it raining?
it raining?
student: Yes, it is.
Yes, it is.

open questions: require more elaborate answers.
questions: require more elaborate answers.
Teacher: What do you like doing when it rains?
What do you like doing when it rains?
student 1: i like to stay at home and watch TV.
student 1: i like to stay at home and watch TV.

Why is it important to balance the type of questions that you

ask? Remember that, while we want to challenge, involve and engage
our students so as to expand their expression, we do not want to
overwhelm them. In that sense, we have to judiciously use open and
closed questions so as to accommodate the learning rhythms of all our

Concept Check Questions

Another form of questions language teachers often ask in class are

called “concept check questions.” Personally, throughout our teaching
careers we have found these questions invaluable. Their name explains
their use. They are asked in order to check students’ understanding of
newly presented concepts. In that sense, they can also be considered
a form of elicitation, in that the “pull and push” process we referred to
before also takes place when we ask these questions.
Look at the following example to check whether students
understand the concept of the Second Conditional in English

Key or Focus sentence:

Key or Focus sentence:
if i were rich, i would buy a house.
if i
f were rich, i would buy a house.
f i

Possible concept check

Possible concept check Questions:
• am i rich?
• Do i have a house?
• Do i have a house?
• can i buy a house now?
• can i buy a house now?
• Why?


The concept questions above are created by considering the

concepts behind the key sentence:
1. The fact that I am not rich.
2. The fact that I do not have a house.
3. The fact that I cannot buy a house now… I need money.
In order to build concept check questions, we break down the
concept (meaning) of a particular focus or key sentence representing
the language we want to teach into statements and then, we convert
these statements into simple “Yes,” “No” or “Maybe” questions, as
shown above.
The aim is to ask questions, which, as much as possible, gleam
real answers. Consider what we usually ask students to check their
understanding: “Do you understand?” Or, in the United States: “Do you
get it?” The problem is that, out of embarrassment, students usually
say ‘yes’ but that is no guarantee that they actually do! Therefore, we do
not obtain a real answer, which indicates what the students understand
about the concept. In order to ensure that these questions are effective,
teachers need to avoid the use of the target language that they are
checking, require simple “yes,” “no” or “maybe” answers, and grade
the questions to the students’ level making sure they do not include
language that is more complicated than the actual concept they intend
to check.

Wait time
Once we have become mindful of the type of questions that
we ask and their use, we need to consider how long we wait for our
students to respond to the questions. Our students usually need more
processing time when being asked questions. Tsui suggests that many
students are generally shy and reticent to speak; therefore, sufficient
wait time is essential (Tsui 2001) if we want all our students to succeed.
However, research has shown that the average time that teachers wait
for students to respond is only one second (Nunan and Lamb, 1996).
Why do you think this is the case? One teacher in training attributed it
to the fear of silence in class. This is possibly true. Other reasons may
include that the teacher is hurried because of the brevity of the class
session, the need to cover some particular content or certain textbook


materials, or simply the fact that teachers allow the brightest students
to respond first.
Our advice is that you wait about 5 seconds before calling on any
students to answer the question, or even repeat the question yourself.
Because you will not be able to check your watch, count up to 5
Mississippi’s (that is, say the numbers followed by the word “Mississippi”
like this: 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4, Mississippi, 5
Mississippi) and then ask the question again or call on a student to
answer. This way, you will help all students by providing them ample
time to process the question and search for an answer. Using wait time
effectively has been proved to improve students’ chances to do well in
class, thus, bear our advice in mind.

Transitions, Signposts and Benchmarks

There are points in the lesson when teachers need to take control
and lead from the front of the classroom. One such time is when they
want students to navigate from one activity to the next, that is when we
want our learners to transition from one activity to the next. This needs
to be done in a manner that indicates that we are not just simply jumping
from one activity to another, but that there actually is a connection
between the activities and, as much as possible, the rationale for the
activity. In the chapter on Lesson Planning, we stated that our learners
do not have access to our lesson plans when they enter class. Hence,
they have little idea of what will be covered or what they will do until
we share the schedule for the day on the board. This can lead to a
certain amount of anxiety, and also unnecessary apprehension with
what is happening in class and why. Therefore, mapping the lesson out
and making sure that we join each stage together with the next will
help students to comprehend and appreciate the validity of the lesson
by indirectly engaging with the teacher’s pedagogy. Transitions and
signposts indicate movement form one activity to another, providing
closure for the preceding activity and a rationale for the following
activity. Benchmarks differ from both signposts and transitions because
they pay closer attention to achievements and progression through a
lesson. We will return to the topic of transitions in Chapter 7.



Consider teachers that you have had and reflect on your own
language and consider how Teacher Talk can impede learning rather than
facilitate it. Look at the issues below. Did you consider any of them?

Too much of it!

One teacher told us:
“When nothing else is happening in the classroom – I open my mouth.
I’ve no idea what I say most of the time. But it stops those horrible silences.
It’s probably useful for them to hear me speaking English anyway….”
A lot of teachers dislike quiet students in class; however, it is necessary.
We need silence to think, to process, to rest for a short while.


Student: The weather is cold

Teacher: The weather is cold yes. The weather is very cold.

In Beginner level classes, this might be seen as an aid for the students,
as it affirms that what they have said is correct and allows the other
students to hear also that it is correct. However, we should be mindful that,
if done too frequently, it can also lead to students’ loosing confidence in
their ability to communicate correctly because the teacher repeats what
they have just said thus interrupting the flow of communication in an
unnecessary manner. It is best to echo students’ expression only in those
occasions when teachers feel the rest of the class has been unable to hear
it. Even in those cases, it is best to ask the student to speak out loud and
get him or her to repeat what s/he has just said.

Confusing Instructions
Consider the following set of instructions:

Teacher: What we’re going to do is complete the work on page two.

I mean we are going to fill in the gaps in the activity on page 5 and
then we are going to do page 6. Page 6 is a story, we are going to


read that and do some comprehension questions. First, we are going

to do the gaps on page 6. No! I mean, 5.

How would you feel if you were a student in that class? We bet that
you would feel confused, even anxious about not knowing what to do
first. Some classroom tasks or activities require that we give complex
instructions (for example, because there are various steps to the task or
activity). When this is the case, the best scenario involves the breaking
down of the instructions into steps and providing students with each
step in sequence. Next, ask students to remind you what needs to be
done. This way, you can check that they have really understood. While
they do so, even if you need to correct them, write the sequence of steps
on the board. By doing this, students will have something to go back to
while doing the activity or task, if they get lost.

Inauthentic, or Perfunctory Comments

Teacher: How is everyone today?

Student: My little dog, he is gone.
Teacher: Where did he go?
Student: Dead
Teacher: Oh, you mean he has passed away. Right! Everyone else?

What has happened here? Consider the roles of the teacher and
what the student has just shared. Many times, language teachers tend
to focus too much on responding to the learners’ “language” and not
to the “ideas expressed through that language.” In the case above, the
student is sharing something painful and the teacher does not respond
in an authentic manner to the students’ ideas. Instead, the teacher
chooses to focus on correcting the student. This is not only inauthentic,
but it also conveys the wrong message in terms of our idea of “Ubuntu.”

Being too helpful

Teacher: Yes, good! Very good! Was that useful? Did you enjoy it? Do
you want to sit next to a new partner now? Are you comfortable or


are you too close? Move your chair a little, please. Do you want me
to move the chair?

This teacher appears to be trying too hard! However, this is not

an unusual occurrence. Many times, teachers – particularly novice
teachers – feel they need to please students. While it is true that we
must foster an environment devoid of tension or anxiety, it is also true
that one of the most important teacher’s roles is to organize for learning
to happen. In that sense, the teacher; needs to set clear boundaries
and enforce procedures (such as having students work with different
classmates) so that the lesson is effective. It may happen that some
students do not want to work with others. Nevertheless, the teacher
needs to convey the idea of community and reinforce it. In those cases,
we recommend that you be firm but polite.

Flying with the fastest

Teacher: Can anyone tell me what opaque means?

Student A: It means not clear.
Teacher: Excellent, can anyone tell me what vague means?
Student A: It means not clear
Teacher: Good so let’s move on…

In this part of the lesson the teacher is not focusing on the class
but listening to one student only. Probably, in this instance, it is the
most able student, which sets the pace of the lesson, the pace of that
one student. The other students’ understanding is not checked. Always
make sure you call on various students to answer (after also making
sure to use wait time). One strategy we often use is the “lighthouse
light” strategy. We make sure we involve everyone by focusing on
different sections of the classroom from left to right, as if we were the
light of a lighthouse thus illuminating all students equally. This makes
sure that everyone has a fair chance of participating. We do this, even
when we request that students “Raise their hands” before speaking.
One key issue to effective classroom management is to make all efforts
to involve all learners at all times in the lesson, when you know that
they can be successful.


Over Praising

Teacher: Good, good, great, good, lovely… that was really, really

Teachers need to encourage their students with praise. However,

this praise needs to be delivered with sincerity and also in an even
manner. Students soon realize when a teacher is simply routinely
telling all students that they have done well and when the teacher is
truly acknowledging work well done.
As van Manen says “A compliment should be meaningful and
should not be granted indiscriminately because, if given too readily
and too freely it may lose its significance. Yet, many students without
a doubt deserve commendation for a variety of reasons. And on
occasion, it is possible that only one student or only a few students
stand out for their accomplishments. For this very reason praise
creates dilemma.”
Make sure you use praise when it is due, that is, when students
have done something well and they deserve to be recognized for doing


A teacher-in- training wrote the following after he had watched a

film of himself teaching:

“What I had observed was everything I did not want to be as a teacher. My

approach to teaching was teacher-centered and front-staged, where only
I stood in front of the classroom and lectured to my students. They saw no
purpose to what I had planned for today’s lesson, other than listening to a
native speaker talk to them in English.”

Reflections such as this, which we have collected over the years

as teacher trainers, made us realize how easy it is to fall into the
habit of standing in front of our students and talking to them rather


than talking and interacting with them. We have already mentioned

earlier in the chapter that this is a ‘chalk and talk’ style of teaching
in which the teacher does not integrate the students into the lesson;
rather, the lesson is a ‘showcase’ of what the teacher has to offer.
This style has little relation to the students’ needs or their process
of language learning, and a lot to do with teachers flexing their
knowledge. Rather than remaining in front of the students for the
entire lesson and keeping control of language in class, teachers need
to facilitate language learning and ultimately language ownership by
varying the way students interact with one another during the lesson.
We call these, interaction patterns, as they tend to repeat themselves
from lesson to lesson. Look at the following table. Initially read the
interaction patterns in the left hand column. For each one consider
the rationale behind each pattern, in other words, what aim would
each pattern achieve.

Instructions Rationale
Pairs instruct students to work This is possibly the most useful interaction
with the person sitting next pattern in class and the most common. There
to him or her. are many uses for pair work, which we will
address in more detail in the next paragraph. in
s s many ways pairwork can be described almost
as a pedagogy in itself because of the various
reasons it is implemented in class.

Trios instruct students to work in The usefulness of this is that it changes the
groups of threes. groupings a little especially if students tend to
work in pairs and generally with the person next
ss ss to him or her.

Mingles in this interaction pattern, This works well when you want to change the
the whole class stands up dynamic in the room, for example if the students
and walks around the room have been seated for a long time during the
talking to as many of the lesson, they get to stretch, add movement to the
other students as possible. class along with talk to all of the students in class.
This helps strengthen the learning community
because students become familiar with one
another, get to know one another more.


Instructions Rationale
Class Divide the class into groups of up to six This is one of our favorite
Carousel students. Place large posters on each wall of the types of interaction pattern
classroom along with a task, for example each for multiple reasons: students
poster could have a question written on it, or a collaborate, it generates
text to read and answer a few questions about discussion because there
something, etc. is only one writer and so
one student in each group should be assigned everyone needs to speak up,
to be the writer. ask each group to go to a the teacher is able to monitor
poster and tell them that they will all have without being too imposing
an allotted amount of time to work together, and finally, each group is able
complete the task and write their answers on to read what other groups
the posters. once the time is up, ask all of the have written and can interact
groups to move clockwise around the room to with that information and
the next poster and to complete the task on build on it. This usually leads
that poster. The students should continue until to a very rich set of answers to
they have worked on every poster. any task.
Onion in this pattern, students begin by working This is a useful way of ensuring
Working in pairs, after a part of the task has been that lots of different students
completed; some pairs are broken up and get to work together. This
asked to join a pair. This then creates trios of means you are able to mix
students. again, once a part of the task has students up, continue to build
been completed, some of the trios are broken the class community and
up and join other trios to make groups of fours. change the dynamic of the
This is continued until eventually you have all community. again, the teacher
the class working together. it is called ‘onion’ is able to monitor during
because the students are in a way ‘layered’ this activity but not be too
during the activity. imposing.
Talking Divide the class into two groups each with the This is a useful activity if
Lines same amount of students. you have a little space in
Tell one half to stand in a line from the top of the your class, possibly chairs
class to the back of the class. Tell the other half and desks that do not
to line up, facing the first line. set a speaking task move because there is little
along with a set time limit and tell the students to movement and yet students
talk to the student opposite him or her. once the can still speak to different
time limit is up, ask one student standing at the people in class.
front of the class at the front of the line to walk to
the end of his or her line at the back of the class.
Tell all of the other students in this line to move
up and face the new student in the opposite line.
Keep doing this until the first student that you
moved is at the front of the class again.


Instructions Rationale
Swivel in this pattern, students remain seated while This is a useful activity if
Chairs doing an activity that you set. Put the students you have a static classroom
in pairs, after you have completed a part of design with very little room
the activity, ask the students to twist in their for either movement or
chairs either to the right or the left and talk to remodeling. it is also fun.
the students on the opposite side to the one
that they were just talking to. You may need to
manage this quite heavily in order to ensure that
all students have someone to speak to and there
are no students left without a partner.

Table 4.1 – Possible class arrangements that foster cooperation


The whiteboard, or blackboard, that figures prominently in every

classroom is a focal point of attention for students and teachers alike.
Usually, all students’ seats and desks are directed towards the board. It
is key to remember that it is what the students are looking at a lot of
the time during the lesson, hopefully in a purposeful way. It is also key
to know that the board is a tool for learning, as well as teaching. This
description should help us to realize its full potential and ensure that we
do not get confused with what it is not: a teacher’s notepad.
Teachers often feel most comfortable noting everything on the
board: incidental lexical items, target language examples, corrective
feedback and anything else that arises in the class. To many teacher
educators, this is described as being board reliant. By the end of the
lesson, the board is crammed with information, most of which looks
similar. There are no distinctions between what is fundamental to the
lesson objectives and what are simple random pieces of information.
What is clear in this situation is that the teacher used the board to
record all information without a clear understanding of why or how to
get to the key pieces of that information cleanly.


Students tend to copy down most of what is written on the board,

if not all of the information because, similarly to why the teacher
writes, they feel secure when they have recorded everything in their
notebooks (or in a snapshot with cell phones, nowadays). This means
that there is a strong likelihood that students will get lost or confused
with so much unnecessary information on the board, thus being unable
to discern what is important and what is not.
Because of this, in the same way as we plan the lesson on paper, we
should also plan what we intend to write on the board, considering how
we will use that material at various stages of the lesson and carefully
thinking what we will need to write or draw on it. As it happens with all
plans, it does not need to be rigidly adhered to, but it is always wise to
keep in mind that the board is a vital visual, which helps to convey and
construct meaning as well as illustrate syntax, phonological aspects
of target language and so forth. It also allows students to visually
process what the teacher is saying. This, too, is a great way to engage
all learners.
In every class there are varying levels of ability, some students
need the board more than others, some follow the teacher and
understand as the teacher is moving through a plan, others need more
support and processing time which means these students will need to
reference the board after the teacher has used it and they are working
alone. In this sense the use of the board needs to be instructional. In
other words, symbols, visuals, colors may all need to be utilized in
order to facilitate understanding.

Board plan
Many teachers plan their board in an
“H” formation, thus: on the left side of the
board in the margin, the lesson objectives
are written. In the middle of the board is
the target language or a key piece of the
lesson objective. Below that, we use the
space to write down activities or exercises.
On the right side, corrective feedback
is written along with incidental lexical
items and below that, the homework


assignment, if any. This has been a popular board plan for many years.
Actually, it was given to both of us when we first started teaching and
we have rarely strayed from this format because it helps us to organize
the content in the lesson, prioritize information and to support our
teaching and, in turn, our students’ learning.

How can we use the board? What would you use these for?


✔ ✕ =
How could the above universal symbols be used to give instructions for a reading activity in which
students have to decide what is true or false? How could the other symbol be used? What could it show?


Younger learners have a lot of energy and sometimes little ability

to stay in one place for any length of time. This is both natural and
what makes teaching younger learners fun, but exhausting. The key
is not denying the amount of energy they have, but rather using it
productively and proactively, and more importantly, planning for it.
The most successful lessons are those which vary between very
active activities and “sit down,” quiet activities, “group/pair” work and
“solo” work, “pen” work and “speaking” work or “sing song” time. Each
plan needs to be balanced so that little ones do not become overly
excited, with little room to calm down, or adversely too restrained for
too long (which can also lead to behavioral issues).
Ideally, discipline or class management techniques should be
considered as a means to get the most from young learners and not
as a way to ‘control’ them. The first few minutes of the class are often
the most important as they set the tone for the whole lesson. One
suggestion is to greet the students as they enter the class. We know
one teacher who always gives his students a handshake and welcomes
them to the ”Learning Zone.” Having a “Do now!” activity on the board


for students to complete as soon as they enter the classroom also helps
set the tone for the lesson. These activities need not be sophisticated.
They may include asking students to say something to a peer, sing
a song, make a list of words they now connected to the topic of the
lesson, and so forth.
As soon as attendance has been taken, a set up activity or a
warmer allows students to get started on work and adjust to the English
speaking only environment. Many teachers will have already written
the lesson’s agenda on the board before the students enter the class and
then explain it once the set up or warmer activity is over. This should
help to focus the students and also act as a reference throughout the
lesson that the teacher can refer to so as to keep the students on track
and bring the class back together at the end of the different activities.
Erasing the agenda items as they get completed gives students both a
sense of progress and a sense of fulfillment.
Transitions can be one of the most difficult things to accomplish
smoothly both with young learner and adult students alike. Teachers
can feel at these points in the lesson that they have lost control of the
students. There are many techniques to get students’ attention back
on the tasks at hand. Some teachers flick lights on and off, others hold
their hands up and encourage all of the students to do the same until
everyone is holding their hands up and focused, and some teachers
say: “One, two, three eyes on me!” while others say, in a normal tone
of voice, “If you can hear me, can you clap once?” In general, a few
students will clap at the beginning, the teacher can continue asking
them to clap twice, three times and so forth. In general, it only takes
five or six claps for all students to be paying attention. All of these
activities aim at focusing the students first before moving on to a new
activity or lesson stage for which instructions are going to be given
out. A pitfall to avoid is to begin to give out instructions for tasks
whilst trying to gain students’ attention. It is better to do one thing at a
time. Another idea is to use different classroom locations to reinforce
your verbal management. For example, you may choose to stand at
the front of the class only when explaining. Stand on one side of the
classroom to give feedback on tasks and maybe stand at the back of
the classroom when you want to give instructions, and stand in the
middle of the class to bring all students together. With consistency


over time, students become used to what goes on in each zone, and
experience has shown that this reduces the need for the teacher to call
students’ attention orally.

Infraction Slips
In young learner classrooms, there can come a point when
students need to be reminded that their behavior is not acceptable in
the classroom. This is best done in steps. The first step is a warning.
The next step is to put the student into ‘time out’. In one school, we
observed a teacher who had a special table where she asked students
in “time out” to sit. Most students detest time out and the threat of it
alone is enough to ensure that their behavior improves. In Montessori
schools, time out is given to students who disrupt the flow of work by
having them sit in a corner facing the class. This is supposed to serve as
a model of correct interaction. After a few minutes, the student is asked
if he or she is ready to return to work and, if so, they are allowed to join
the activity once again. The final step is a slip of paper that will either
go to the parents or the Principal of the institution. This, however, will
depend on the institution’s discipline protocol. Some teachers give this
slip to the student to control. If he or she still has the slip by the end of
the lesson, the student can throw it away. If the teacher has had to take
it off the student, it will go into an addressed envelope to be delivered
to either the Principal or parents, and in some cases both. This should
be a last resort and not be treated lightly.
Other teachers find the “three strike” rule equally effective. During
lessons students are given strikes for inappropriate behavior. If they get
three strikes, they will be given a slip that goes home to parents, to the
Principal or results in sanctions in class such as exclusion from a game
or other enjoyable activities.
We must remember that dealing with discipline issues is difficult.
It is wise to consider what your strategies will be before the beginning
of term, laying them out carefully and considering what your limits
are in class. The most difficult piece is then to consistently adhere to
your own rules. If you have written out a contract with your class,
you can add your rules and simply remind students during lessons.
For example, gum should be removed before class starts. If a student
walks in chewing gum, point to the rule only but do not say anything.


Often, saying little and simply looking at students who are not acting
appropriately may be enough deterrence. Raising your voice in class,
although it may be necessary, at times, usually leads to teacher
exhaustion and once used tends to be the default mechanism for class
control. Ideally, it should be the last resort. Every class of students
reacts differently to techniques used by teachers.


“Routines are the backbone of daily classroom life. They facilitate

teaching and learning…. Routines don’t just make your life easier, they save
valuable classroom time. And what’s most important, efficient routines make it
easier for students to learn and achieve more.”
- Linda Shalaway

Teachers often consider routines part of young learner classrooms

rather than adult classrooms; however, there are benefits to establishing
Having predictable
routines in all classrooms. The greatest one has been mentioned in both
patterns in place
quotes: routines (predictable patterns) make life easier for teachers and
allows teachers to
spend more time students because everyone knows what to expect. This predictability,
in meaningful to a certain degree, can reduce learner anxiety. In both adult and young
instruction. learner classes, a variety of routines can be implemented. The most
obvious routine is setting homework and checking homework, either
at the beginning or the end of lessons. A simple routine such as this
reinforces the idea that homework is an expectation of every class. This
lays the foundation of, as one teacher told us, “how business gets done in
the classroom.” There are many other expectations that both the teacher
and the student have about the conduct of the class. At the beginning
of the term, it is a fun idea and a useful tool to create a classroom
contract. This is where all participants consider how the class should
work, what is allowed and what isn’t as well as the consequences for
violations to the rules.
It is always best if class rules are negotiated with students as
this develops a sense of ownership in the students, while allowing
opportunities to clarify expectations. Once the contract is complete,
there should be a commitment made by all to adhere to the contract,


as much as possible. This commitment may simply be signing a copy

of the contract and keeping a copy of it in the notebook.

Routine language
A large part of routines in class is not only activities or tasks,
but the routine instructional language used. As we mentioned earlier
in the chapter, this is language that the teacher uses in order to give
instructions, set up tasks, begin and end the lesson and manage the
class in general. Some typical teacher-set phrases are the following:

• Criss-cross, apple sauce – meaning “Cross your legs and sit down.”
• One, two, three: eyes on me! – meaning “Stop talking.”
• Stand like statues – meaning “Keep very still. Don’t move.”
• If you care, you share- Asking students to share their work

Circle time is a nice thing to do at the beginning and end of the

lessons so as to ask the students to share. You may want to do this at the
beginning of the lesson in order to bring the students together, you may
equally want to wrap up the class with a short circle time activity. “Circle
time” shares can include: “One word I learned today,” “One thing that
made me laugh,” “One thing I saw yesterday,” and so forth.
One of our teachers-in-training has a special carpet that she calls
the “magic carpet”: all of her little ones have to sit on the magic carpet
cross-legged and listen. If any learner strays off the carpet, they are
soon asked to get back on the carpet so that it can “fly.”

Job Charts – Teacher’s Help

This is another idea to foster a collaborative environment. On a
poster, write out a list of classroom jobs that need to get done during
the lesson. For example: collecting homework, giving out workbooks,
handing out worksheets, and any other classroom procedure. If your
lesson is not long in duration, you may want to assign one or two students
per lesson to do all of the jobs and then have other students rotate the
jobs as the course progresses. This is often called being the ‘Teacher’s
Helper.’ If your lessons are fairly long, you may want to assign different
students, different tasks and call on them as needed. The easiest way to


assign tasks is by drawing the task on a piece of card and handing the
cards out to the assigned students at the beginning of the lesson. The
students should feel a sense of pride in what they do while also realizing
that they are a necessary part of the group.

Rewards Systems for Young Learners

The following are some ideas intended to reward positive behavior
in class. As with any other kind of acknowledgement of students’ work,
these should be given only when students truly deserve them. The same
rules we explained before for using praise apply to giving rewards.

Catching compliments
on a poster write the names of all of the students. When you see a student doing something nice
or helpful for another student without being prompted by another students or the teacher, such as
helping someone to find a page in a book or giving someone help, reward this behavior by putting a
star next to his or her name. Whenever it seems appropriate (at the end of the week, once a month or
maybe midway through the term), tally the number of stars and give the student with the most stars a

Homework Rewards
in a similar way as it was the case with the previous idea, create a poster containing all of the
students’ names, and give out stars to students who regularly hand in homework on time. at certain
points in the semester tally the stars and give the students with the most stars small prizes.

There are many other reasons to give rewards including: most

helpful, most encouraging, and so forth. The students can be put into
teams and rewards can be appointed to teams instead of individual

Other Activities that Help to Manage Lessons

In the lesson planning chapter, we refer to three different types
of activities: coolers, warmers and ‘can do’ activities. These activities
help to calibrate the following: energy, motivation, attention, and, to a
certain extent, behavior (in the case of young learner classes).


Warmers, as the name suggest, warm the student up to the

English language class. They help to interest the student in the lesson
and possibly start the lesson off in a fun way.
A cooler brings the lesson to an end. The activity may be related
or unrelated to the lesson’s content, or it may help to make students
review the lesson objectives. A popular activity is for students to
consider their own achievements by writing down:

What I learnt in this lesson. What I want to learn more about.

This brings the lesson to a close and refers the learning back to
the lesson objectives.
“Can do” activities can be introduced throughout a lesson to
help maintain motivation. They are always simple activities, which
all students are able to complete. When planning, as well as when
managing a class, consider all of the options that you have available to
you to help move through the contours of learning and working with
people. Both these aspects present challenges that require engagement
not only with the content but also among the learners as people, and
the class and its resources as support.


In this chapter, we have looked at various ways of managing our

classes. We discussed the idea of learning in communities and creating
communities of learners, where everyone feels valued and can
contribute to the work of the whole group. We also looked at specific
teaching skills and knowledge that teachers make use of in managing
time, interaction and behavior. We concluded that, in order for every
student to learn, we must strive to create an environment of respect
and collaborative work where rules are clear, activities are intentionally
planned, those plans need to be communicated to students, and success
is not just an expectation but also a reality.



What lingering questions

What is the most important What steps will you take
about classroom
learning you have derived to find answers
management do you
from this chapter? to these questions?
still have?

Observation task
observe a lesson taught by a colleague or a peer and note down how the teacher:
• utilizes the space and resources he or she has used including the white board.
• organizes the various interaction patterns.
• takes on various teacher’s roles.
• takes on various teacher’s roles.
• plans cooler, warmer or “can do” activities.

Reflective journal task

Film one of your own lessons. Watch the video, reflect and comment on:
• the quantity of your TTT vs. the quantity of sTT.
• the types of questions that you ask.
• the instructional language that you use.
• the gestures that you use.
share your video and report with one peer for him/her to respond. add your report to your journal

Portfolio task
Write your “classroom management Platform.” What are your beliefs about classroom discipline?
What are your preferred teacher’s roles? What kind of instructional language, instructional
activities and instructional strategies do you use that foster learning for all your students?


• • lesson planning as a
• • why planning is
learning communities
• important.
teachers’ roles
• • stages of lesson plans
teachers’ use of L2 in
and of planning.
• key traits of a good
lesson to:
• • the value of
develop and value a
anticipating a plan.
learning community
• plan lessons to cater
for different energy
learning how to:
Berry (2013) uses dribbling as a metaphor for business planning. • write learning.
levels and attention
We consider this metaphor could also apply to the planning that objectives.
teachers do. Dribbling, as it happens in the football court, is not the • • plan lessons.
use the white or
goal but a means to an end. In the same way, planning is not the goal • sequence activities.
• use the classroom
of the teaching activity, but a means to helping teachers organize their
seating arrangements
instruction so that all students can learn. to optimize learning.
One often cited constraint of lesson plans is that many times
they become a straightjacket for the teacher. However, plans can, and
should, be made flexible so as to respond to the unanticipated events
that will definitely happen in class. This is similar to what happens
when a player gets the ball in the wrong end of the court or when he
misses a goal. Even in those moments, a plan is in place and all the
players know what the plan is. So, for example, when the goalie gets
the ball and passes it to the defender, the whole team responds to that
action. However, if the other team players do something unexpected,
the player has the freedom to change his strategy and, because a plan is
in place, all the other players in his team will be able to understand the
logic of that move and continue playing towards the same goal.
Finally, dribbling involves paying attention simultaneously to the
overall field and also to what is happening in the immediate surroundings
of the player who has the ball. In the same way, a good lesson plan allows
the teacher to keep an eye on the horizon while also attending to the
details of the here-and-now.

the end first


groupwork/ Lesson Stages

pairwork Planning and aims

Practice Scaffolding


What do you already know about lesson planning?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about lesson planning have you heard your colleagues/
cooperating teacher discuss? Why are they important/relevant?



Before we dive into this chapter, consider what a lesson plan is to

you and what the ingredients of a successful lesson plan might be. Note
down your ideas here:

Now, read the following comments made by some of our former

teachers-in-training. Do you identify with any of them? Who with? Why?

Behind a really smooth class with a good buzz is most likely

For me a lesson plan is a a lesson plan that anticipated any difficulties, figured out the
road map designed for clearest concept check questions and the most prototypical
each lesson. examples, figured out the precise wording for directions,
strategized about how any given activity’s feedback would best
be given, decided who would best work well together. In this
Sira Faye
way, it’s a tool for precision.

Gelsomina Chionio

For me a lesson plan is like a

road-map to successfully navigate
the 2 hours I spend in a class
To be perfectly honest, my lesson planning takes
teaching English and arrive at a
place in about 30 to 45 minutes, planning for 6
destination which makes both the
classes in the day, scribbling a list of activities in
students and myself feel like we’ve
my notebook, glancing at the page in the book
accomplished something, that we
we’re on, grabbing some flashcards or whatever
are better off for having learned
materials I might need, and then class starts.
something we didn’t know before
we started on our journey together
and best of all, didn’t take a Christopher Cladis
circuitous route getting here.

Roshii Jolly



A good lesson must be planned. Even when experienced teachers

do not write out a lesson plan and seem to “improvise” a lesson, that
lesson has been carefully thought off. The excellent lesson happening
through spontaneous decision-making does not exist. During initial
teacher education, it is fundamental that teacher learners practice writing
plans for all the lessons they teach so that they can develop the habits of
mind of an experienced instructor: one who has a thorough command
of the content, the pedagogy and the students, is able to anticipate how
the lesson will evolve and be prepared for the unexpected.
Hence, lesson planning is a key teaching skill because:

• it is one of the key traits of being a professional teacher. Students

expect their teachers to be prepared and, if you are not, students
can tell! Hence, planning is one way of getting respect from your
• it helps you maximize the impact of your teaching approaches
and materials. When you are planning, you are carefully
considering your teaching situation: your students, your space,
the materials and the time available. In this context, planning
gives you the opportunity to tailor your lesson to the needs of
your students and of your teaching reality.
• it helps in your professional development. When you sit
down to plan a lesson you engage with theory and practice
by carefully thinking about what you are going to teach, and
how you are going to teach it. In the process, you review key
ideas you may have encountered in theory, carry out small-
scale experimental practice projects (as when you try out a
new activity) and reflect on the impact that your teaching may
have on your students’ learning.
• it helps you avoid trouble. When you plan, you generally anticipate
potential problems that may arise, as well as ponder on potential
solutions to those problems. If you have a strategy to deal with
potential problems ahead of time, you are well prepared.


A well-planned lesson is also important for students. They know

when a lesson has been planned and when it has not. Planning is
important for students because:
• it shows them that the teacher cares for their learning.
• it conveys respect for their time and effort.
• it makes learning easier as a well-structured lesson is easier to
follow and understand.
• it provides students a model of well-organized work that they
can imitate.

Throughout the history of teaching, there have been various

models for planning lessons and each has had its merits and limitations.
Also, each form of planning has contributed some element to the
improvement of teaching. Hence, it is important to be aware of these
models in order to better understand how we go about the process. In
the next section, we are going to discuss two popular planning models
and then, present our own.

Madeline Hunter’s 7-step Lesson Plan Template

In 1984, educator Madeline Hunter proposed seven steps that every

lesson should take into consideration.

1. Review – every lesson should start with a review of the

previous class or of relevant concepts that students have
already encountered and which will be useful in today’s lesson.
2. Anticipatory set – this is a moment in the lesson during which
the teacher gets the class ready by providing a motivating
activity to hook the learners into the topic, as well as to activate
specific areas of the students’ background knowledge.
3. Objective – next, the teacher clearly communicates to students
what the objectives for the lesson are. Objectives state what is
expected of learners as a consequence of having participated
in the lesson. They also highlight the relevance that the contents
of the lesson will have for students’ learning in general.
4. Input and modeling – once objectives have been understood by
students, the teacher provides input on the topic of the lesson.


This can be done through modeling, demonstration, or telling.

Modeling, in particular, makes salient for students what is expected
of them in terms of performance by the end of the lesson.
5. Checking understanding – the teacher introduces activities
aimed and making sure that students have understood the input.
6. Guided practice – once understanding has been ascertained,
students engage in a sequence of controlled activities during
which they will manipulate the contents of the lesson in order
to master them.
7. Independent practice – finally, the teacher engages learners in
activities that make evident whether or not they can use the
new knowledge independently.

These steps depict a direct teaching sequence, one which is very

much based on a transmission model. The goal of this kind of lesson
organization is for students to master the content, i.e. show they can
apply what the teacher has taught them to academic tasks successfully.
While we advocate for a more student-centered approach to lesson
planning, Hunter’s model has interesting elements. To start with, by
focusing on reviewing prior teaching at the start of the lesson, teachers
can make sure that students become aware of the flow of the course.
Additionally, starting from where the students are (both through the
anticipatory set as well as through communicating the objectives to students)
is a move that puts the students at the center of the learning process.

Gagné’s “9 Events of Instruction”

Gagne, Briggs and Wager (1992) in the fourth edition of their

classic text on education, provide a re-elaboration of Hunter’s model.
Their framework includes nine distinct steps that are self-explanatory:

1. Gain students’ attention.

2. Inform learners of the objectives of the lesson.
3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.
4. Present a stimulus.
5. Provide “learning guidance” (through presentation, demonstration
or modeling).


6. Elicit performance (practice).

7. Provide feedback.
8. Assess performance.
9. Enhance retention and transfer.

Notice that although this planning framework contains many items

in common with Hunter’s the end goal is not mastery, but retention
and transfer. Nevertheless, we see that in this model the learners are
engaged from the beginning by some sort of motivating activity, they
are informed of the objectives of the lesson so that they gain a sense
of direction, and their background knowledge is activated before
presenting the new concepts. The rest of the lesson follows a similar
path as Hunter’s because this one, too, is a planning framework that is
best suited to a transmission-style kind of teaching.


As we have seen, there are myriad opinions about lesson plans

and planning. For many teachers, planning is an arduous and time-
consuming affair. As one teacher told us: “I feel like I am never finished
with the planning process.” For others, a plan feels restrictive and
constrictive and many, if not all of us, can relate to the last comment.
We have all hastily scribbled down notes, desperately printed out
handouts from the Internet and generally been rushed to get to
class with only an economical idea of what will happen. However,
ultimately a lesson plan is only a piece of paper, a guide, maybe an
ideal. Once in class, a multitude of variables impact how the plan-on-
paper is executed. Some of these variables include: the time available,
the pace of the lesson, the disposition and readiness of our students,
“Teach the learners
and a whole host of unexpected events that may happen (for example, not the plan”
your lesson plan is based on a listening selection and when you get to
school there is no electricity!). (Scrivener 2011,
Whatever happens we need to keep in mind, as Scrivener said p.123)
“we teach the learners not the plan” (Scrivener, 2011, p.123). Changes
will always need to be made to our plans once we enter the classroom
and, to a certain extent, we will be able to make all these changes


because one of the critical components of planning is prioritizing,

i.e. knowing what is important to cover, what is less important and
what might need to be expanded or even removed from the process.
In other words, a good plan is constructed with flexibility in mind and
“invites possibility rather than attempting to constrain it” (Norman,
2011, p. 55). In practice, this means that the construction of the
plan contains certain points that are similar to “folds” on a piece of
paper– they can either by flattened so that an activity is completed in
its entirety or partly folded so that an activity is reduced in some way,
usually in terms of the amount of time allotted to it, or completely
folded in which case the activity or task is dropped from the procedural
plan altogether if necessary.
Whatever happens in class, the plan is usually the result of a
complicated process of decision-making that involves prioritizing,
estimating, assessing, guessing, reflecting and evaluating. This
process is the true value of planning because it is where synergy is
reached between the teacher’s actions and their students’ learning.
In its simplest, most practical form, the process can be subsumed
as a series of questions aimed at understanding how our students will
work, how they will interact with and react to our materials, how they
will interact with one another, how they will receive new information,
what resources (conceptual and material) they will need to be able to
achieve the learning objectives, the space and time that we will need
to fill, and any difficulties that they may face with any or all of the
above, which could impede learning. Some of the questions we may
ask ourselves when sitting down to plan a lesson, among many, many
others, include:

• What do I want to teach?

• Is it relevant? Why?
• How will I introduce the new materials?
• Are they interesting?
• How long will the activities take?
• Are they fun?
• How do I organize interaction in class?
• Should the students mingle or sit down for the activities?
• Which text should I use?


• Do I have enough materials?

• Who should work with whom?
• Will this work?…
and so forth.

The list of questions we ask is long and sometimes leads to less

important questions being asked alongside critical questions. For
example, consider the difference between asking:
‘What am I going to teach?’ and ‘Should the students mingle or sit down?’
We have to be careful not to ask questions about the small
details and get entangled in them before the larger questions have
been addressed. Here is a shortlist of some “big” questions:

• What am I going to teach?

• What do the students need?
• How will I know the students achieved the learning objective?
• What difficulties may the learning objectives present?
• How will I teach it?
• How will I make sure students are able to apply this to real life


Before we begin to look at how to plan in more depth, we need to

ensure that we are aware of our context and the various components
that impact any plan and its execution. We will need to consider:

• the students,
• the materials,
• the length and structure of lesson times,
• the classroom and its resources including whiteboard/
blackboard size position, teacher’s desk and students’ desks

When learning how to plan, it is useful to turn these issues into

questions so as to guide our planning. Here are a few examples.


• How big is your classroom? Where is the black/whiteboard?
• What is the seating arrangement?
• Is it easy for students to move around the classroom?
• Is there enough space to carry out whole class role-plays or are the
desks in rows with little room for full class movement?
• Is there anything you could do to the classroom to optimize its use?
For example: If you have little whiteboard space, could you use a
flip chart to give you more board space?
• Do you need to put posters up to make the space look more inviting?
Remember: every little change you make to the classroom environment is dynamic and may have a big
impact on both your learners and your lessons. Experiment organizing the classroom in various ways.

• Who works best with whom?
• What type of activities do the students appear to like?
• How soon is it into a lesson before you start to see their attention
wander and their concentration wane?
• What do they need to work on?

• How long are lessons?
• When are the breaks?
• How long do certain activities usually take?
• Do students arrive on time?
• Who are the usual latecomers?
• Who are the early finishers?
• Who takes the longest amount of time to finish tasks and who
takes the least amount of time?

• What is the course syllabus?
• Do you have set materials to cover?
• How much material do you have to cover per lesson?
• Are the materials interesting, useful, relevant?
• Do they match your students’ needs?
• What do you need to do to make them relevant for your students?
• Do you feel the curriculum is attainable?
• How can you ensure that each lesson aim is manageable?


In the following diagram the components mentioned above inform

the design of our lesson plans, and each one interacts with the others
to either help and support, or hinder the attainment of the objectives.
So, the greater awareness we have of each component the more likely
we are to plan successful lessons.




Figure 5.1 – Factors impacting the outcomes of our lessons


Both Hunter’s and Gagné’s steps were based on the most recognized
model for both curriculum and lesson planning: Tyler’s Rational-Linear
approach (1949), which involves the following prescriptive steps that
must be taken in this particular order:

1. Set the learning objectives.

2. Select the content to be taught to achieve the objectives.
3. Select learning experiences and materials to suit the objectives
and the contents.
4. Organize learning experiences to ensure effective instruction.
5. Specify the means of evaluation of the objectives.


As it can be clearly seen, this model is also based on a transmission

view of teaching, where the voice of the learner is seldom heard.
Surprisingly, and besides its limitations, this model was (and it still is)
very popular among educators and curriculum planners alike. In our
opinion, Tyler’s rationale is not conducive to student-centered, active
learning, as it focuses too much on the instructor’s decision-making
and sees learning as a natural consequence of teaching. We know
that learning is not a linear process, but a messy one, with leaps and
involutions, and that every person needs to learn at their own rhythm.
It is not surprising then, that more recently, many have argued,
including Yinger (1980), that Tyler’s rationale is outdated and
inadequate. Among the reasons for this assertion is the fact that for
many teachers, lesson planning is not necessarily linear. These authors
defend the position that “the majority of teachers think of planning
lesson objectives as a second thought, the first is focused on activities
and resources” (Yinger, op.cit., p.110). We are sure that many of you can
identify with this point and we will return to it and expand on it later
in the unit. But before we do that, let us advance an alternative to the
models we have seen that can act as a workable improvement on the
past. This more contemporary model is the one that many language
teachers engage in when planning their lessons.
Stage One: Specification of the learning objectives and
designation of specific, observable evidences that these objectives
have been achieved.
This includes considering students’ needs, the curriculum, learners’
ability and the time designated for the lesson. It also means beginning
the planning process by looking at the end of the lesson first and asking:
What will the students actually be able to do as a result of my teaching?
In other words: What will my students take away from today’s lesson?
Additionally, we must ask ourselves: How will we know that the
objectives have been attained? This last question is crucial as it helps us
focus on what our learners should actually be able to do at the end of
the lesson. This knowledge helps us build lessons in a backward fashion
(McThige and Wiggins, 2007) starting from the students’ actual potential
and building our teaching from there.


Stage Two: Anticipation of how the lesson objectives will play out
during the actual lesson
This includes considering the difficulty or the challenges that the
lesson objectives will present to students as well as what you, as a
teacher, will need to do in order to help students meet the challenges
that the objectives might present them. This stage is about planning
those scaffolds (temporary support that we give students so that
they move along the learning process) that will ascertain that students
actually achieve the lesson objectives.

Stage Three: Selection and ordering of activities and tasks aimed

at achieving the lesson objectives.
This includes considering the contours of how learning is supposed
to happen in the classroom. For example, we might consider how much
practice will be necessary to reinforce new language, what the logical
order of tasks should be, what patterns of interaction would favor
students development the most and how much time will be necessary
for each activity.

Stage Four: Second phase of anticipation

This includes looking at the challenges the procedural plan will
present for both the students and the teacher and how to address
them. The focus at this point is on the actual execution of the lesson
including which instructional tools will be used (e.g. how we will use
the whiteboard or blackboard), the actual teacher language we will use
to give instructions and set up activities, how we will promote smooth
transitions from one activity to the next, the type and quality of questions
we will ask, and how we will bring the lesson to a close.

What should be evident from the above is that, to us, anticipation

plays a large part in the planning process as a whole. This is because it
moves planning from a simple process of selecting activities to one in
which we engage with learning itself. For this process to be successful
we will need an awareness of our students’ needs and capacities (which
we should have gathered through our needs analysis) as well as an
awareness of our own teaching repertoire, the materials and the lesson


objectives. Consider, in the following illustration of the planning process,

how you would relate to what we have proposed.

Stage 1

Selection Stage 2
of learning Stage 3
Anticipation of
objectives and
the difficulties or Stage 4
observable Selection and
challenges that
evidence that the
the objectives will ordering of Anticipation of
objectives have learning tasks and
present. challenges to the
been achieved. activities.
procedural plan
and decisions
about the
execution of the

Figure 5.2 – A learner- and learning-centered planning process


Any plan needs to get students from one point of learning or

awareness to another. This involves synthesizing a particular piece or
pieces of information and creating a map that steers the students and
us to the desired pre-specified destination: the learning objectives. For
this to be productive, we need to consider the most direct and efficient
route without unnecessary diversions or deviations. Some deviations
support learning and are useful; these are often called ’teachable
moments’ and occur frequently in lessons. In contrast, other diversions
may detract from the learning objectives and create a convoluted,
less than efficient route leading to difficulty of learning and an over-
challenging, uncomfortable experience for both students and teachers.
Three key words are often used to describe effective plans: clear,
erudite and logical.
Clear: students and teachers need to have a clear understanding
of both the lesson objectives and the rationale for the procedural plan.
In other words, students need to engage in the lesson at a metacognitive
level and understand how each activity or task aids in achieving the
lesson objectives and how these lesson objectives contribute to their
goal of becoming proficient in a second or foreign language.


Erudite: plans that are over packed with activities, content to

be learned, movement, varying interaction patterns and so forth are
usually unwieldy and exhausting for both the teacher and students.
An important consideration when planning, is knowing how both you
and your students are going to navigate all the activities and tasks you
want to do and teach. Simplicity may be easier for the teacher and the
students. We will speak more on this later.
Logical: procedural plans that are constructed with stages
that build on one another progressively and logically usually ensure
that learners can follow the lesson and progress as the lesson itself
progresses. The antithesis of this is a lesson plan that jumps with little
logic from one activity to another and as a consequence loses the
students in the process. We will expand on this when we discuss the
procedural plan.


As we have already seen, mapping a logical route to an objective

“To begin planning
means first of all knowing what the lesson objective or objectives are. by imagining what
To do this, we must think about what the students should be able to students will be able
do, say or be more aware of at the end of the lesson, and to actually to do when they walk
visualize this. Picture an average student in your class and think about out of the door really
what that specific person should be able to do as a consequence of helps to focus the
your teaching. Try to imagine what exact words they would use as process and clarify
answers to the different activities you are proposing. This kind of focus
brings the ideas down to the real plane and can help you anticipate Roshii Jolly
approaches that you would otherwise not be aware of. Ask yourself:
What will be this particular student’s takeaway? and What evidence
will I require in order to measure that they have indeed taken it away?
It may feel counterintuitive to begin with the end of the lesson rather
than the beginning, and it is certainly very tempting to begin by finding
a fun, interesting task, topic or piece of material. However, it is essential
your focus initially be on what is being learned in a lesson rather than
what is happening during a lesson.
To this end, many teachers word their objectives as follows: “By
the end of the lesson, students should be able to…” We use the modal


“should” rather than “will” because, as we have discussed before, a

lot can happen during the lesson resulting in the objective not being
attained. Although this may seem simple nomenclature, it trains us as
teachers to maintain our focus on the students’ performance in the
language by end of the lesson and thus, on actual learning.
Another way of beginning to develop this habit of mind about
anticipating the end result is to couch the objectives using the ABC
formula. This is generally given to beginning teachers as a method for
crafting the objective. In this formula A stands for the audience (all the
students/most students/ half the class/ etc.), B stands for the behavior
(i.e. what we expect them to be able to do, know or be aware of) and
C stands for the conditions under which they will demonstrate the
behavior (individually/in pairs/in groups/orally/ in writing, etc.). Let’s
look at one example of this:

“By the end of the lesson, all students should be able to use the colloquial
expressions taught in class in short dialogs during pair work.”

Although useful, it is not always necessary to write such detailed

objectives. We recommend you use the formula because it is a good
memory aid and it actually makes you think about the objective
from the point of view of the learners and their learning. However,
the important issue about objectives is that they should clearly and
unambiguously indicate what students’ performance at the end of the
lesson should be like.
As an example, let’s look at the following objectives. Which do
you think are the clearest and why?

1) Students should be able to start and keep conversations in English;

Students should be able to use some connected speech.
2) Students should be able to listen to a song and complete a cloze
3) By the end of the lesson:
i) students should be able to discuss global warming and recent
findings according to the article read prior to the class.


ii) students should be able to effectively agree and disagree with

others’ opinions on controversial topics.
iii) students should be able to give their own opinions following an
agreement or disagreement in order to maintain the conversation.
iv) students should be able to utilize new keywords/expressions and
information learned from a video to discuss global warming and
other controversial topics.
v) By the end of the lesson, students should have practiced the
present simple for habitual actions (verbs include live, work, like)
and reviewed the use of the auxiliary verb ‘do’ for question and
negative forms.

The first lesson objective is vague; it is difficult to understand

exactly what needs to happen in the lesson in order to achieve the
objective. There is no indication as to the conditions and reference to
the behavior is too broad (“keep a conversation,” but we may wonder,
How long? On which topic? Who with?).
The second objective is clearer in terms of what is going to happen
in class although completing the cloze does not constitute a learning
objective. It is simply one of the activities (the C in our formula above)
that may help achieve the learning objective of developing listening
In the last four sets of objectives, the teacher is very precise about
what is going to be taught in the lesson and provides a clear guideline
for the lesson. Unfortunately, multiple objectives are listed and this may
be overwhelming for both the teacher and the students. Being aware of
how much can realistically be taught in one class period is critical not
only to learner success but also their motivation. Ask yourself: How
many new lexical items are in my lesson, how many new language
structures do I plan to present? Do I want students to actively use the
new language or simply obtain a passive awareness? How difficult is the
language I plan to present? In this respect, we often tell out teachers in
training “Less is almost always more.”


As one of our former students explained:

“For me, less is more applies in different ways to different aspects of

my teaching. It applies to both the planning and the teaching stages.
It applies to becoming overwhelmed by the wealth of materials and
by the desire to create my own perfect materials so that I end up
being bogged down in the planning stage with too many choices.
While planning, with my natural tendency to want to cover a topic as
completely as possible, and with my compulsion to attend to every
detail and work out every fine point, I can easily lose sight of the
objectives and the students.”

It is tempting to plan a lesson full of wonderful content. However,

“Learning a second
language is a input is only useful if there is sufficient time for students to both
long and complex process and use it. They need enough time to be able to begin to make
undertaking. Your it their own, and ample chances to interpret it in their own framework
whole person is of understanding.
affected as you This requires a greater concentration on actual content, less
struggle to reach content and more on practice. It is also useful to consider here that
beyond the confines of
learning any language is exhausting both physically and mentally. A
your first language”
lesson that is overly challenging can be-demotivating. Indeed, it is not
H.D. Brown (2007, difficult to reconcile learner success and increased motivation. When
p.1) learners can evidence their own success they feel more encouraged and
motivated. If they cannot evidence their own learning demotivation
soon follows.
Success is the best Therefore a lesson plan needs to have success in mind rather
motivator. than a language or skills goal to reach. Success by design means being
realistic about our expectations for each lesson, planning along the
contours of your students’ concentration levels and making learning
appear to be easy. It also means providing sufficient time for students
to practice their skills and the language.

Let’s take a pit stop and look at the following key words:
Motivating, anticipation, lesson objectives, realistic, erudite, clear, logical, teachable moment
Look at each word and consider where and why it was mentioned in the text.



From what has been mentioned so far, as well as from your own thoughts about what we have
written, take a minute to note down what the traits of effective and efficient learning objectives
should be.

Now read the following and check to see if your list matches ours.
You may have more than this, in which case email us!

• Relevant
Learning objectives should be relevant to the students’ needs and
their use of English. For example, if the students use English in their
workplace, which is a bank, should some of the class content include
banking terms?
• Useful
This trait takes into account the students’ context, for example if the
students live in New York, would it be useful to teach them colloquialisms
such as ‘What’s up?’ because they will hear them frequently?
• Realistic
As we have already mentioned, the desire to plan every aspect of
a piece of language or a mountainous list of lexical items often leads
to a cumbersome and unrealistic amount of information for students
to try to scale.
• Authentic
In one of the descriptors of a lesson plan at the beginning of
the unit, a teacher-in-training stated that a lesson should contain
‘prototypical examples.’ She was referring to examples of target language
and the need for them to be examples that are used in authentic
communication. Authentic also refers to the actual language students
should be able to use in communication as a result of our teaching.
• Teachable/learnable
It is easier to consider the concepts of teachability and learnability
through examples. Consider the ease of conveying the meaning of


the following: “oblique,” “obscure,” “embarrassed” and “ashamed” in

the same lesson. They are all difficult and elusive concepts which are
difficult to convey and difficult to grasp. You may decide to ‘remove’
them from a lesson rather than attempt to teach them. In order to make
this judgment, you need to anticipate the difficulty they present, the
easiest and most effective way to present them and the amount of
time they could potentially take in a lesson. If something appears too
complicated the lesson objectives may need to be streamlined, broken
down or removed.


At the risk of sounding depressing, we believe that we should

spend more time focusing on what can go wrong with a lesson plan
than on what can go right. This is mostly because the classroom
environment is an ever-changing one, where unexpected situations
happen all the time. Hence, it is important that we prepare for the
unexpected by thinking ahead of the problems.
Once you have created precise learning objectives and you
have a clear idea of what you expect learners to achieve as a result
of your teaching, you should consider what potential difficulties these
objectives may present for all students in general, as well as for specific
students in particular. One colleague of ours described this stage in
lesson planning as planning preemptive measures.
Let’s see how this process can evolve. First, let’s look at the
following learning objective:

By the end of the lesson, students should be able to understand and use
the function “Speculating about unreal situations” by using the second
conditional, example: “If I were rich, I would buy a new house.”

Next, let’s consider this shortlist of questions we might ask

• Is the meaning conceptually difficult?
• Is the form of the target structure confusing, for example, why
is ‘were’ in the structure after I, rather than ‘was’?


• Is any part of it contracted for example ‘I would’ to ‘I’d.’

• What issues might may pose difficulty at the phonological level?

This stage allows you to walk in the students’ shoes and see the
language from their point of view. It also helps you appreciate what
the students really need to cover in a language lesson. Engaging in this
questioning arms you with methods to resolve the problems because,
for every challenge we forecast, we need to consider how we will deal
with it if and when in corps up in class. Our anticipation must cover
all our fronts, and we should consider even how we might circumvent
the problem. Many certificate-level teaching courses break potential
problems down into four broad areas:
Appropriate use - Why is the register of the language
important? In the case above we might want to highlight to
students that ‘was’ as in “If I was rich…” is permissible in spoken
American English even though this would be seen as colloquial.
Meaning - how and where the language realistically
lives (what functions are achieved by the use of this particular
language). This information stems from the pragmatic level of
language and must be made clear to students so that they do not
incur in sociolinguistic mistakes.
Pronunciation – are there tricky sounds in the sentence?
How does the sentence sound when spoken at natural speed?
Remember that pronunciation is not simply about the students
being able to be understood when using the language, but also
being able to understand the language when they hear it.
Form - the construction of structure may pose difficulties
to students if it requires syntactic moves that are not present in
the students’ L1. For example, Spanish speakers tend to omit the
subject when speaking or writing in English because they transfer
that practice from their L1. Students need to understand that the
omission of the subject is possible in Spanish because the verbs
one declination per person, which is not the case in English.
These areas will help you to focus on, and break down, what may
cause problems for the students; they provide you with a framework
for analyzing language as well as for prioritizing what needs to be dealt
with in class and what might not. It also informs the procedural plan


and creates modes of instruction for learners to efficiently navigate

complex grammar, lexical items and skills work.


The procedural plan or rather the route to your destination is made

up of two parts: what you want to do in class and why you want to do
it (the rationale). The two go hand in hand. Why you plan activities in a
certain order or specific instructional techniques depends on your own
understanding of how language learning occurs, which has most likely
been influenced by myriad experiences including your own learning
experiences as a language learner.
One point of reference that is useful to clarify how we think about
and articulate our teaching rationale and understanding of learning is
Bloom’s taxonomy. This is a framework, which identifies different levels
of learning from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking
skills. It provides a taxonomy, which describes learning and a tool for
us to consider what is occurring during learning experiences.
The diagram below depicts the revised version of the original
taxonomy. As it can be seen, the organization is hierarchical and also
sequential, as each of the lower strata are contained in the upper ones.
For example, in order to understand something, I first need to remember.
In order to apply it, I need to both, remember and understand it, and
so forth. What we propose as the use of this taxonomy is to ensure that
the lower order thinking skills are developed before the higher order
thinking skills but also, that we do not trivialize learning by considering
that beginning and elementary students are incapable of applying higher
thinking skills because their language proficiency is low. For example,
young children can create their own vocabulary games in English even
if they have only learned the language for a short period of time. In
order to design, for example, a board game to practice vocabulary,
children will need to remember the words, understand them, be able to
use them (application) and then, they will think about which words are
more important or difficult thus analyzing and evaluating before they
come up with a board game they can all play.


This in many ways speaks to a word we have already mentioned:

‘logicality.’ While it is true that in a plan certain activities or learning
events should not happen before others because each one builds on (or
‘scaffolds’) the next one, we can challenge students to progress towards
higher order skills use by providing suitable preparation for each task.







Figure 5.3 – Anderson, Krathwhol, (2001) Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain

A very typical procedural lesson plan is the so called, P P P

model. This means: presentation, controlled practice, freer practice. As
you may have surmised already, this planning sequence is not unlike
those of Hunter or Gagné. P P P is fundamentally a very logical
planning sequence with which to introduce language that students
have not seen before, particularly at beginning level or when we need
to re-teach language students failed to learn.
First the new language is presented in context. The teacher then
checks meaning, pronunciation, and usually the form before setting or
leading activities that practice the language in a controlled manner and
focus mostly on accuracy. Finally, the students practice the language
freely through communicative activities whose focus is on fluency. We
will discuss lesson plan patterns later on in this book in more detail;
however for now, it is key to consider the ordering of activities and
what each activity can achieve in terms of learning. Again, logicality is
key. The PPP pattern makes sense for example in that the flow of focus
moves from accuracy to fluency. It might not always be appropriate
but, at this point, it is a good idea to consider why this is a tried and


trusted lesson planning pattern that countless teachers use around the
world on a daily basis.
While a P P P planning sequence appears logical for teaching
or reviewing language, other planning patterns are also popular for
dealing with lessons that involve developing the language skills (reading,
listening, writing, speaking). The chart below illustrates the differences:


Instructions Rationale
A presentation stage A lead in prediction A lead in about the topic
activity of the text.
A checking of understanding stage
A series of gist questions Focus on text structure
A clarification stage and form through sample
Rereading text.
A controlled practice stage
Detailed questions Students writing their own
A freer practice stage
Rereading text.
Assessment Assessment

Table 5.1 – A comparison of language-based and skills-based lessons

In later units we will see that there are various alternatives to these
planning patterns. However, for the time being, let us consider these
as the “default” settings for planning language and skills lessons. Not
only are these patterns systematically taught in initial teacher education
courses around the world, they also figure prominently in most language
teaching textbooks. Perhaps they are so popular because they give
teachers a sense of security and predictability in terms of their students’
learning. This fact notwithstanding, we must acknowledge that they also
pose limitations on that learning. We will see how to counteract these
limitations further on in the book.
Each stage in our lessons also has an explicit objective. These
objectives build incrementally to ensure that the students’ learning is
supported. For example, before students practice language, they should
have at least some idea of its use and meaning; therefore, the students’
understanding should have been checked.
A useful analogy when planning lesson procedures is to consider
the process as if you were walking. This idea came from the observation


of a lesson in which the teacher seemed to be randomly jumping from

one activity to the other without a suitable transition or bridge between
the various activities. The jumps were huge and numerous, and many
of the students were left along the wayside, in a confused daze. Instead,
it might have been more useful and accurate for the teacher to actually
visualize the lesson as steps, each step that you make touches the
next: heel to toe and so forth. This ensures that you plan for links or
connections between activities and realize a logical flow of events. In
addition, students should also be able to recognize how the lesson holds
together (i.e. how it is cohesive) and how the connections between each
activity aid this cohesion.
During the activity and task selection process, each activity should
be evaluated and unpacked in order to gleam from it what it has to
contribute to the overall plan. Here is where thinking about why we are
incorporating each activity helps us in the process. It is very common
nowadays for many teachers to “plan” a lesson by searching to the topic
they want to teach on the Internet and download ready-made lesson
plans and materials. We should remember these were not prepared with
our students’ needs in mind and can prove more harmful than useful.
That is why we advocate for a designer approach to lesson planning,
particularly at the procedural level, and we encourage you to follow our
Ideally, for every activity we include in our plan, we should write
an individual objective. After we have finished planning the procedure,
we can look at the various objectives and see if the flow naturally and
build upon one another in a logical, productive sequence. Unless we
consciously do so, the selection of activities and tasks may feel haphazard
and unfocused, and with the amount of materials now available online,
even overwhelming.
To paraphrase a famous passage in George Orwell’s Animal Farm,
bear in mind that “not all materials are created equal and certainly some
are more equal than others” when it comes to placing them into your
plan. It may feel tempting to print materials form the Internet because
the title states that they practice the Present Perfect, but we might then
find ourselves in class with an unwieldy piece of material that does not
match the students’ needs or the overall lesson objective. Unpacking
any activity prior to the lesson ensures that your selection is appropriate


for your students. By unpacking we mean, editing, adapting, in some

cases rewriting it to fit our students, and then ensuring that the students
will understand what they need to do and why they are doing it. The
following questions are useful to help frame the various activities we
want to implement in the procedural plan:

• How does this activity help my students learn?

• Is it just a fun activity or does it contribute to the flow of my lesson?
• How am I going to transition into this activity?
• Will the objective be clear to the students?
• What will the interaction pattern be during this activity?
• How should I give instructions to this activity?
• Will the students have the requisite language to be able to complete
the task? If not, what do I need to do in class to help with this?
• Do I, as teacher, know how I am going to monitor and assess the
• How am I going to give feedback on the activity?

These questions help to plan the execution of the procedure in our

lesson and help us to consider and evaluate how we are going to reach
the expected outcomes. They also provide an opportunity to circumvent
a certain amount of the unexpected from happening and, if and when it
does happen, to have suitable strategies to deal with it.


The following lesson plan is divided into two distinct sections:

a) a cover page where we unpack our design intentions at the level
of learning and teaching. We call this the intentional plan.
b) a specification of the lesson moment-by-moment. We call this
the procedural plan
Take some time to look at the plan and consider:
• How clear the objectives are.
• How well the plan has been anticipated.
• How logical the procedural plan is.


Beginners’ class
Monday 2-4pm (120 mins)

Class Description: This class is made answer the questions or express what they
up of 8 students (one woman the rest are like.
men – this is not tough on her as she is Solution: Cut initial pair work short and omit
outgoing and full of fun- she can hold her ‘like’ in the initial part of the lesson.
own with any of them!) – they all work in the
restaurant business: waiters, busboys, pasta Problem: Is Obama memorable?
chefs, pastry chefs) The age range is 18-25 Solution: Will ask sts. to introduce their own
– fairly young. All students work long hours. famous character during the game. Obama
Two start at 3 am daily. All are extrinsically is memorable but is he relevant to them?
and intrinsically motivated. Many have They are interested in current events so will
described learning English as difficult. They try.
frequently use L1 I class.
Problem: Second part of question forms
Objectives: By the end of the lesson, adds a lot of language
students should have practiced the present Solution: Allow for plenty of pair work
simple for habitual actions (live, work, like) activities to provide ‘space’ for the students
and reviewed the use of the auxiliary do for to use/practice the language. This will
question and negative forms after which provide me with the time to keep running
they should be able to describe a famous diagnostics to see when the camel’s back
person of their choice to a peer when breaks. I will be able to teach 1:1 during pair
working orally in pairs. work.

Timetable fit: followed on from Thursday’s Problem: Students may want to use adverbs
lesson re: daily routines and a review of of frequency or may need them
the auxiliary ‘do.’ The evidence at the end Solution: Will not overtly teach them unless
of that lesson indicated that they needed necessary, allow students to use them if they
more repetition of the structure with special know them.
attention on the third person ‘s’.
Problem: Students may forget the third
Anticipated problems and possible person ‘s’ when talking about actions about
solutions other people
Problem: Initial test may be overloaded i.e. Solution: Will diagram the language on
students may not be able to ask questions the board and use flashcards to show
correctly or have enough language to conjugation of the verb and highlight the


form again during a pronunciation activity. Problem: Students may omit auxiliary ‘do’ in
Will use different colored markers on the the question form or add it to the response
board ad point to the ‘snake’ on the wall. sentence.
Solution: Will do a lot of repetition, count
Problem: Student may confuse meaning of form off on fingers highlighting how many
habitual action words are in each sentence and show
Solution: Use timeline and show repetitive structures on board
activity in the past, present and future. Will
review my routine. Problem: Energy may drop
Solution: Will watch the attention levels and
Problem: Students may omit third person ‘s’ change to game at end if necessary. Will
ending acknowledge how hard they are working
Solution: Use phonemes to show sound and give out candy.
differences and show snake.


I live He lives
Work works
Like likes
Am is

What DO you do? What DOES he do?

Where DO you work? Where DOES he work?
Where DO you live? Where DOES he live?
What DO you like to do in What DOES he do in his free time?
your free time?




Time Interaction Procedure Procedural Objectives
5 mins S<>S Pairs introduce themselves to one To begin/continue to develop
another (review). community and rapport with the new

10 -15 T<>Ss Introductions – allow time for sts to Review previous lesson and continue
mins arrive to focus on scaffolding language
Introduce myself: I am…I work in…I
live in…. I like…..I don’t like hot
weather with visuals.

5 mins T<>Ss Focus on verbs: live, work, and like. This is language that the students
Use flashcards to show work, like etc. will need in the following activity-
Contrast pronunciation of live vs. like scaffolding.

10-15 mins S<>S Pairs to discuss job, live, likes Test how much the sts already know
10 -15mins
T<>Ss Each pair feedback to the class Focus on language needed for
correct question form- scaffolding to
the next activity

Focus on questions forms: Clarify/circumvent potential problem

Where do you live? with auxiliary
What do you do?
What do you do in our free time?

Highlight auxiliary ‘do’ To demonstrate how language is

naturally said.

Show answer on the board and show Review language and allow student
that auxiliary is absent to experiment with new structures.
Commit structures to memory
Repetition of question form, and allow students to practice
highlight pronunciation and aspects anonymously – this should build
of connected speech motivation.

Back to Back Dictation Add variety to class and again create

Followed by a mingle activity using certain amount of anonymity.



Time Interaction Procedure Procedural Objectives
10-15 T<>Ss Put a picture of Obama on the board. Create a memorable context-
mins Ask sts who he is; elicit his job, where he focus on form, pronunciation and
lives, his children etc. Highlight the third meaning.
person ‘s’ Focus on pronunciations which may
also reinforce the form
T<>S Highlight pronunciation of /s/, /iz/ and
/z/ (third person s endings) Commit language to memory and
Repetition of works, lives, focus on accuracy

10 mins S<>S Pairs discuss Obama and review

language presented- change pairs to Allow pairs to practice using
elongate activity and practice time language – sts experiment using
the language and possibly use
10-15 T<>Ss Introduction of question forms in third question forms
mins person ‘s’:
Elicit: Provide sts with language needed
Where does she/he live? to talk about other people.
What does he/she do?
When does he/she

Repetition of question forms

Commit language to memory and

10/15 T<>Ss Elicit what happens to auxiliary and third focus on form
mins person ‘s’ using post-its. Ask student to
stand up and come close to the board. Highlight auxiliary usage
Point to each part of question. Mix up
post -ts and ask students to sort the
sentences out. Focus on form and prevent
problems with auxiliary (see
15 mins S<>S Put students into pairs to think of one anticipation)
famous person from their countries. Ask
them to write names on post its. Collect
in post-its and stick one name to one Fun use of language which should
student’s back in each pair. Each pair has ease any fatigue and concentration.
to find out who is on their back by asking Also, introduce the students’
questions. Do this repeatedly. Finish by cultures into class – ask them to
writing my own for the class to guess. discuss someone that they like.
Remind students of overall aim of
15 mins T<>Ss Correction- say a few sentences which are eh lesson and allow them to walk
incorrect based on game and ask each out having achieved.
pair to correct also ask whole group
End with repetition.



Time Interaction Procedure Procedural Objectives
10-15 S<>S Students think of one person close Students personalize the language
mins to them and describe them – q and a and use it in contact with a clear
(pairs) need and use.
T monitors and corrects
10 -20 Ss<>Ss
mins Possible:
Change the energy in the class
Game- sts given names of famous by allowing the students to move
people- mingle and describe the person around also provide an activity
Student think of own people and write which should be fun
them on slips of paper- repeat the
10-15 T<>S activity To go over any issues that need
mins ironing out and to review the lesson
Teacher goes over corrections, reviews
the language on the board i.e. Question
and answer forms in first person and
question and answer forms in third
10 mins S<>S person Test students’ existing knowledge
of language.
Likes/don’t like- Review like question form
and introduce verbs. Give handout one
per pair, should say what each verb is.
10 mins S<>S Use the language in context and
Students have to say which one they personalize it.
like/don’t like
10 mins S To focus on the written form and
Students write down three things about provide a balance with the other
themselves using the verbs activities.

Would you change anything about the plan? If so, what would you
change? Why?


One important consideration when walking into any classroom is

that the students have not seen our lesson plan; therefore, they do not
know what is going to happen or the rationale behind the plan. Making
sure that the lesson is transparent to the students can help relieve
some of the students’ stress and help them to engage in the lesson on a


metacognitive level that not only helps them to learn but to understand
how to learn. This can be done by explaining the objectives at the
beginning of the class and planning your own language in class so that
you incorporate instructions and the rationale for activities.
Many teachers write the lesson objectives on the board at the
beginning of the lesson; some teachers hesitate to do this because they
feel it takes away from the surprise of the lesson. However, consider
the lesson from the students’ points of view. Given that our students
are usually not teachers or educators and, therefore, do not have a
strong sense of learning pedagogy or the course curriculum, they
need support to concentrate on the lesson objectives rather than try to
decipher them. Writing out an outline of the plan (or, if you are teaching
very young learners drawing it – for example use a clef to mean “song,”
two heads to mean “pair work,” a pencil to mean “drawing,” etc.) or the
objectives helps learners engage in the lesson as a learning process.
We must remember that learning a new language can be
intimidating and having access to the plan on the board gives students
both, a sense of security and also a sense of progress, if you tick the
various activities as you cover them. The plan can also be used as an
effective closure.
One of us likes to devote 5 minutes of each lesson to asking
students questions about what was learned and they have to indicate
where in the plan they did so. This technique acts as a revision as
well as closure, it helps the teacher and students assess the degree
of attainment of the lesson objectives and finally, it provides students
with a takeaway, as they are able to reflect on what they have actually
learned. This is a particularly effective way of making sure that young
learners have something to tell their parents when they ask “What did
you learn today in English class?” As many of you may know from
experience, in general, younger learners tend to say what they “did” but
not what they “learned,” whereas the default answer a teenage student
often gives is “Nothing.” So, making them aware of the takeaways from
our lessons also helps build community and understanding of why we
are together. In short, it is not enough for teachers to recognize how to
achieve lesson objectives; the students also need to know them so that
they become aware of their own learning process.


One of us once asked a group of teachers-in-training whether they

found beauty in the subtlety of a lesson plan. By this she meant whether
overt instruction supported the learners and learning. We invite you to
reflect on this and consider what works for you as a learner: does it
help you to know what the teacher has planned. You may want to ask
your students the same question.
Finally, we want to highlight that writing the “schedule for the
day” on the board and discussing objectives with students is also a
useful tool for the teacher in that it helps you manage your transitions.
A skillful and swift progression from one activity into the next does not
only provide a smooth flow for the lesson, but contributes to a sense
of achievement and aids the students in making sense of our teaching.
Let’s take a moment to walk into a classroom and compare these
two sets of instructions:

1. Teacher: “Right, everyone get into pairs to complete the sentences on

the worksheet”
2. Teacher: “Right, work with the person next to you to complete the
sentences. Let’s see how the sentences are made.”

The wording is only slightly different but, in the second set of

instructions, the rationale behind the task is evident i.e. to understand
and familiarize the students with the form of a specific grammar
structure. In the first, the learners are not told why they are doing the
activity and thus are not engaged in the learning process. Similarly,
look at the following transitions:

1. Okay have you finished exercise one? Let’s go over the answers and
do the next activity.
2. Okay, have you finished exercise one? Did it help you to remember
the new grammar forms? Let’s do the next activity, which should help
us to use the language a little more but this time in conversation.

Again, the second transition helps elucidate why the teacher

planned the activities the way he or she did. How much can be
explained to the students will depend on their age and level but even


at the lower levels and with very young learners you can use words
such as “remember,” “write,” “read,” or “use” to help illustrate the aim
of each task. Even though this could be categorized under classroom
management, as opposed to lesson planning, it is a vital part of our
lesson design. Thinking through what we are going to say helps take
the plan off the page, and provides rehearsal time. One teacher-in-
training told us:

“I am able to ensure that I have covered all of the bases that need
to be covered and ensured that there is a balance of skills in my classes
between listening, reading, writing and speaking and how much I am
speaking and how much the students are speaking.”


As has already been mentioned, learning any language is not an

easy endeavor and has the potential to end up in demotivation and
attrition. Therefore, anything teachers can do to make the experience
more motivating for students is a positive step. This may simply mean
adding a game to the end of a lesson so that the last thing the students
remember about the lesson is fun. Alternatively, we can try incorporating


topics that we know are of interest to the students (because we asked

about this in our needs analysis), or ensuring that lesson plans are
designed so that they calibrate energy levels and attention.
In any learning experience there are peaks and valleys of students’
concentration and energy levels. For example, when students enter the
class they may be attentive but need time to adjust to being immersed
in a language other than their L1 because they may have just finished
work or school and need time to reset their thinking to an all-English
period of time. One technique that has worked very well for us to
counteract this feeling of disorientation is the “DO NOW!” activity. We
make sure to arrive in the classroom before our students and before
writing the schedule for the day, we write the instructions for a short
activity that students do as soon as they enter the classroom. It need not
be anything lengthy or complicated. Examples of DO NOW activities
are: “Open your book and find five adjectives that describe X in lesson
Y” or “Write three questions you would like to ask the character in
Unit X.” The idea is for students to settle down, and turn their minds
into English. At the classroom-management level, DO NOW activities
also help teachers settle down into the room and wait for latecomers
(particularly in classes involving adult learners who may come from
work) without wasting valuable lesson time.
Often, teachers plan ‘warmers’ at the beginning of the lesson that
do just that, warm up the students, relax them, give them a period of
adjustment during a low stakes activity and prepare them for the lesson
ahead. These activities can follow from the feedback to the DO NOW
activity and could also be as simple as talking about the day, the week
or sharing one interesting, unusual or fun thing that recently happened.
They act as an introduction to the topic of the lesson and help activate
students’ background knowledge about it.
Very often these activities are done in pairs or groups instead of
individually or in front of the class to allow students to work with as
little stress as possible, or feeling that the activity is a performance as
opposed to a simple warming activity.
At the end of the lesson, when students feel tired and are possibly
beginning to lose concentration and focus, teachers may add a cooler
to the lesson, before reviewing the takeaways for the day. This works
very similarly to the warmer in that it is possibly dislocated from the


lesson content, fun, low-stakes and aimed at ensuring the students

leave the lesson with a good feeling. It could be a game, a pair work
speaking activity about something dealt with during the lesson, or a
brief mingling activity in which students stretch their legs and interact.
The aim of both coolers and warmers is to address the needs
of students and the various feelings and emotions that they can incur
over the journey of a lesson such as frustration levels, confusions,
clarity, feelings of accomplishment, boredom, waning attention spans
these combine to create the rhythm of the lesson. For example, the
content of the lesson may be challenging and consequently confuse
and tire the students. To address this and alleviate rising frustration,
students complete a “CAN DO” activity, which is basically any type
of activity, which is relatively straightforward and simple, in other
words all of the students ‘can do’ it. For instance, repetition is one such
activity that all of the students, irrespective of their level or ability can
usually experience success with. It need not be more than repeating
a sentence first at normal volume, then shouting it, then whispering
Having predictable
it. Or, you may want to turn this sentence into a chant to add some
patterns in place
physical and rhythmic accompaniment to the words. Imagine this
allows teachers to
spend more time scenario, after students have plowed through a particularly tricky gap
in meaningful fill, teachers add a rhyming chant or a simple substitution drill using
instruction. some of the language in the exercise they have just completed, in order
to lift energy levels and infuse the students with renewed confidence.
Similarly, if the students have come to the end of a reading activity and
found it difficult, teachers may want to add a pair work activity in which
students share one or two thoughts about the reading, or talk about a
setting or a character they liked. If the “CAN DO” presents a challenge,
the aim behind it has failed. Arguably “CAN DO” activities may not
add substantially in terms of content to our lessons, but they do lead
to a feeling of success that, in turn, means a raise on motivation. For
this reason they are critical to plans and should be woven throughout a
lesson. Indeed, looking at the rhythm of the lesson means being aware
that the plan facilitates learning, which is a process.
Before we move on to other considerations, we should also
stress the need for variety to keep lessons interesting and our students
interested. All teachers, over time, develop predictable patterns
of classroom behavior. We develop a particular liking for certain


techniques or procedures or we trust on the effectiveness of certain

materials and use them over and over again. With these recurring
patterns we may unknowingly be making our lessons also predictable
and routinary for our learners. Hence, it is fundamental that when we
draft the procedural plan we purposefully incorporate some form of
variety to the lesson.

Things that we may vary include:

• Pace – make sure your lesson takes up speed when students

find things easy and give them time when they find something
difficult. Make your timing flexible according to your learners’

• Organization – incorporate individual, pair and group work.

Vary the way you pair and group students and make sure some
of the pair and group activities include movement and not just
sitting at a desk.

• Mode – balance written (reading and writing) and oral

(listening and speaking) work.

• Difficulty – always plan some extra activities for early finishers

that pose a challenge for them. For late finishers, have some extra
work ready that may supplement what they need to learn without
disrupting the flow of the class. We generally make cards with
these activities and put the correct answers on the back of the
cards for self-correction.

• Mood – vary the mood in your lesson. Include light and fun
activities along serious and profound activities in every lesson. Do
not let one mood monopolize the whole lesson.

• Stir-settle – by the same token, plan activities that enliven and

excite students (games, competitions, singing songs) to raise their
level of engagement and motivation, and make sure you alternate
these with activities that calm them down.



These are comments made by a teacher after a class that did not
go as planned. Many of the problems could have been prevented if the
teacher had planned the lesson in a slightly different way. As you read
the teacher’s self-assessment, consider why they may have occurred:

1. The students were lively at the beginning of the class but their energy
levels waned in the middle and the end.
2. I ran out of time, I didn’t get to my practice activities!
3. The students got frustrated with the content. They couldn’t

After some thoughtful reflection and a long conversation with her

mentor, here is the observer’s interpretation of the possible causes for
the problems and potential solutions that may have worked:

1. The students’ energy level wanes.

Maybe too much time was allotted to one activity. Possibly, the pacing
within the lesson was incorrect. Use a ‘stand up and stretch activity’ to
re-enliven the students (literally ask the students to stand up and move
a around the room for a few minutes in order to re-energize them).
Sequence activities, which are active and less active carefully. It is not a
good idea to ask your students to move around the classroom for long
periods of time but equally it is not a good idea to ask them to do sit
down activities for the entire duration of the lesson. Consider the age of
your students: if they are younger learners there attention span may be
fairly short, mix up their lessons with kinesthetic and sit-down activities.
Possibly look at your plan and reflect on how long you were talking
during the lesson. Lastly, consider how it feels to be working in a foreign
language for any length of time: it is tiring.

2. Students get frustrated.

The lesson may have been too difficult for the students. Consider varying
the level of activity difficulty within your plan, mix up easy and difficult
tasks so that students feel encouraged at varying points within a lesson
because they are able to do the activities and are more likely to feel


encouraged to tackle more difficult tasks. It is useful to experiment with

‘’CAN DO’ endings to the lessons. In other words, placing an activity
at the end, which you know the students can achieve easily in order to
end the lesson on a high note and motivate the students to keep coming
back to lessons.

3. Not enough time!

Most of us plan too much due to the concern that we will run out of
material; however, ‘less is more’ - something we have promised that we
will keep repeating is possibly one of the most important things to keep
in mind when teaching. Students can only process a certain amount;
therefore, one needs to be very aware of how much content there is in
a lesson and to have realistic aims for students and yourself. It is easy
to find a theme or a topic or a language structure and watch it grow
before our eyes and get intimidated by how much we need to cover.
Break down language and lessons carefully and know that you do not
need to do everything in one lesson.

There are many more things which may go wrong in a class and
that force us to stray away from our plan. Alternatively, things may
have gone wrong because we stuck to the plan too strictly. This is
one of the main challenges of teaching, but it is an exciting (albeit
frustrating at times) one. Reflecting on each lesson and as we have said
before, keeping a journal, help you to navigate your own successes
and failures, although, the word failure is not a word we subscribe to, a
better way of looking at failures is ‘opportunities to learn.’

A check off list for a lesson longer than 2 hours:

Lesley developed this checklist to help her planning of longer

lessons. Her ideal longer lesson:

1. is balanced: speaking, listening, reading, writing are all



2. is also balanced in terms of types of activities- not all sitting

down, not all standing up, not all literacy based, not all reading, or
all oral. This is to consider energy levels as well as difficulty levels.
3. includes some type of intercultural piece – even if this is only:
‘How would you say this in your language?’
4. covers all bases: Have I dealt with meaning and use,
pronunciation, appropriacy and form?
5. is inherently logical and cohesive.
6. has smooth transitions between activities
7. helps learners develop their own learning strategies.
8. balances the ratio of TTT and STT
9. exhibits flexibility: Where are the creases in my lessons (i.e.
flexibility to do more or less of something)?
10. offers the teacher ample opportunities to provide corrective
11. includes DO NOW, WARMERS and COOLERS (such as CAN
DO activities).
12. is well planned, including the potential boardwork
13. includes variety as the teacher is aware of her class routines
(reading a piece of news, a vocabulary word game, homework
14. makes the objectives clear at the beginning and reviews them
at the end of the lesson.

There are probably more but these are generally the main issues
we think about when we plan.


In this chapter we looked at lesson planning from different angles

and emphasized various conditions that successful lessons have when
they are well planned. Eventually, we acknowledged that anticipating
potential hurdles both at the conceptual and the procedural levels is a
must if we are to plan a lesson that is focused on the students and their
learning. Lesson planning is a skill and, as such, it takes time to learn


and you should expect to garner a series of “learning opportunities”

on your road to mastering the science and art of planning lessons.
However, one piece of advice is unavoidable: if you want to succeed
and you measure your success in terms of your students’ learning, then
devoting time and effort to planning and after teaching, reflecting on
the efficacy of your plan, is the only road you can take.

Chapter wrap-up

What is the most important What lingering questions What steps will you take
learning you have derived about lesson planning do to find answers to these
from this chapter? you still have? questions?

Observation task

Arrange to observe a colleague; explain that you are going to observe the various components
of a lesson mentioned in this chapter and how they impact a lesson plan. Ask the teacher to
provide you with a lesson plan before the observation. This does not have to be a formal plan;
a simple outline of the tasks will suffice. As you are observing, note down the changes made to
the plan during the lesson. For example, see if an activity was added, if an activity took longer
than the teacher had expected, if an activity was removed and so forth. Along with the change,
note down what was the catalyst for the change. Consider the four areas below and how they
contributed the plan adjustments

Students Space/classroom

Materials Time/pace


reflective journal task

Think about a specific lesson that you have recently taught which went well. Reflect on:
• Why it went well
• How each of the components mentioned above impacted the lesson plan’s execution
• How big a part of the success was the actual paper plan

portfolio task

Rewrite a plan of a lesson you taught

Invariably when we get into class, what we plan to happen and what actually happens are not
quite the same, as mentioned earlier there are myriad things that impact out lessons. We can
learn from these plan deviations. Look back at your plan and note down on the original plan what
actually happened. Try to answer the following questions:
What took longer than expected? What was shorter than expected? What was more difficult to
do than expected? What did the students enjoy? What did they appear not to enjoy? What did
you have to do that you had not expected? What posed greater difficulties than you anticipated?
Honing the craft of lesson planning tends to be incremental. The more experience you gain,
the greater your awareness is of how best to plan for certain topics, language, and skills. Noting
down deviations and keeping a record can help you to organize your own development.

We present below two different templates that can be used to plan lessons. The first one is a linear one
that organizes the lesson in a sequential manner. In this sense, it is easy to read and follow. However, there
are critics to this kind of plan, as it fails to capture the actual “messiness” of the teaching and learning
processes by presenting a lesson as a linear series of activities.

Lesson Plan Template A


(Student) Teacher’s name:

(Cooperating Teacher’s name):

Group: School: Date:

Time: Class visit # 1 2 3 Final



Anticipated problems and possible solutions:



Timing Activity Assessment Interaction Objectives


Comments on the lesson


Lesson Plan Template B

The second template is more in line with current conceptualizations of teaching and learning and helps
capture the complexity we referred to above in a better way. As you can see, the learning outcomes are
aligned to the assessment. Then, for each “block of activity” there are considerations at the forefront and
expansions or support in the background. There are three main components:
a. Hook/Motivation – activities aimed at bringing students into the topic of the lesson while
activating their background knowledge.
b. Input – this has to do with providing students with tools so that they can develop their language
(for example, a task) together with opportunities to extend that input.
c. Construction/Reconstruction – where students are actively engaged in using the language and
which provide opportunities to differentiate the content, the process or the product expected so as
to accommodate different learning needs and rhythms.

Hook / Motivation
Learning Schema
Outcomes Building



Construction / Reconstruction
(Process, Product or Content)


• • different
understandings of
• language lessons.
learning communities
• • ways of organizing
teachers’ roles
• lessons.
teachers’ use of L2 in
• purposes of lessons.

learning how to:

• develop and value a
learning how to:
• sequence steps in
learning community
• lessons.
plan lessons to cater
• co-construct
for different energy
understandings with
levels and attention
THE MAGIC OF TANGRAMS • • design various kinds of
use the white or
lessons according to
• the purposes sought.
use the classroom
Tangrams are puzzles made up of seven flat shapes that can be
seating arrangements
combined to form different figures given only their silhouette. In other to optimize learning.
words, tangrams consist of challenges to create as many different
silhouettes as possible by using only the seven basic shapes provided.
Tangrams originated in China and were brought to the West by 19th
century ships. Etymologically the word “tangram” derives from the
Chinese word “Tang,” referring to the Dynasty under which tangrams
were created; and the Greek word “gamma,” which means graph.
Tangrams are a useful metaphor for different kinds of lessons.
In the same way that we rearrange pieces in a tangram, teachers can
vary the ways lesson are organized while using the same components
in a lesson, but altering their order according to the purposes the
lesson seeks to achieve. These purposes are generally decided upon
by looking at students’ evolving language needs. In this chapter, we
will explore four purposes for lessons: to introduce language (this has
two varieties); to practice language in a controlled way; to get students
to communicate in the target language; and to integrate the different
language skills so that language is used in a realistic context.


Collection engage
of activities Study
Schema building
Developing metacognition
Contextualizing opening
bridging Sequencing
Modeling transitions
recast Pacing

Scaffolding Organizing Structured

strategies language speech
lessons events

Presentation guided
Practice lesson a flexible instruction
Skill-based types model Collaborative
review/reteaching learning

What do you already know about ways of organizing language


What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about different ways of organizing language lessons

have you heard your colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why
are they important/relevant?



Read the following comments about how lessons are organized.

Which ones resonate with your experience either as a teacher or as a

Teachers say…

• My lessons tend to have the same organization, in general. I use

the same kind of path in every lesson because it gives my students
a sense of security
• The lessons I teach are all different. The only thing in common
that they have is that I always start with something interesting to
hook students’ motivation.
• My lesson organization pretty much depends on what I am
going to teach. I tend to use the same Presentation→ Practice→
Production framework for language lessons because it is how the
textbook we use is organized.
• I do not adhere to any particular lesson format. How a lesson
evolves in my class depends on what the students do and what
they achieve.

Students say…

• English lessons are never the same. That is really fun!

• I would like my teacher to organize the lessons better. We do a lot
of things in class, but it is never certain why we do those things.
• I often find it difficult to follow the teacher’s lesson. It is not just
that my English is not very good, but the fact that she constantly
changes what we do.


• I need the teacher to teach me! I hate it when lessons are all about
“talk among yourselves.”

How would you respond to these teachers’ and students’ comments?

According to Kumaravadivelu (2003), the notion of method is a misnomer because:

• Teachers who claim to follow a particular method do not conform to its theoretical principles in
classroom procedures at all.
• Teachers who claim to follow different methods often use the same classroom procedures.
• Teachers who claim to follow the same method often use different procedures.
• Teachers develop and follow in their classrooms a carefully crafted sequence of activities not
necessarily associated with any particular method.
Do you agree with this view? Why? Why not?


Language lessons, like all lessons, should be well structured if they

are to result in effective student learning. How this can be achieved is
a matter of speculation (and sometimes even debate) among teachers
because each teacher, over time, develops a preferred way to teach
(Kumaravadivelu, 2003).
For many years, lessons were arranged according to the steps
prescribed by the various methods popular at a certain time. The concept
of method, while useful, has received a lot of criticism, particularly
by Kumaravadivelu (see above). Instead of the prescribed steps of a
method, various authors have contributed typologies of lessons based
on different criteria. These criteria are also very diverse. For example,
you may consider the different “moments” in a lesson, the nature of the
language used (authentic or restricted) or the kind of teaching activity
(engaging students, activating their language, etc.) to decide what kind
of lesson to create. While different, all these typologies have one thing
in common: they all center on the activities of the teacher. To us, the
shape of a lesson should be such that it allows learners to extend their


linguistic repertoire and thus develop. We would like to advance a

characterization of lessons that is student-centered while remaining
teacher-designed. We believe that learning can best happen when
new understandings are co-constructed by the teacher and the learners
working together, and starting from the students’ actual communicative
needs. This co-constructive view allows teachers and learners to exercise
their agency at various moments of the teaching and learning processes,
while respecting the need for students to receive support and guidance.
In order to help you understand our position, we will briefly summarize
two popular lesson typologies.


As you read about the different lesson formats, think back to your times as a language learner. What
was the most frequent kind of lesson organization?

Harmer (2007) suggests three kinds of lesson organization

depending on the nature of the activities planned by the teacher. He
explains that there can be three kinds of activity in a lesson: a moment
when the teacher hooks the students’ attention (Engage); a moment
when the teacher and students focus on the language and manipulate
it in a controlled way (Study); and finally, a moment when students use
what they have learned in naturalistic, real-world settings (Activate).
He goes on to suggest three kinds of lesson formats:

a. Straight arrow lesson: where the order of the building blocks

is Engage→ Study→ Activate. This means that the class starts with
a motivating activity, then the teacher focuses students’ attention on
the language (phonology, syntax or lexis) and helps them practice it
in controlled and semi-controlled ways; finally, the teacher creates or
introduces a communicative task in which students use the language
(vocabulary, grammar and/or pronunciation) they have learned in order
to attain a realistic communicative outcome. Straight arrow lessons
emulate the traditional P→P→P teaching paradigm characteristic of
many language-learning materials and lend themselves well to the


teaching of discrete items of language (e.g. grammar, pronunciation or

lexical items), particularly at beginning levels.
In this kind of lesson, for example, the teacher builds a situation
with the help of students that would allow her to introduce a new
language item. He then elicits the item from students, explains its
use, meaning, form and pronunciation on the board, and provides a
sequence of graded language activities for students to obtain control
over the new item. Finally, the teacher involves students in working in
pairs or groups trying to solve a communicative task where the use of
the new language item is required.


This kind of lesson has proved useful for beginning level students
because individual items can be presented in a carefully dosed way
that may lead to students’ being able to use them right away (Ur, 2012).
Finally, straight arrow lessons are easy to plan and implement which
is perhaps why they are popular with aspiring and novice teachers, as
well as with materials developers.

b. Boomerang lesson. This kind of lessons starts with an

engaging activity for students to activate their background knowledge
about the topic, followed by a communicative task done in pairs or
groups where students activate their English. During the communicative
task, the teacher monitors students’ expression and decides on which
areas of language to focus. The first activate phase is followed by a
Study phase, where the teacher gives students the chance to focus on the
language they would need to complete the task successfully. This means
presenting and practicing the new language or recycling it. Finally, the
teacher activates students’ language again by proposing a new task or by
regrouping the students and asking them to do the same task.
Boomerang lessons replicate the procedures of Task-based learning.
The teacher starts by activating students’ background knowledge about a


topic and pre-teaching vocabulary and expressions students might need

to be able to do a task. This is followed by the students working in pairs
or groups trying to solve a task, which should ideally stem from the topic
of the lesson. For example, if the topic is “Animals” the teacher may
give students the names of various animals and ask them to categorize
them by putting them in groups and labeling each group. Before each
pair or group presents their findings, the teacher gives them some time to
prepare for their oral report. After everyone has presented, the teacher
may play a recording of more fluent speakers doing the same task, or
he may share a reading text that exemplifies the discussion. Next, the
teacher may decide to organize a “language focus” where he explicitly
teaches the language needed for students to complete the task efficiently.
He finalizes the lesson either by regrouping students and asking them to
do the same task, or by keeping students in their group/pair and giving
them a similar task to complete (e.g. she may ask students to compare
three different animals: a mammal, a reptile and an amphibian) so that
students activate the newly learned language.

c. Patchwork lesson. According to Harmer (2007, p. 56) “Many

lessons aren’t quite as clear-cut as this, however. Instead, they are a
mixture of procedures and mini-procedures, a variety of short episodes
building up to a whole.” He calls this kind of lesson, where there is
no prescribed order to follow, a patchwork lesson. It could follow, for
example this sequence:


In this patchwork lesson, which is just an example, the teacher

starts by asking students what they know about a topic (E) and then
puts them in groups to negotiate 5 pieces of information they think
other groups will not know (A). The teacher then provides students with
a text for them to read and check their predictions (S) followed by some
vocabulary activities to introduce and practice new lexis (S). Next, the
teacher may ask students, still working in the same groups, to prioritize
the facts they have found in the text according to certain criteria (A)


and whether they would expect to find these facts in another kind of
text (maybe a song). The teacher then plays the song (E) for students
to check their predictions (S).
We prefer to look at individual lessons as stories collectively woven
by teachers and learners working together, where the protagonists are the
latter and not the former. While useful at beginning stages, a framework
such as the one presented by Harmer can help you organize the activities
teachers choose to do in class. However, we should acknowledge that
this framework fails to account for the “story” embedded in every lesson
by focusing mostly on the actions of the teacher and still responding to
a traditional view where the teacher decides what language to teach and
practice, without much student input.
In our view, each lesson has a particular purpose that stems
from the students’ communicative needs. It is this purpose that will
determine how the lesson will evolve and what structure it will have.
All these considerations put the students, and not the language, at the
center of teaching process.
Having said this, we should also recognize that lessons do tend to
progress through some predictable “moments,” which need to be taken
into consideration as they impact students’ opportunities for success
by helping the teacher structure and sequence teaching and learning


As you read about the different lesson blocks below, think back to your times as a language learner.
Do you remember how your teachers implemented transitions? How about closure?

Richards and Lockhart (1994) describe language lessons as

speech events that have a particular organization. To them, an effective
lesson—i.e. one that results in productive student learning—should
address four main structuring tools or lesson blocks that help shape it:
openings, sequencing, pacing and closure.


The opening of a lesson has been identified as a key factor in

the success of subsequent moments. It is during the opening of the
lesson that the instructor focuses students’ attention on the aims of the
lesson; assesses the students’ background knowledge in relation to the
theme or topic of the lesson; connects the present lesson to prior ones
and, in general, prepares students for what is going to come next.
Lessons do not generally consist of one single activity. Hence,
it is important to consider how the sequencing of the activities will
occur. It is the sequence of activities and sub-activities that gives the
lesson its shape or script. An important consideration in orchestrating
the lesson’s sequencing is the role that transitions between activities
play. Transitions in between activities, or the various moments within
a single activity, can be useful to reorganize the students, the learning
resources, and the progress of the lesson in general. In short, they cue
the need for a change in the way “things are now,” reorienting the focus
of what students will be doing and signaling and organizing a new
Pacing refers to “the extent to which a lesson maintains its
momentum and communicates a sense of development” (Richards
and Lockhart, op. cit., p. 122). In this respect, you will need to make a
number of decisions, such as how long to allocate each activity, how
to monitor students’ engagement (also called “time on task”), when to
bring activities to a close, how to provide feedback for the activity and,
finally, when to move on to a new activity or segment of an activity.
Finally, all lessons should have a proper closing. Many times,
because of inadequate timing, lessons end with no closure. Just as
it was the case with lesson openings, closings are a very important
ingredient in that they help bring the lesson to an effective close.
Closings may include, though are not restricted to, reinforcing what
has been learned through summarizing the learning; encouraging peer
and self-assessment, as well as whole class assessment; integrating
and reviewing what has been learned in the lesson via purposeful
review activities; connecting the “story” of the lesson with the learning
outcomes for that day (which were made explicit during the opening
stage); and preparing students for future learning via pointing out
connections between the present lesson and previous ones (thus


making clear how the contents are sequenced), showing how this
specific lesson connects to future ones or making explicit how students
can use the contents learned in this lesson in real life. Also, the closure
moment provides a great opportunity for assessment for learning
activities (these are discussed in Chapter 11).
Again, this depiction of the components of a language lesson
provides useful information as to what the overall structuring blocks of
a lesson are, but it does not explicitly show you how lessons pursuing
different purposes can be organized. In our opinion, the deciding factor
in shaping a lesson is its purpose. A language presentation lesson
will have a particular organization, which is different from that of a
reading lesson or a fluency lesson. Lesson organization is a matter of
teachers’ decision making in light of students’ learning needs. It is also
a consideration made in light of broader course goals, as the teacher
will decide when to present language inductively and deductively,
when to practice it, and when to engage students in free expression.
We can conclude that because, as we have said before, lessons are
“stories” told by the teacher and the learners, they require the active
participation of both parties.


One key idea behind our view about language teaching and learning
is that teachers and students should engage in meaningful and active
co-construction of their knowledge where the teacher’s main task is to
organize for learning to happen, as well as to mediate learners’ efforts
by providing the necessary scaffolds (Diaz Maggioli, 2013). Along the
same lines, Fisher and Frey (2014) suggest that effective instruction
leading to student learning is a matter of structuring teaching so that
responsibility for learning is gradually released towards the students.
In other words, these authors advocate for the provision of scaffolds
as the teacher’s main task where the ultimate aim of the teacher’s
intervention is to bestow control over the communicative activity
on the students themselves. In order to do this, the teacher will use
different mediational moves that seek to extend the students’ current
grasp of the language.


The term scaffolding was originally used in the field of education

in 1976 (Wood, Bruner and Ross, 1976; Bruner and Sherwood, 1976)
and since then, it has taken a multitude of meanings. Originally defined
as “a process that enables a child or novice to solve a problem, carry
out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his [sic] unassisted
efforts” (Wood, et al., 1976, p. 90) the term has come to mean various
things in our field, from direct instruction to assessment or peer

As you read the following section, think of concrete examples of the various scaffolds that you have
used or seen used in language classes. Which is the most common scaffold you have seen? Can you
think why this is so?

To us, scaffolding is a form of intentional and meaningful

mediation of learning oriented at transferring control of the activity
over to the students, so that by learning today, they are better equipped
to continue developing tomorrow. Walqui (2006) provides these
examples of scaffolds that are suitable for English Language Learners:

• Modeling
Learners are able to see or hear what a demonstration of the
expected performance looks like. They are also given clear
examples of what is required of them. Teachers can provide
modeling by demonstrating procedures, showing their thinking in
action by verbalizing decisions they make, and also by exhibiting
their use of knowledge in action.

• Bridging
When you use this scaffold you make sure that new understandings
are firmly built upon students’ previous understandings. You can
model both at the cognitive level (e.g. activating the learners’
prior knowledge by providing anticipatory guides or graphic
organizers) as well as the metacognitive level (e.g. by coaching
learners’ thinking targeting their prior experience and helping
them self-monitor and evaluate performance).


• Contextualizing
This scaffold involves you in “fleshing out” new concepts by
making explicit connections between these and the learners’
current understandings. You can do this through analogies and
metaphors based on the learners’ prior experiences (“This is
similar to…” or “An auxiliary verb is like a crutch that helps you
ask a question”).

• Schema building
We organize knowledge and understanding around schemata
(singular: schema), or clusters of meaning that are interconnected.
Understanding is then a process of weaving new information
into pre-existing structures. Hence, you can scaffold evolving
understandings by helping learners see connections between what
they already know and the new understandings. One effective way
of fostering schema building is Socratic questioning (lead students
to discover new facts about the language by asking them questions
to help clarify their thinking, challenge their assumptions, asking
them to provide evidence, etc.) and also by providing advanced
organizers (for example, a short semantic map of the topic they
will work on), explicit summaries or allowing for “previews” of
the content to be learnt.

• Re-presenting
To implement this form of scaffolding you resort to alternating
among different genres in order to help learners make sense of
events or information. For example, you may choose to use a
narrative to illustrate the process of deriving a conclusion from
a text used for reading, which is not self-evident at first. Walqui
(2006, p. 174) suggests that an effective sequence for scaffolding
understanding through representation “starts with asking students
to say what is happening (as in drama or dialogue), then what
has happened (narratives, reports) and, finally, what may happen
(tautologic transformations, theorizing).”


• Developing metacognition
Metacognition refers to the ability to plan, monitor and evaluate
one’s own understanding, so that one is aware of how adequate
that understanding is. Walqui (op.cit: p. 176) indicates that this
kind of scaffolding comprises four aspects:
a) “consciously applying learned strategies while engaging in
b) knowledge and awareness of strategic options a learner has
and the ability to choose the most effective one for the particular
activity at hand;
c) monitoring, evaluating and adjusting performance during
activity; and
d) planning for future performance based on evaluation of past

These scaffolds are a toolkit for you to interact with students during
a lesson and respond to their evolving understanding and emergent
language capacity. As to how the lesson should be structured, we refer
once again to the learners’ communicative needs. The purpose of any
lesson is to help learners make headway in their language development.
If the lesson is teacher-centered, then students have few opportunities
to gain control over their language. If, on the other hand, the lesson
has no structure, students may feel lost because they do not have the
necessary resources to use the language to fulfill their communicative
intent. What is needed, then, is a framework for lesson development
that is responsive to students’ evolving needs and language proficiency,
while helping the teacher manage the learning process.
Fisher and Frey (2014) provide one such framework for teaching
and learning activities organized around four key forms of interaction.
They propose a “gradual release of control over understanding” model
that comprises four kinds of interaction: one where you interact with
the class as a whole, another one in which students interact with one
another and with you in small groups, a further one in which students
interact with one another in groups, and finally, one where students
individually interact with the content and the learning tasks built
around it. The model can be graphically depicted as follows:


teacher activity Student activity

“i do it”
Focused instruction

guided “we do it”


Collaborative “You do it together”


independent learning “You do it


Figure 6.1 - The progressive release of responsibility

framework (Fisher & Frey, 2013, p. 3)

The following description of each of these forms of interaction

will help us build a case for their use in lessons that respond to different

As you read this section, think back to your language lessons. How do they compare to Fisher and
Frey’s model? If you are currently teaching, how would you describe a typical class taught by you?

Focused instruction – the most basic form of interaction

involves you directly teaching the students, for example, in order to
establish a clear lesson goal. We use the term “goal” and not “aim” so
as to differentiate this kind of interaction from the statement of goals
and objectives, generally found in lesson plans and course books. By
overtly telling students of the goal of the lesson, and by writing it on
the board for the whole class to see, we are helping students grasp
the relevance and importance of the lesson. It is not enough to tell
the students what the goals of the lesson are. We need to explain how
these goals will contribute to their future learning.
A well-explained goal incorporates information not only about
the various activities, but also about the content to be learned, the
specific language needed in order to learn it, as well as the social worth
of this language: how the language is used in real-life contexts. This is a
good moment for direct instruction and explanation, but always within
a context of language use.


It is at this moment that we also provide students with information

about the “ways in which a skilled reader, writer, or thinker processes
the information under discussion” (Fisher and Frey, op. cit., p. 5). This
is done with the whole class through direct explanation, modeling, or
think-alouds (where you model how to think in the target language).
The focused instruction moment should last a maximum of fifteen
minutes and it need not come at the beginning of the lesson, but can
occur at different moments, and even more than once, depending on
students’ needs.
Guided Instruction – The second moment is conducted
with “small, purposeful groups that have been composed based
on formative assessment data” (Fisher and Frey, op. cit., p. 6). This
means that teachers can alter the conformation of the groups to
work with either mixed-ability groups or same-ability groups. Guided
instruction is the ideal time to provide differentiation, particularly if
you are working with mixed-ability groups. Differentiation is a concept
developed by Tomlinson and Imbeau (2010) by which you may adapt
the content, process or product of a lesson in order to accommodate
the different levels of performance of students within a class. Fisher
and Frey explain “Small-group instruction allows teachers to vary the
instructional materials they use, the level of prompting or questioning
they employ, and the products they expect.” They go on to add “Over
time and with cues, prompts and questions, teachers can guide students
to increasingly complex thinking.” (op. cit., p. 7).
Collaborative learning – this is the moment when students
work with one another, either in pairs or groups, in order to apply
and expand on what they have learned. By working together,
students disclose misunderstandings, consolidate their thinking and
understanding, and engage in frank negotiation of meaning with their
peers. This negotiation may include the discussion of ideas stemming
from the content, elaboration or expansion of information learned
during the lesson, as well as engagement in inquiry. This engagement
with others provides students with an opportunity to use what they
have learned thus rehearsing their understanding in the safety and
comfort of the classroom, where you can always be called upon for
help, should it be needed. It is important that no new information
be incorporated at this stage and that this is also a great moment to


engage students in reviewing prior knowledge. The tasks provided at

this stage should help students reveal their complete (or incomplete)
understandings or misconceptions as well as confirm what they
already know. In short, collaborative learning is about collaborative
problem solving.
Independent learning – The ultimate aim of all teaching is to
have students become independently capable of applying information,
content, skills and strategies to new situations using the habits of mind
characteristic of the discipline being taught. In our case, independent
learning is about communicating in the target language in real-life
situations. To achieve this, learners need opportunities to complete
independent tasks and learn from them. However, the crucial factor
in ascertaining their success is for students to be ready to engage
in the kind of real-world tasks characteristics of the discipline. In
this sense, we will see in the next chapter that discrete grammar,
vocabulary or pronunciation exercises have little to contribute to
independent learning. Also, we remember that independent learning
will happen only if the other three key learning moments are fully
developed and exploited (focused and guided instruction, and
collaborative learning), no matter the order. It goes without saying
that learning tasks at this stage should be as authentic as possible as
the idea is for students to be able to apply what they have learned to
new contexts. Nunan (2004) created the concept of “skills getting”
(i.e. pseudo-authentic tasks done in class that replicate real-life tasks
for students to get control over the language and the situation) for
“skills using” (where students are able to use in real life what they
have learned from skills getting tasks in the classroom). We can say
that the first three moments in this model aim at skills getting, and
that independent learning is all about skills using.
Lastly, we should point out that this model of the teaching
and learning processes is suitable for teaching both the language
systems and the language skills. As we will see in further chapters, the
development of skills progresses in much the same fashion as in this



Why do learners attend English lessons? The answer to this

question will be as varied as the people who answer it. Each student
will bring to class their own needs and motivations for learning the
language. While these are really varied, we can narrow down students’
needs to the following list:
• develop communicative competence.
• competently use the macroskills of listening, speaking,
reading and writing.
• become aware of the culture of the countries where the target
language is spoken.
• review and consolidate their knowledge of the language.
• put their knowledge of the language to use.
• demonstrate (for assessment purposes) their mastery of the

Two basic kinds of lessons may help teachers achieve these

purposes: language presentation lessons and language practice
lessons. We will now demonstrate each lesson format through our
understanding of Fisher and Frey’s model.


To raise students’ awareness about how language works, while
helping them notice relevant features of the input so they can engage in
grammaring and language use.

a. For Beginners and Elementary students

Can you explain the meaning of the different pyramid diagrams before reading each of the next
sections? How can you connect them to the notion of scaffolding we saw before?


Focused Students at the Beginning and Elementary levels have little

instruction language to be able to express their ideas and in general, if forced
guided to do so, they can become frustrated and withdrawn. Hence, the best
strategy for these learners is for you to organize lessons (and sequences
Collaborative of lessons) where there are opportunities to provide them with the tools
they need at the very beginning and progressively transfer responsibility
independent learning over to them, always scaffolding that transfer of responsibility.
We have already seen that the explicit learning of language
starts with awareness-raising activities that help learners engage with
meaning-making processes for which they feel the need for particular
language. When teaching beginner and elementary students, it is
advisable to devote the Focused Instruction moment of the lesson
to clarifying for learners the purpose/s for which the language is used,
as well as to present samples of authentic uses of the language features
in the context of a highly meaningful text. During Focused Instruction,
the teacher will provide students with opportunities for controlled
practice, and also for clarification. It is during this stage that you will
resort to using many of the basic instructional techniques we saw in
the chapter on Classroom Management and others you will see in the
next chapter.
Following this stage, where you took center-stage but involved
students in reflecting about the situation and discovering the language
features, it is time to get the students to work in small groups so that
they can practice the particular features of the language that have just
been introduced. This is stage is called Guided Instruction. Here, you
should aim at maintaining a high degree of control over the potential
answers students may provide as the purpose of this stage is for
students to gain control over the formal features of the target structure.
During Collaborative Learning, students work together in
order to solve a task or problem for which they are required to acquire
and share new information. The task that you provide at this stage
should be challenging and should require that students apply their new
learning. Tasks that work well at this stage are, for example, Jigsaw
activities, where each student in a group has one piece of information.
All information must be pooled for students to be able to solve the task.
In Independent Learning, students are given a task or assignment,
which requires them to use the language learned in novel situations


which are very close to real life encounters where they would need to
use the language learned.
The following is the description of a sample lesson for elementary

As the students come into the classroom, the teacher has written a “DO NOW” activity
that reads: “Welcome to today’s lesson! While we are waiting for everyone to arrive,
please take your notebook and write two or three ideas you associate with the word
“CRIME.” Once all students have arrived, the teacher informs the class that they are
going to learn how to ask for and give information about safety in the neighborhoods
they live in. He invites students to come to the board and write the ideas they came up
with during the DO NOW activity. Once this is complete, the teacher uses the words
students have suggested in a brief description of the neighborhood where he lives.
Focused Additionally, he adds as many words as necessary to make the text comprehensible for
instruction students. Next, he checks students’ understanding by asking them YES/NO questions
and also asks students if they remember any part of the description. He elicits one or
two sentences such as “It is safe to walk in the streets during the day, but you must
be careful after dark” or “If you come to my neighborhood at night, you should try to
either come in groups or come by cab.” He uses these sentences to teach students
how to give advice, using modals. He then involves students in chorally repeating some
of the sentences and for this, he uses substitution drills. Finally, he elicits an explanation
from students, which he writes on the board, making sure information about use,
meaning, function, form and pronunciation is included.

The teacher engages students in taking turns repeating some of the sample sentences
Guided by cueing one another in open and closed pairs. Next, the teacher produces a series of
instruction exercises where students work together to practice syntactic and semantic aspects of
the uses of modals, to discuss safety in various neighborhoods in the city.

Students work in groups performing a role-play. They are a family and they must decide
where to buy their first house. The teacher gives each student a role card that describes
Collaborative what family member they are and their specific needs. Of course, each individual’s
learning needs are somehow at odds with those of the other members of the family, thus
creating both an information gap and an opinion gap. Once they have finished, groups
present their work to the rest of the class.

Students are asked to go home and find safety statistics about the neighborhood
where they live. They use that information to create a blog page providing information
Independent to neighbors, classmates and friends. The teacher may choose to provide a skeleton
learning text (just providing the beginning of sentences) for students to follow. Every student
must read and comment on at least three of their classmates’ blogs or there could be a
class discussion about safety in the various neighborhoods in the city.


b. For Intermediate and more advanced students

Why is this diagram different if the purpose of the lesson is the same?

Focused Students at the lower intermediate and upper levels, have

instruction linguistic resources at their disposal that allow them to engage in
Collaborative more demanding learning activities. Research has shown (Long, 2014)
that engaging students in communication from the very beginning
guided triggers awareness-raising processes that generate a concrete need for
instruction particular language structures or features. This perceived need, when
independent learning suitably scaffolded, results in longer-lasting learning. See the following
example about the same topic but for more advanced learners:

As the students come into the classroom, the teacher has written a “DO NOW” activity
that reads: “Welcome to today’s lesson! While we are waiting for everyone to arrive,
please take your notebook and write two or three ideas you associate with the word
“CRIME.” When everyone has arrived, the teacher tells students that today they will
discuss safety in their neighborhoods. He asks students what other language they
might need and provides it. He also reminds students of strategies for turn taking and
other communicative strategies.
Students work in groups performing a role-play. They are a family and they must
decide where to buy their first house. The teacher gives each student a role card
that describes what family member they are and their specific needs. Again, each
individual’s needs are somehow at odds with those of the other members of the family,
thus creating both an information gap and an opinion gap. Once they have finished,
the teacher gives groups some time to prepare how they are going to report their
findings to the rest of the class. Groups present their decision to the rest of the class.
The teacher plays a recording of either native speakers of the language or more
proficient students performing the same task and asks students to compare their
Guided role-play to the one on the audio. Once students have become aware of the language
instruction gaps, the teacher provides an explanation of the language needed (if necessary) and
has students practice the new language via various exercises and activities ranging
from controlled to semi-controlled ones.

Students work together again, but this time they are given a map of a different
neighborhood with crime statistics and other information. They must decide what part
of the neighborhood would be a good place to establish a Youth Center. Students are
reminded to use the language they have just learned. The teacher follows the same
stages as before for the report and the noticing stages (see Guided Instruction).


As you can see from this example, because students have

more language at their disposal they are able to contribute more to
communication. Notice how the teacher uses an awareness-raising
activity consisting of playing a recording of more proficient speakers
performing the same task for students to compare their production
and that in the model. This helps learners to become aware of the
effectiveness of their own expressions as well as to notice what is
required from real life speakers in order to complete the task. Also,
notice that the teacher gives students time to plan how to report
their decision to the rest of the class before allowing them to do so.
According to Willis (1996), this simple procedure helps learners further
their language development. She explains that when students work in
the privacy of their group they use “messy” and highly idiosyncratic
language, that may include code switching, the coining of words, etc.
so as to make themselves understood. The purpose is to be fluent so as
to complete the task. When given time to prepare for the presentation,
students tend to fine-tune their expression and polish it as much as
they can, since they are communicating in public.


To provide clarification and further practice of the language.

What is the main difference in scaffolding opportunities in this diagram compared to the others?

The teacher has set up or assigned a series of activities

ranging from controlled to semi-controlled. Students
Collaborative arrive in the classroom and they work together on either Collaborative
learning completing the activities or checking their answers. After
everyone has finished, the teacher leads a feedback
session where students contribute their answers. instruction
The teacher reviews with students learning strategies
they were supposed to use during the activities, as well instruction
as the purpose for those activities. She may invite some
students to model the process they followed in order to
independent learning
solve the activities.


If necessary, the teacher re-teaches or reviews key items

that caused specific difficulty for most of the students in the
class. She then provides controlled activities to reinforce
Guided these issues and students do these either individually or
instruction in groups. After a feedback session to check answers, the
teacher reminds students again of specific strategies they
were supposed to use and helps them self- and peer-assess
their performance in these activities.
The teacher provides all the class with a detailed rubric
for performing a communicative task. Students do the
task in groups. He times this task, gives students time to
rehearse their presentation to the rest of the class, allows
different groups to report, encourages students to use
Independent the rubric for self- and peer-assessment and finally, gives
learning each group his own assessment of their performance.
He also explicitly indicates to students what they need
to improve and focuses on two or three things students
can do in order to perform better. The teacher then sets
another task related to the topic of the lesson for students
to complete individually.


These three lesson frameworks provide a flexible, though

principled, structure to organize interaction, while providing sustained
scaffolding of students’ learning efforts as they attempt to learn specific
language items. We will see in further chapters that there might be
other lesson frameworks for the development of particular skills, as
well as to pursue other forms of language instruction such integrated
skills instruction.
One key thing to remember is that for any lesson framework to
be effective, it should focus on the learnability of the materials to be
presented by the teacher, more than on their teachability. After all,
teachers are guides for students on the road to the destination they
have chosen.


ChapteR wRap-up

What is the most important What lingering questions What steps will you take
learning you have derived about different kinds to find answers to these
from this chapter? of lessons do you still have? questions?

Observation task

Arrange with your cooperating teacher or a colleague to observe a sequence of lessons,

preferably within the same unit of study. During observation pay attention to the purpose of the
lessons and compare these with the frameworks discussed in this chapter. The following table
can be useful in helping you take notes and identify the kinds of interaction each lesson segment
favors (focused or guided instruction; collaborative or independent learning).

What the teacher does. What students do. What kind of interaction?

Reflective journal task

Think about your experience learning a foreign language. Can you identify different kinds of
lessons that your language teachers used to implement? Think back to one of your language
teachers in particular (either recent or from a long time ago), how would you categorize that
teacher in terms of Kumaravadivelu’s ideas on page 174 of this unit.


portfolio task

1. Write your “platform on teaching language” to be included in the portfolio. Explain:

• what the purposes of teaching a language are.
• what principles for teaching you consider should be used and why.
• the impact that the use of those principles may have on yourself, your students and the
course you are teaching.
2. Design two lessons targeting different purposes. Arrange to have the class videotaped or
observed by a more experienced peer/ cooperating teacher.
3. Work with two other peers. Compare and contrast your lessons. How similar or different were
their lessons from yours? Why do you think this was so?

pLuG IN 1:
Textbook goals. Before starting to work with the book, ask students what they want to achieve in the
course. Then ask them to leaf through the book and spot what might help them achieve their goals.
Share the goals with peers.
Personalized gaps. Students make their own sentences using the words they filled blanks with. They
find someone who has written a similar sentence.

Instant word search. Ask students to choose 5 random letters in a word search and ask them to write
a word they know (you may ask them to use a certain category, e.g. “animals”) starting with that letter.
Then they create their own word searches. Also good for crosswords.

Changing characters. Ask students to change characters in a dialog and to either rewrite the dialog for
the new characters or to role-play it (e.g. dialog between two friends changes to an old lady and a young
rock fan).

Questions first! Cover the reading text in the unit but let students see the questions. They read the
questions and try to answer them using what they know about the topic. Then, they predict what the text
will be about and check with the text.

Jigsaw reading. If there is more than one reading or writing text in the lesson, split students in groups
so as to turn it into a Jigsaw reading or writing activity.

Numbered questions together. Assign one question from a reading text to various students. Number
students in the class according to the number of questions in the activity. They answer the question for
their number. Then, they stand up and share answers with other students with the same number. Finally,
they share with the class.

Dictogloss. Choose an activity that is mechanical and turn it into a Dictogloss: 1. Read the activity out
loud at normal speed. Students listen. 2. Read again, students take notes. 3. Read again while students
complete their notes. 4. Students share notes and do the activity. 5. Have students change groups and
compare answers. 6. Refer them to the actual activity.
Skeleton dialogs. Use blank dialogs for students to create their own versions. Use the dialog in the
book as a template. Example:
A: How was your _________?
B: It was ___________!

Flip it! Assign the Grammar discovery activity or the reading texts as homework. Provide students with a
key. Flip the class by having students do other things in class using what they have learned (e.g. write a
summary of the text; do practice activities on the grammar, etc.).

Take a fill in the blanks text and turn it around! Instead of the original words, provide students with
blanks and just include the words that should go in the blanks in the original exercise. Establish the
context of the text (e.g. provide a title or mention to students what the text is about) and have students
complete the text.

VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies).
Give students some time to look at a picture in their textbook. Ask: “What is going on in this picture?”
As students contribute ideas, point to what they are saying in the picture. Rephrase what they say in
correct English (but do not praise students) and try to weave every student’s contribution into your
rephrasing. Next, ask learners “What do you see that makes you say that?” As different students
contribute answers weave information from various students together. When ideas stop coming ask:
“What more can we learn from this picture?” Refrain from explicit correction or praise. Thank students
for their contributions.
Points of view. Ask students to describe the picture in the textbook using conflicting points of view.
For example, for a picture of a tropical island ask one student to describe it from the point of view of
someone who hates hot weather. Turn this into pair work by giving students role cards.

Guess the teacher’s ideas. If students have to complete sentences with their own ideas, create your
own version ahead of time and ask students to try and guess what your version is.

Odd one out. Use the vocabulary in the lesson to create “odd word out” activities with no correct
answer. For example, in a lesson on animals give students these words and ask them to tell you which
one does not belong in the group and why: DOG – CAT – RABBIT – GOLDFISH – BUDGIE
Disappearing texts or dialogs. Take a text or dialog from the book and write it on the board (or create
a PowerPoint presentation). Ask students to read it aloud as you point to the various words. Then ask
them to close their eyes and delete some of the words. They open their eyes and have to read all the
text including the missing words. Continue until there are no words. Works well also with flashcards and
dialog lines.
Personalized dictation. Take a reading text and turn it into a dictation. Students listen and they have to
make the text true about themselves (i.e. they are not copying literally).

Liar, liar, pants on fire! Have students write three sentences about themselves using a new grammatical
item. One of the sentences has to be FALSE. They read their sentences out loud to other students who
have to guess the FALSE sentence.

Diaries. Ask students to keep a vocabulary and/or grammar diary. In the last few minutes of the lesson,
after they have learned something new, they write sentences about themselves using the newly learned
language. They then use these sentences to generate activities and exchange them with other students.
Everything is kept in the diary.

Role-play it! Turn any text or dialog into a new role-play by changing one element (setting, characters,
topic, etc.). Give students time to plan and then get them to perform.

Dialog starters. Write the first two lines of dialogs about various everyday situations on slips of paper.
Mix them up and give them out to students. They memorize the line and return it to you. They then go
around the class saying their line and trying to find their partner. Once they meet, they complete the
dialog. For example:
1) A: How much is this magazine?
B: One thousand pesos.
2) A: I’m Kevin and I’m going to be your server. Can I get you started with something to drink?
B: Yes, please. I’d like a diet soda.
Make it stick! Give students a sticky note. Ask them to place it next to an activity or text in the
textbook unit that they would like to be in control of (they can read the text out loud, ask other students
questions, give correct answers for an exercise, etc.). They reuse the sticky note as they move along the
Use learning circles to differentiate learning. Organize coursebook activities in a sequence and, if
necessary, design a new sequence. Divide students in groups according to their level and have them
complete a “circle” by spending 10 minutes on each activity (they start at the activity that best matches
their level or needs).

Make it digital! If you have access to computers, students can make free videos of dialogs using the
free trial versions of various software platforms that allow them to create short cartoons and videos.
Turn it into a board game. When learning new language item or information about a new topic, have
students create activities and design a board game. Brainstorm language associated with board games
(e.g. “Miss a turn”). Give students various pieces of color paper. They write a different activity for each
color (e.g. fill in blanks on the red papers, give a synonym on the yellow, etc.). They also create the rules
for the game.

Using technology to teach English does not guarantee success in language learning, even if students
are motivated. In general, the applications that have become popular (with some distinguished
exceptions) do not promote communicative use of the language.

Diaz Maggioli and Painter Farrell (2013) make a distinction between acquisitional and transactional
use of technology. Technology is used in acquisitional ways with activities that present language
as linear; where the student has little say (as everything is pre-designed and responds to an
Initiation→Response→Feedback logic). The students only “drag and drop” items. These activities are
built with a traditional transmission model tied to the binary codes of the computer. In short, they are
computer-centered or “machine-deep.” We know, from experience that, in order for learning to happen
through the use of technology, we need activities that favor a transactional use of technology (i.e. activities
that are responsive to learners’ evolving mastery of the language; they favor interaction; make language
come alive by involving students in actual language use; in short, activities that are “people-deep”).

Laurillard (2012) provides six distinct forms of learning online

As is the case with all our lessons, the starting point is

what the learners’ needs are and what supports we
Podcasts, videos, slide shows, will offer in order to fulfill those needs. Our advice
online documents, websites
is that you choose your technological tools
Digital accordingly, and always bearing in mind that
representations Online
they are tools and they cannot substitute
Students receive input
of designs learning the teacher. If you want to communicate
(e.g. virtual guides, data
posters, virtual Students gathering information to students (tell, explain,
brochures, etc); create explore, and analysis show, demonstrate, etc.) then design
performances; something Learning tools (e.g.
artifacts; through
research and
reflect on corpus and activities in which students learn
new with what
videos; they have acquisition information concordances through acquisition or discussion. If
cartoons; learned in individually tools), online
animations; class
Learning Learning
or in publications, you want students to practice what
through through
production inquiry collaboratively tagging you have taught them, then engage
them in learning through discussion,
Learning Learning practice and production. Lastly,
Provides peer- through through Students
mediation; collaboration discussion replicate real- when you want students to engage
Small group student pool Tutorial,
Learning life interaction
in learning from one another, select
projects; wikis; individual through (synchronously
chat rooms resources practice and/or discussion activities that foster learning through
(sound only to generate asynchronously), boards,
or image and a collective but online forums, web inquiry, collaboration and production.
sound); social expression conferencing Naturally, always select those activities
media group Aims to bring the experiential tools, voice
and event pages element of onsite learning to the message that prioritize a transactional use of
technology-mediated environment tools. technology over an acquisitional use.

Simulations, microworlds, models, virtual

field trips and online role-plays help the
students practice new learning.


• • lexis, syntax and
• • register and genre.
learning communities
• • techniques for
teachers’ roles
• teaching lexis, syntax
teachers’ use of L2 in
and phonology.

learninghow howto:to:
• •
use basic instructional
develop and value a
learning community
• •
organize instruction to
plan lessons to cater
teach lexis, syntax and
for different energy
Look at the picture above. Do you know what this is? It’s called a phonology.
levels and attention
fractal. Fractals are defined by the as never-ending • design practice
patterns that are very complex but self-similar across different scales. activities.
• use the white or
Fractals are created by repeating a simple pattern or process over and blackboard
• use the classroom
over again. However, with each repetition, the fractal picture changes
seating arrangements
shape and becomes both deeper and more beautiful. One interesting to optimize learning.
thing about fractals is that the patterns are extremely familiar as they
are found in nature: in rivers, coastlines, mountains, trees, clouds,
seashells, etc. Language, as a human capacity, is also found in nature and
all languages are made up of the same components. Traditional views
of language define it as a “system of systems” made up of phonology,
syntax and semantics, among others. However, these systems on their
own fail to account for both the beauty and the depth of meanings we
can produce by combining the patterns found in them. We have chosen
the metaphor of fractals to stand for how we see language at work. First
of all, language surfaces in social interaction, and is not a product of
grammar rules. The same grammar rule, the same sound or the same
word, uttered in different social settings will have different meanings and
different connotations. That is why, we see language as a semiotic system
humans use to express and negotiate meanings. Each sub-system may
be there, but without the social dimension, they are just one line in the
drawing. We need all the lines, that is to say, the use of all the resources
that language affords us, to be able to create beauty.

Connected speech lexis
intonation units
Formulaic language
thought groups
understanding and
Consonants Sounds
remembering lexis

Pronunciation Understanding
& Teaching grammar

Syntax & Morphology

genre & register
Drills Prescriptive vs. Descriptive
Substitution tables Pedagogical vs. Corpus
time lines grammaring
gestures Focus on Form
Concept questions Forms

What do you already know about teaching lexis, syntax and phonology?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about teaching lexis, syntax and phonology have you
heard your colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why are they



Read the following comments about the teaching of grammar,

vocabulary and pronunciation. Which ones resonate with your
experience as a teacher or student?

Teachers say…

• I tend to teach grammar upfront because we do not have much

class time. This way I make sure students have the tools to be able
to communicate.
• In general, I do not know how far to go when I am teaching a new
item. I either teach too much that overwhelms students, and too
little and then they cannot activate their knowledge.
• The textbooks we are forced to use have a very prescriptive view of
grammar that are not conducive to language learning. Whenever
I teach a rule to my students, they come up with exceptions and
these are difficult to explain.
• I correct pronunciation upfront whenever students are communicating
because a mistake in pronunciation can change meaning.
• Vocabulary needs to be memorized, that is why I implement a lot
of activities throughout the lesson, as well as for homework, in
which students have to recall new words.

Students say…

• Grammar is boring. We do a lot of exercises in class and for

homework, but I still cannot speak.
• Vocabulary learning is difficult for me. There are too many words
which look similar to those in my L1, but they mean different
things in English. Also, there are some words which are written in
the same way but mean different things.


• I wish the teacher taught me how to pronounce in English. We just

do repetition but then when I try to say things, I always get the
wrong pronunciation and she never corrects me.
• Our teacher is teaching us the phonetic symbols and I do not
know why or what for. They confuse me.
• English is too difficult. The teacher always teaches us one thing at
a time and then she expects us to put all that knowledge together
and speak in English, but we can’t!

How would you respond to these teachers’ and students’ comments?


There are as many definitions of language as there are schools of

Linguistics studying it. Throughout the history of language teaching,
different conceptions of language have surfaced that tried to shed light
on the nature of oral and written communication. However, there is as
yet no consensus--nor should there be--about what language is.

Think of your language learning

experience. When you were learning
a foreign language, did you…
• learn one grammatical structure
at a time?
• do a lot of repetition of that
grammatical structure?
• practice the grammatical structure
with fill-in-the-gaps and similar
written activities?
• have little free speaking practice?


If you have answered “Yes” to these questions, then, in all

likelihood, you were taught by a teacher that understood language as
an object that can be learned by focusing on progressively mastering its
discrete (individual) elements (grammar, lexis or sounds), one at a time
and in a specific sequence. This was, in fact, the view made popular
during the heyday of approaches such as the Audiolingual Approach or
Situational Language Teaching, and it was also present in others such
as The Silent Way, Community Language Learning and even the early
Communicative Approach (though instead of breaking up the language
in discrete grammatical units, it was then broken down into functions
and notions).
All these ways of teaching reduced language to its component
elements, whether they were sounds, lexis, grammar or functions. In
this sense, there is a tradition in the field to conceptualize the process
of language learning as a cumulative, linear one where mastery of one
element leads to mastery of another. In this “folk” interpretation of the
process of language learning, mastery of the individual parts will lead
to mastery of the whole. For example, look at the following Scope and
Sequence page from a typical coursebook and notice how everything
is broken down into bits: functions, grammar, vocabulary, skills, etc.


1 Verb ‘To be” -Numbers 1 /i:/ vs. /i/ Listening to Introduce Reading and Write
affirmative, - 10. an interview oneself and completing sentences
interrogative, -Professions. and others. a about
negative -Nationalities. complete membership onself:
personal application name,
information. form address,

Table 7.1 - A sample scope and sequence section from a Beginners’ level book

However, as Polias (2006, p. 41) reminds us “Research … has

suggested that we do not build our knowledge of the world by simply
observing over a period of time or practicing long-term the use of
some aspect of language. It would be impossible to develop all the
knowledge we have in that way. Instead they tell us that language itself


provides the means for going beyond immediate tangible meanings to

accessing less tangible more abstract meanings.”
This view of language stands in stark contrast with previous views.
Building on the work of Halliday (1978), we are going to advance a view
of language which is particularly suited to its teaching in foreign and
second language settings. In order to do this, we are going to start by
defining language as a resource for the creation and negotiation
of meanings. When humans are born, they generally become part
of an already existing society and culture that uses language in order
to sustain interaction and develop. Viewed in this light, language is a
valuable tool that allows societies to continue to exist. It helps regulate
interactions among participants, as well as the thinking of individuals.
The newborn will progressively, through sustained interaction with
various community members, access the language resource and begin
to use it in order to participate in activities, which are characteristic
of their community (e.g. the child will learn how to use grammar,
phonology and lexis to ask for things).
In doing so, they will not “get it right from the start” but will develop
mastery of the language via interaction with more proficient users who
will provide ongoing feedback on the young person’s expression. We
only need to refer to studies on children who have been abandoned
to understand the critical role that interaction plays in language
development (Curtiss, 1977). This happens because language is not
just a system of systems. It is an organic resource that helps us interact
with others. Humans are programmed for interaction; Facebook and
other social media are proof that this is so. We learn language because
of our need to reach out to others and in interacting with them we
strengthen our language ability.
As Halliday (1989, p.12) puts it “Language arises in the lives of the
individuals through an ongoing exchange of meanings with significant
others.” In this sense, language serves a communicative purpose (both
social and functional), as even when we “talk to ourselves” we are
using language that has been shaped by our interaction with others.
This internal dialog/monolog helps us make sense of our thoughts and
But what does the resource of language consist of ? Essentially,
language consists of a set of interrelated systems on which we draw each


time we want to communicate. What guides the selection of resources

from the different systems is our communicative purpose or intention.
This, in turn, is determined by both the context in which the language
will be used, and the social conventions expected from us that are
specific of that context. For example, we will use one kind of language
to discuss a TV program with our parents, and another qualitatively
different with our closest friends. Hence, we can say that meaning is
contextually determined and structured, as it is the situational context
that determines what and how language will be used.
Rose (2006, p. 74) explains

“language achieves an indefinitely large, rich, variety of meanings by

“language achieves an indefinitely large, rich, variety of meanings by
weaving together multiple layers of structure and function into every
weaving together multiple layers of structure and function into every
instance of communication... [language helps us achieve] three broad
instance of communication... [language helps us achieve] three broad
functions [...] in social contexts: 1) enacting social relations between
functions [...] in social contexts: 1) enacting social relations between
speakers (interpersonal
(interpersonal functions);
functions); 2)
2) construing
construing our
our experience
experience of
activities, things, people, places and qualities (ideational functions);
activities, things, people, places and qualities (ideational functions);
and 3) presenting discourse so that it is meaningful in context (textual
and 3) presenting discourse so that it is meaningful in context (textual

In order to achieve these functions we will use social discourse,

grammar and phonology.
Two relevant implications apply here. First, that language is not
a linear, sequential series of categories, but a system of choices for
making meaning. Secondly, intentions guide the selection of meanings.
In order to communicate those intentions, we construct texts (oral or
written). Texts are the vehicle for the expression and negotiation of
what we want to achieve, and they operate both at the personal and the
interpersonal level. At the personal level, communicative intentions are
realized taking into consideration what we want to achieve (the topic)
and who the people we want to address are. We take into consideration
the distance, (physical and temporal) between us and the people with
whom we want to interact; and the mode in which we want to interact
(written or oral). These three characteristics (topic or field; distance or
mode; and the status of the people with whom we are interacting or
tenor) make up the register that identifies a particular situation. At the
social level, the situation is embedded in a broader cultural context that


shapes the ways texts are organized and enacted. If my communicative

intention is to describe an experiment for my Science teacher, I will then
organize my text according to the pattern of a report. If I am telling
my friend something funny that happened during the experiment I
carried out, I will opt out for a narrative organization of my text. These
different text organizations are called genres and the conventions that
bind them are socially agreed and vary from one culture to another.

Sit on the bus and listen to two people talking. Then, go to a bank and do the same. Think about
how the two situations compare and how registers and genres vary. What is similar in both situations?
What is different?

The following diagram illustrates these ideas.



figure lexicogrammar
syllable graph/
etc. phonology

Figure 7.1 – The elements of register

Through this description, it becomes clear that, as we mentioned

earlier in the chapter, we need to help learners to do two things: become
familiar with the constituent elements of language and how they are
used in real life settings, where the language lives.
We will now look at how the different components of language
have been described and how they can be best learned.



Lexis refers to the words of a language and their meanings. Analysis

of lexis in the field of Second Language Acquisition has looked at how
lexis is learned. Linguistic analyses, such as the concept of Lexicon,
focused on the syntactic and semantic relationships among words.
For the past twenty years, the field of lexis has received extensive
attention. Research has confirmed that the more words a foreign
language student knows, the higher his or her language attainment will
be. This points at how crucial a solid command of the lexical system of
the language is to language learning. However, research is also somehow
inconclusive as to how many words students should actually learn.
In general, it is considered that students will need an active lexicon
of approximately 2,000 core words. These would make up 80% of all the
words used in written and spoken English. These core words include:

• basic grammar words - e.g. articles, prepositions, pronouns,

conjunctions, etc.
• modal verbs and words - e.g. can, must, probably, should, etc.
• delexical verbs - make (progress; a cake; an appointment…),
do (without; a tour; homework; etc.), get, take, etc.
• stance words - e.g. unfortunately, actually, just, etc.
• discourse markers - well, ok, right, however, etc.
• basic nouns - concrete and abstract.
• general deictics - (references to space and time) e.g. this, ago,
now, there
• general adjectives and adverbs
• basic verbs for actions and events - e.g. leave, stop, help, feel, etc.
Adapted from O’Keefe, 2012, p. 239.

While comprehensive and all encompassing, the list above fails to

recognize that perhaps what defines lexical competence in a language is
not the number of words someone knows, but how familiar that person
is with the different senses or meanings of those words. So, it is not that
students will understand a text because they know 80% of the words
in the text, but they will understand it only if they know the different
senses of those core words that impact the meaning of the text. In this


respect, Cook (2008) posits that the most frequent words in English are
all function words (prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc.) and not
content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs). He emphasizes
that, while frequency can be an important factor in determining what
lexis to teach, we should also take into consideration the ease with which
meaning can be demonstrated and also, the availability of a particular
lexeme (word) to students’ needs. These reasons are mostly practical
but very important. Particularly at beginning levels, our selection of
words to teach should be based on how easy it is to present them to
students. Additionally, even if a word appears late in the frequency
count, but students need it to satisfy communicative needs, we should
teach it.
According to O’Keefe (2012) what gives core words such potency
are two factors:

a. Polysemy - the same word can have different meanings.

b. The ability of the same word form to combine with other forms
to make new meanings.

Hence, we can conclude that the more often students encounter

a word in context (by reading it, hearing it, writing it or saying it), and
the better able they are to understand the meaning of the word in
that context, the more likely they are to retain that word in long-term
memory. For example, at a recent conference, a presenter suggested
that the optimal number of iterations of a word is nine.

Semantic and syntactic relationships among words

Other factors that may affect the contextual encounter with a
word have to do with how words are organized within texts and how
we can use this organization to help learners access the meaning of the
word in context. There are two basic forms of organization of words:
semantic or syntactic.
From the point of view of meaning, each individual word possesses
a number of characteristics that make up its general meaning. For
example, if we take the word “girl” we can break down its attributes as:
+female, +human, and -adult. That is an easy and straightforward way
of accessing the meaning. However, words do not exist in isolation, but


in relation to other words. The word “girl” has a distinct meaning from
the word “boy” but also from the word “child” and the word “woman.”
Put in another way, words exist in lexical relations to one another.
The most common lexical relationship is synonymy. Many
words have synonyms (e.g.: start, begin, commence, initiate, etc.).
Though these words mean approximately the same, there is not
100% synonymy and this can sometimes lead students to errors.
Of course, what will determine the degree of synonymy will be the
register features we discussed in the previous section. For example, in a
situation where the learner is interacting with other learners explaining
an experiment in class, they can say “First, you start by…” However, if
they were defending a doctoral thesis, they would be expected to use
clauses like “You initiate the experiment by…” There is one case in
which there is 100% synonymy, and that is in the naming of the same
object in different varieties of the language. For example, the words
“lift” (in British English) and “elevator” (in American English) are 100%
synonymous. In any case, it would be risky to teach lexis only through
synonymy. That is why we need to look at other lexical relations in
order to provide fruitful encounters with new words.
The meaning of words can also be accessed via opposite meanings.
This is known as antonymy. Again, because the meaning will derive
from the specific context of use of the word, these will not have just
one antonym for every word. The context will determine the proximity
between two antonyms. Consider, for example, two potential antonyms
for the word “special”: “ordinary” and “general.” When would you use
each? As you can see, the choice of antonym will necessarily depend
on the context of use.
As it is clear from the two examples above, if we want students to
have “increasing contextual encounters” (O’Keefe, 2012, p. 240) with
lexis so that they can remember the words, then these words need to
be taught in their context of use. This is because isolated explanations
of individual words, contribute little to vocabulary learning.
One last semantic relationship (or way of organizing lexis
according to meaning) is hyponymy. Hyponymy helps us organize
words in hierarchical categories so students can say “X” is a type of
“Y” (for example, motorcycle is a kind of vehicle). The advantage of
using hyponymy as a lexical teaching strategy is that, in general, the


main category word is a core word. O’Keefe (2012) gives the example
of the word “shoe” (a core word) and the related lexical items “pump,”
“stiletto,” “sandal” and “moccasin.”
Expanding on the concept of lexical relations, Cook (2008)
cites the work of Rosch’s who created a theory to account for those
instances in which it is not possible to break down the meaning of a
word. This author posited that either in L1 or L2 we all learn what he
calls the “basic” or central concept of a word. For example, we first
learn the word “table” to stand for a four-legged piece of furniture. In
this sense, we acquire a central form of a concept and the things we see
and talk about correspond to that prototype. Through lexical relations,
we then learn that the basic concept also forms part of a superordinate
category (e.g. “furniture”) and that there are subordinate categories for
it, as well (e.g. “night table,” “coffee table”). Cook (op.cit) is critical of
materials that impose the superordinate before the basic, as it has been
found that the first approach to a new lexeme is at the basic level.
He recommends that we teach the basic meaning of words in context
and, as students accumulate knowledge about a word through iterative
approximations to it, then we may begin to include the superordinate
and subordinate (e.g. through classifying words, asking students to
categorize them, or through mind maps).
Lexis is also organized syntactically. In this sense, students need
to be familiar with features such as:

• Collocations - words combine to form new clusters that

frequently occur together (e.g. look up a word in a dictionary).
• Idioms and phrasal verbs - e.g jump for joy, do up, take on, etc.
• Formulaic language - fixed expressions that are always
coded in the same way (e.g. have a nice day; “Thank you!”
“And you!”, etc.).
• Lexical chunks - short phrases (not longer than six words) that
are also fixed (e.g. This fact notwithstanding; As I see it, etc.)

All these relationships, both semantic and syntactic, need to be

made evident to students if they are to learn lexis in context. Besides
the multiple encounters with the word in context, it is useful to resort
to corpora of authentic language as a source of information on how


lexis operates in real life. Tools such as “The Compleat Lexical Tutor”
( can help teachers analyze texts in terms of
word frequency, collocation and meaning.
So, what does “knowing a word” entail? First of all, all aspects
of a word cannot be learned in one single teaching session. Learners
will access the richness of vocabulary by progressively encountering
the word in meaningful contexts that demand that they use it. In this
recurring process students will progressively learn the:

• form of the word: its correct pronunciation and spelling.

• grammatical properties of the words: such as what grammatical
category they belong to, possible and impossible structures
for a certain word, grammatical information connected to
the word (for example, the word “man” has as its plural the
word “men” but it is also connected the to collective noun
“mankind”) as well as word building (how meaning and form
change the original meaning of a word through affixation:
manish, manlike, etc).
• lexical properties of a word: collocations and appropriateness.
• semantic properties of a word: its general and specific
meanings as the word is used in various contexts.

From knowing lexis to using new lexis

Cook (2008) provides a detailed treatment of vocabulary. He
organizes his research into three distinct sections: understanding lexis,
remembering lexis, and teaching lexis.

Look at the following list of words for one minute. Then, close the book and try to remember as
many as you can. How many were you able to recall? How did you recall them



Think back to when you were learning a language. What strategies did you use to try and
understand new words?


Understanding lexis
We use a variety of strategies to understand words. Some of these
strategies include guessing, using dictionaries, deducing the meaning
from the form of the word and relating words to similar words in
another language.
Guessing from context is perhaps the most natural process in
attempting to understand the meaning of unknown words. However, it
is also a strategy that is limited by the students’ own language resources
and also their experience with using this strategy in other contexts or
subjects. If we choose to use it in class, we must remember that it also
has some dangers. First, we should bear in mind that guessing from
context requires that students have extensive access to the text (in
written or oral form) so that they can check and modify their guesses.
These guesses can go wrong sometimes because the language can be
unpredictable from the situation. Lastly, guessing takes time, so it is not
an adequate strategy to use unless students have ample time to come
up with and modify their guesses.
The use of dictionaries is a widespread practice in language
teaching but it is not devoid of problems, either. Would you use a
monolingual or bilingual dictionary? Bilingual dictionaries focus on
the discrete meaning of a word by providing a synonym in another
language. We have seen already that one-to-one synonymy between
languages seldom occurs. It would appear that the better choice is to
use a monolingual dictionary. Again, there can be debate as to whether
we use a dictionary which is based on a corpus of the language or
one which is example-based and provides a mere list of meanings. In
general, it is recommended that corpus-based monolingual dictionaries
be chosen, as they are more representative of the actual use of the
language in a particular social context.
Many students choose to deduce the meaning of a word by
breaking it down into its component parts (e.g. base + suffix). Again
this is a valid and productive process but it is not safe proof. Just as
it was the case with guessing, this process can take a long time and
students would need sustained and extended access to the context
in which the word is used, as well as experience of successful prior
applications of the strategy.


One last strategy worth mentioning is the use of cognates to

get the meaning of a word. Research has shown that this is a strategy
students tend not to use maybe because cognates include both “true”
and “false friends.” In any event, it can be a useful way of approaching
the meaning of new lexemes when other forms (such as synonymy and
antonymy) are not available.

Think back to when you were learning a language. What strategies did you use to remember new words?

Remembering lexis
We also use a variety of strategies to remember new words. The
most commonly used in classrooms is repetition. In this sense, if we look
at many popular materials, students are encouraged to listen and repeat
new words, match the words to pictures, complete the word or even
reorder the letters to make up the word. All these involve some degree of
repetition (both at the orthographical or phonological levels). However,
research has disqualified this approach to learning. In particular, there is
one theory that stresses that the first encounter with a word is what makes
it memorable. So, our advice is that we should concentrate on “making
a good impression” when introducing new words. This can be done by
properly contextualizing its meaning and use, and also by making sure
that it makes an impact on students (by exaggerating, including a funny
or interesting fact about the word, eliciting the meaning from students, or
by using pictures that are truly memorable).
Another useful strategy we use to remember new words involves
organizing them in our minds in meaningful groups. Here we should
refer back to prototype theory and remember that the starting point
should be the basic concept of a word.
Finally, we use our different memory systems to remember
new vocabulary. Because learning a new lexeme in isolation can be
extremely hard, we should contextualize our presentation as much
as possible and then, offer students ways to cling to that meaning by
helping them make connections between the new lexeme and their
background knowledge. One popular way of doing this is to use a
procedure called “loci” in which you store information you want to
remember in a carefully visualized location (e.g. Visualize how you make


your way back home and associate a new word to each stage of your
journey. Then, practice remembering the meaning of the words as you
“go back home”). A similar technique is to use mental imagery in which
you associate the meaning of a new word to an exaggerated or very
clear illustration of the word. For example, when Gabriel first learned
the word “awesome” in English he pictured himself on a new bike and
his friends looking at him with their mouths open in admiration.
Also, using acrostics and other mnemonics to remember the
meaning of words can be very effective.

Think back to when you were learning a language. How did your teachers teach new vocabulary?
Which of those approaches did you find useful?

Teaching lexis
Given all the above information, here are some recommendations
(loosely adapted from Cook, 2008) for teaching vocabulary:

• Teach the full complexity of the words by having students

encounter the word multiple times in highly meaningful
contexts, and building on the different semantic and syntactic
relations progressively.
• Find out what vocabulary learning strategies your students use
and help them develop new ones.
• If teaching a new lexeme, remember to teach the basic concept
first. If possible, use lexical relations to show students how the
word fits in with other words.
• Remember to create contexts for presenting and practicing
new words that make a good “first impression.”
• Remember that a crucial factor is not how often a word is
practiced, but how (in terms of quality) it is practiced. Avoid
simple repetition activities and choose activities where students
have to actively use the words to communicate meaning.
• As soon as possible, have students put the words in their structural
and semantic contexts (for example, by asking students to make
a sentence about themselves using the new word).


In short, it cannot be denied that lexis plays a crucial role in the

process of language learning and it should be intentionally tackled in
every lesson in order to provide students with enough opportunities
to understand meaning in context. After all, as Wilkins (1972, p. 111
in O’Keefe, 2012, p. 242) reminds us “without grammar little can be
conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.”


Grammar is perhaps the most commonly taught item in foreign

and second language classrooms. Most textbooks contain an underlying
grammar syllabus, and most teacher preparation courses offer units in
how to teach grammar. To many teachers, grammar is the “stuff ” of
language. They operate under the belief that, if students manage to
learn the grammar rules of a language, they can then apply those rules
and add the necessary vocabulary to be able to express any idea and
thus communicate.
Additionally, many textbook series sequence their contents in a
predictable and additive linear fashion that takes students from the
easiest grammar to the most difficult. Grammar is generally presented
through texts that are simplified to make the meaning and form of a
particular grammar item very salient. That item is then practiced via
controlled exercises, semi-controlled exercises, and “free” exercises
that claim to be communicative (though most of them indicate to
students what grammar to use). When it comes to the treatment of
skills, activities are selected where students have further opportunities
to practice that particular grammar item introduced in the lesson.
Hence, we could rightly claim that, on the surface, the teaching of
grammar has not changed beyond traditional approaches such as the
Audiolingual Approach.
In this section, we are going to explore a different view of grammar
from that described above. The situation we have just presented sees
grammar as an object. Grammar can be studied from a book (e.g. A
Grammar of the English Language) or be an object for transmission
(I am teaching a grammar item). Here I have the rules of grammar, I
put them in order, and teach them to students one at a time. However,


there are other possible views, such as those that advocate for a more
holistic approach to grammar development. For example, in his 2001
book, Uncovering Grammar, Thornbury invites us to think of grammar
as a process, and not as a product.

Views on Grammar
Simply put, Grammar refers to the study of the structures that
are possible in a language. Those structures are made up of words and
their order within a sentence. Syntax gives us rules for how words are
ordered within a sentence, and morphology allows us to study how
those words are formed. Given this, a frequent definition of grammar
is: “the way that words are put together to make correct sentences” (Ur,
2012, p. 76).
Some authors (Thornbury, 2001; Scrivener, 2011; Ur, 2012) point
to the fallacy of such a simplistic definition. To Ur (2012) issues of
grammar are not merely issues of order or correctness. She makes the
point that grammar carries meaning since it establishes time (verbs,
adverbs), place (prepositions), and a multitude of functions (e.g.
“possibility,” through modals and conditionals) and it is not so much
the order of the words but the lack of understanding of these meanings
that causes problems to students learning grammar.
Thornbury provides us with this example of language in use to
illustrate the complexity of grammar:

“‘This is
“‘This is 2680239.
2680239. We
We are
are not
not at
at home
home right
right now.
now. Please,
Please, leave
leave a
message after the beep.’
message after the beep.’
You will recognise it as an answerphone message. That is the kind of
You will recognise it as an answerphone message. That is the kind of
text it is. It consists of three sentences, which themselves consist of
text it is. It consists of three sentences, which themselves consist of
words, and the words (when spoken) consist of sounds. All language
words, and the words (when spoken) consist of sounds. All language
in use can be analysed at each of these four levels: text, sentence,
in use can be analysed at each of these four levels: text, sentence,
word, and sounds. These are the forms that the language takes. The
word, and sounds. These are the forms that the language takes. The
study of grammar consists, in part, of looking at the way these forms
study of grammar consists, in part, of looking at the way these forms
are arranged and patterned.” (Thornbury, 1999, p. 1)
are arranged and patterned.” (Thornbury, 1999, p. 1)

A further complication to the way grammar is viewed is the idea

of what is correct. Let us consider what we mean by World Englishes
(varieties of English used by non-English speakers around the world),


which has created a whole host of alternative grammatical forms.

Seidlhofer (2004) lists the following as characteristics of English as a
Lingua Franca:

• dropping the third person singular ‘-s’ morpheme in the present

• confusing the relative pronouns (‘who’ and ‘which’)
• not using correct tag questions.
• inserting redundant prepositions
• overuse of certain verbs (‘do,’ ‘have,’ ‘make,’ etc.)
• replacing infinitive constructions with a ‘that’ clause.

When looked at in their actual communicative context, these can

be correctly said to form the grammar of the variety of English spoken in
a particular country. Hence, if we are teaching foreign language learners
who will, in all likelihood, never interact with a native-English speaker,
but with a multitude of non-native English speakers, should we teach the
standard grammar of English as spoken in English speaking countries, or
adhere to the variety of English that is prevalent in that country?
There seems to be consensus that, while these different varieties
of English should be respected, the goal of ELT should be to teach
conventional or standard grammar forms, which Ur (2012, p. 77)
defines as “the usages which are seen by most speakers of English as
internationally acceptable, not necessarily the usages associated with
the ‘native’ varieties of English.”
Teachers of English as a second/foreign language have one more
decision to make about the nature of the grammar they teach in light of
these distinctions. For many years, the grammar rules that were taught in
ELT classrooms derived from a grammar book that established the correct
or incorrect use of a particular item, even when there is no international
language regulating body, such as the Royal Academy in Spanish.
Teaching based on such fixed rules is said to respond to a prescriptive
view of grammar. This view was popular in many methodologies, such
as the Grammar Translation Method, the Audio Lingual Approach, and
even The Silent Way and Total Physical Response.
The advent of Communicative Language Teaching brought to the
center of teachers’ attention that prescriptive rules were often violated


by speakers of the language in interaction. Hence, what was needed

to help students understand how language was used in real life was
a set of rules that were more descriptive. This descriptive grammar
dominated the teaching of English for most of the last decades of the
twentieth century and, while providing a welcome departure from the
straightjacket prescription of classical grammar books, it was based
mostly on hunches or intuitions. In depth, descriptive analyses require
sophisticated tools or considerable research in order to arrive at valid
conclusions. The teaching of grammar in those days was characterized
by another set of rules that evolved from teachers and researchers
trying to make grammar rules more accessible to students. These were
called pedagogical rules and provided descriptive interpretations
of how grammar was structured (rules of form) and how it was used
(rules of use).
A further development came about in the last decade of the
twentieth century with the availability of computers that allowed the
creation of large databases of authentic language in use. These databases
are called corpora (singular: “corpus”) and include enormous amounts
of texts (both oral and written) from which analyses of frequency,
concordance and collocation can be made. These analyses are much
more rigorous and trustworthy than the initial hunches expressed
through pedagogical rules. Also, corpora allow the incorporation of
cultural and social dimensions of authentic language in use so that
descriptions emanated from corpus analysis are more systemic and
functional than prescriptive or descriptive. In short, corpora allows us
to attend to how language functions are actually enacted through the
three main language systems in texts that respond to various genres
that are socially relevant and culturally determined.

Grammar as a process
If we adhere to a view of grammar as a process, then we should
first understand how that process evolves. Various researchers have
drawn parallels between the genesis of grammar in L1 and that of L2,
so we will attempt to describe grammar as a process by analyzing how
grammaticality surfaces in children’s speech.
Children’s speech, at around the age of one, is mostly low on
grammar and relies heavily on lexis. Individual words, or attempts at


what sounds like a word, are used to signify a variety of meanings. It is in

the interaction with more capable others (adults and other caretakers)
that those meanings become clear. At this very early level, sounds and
gestures are used by the child to achieve two main functions: a referential
function (i.e. describing features or the child’s everyday world) and
an interpersonal function (i.e. communicating social meanings). The
importance of this lexically oriented, low-grammar communication is
that it acts as a template for language development in further stages.
So, as time goes by, children from one word communication to
mini-sentences including two or more words that allow the child to
express various meanings. Thornbury describes this process by saying
“A child,..., even at two-word utterance stage, can produce a greater
variety of patterns, expressing a relatively wide range of meanings:

• agent + action (daddy kick).

• action + affected (throw stick)
• possessor + possession (daddy coat)
• nomination (that ball)
• recurrence (more ball)
• negation (no ball)”
(Thornbury, 2001, p. 16)

At the next stage, children continue to string together longer and

more complex sentences and to do this, they resort to gestalts or chunks
(phrases or expressions learned and used as a single unit). Of course,
these chunks are derived from the child listening and interacting with
more capable others. What happens in this process is that these chunks
are not only used, but also stored for later analysis so that they can be
incorporated to even more complex sentences.

Before reading on, think back to a moment in your language learning career when you became
aware that you were experiencing success. How did you feel? What did you do next?

The process continues, through interaction, with the child’s

expression becoming more and more grammatical as longer sentences
are strung together. What started as a single word and a gesture is


suddenly a fully grammatical sentence that expresses different shades

of meaning within an oral (or written) text that is created by the child
in order to achieve a communicative purpose (i.e. in order to fulfill
one of the functions described above). This leads us to conclude
with Thornbury (op. cit., p.1) that “Grammar seems to be more like a
process, whereby shades of meaning are mapped on to basic ideas. It
is a process for which we need a verb—something like grammaring”
(Larsen-Freeman, 2003).
Grammaring refers to

“the ability
“the ability to
to use
use grammar
grammar structures
structures accurately,
accurately, meaningfully,
and appropriately
appropriately as
as the
the proper
proper goal
goal of
of grammar
grammar instruction.
instruction. The
addition of ‘-ing’ to grammar is meant to suggest a dynamic process
of ‘-ing’ to grammar is meant to suggest a dynamic process
of grammar
grammar using.
using. In
In order
order to
to realize
realize this
this goal,
goal, it
it is
is not
not sufficient
for students
students toto notice
notice oror comprehend
comprehend grammatical
grammatical structures.
Students must
must also
also practice
practice meaningful use of grammar grammar … … This
means that in order for students to overcome the inert knowledge
that in order for students to overcome the inert knowledge
problem and
and transfer
transfer what
what they
they do
do in
in communicative
communicative practice
practice to
real communication
communication outside
outside of
of the
the classroom,
classroom, there
there must
must bebe a
psychological similarity between the conditions of learning and the
similarity between the conditions of learning and the
conditions of use” (Larsen-Freeman, 2009, p. 526).
of use” (Larsen-Freeman, 2009, p. 526).

If this were not so, then children would be given ready-made rules
by their caretakers that they would imitate in order to communicate.
This is definitely not what happens in real life. In real life, I do not speak
to a child only in the present for a year or so, and then only in the past,
and so on. I use complex language (which is adapted to the child’s
actual level of comprehension, so the focus is always on meaning, not
form) to interact with the child and, in the process, I am transferring
control over language from myself to the child.
This is a process that can be replicated in the foreign language
classroom, if certain conditions are met. First and foremost, we must
recognize that in the foreign language classroom we are not generally
dealing with babies, but with children, teenagers or adults who have
already developed an L1. This has provided them with resources that
can be transferred to their L2 learning experience. Secondly, in real
life we use language by interacting with significant others. Hence, the


classroom activities we design should reflect that reality and prepare

students for the transition from the classroom to the real world.

Grammaring in the foreign language classroom

So, what other differences between L1 and L2 should teachers
take into account when promoting grammaring in the foreign language
classroom? One often-cited controversy is whether to teach grammar
explicitly (i.e. through explanation) or implicitly (i.e. allowing the students
to “pick it up” or acquire it). In 1996, Jane Willis summarized research
on second language acquisition establishing that there seem to be three
essential conditions and a desirable one that lead to language learning.
The essential conditions include exposure to rich and varied
input of authentic language in use, opportunities to use that input
for the negotiation of meanings and, more importantly, motivation to
engage in the negotiation of meaning. The desirable condition includes
opportunities for students to focus on form. Cook (2008) makes a
distinction between focus on form (the explicit teaching of grammar
and vocabulary as a consequence of breakdowns experienced by
students in communication in the classroom) and focus on forms
(the teaching of isolated grammar forms without natural recourse to
their use and meaning). What Willis was advocating for is focus on form.
Once students have communicated and it has become evident that
they do not know a particular grammar or vocabulary item that could
have enhanced their expression, then the teacher teaches that in the
context in which it naturally occurs.
Mason (2002) coined the term “noticing” to account for the
moment when information in the environment is registered as new and
relevant. In the language classroom, this happens when a particular
structure is highlighted for students to realize that it is not yet part of
their active repertoire and is needed for communication.
However, we have seen in the quotation from Larsen-Freeman
(2009) above, that noticing is not enough. Students need to engage is
using that grammar meaningfully and purposefully. The product of this
noticing and grammaring is the students’ ability to use the language
in real-life scenarios. Both are needed for language development to
actually happen.


For example, when Lesley was learning Polish, she once had
difficulty trying to express the conditional. She attempted a conditional
sentence in a conversation with her boss who stopped her and told
her “This is how you say it...” It was at that point that she noticed
the language, and she became aware of how that particular language
feature worked in real life. Once she was conscious of how to say it, she
went on to apply it in real life by purposefully seeking opportunities to
use that particular form.
This example, as well as research, helps us conclude that in short,
both formal instruction and real-life interaction are necessary in order
for students to be able to make use of their noticing as a contribution
to their grammaring. In reviewing research on noticing carried out
by Schmidt, Thornbury (op.cit., p. 36) explains “Without the formal
instruction, specific features of naturally-occurring language use
might have washed right over...But without the real-life interaction, the
outcomes of formal instruction may have simply sat on a shelf in the
brain and gathered dust… both kinds of learning required a degree
of attention. In other words, language learning involves conscious
processes.” And he adds, “Fluency activities are necessary in order to
help make language production fluid and automatic. But they need to
be balanced with other activities that encourage learners to develop
their grammaring skills--that is, to increase the complexity, not just the
automaticity, of their developing language system.” (op.cit., p. 21).
In short, the process of grammaring starts with consciousness-
raising activities that promote noticing by students. It ideally progresses
through a series of grammar-focused activities that will eventually
yield the necessary grammatical complexity for students to be able
to engage in real-life interaction through fluency activities. Taking this
process as our starting point, we will now turn to other more practical
considerations regarding what grammar to teach, when, and how.


We have discussed how traditional approaches organized the

learning of a foreign language according to a linear and additive sequence
of grammatical or functional items. Traditionally, the selection of what


grammar to teach rested on three criteria: complexity, learnability and

teachability. Complexity refers to the number of elements a grammar
item has so, if an item (for example, the present continuous) has fewer
elements than another grammatical item (for example, the present
perfect continuous) then it would be taught earlier. Closely linked to
complexity was the issue of learnability. The most learnable items were
considered to be the less complex ones. The last criterion, teachability,
had to do with the ease of presentation of a particular language item.
The most teachable items are those that require little effort on the part
of the teacher to teach them.
Nowadays, however, these criteria do not seem to be very useful.
For a start, there seems to be consensus in the field that students,
regardless of their L1, progress through a fairly predictable sequence
in learning grammar. Likewise, if we adhere to a notion of grammar as
a process, we should be ready to teach grammar “on demand” as its
need arises from students’ engagement in communication.
So, what criteria should be used in deciding what grammar
to teach? In those cases where the teacher has some degree of
freedom to choose (i.e. when the teacher is not required to follow a
particular syllabus or textbook) the best organization of grammar is
that which responds to the learners’ requests (as made evident in the
needs analysis) and their emergent language needs. However, this is
not the case in most situations around the world. We have seen that
learning grammar is not an easy one-time event, but rather an ongoing
interactive process.
3. Scrivener (2011, p.99) provides a series of steps for deciding
what grammar to teach that aims at satisfying the conditions set above.
On the following page, you will see an adaptation of his checklist that
we have made to reflect our views on the process.
If you follow this process whenever you teach a new grammar
item, you will soon have developed a useful bank of teaching materials
that includes not just pedagogical grammar rules, but also helps position
each grammar item in its actual context of use, while addressing how
the three interrelated language systems (lexicogrammar, semantics
and phonology/orthography) operate within that context. This will
be invaluable information to students who will engage in cycles of
noticing, practicing and using language.


• Identify the target item to teach. This selection can be the result of you having noticed that students
need a particular grammatical item in order to communicate, or simply your selection may derive from
the syllabus or textbook you are using.
• Fine-tune the selection. Once you know what item to teach, make a decision regarding what exactly
needs to be learned. Do students need to master mostly the interrogative form or all forms of the
item? Will you attempt to teach everything in one session? Two? Three?
• Carefully reflect on the context of use of the item. List situations, places and relationships in which
the language is typically used. Think in terms of the components of register explained earlier in this
chapter and also consider the kind of text/s that you will need in order to teach this item.
• Brainstorm five to ten everyday sentences that use the item in a natural way and which are connected
to the context of use you have selected.
• Select two or three ‘target sentences’ from the list above that clearly and unambiguously can be used
to help students notice the grammatical item and which make its use, meaning and form salient.
• Analyze and note down all the aspects of the use of the grammatical item you intend to have students
• Analyze the meaning of the grammatical item and create concept questions or other forms of
elicitation that you will use to help raise students’ awareness of the grammar item.
• Analyze the form (to include spelling and pronunciation) of the grammatical item. Develop charts,
timelines or other forms of mediation you will use to get learners to learn the form.
• Decide what you hope learners should be able to achieve during a lesson on this item. You may think
of what a typical student in your class should be able to say and do as a result of your teaching. Use
this information to write your lesson’s objectives.

In short, you will be using grammar for the purpose it should be

used. As Brown clearly explains “Grammar tells us how to construct
a sentence (word order, verb and noun systems, modifiers, phrases,
clauses, etc.) and discourse rules tell us how to string those sentences
together. Semantics tells us something about the meaning/s of words
and strings of words. Then pragmatics tells us about which of several
meanings to assign given the context of an utterance or written text.
Context takes into account such things as

• who the speaker/writer is,

• who the audience is,
• where the communication takes place,
• what communication takes place before and after a sentence in
• implied versus literal meanings,
• styles and registers,
• the alternative forms among which a producer can choose.”
(Brown, 2007, p. 420)


Teaching grammar
In general terms, we can say that the teaching of grammar needs
to be both efficient and appropriate. An efficient presentation is short.
This means that it does not consist of numerous exceptions or lengthy
explanations, but provides only the necessary information for students
to be able to move on from where they are now to the level in which they
can use the grammar item productively in communication. An efficient
presentation is also thorough in the sense that it unambiguously allows
students access to how the grammar is used in real life contexts, what
it means and how it is formed. Lastly, a grammar presentation should
be easy to implement, requiring little or no set up, and being delivered
with the most efficient tools (chalkboard, diagrams, visuals etc.). One
key element that favors these three criteria for efficiency is the need
to present grammar in meaningful contexts or texts and not just as
isolated examples. The context and/or text will allow the teacher to
highlight use, meaning and form adequately. However, if there is no
context present, the understanding of both use and meaning may be
jeopardized and we have already seen that form alone is not enough.
In terms of appropriacy, we can say that a grammar presentation
is so if it correlates to the students’ communicative needs, but also, if it
takes into account learners’ interests and motivations. A presentation
that overlooks students’ needs is pointless, as is one that overlooks
what motivates students to communicate. Lastly, appropriacy also
refers to fulfilling students’ expectations about the learning of a
foreign language. For example, if students’ goals are to simply develop
fluency, an unnecessary focus on accuracy will not cater for students’
expectations, needs or motivations.
Ellis provides a list of suggestions for when and how to teach

• “Both form and meaning should be emphasized; learners need to have the opportunity to practice
forms in communicative tasks.
• Focus more strongly on forms that are problematic for learners.
• Explicit grammar teaching is more effective at the intermediate to advanced levels than beginning
• Attend to both input-based (comprehension) and output-based (production) grammar.
• Both deductive and inductive approaches can be useful, depending on the context and purpose of


• Incidental focus on form is valuable in that it treats errors that occur while learners are engaged in
meaningful communication.
• Corrective feedback can facilitate acquisition if it involves a mixture of implicit and explicit feedback.
• Separate grammar lessons (“focus on forms”) and grammar integrated into communicative activities
(“focus on form”) are both viable, depending on the context.”
(Ellis, 2006, pp. 102—103)

In a similar vein, Ur (2012, p. 79) reminds us that while learners

may go “through a fairly stable order of acquisition of grammar features
[...] an explanation combined with practice, may speed up the process.”
She also provides a list of recommendations for this that includes:

• Providing clear and unambiguous examples of the grammar item in meaningful, relevant contexts of
use before explaining it.
• Making sure students have access to both the written and oral versions of the grammar item.
Teachers need to both say and write the selected examples.
• Teaching the use, meaning and form, in this particular order.
• If the chance arises, help students compare the grammatical item to their L1 during awareness-
raising activities.
• Providing explicit rules (of use and of form) is generally useful.
• Balance inductive (students “discover” the use, meaning and form of the grammar item from the
examples without an explicit explanation) and deductive (the students are explicitly taught the use,
meaning and form and then work out their own examples) approaches.

In summary, we can depict the teaching of grammar as a process

whereby students receive contextualized and varied input (of authentic,
natural language in use), notice issues in that input (so that they become
aware of patterns they were not aware of before), understand those
issues (in terms of when they are used, what they mean and how
they are constructed), try them out in safe ways (through controlled
activities aimed at reinforcing their accurate use), use them in real
communication (through free, communicative activities that imitate real
life) and take the necessary steps to remember those issues (through
revision and recycling focused on meaning and communication).
As we have seen above, the advice is that we should vary the
three modes so as to maximize students’ chances of noticing. After all,
we should remember, as Diane Larsen-Freeman (1997, p. 151) reminds
us, “Learning linguistic items is not a linear process. Learners do not


master one item and then move on to another. In fact, the learning
curve for a single item is not linear either. The curve is filled with peaks
and valleys, progress and backsliding.”

Re-read the quote by Diane Larsen-Freeman above and think back to your language learning
experience. Can you recall moments when your learning curve fluctuated in the way she describes it?

Grammar practice activities

As we have discussed above, grammaring—the process of
developing complexity and sophistication in grammar use in a foreign
language—is best aided if students engage in awareness-raising
activities followed up by practice activities that incorporate controlled
and communicative practice opportunities. In other words, practice
activities need to focus on both accuracy and fluency, if they are to
lead to more complex and sophisticated uses of the grammar students
have learned.
Two issues need to be discussed here. First is the issue of
authenticity of the language used by students. Scrivener (2011)
distinguishes between restricted language use and authentic
language use by foreign language students. When students are
engaged in practicing a particular grammatical item either by repeating
it or using a certain pattern, they are making restricted use of the
language. By the same token, exposure can also be restricted if the
teacher uses texts (oral or written) that have been simplified so that
a particular grammar item is prominently used in them. Authentic
expression happens when students use whatever language they have
at their disposal to communicate meaning. Their expression may be
flawed and full of grammatical mistakes but their intent on using the
language is authentic. Again, exposure can also be authentic if the
teacher uses samples of authentic language in use, either by students
or by fluent speakers/writers of the language.
Second is the issue of control. In general, we say that input,
activities or output are controlled if the language used is restricted and
if the teacher, listener or reader is able to predict with a high degree
of accuracy what the speaker or writer is going to say. For example,
we have practice activities that require students to write questions


to answers that appear in a dialog. On surface, the dialog looks

natural. However, as teachers, we are able to predict exactly the kind
of questions our students are going to write for the answers in the
dialog. Hence, the activity is controlled. Free activities, on the other
hand, involve students in using authentic language —i.e. language at
their disposal, even if it is ungrammatical— to express and negotiate
meaning. Briefly put, controlled activities, input or output contribute to
the students’ development of accuracy in the language. Free or more
open input, activities or output, are fluency-oriented.
An effective and appropriate sequence of language practice
activities will fulfill the same criteria we established above for a
grammatical presentation. Activities should be short and varied;
thorough in that they allow students to practice the three aspects of
concept (use, meaning and form); generative in that they maximize
practice opportunities (we don’t want an activity from which students
can only derive one or two examples of the grammatical item); and
easy to implement and monitor. Of course, if we want effectiveness,
the activities also need to be appropriate, that is, they should cater
for the students’ learning needs, interests and motivation. One last
criterion that applies to practice activities, though not necessarily
to grammatical presentations, is that of balance. Practice activities
should maximize opportunities for the rehearsal of both accuracy and
fluency. Other things they need to balance are: restricted and authentic
input and different degrees of control over output (controlled and free
The diagram on the following page depicts a possible pathway
from accuracy to fluency that can be used to help you select the kind
of practice activity that best suits your students’ learning needs and
motivations. Notice that the sequence is exhaustive and moves from
very controlled, accuracy-oriented activities during which students
do not have the chance to contribute much, to more open, fluency-
oriented, authentic-use activities where students are in control of both
the meaning and the form.





Imitation &





While in some cases you will need to use the whole gamut of
practice activities described here, many times, after assessing your
students’ current communicative needs, you may choose to skip some
of the activity types. Using the whole gamut of activities appropriately
is a matter of teacher judgment. Sometimes, you may want to follow
the sequence to the letter. At other times, you may want to skip steps or
reverse them. It will all depend on your students’ level of English, their
learning needs and their awareness of the language.
The table on the following page describes the different types of
activities and addresses how controlled they are.


Activity type Description Degree of control

Awareness- Awareness activities involve students in identifying VERY
raising patterns in the new grammar. These can include having CONTROLLED
activities students underline samples of the new item, writing the
words in the target sentence in scrambled order and
having the students order them, etc.
Imitation and Drills are repetition exercises where students simply VERY
substitution reproduce the input that you provide. There are various CONTROLLED
(e.g. Drills) forms of drills that are discussed further on in this chapter
together with advice on how to implement them.
Brief respon- Brief responses mimic the word-to-sentence stage of the CONTROLLED
ses grammaring process. Activities that lend themselves well
to this are gap fills, rewriting or transforming sentences,
and, in some cases, translations from L2 to L1.
Personalization Personalization involves students in using the new SOMEWHAT
grammar item in sentences that reflect their real life. They CONTROLLED
show that they understand the use, meaning and form of
the new item by using it to talk about themselves.
Sentence In sentence completion, teachers provide either the SEMI -
completion beginning or the end of a sentence, and students CONTROLLED
contribute their own ideas while also practicing the new
grammar item. Alternatively, the teacher can highlight
the new grammar item by drawing a box around it and
ask students to create true sentences about the texts
discussed in class, or even their own lives, where they can
only repeat the words inside the box.
Guided The teacher presents a short situation, shows students a SEMI -
communication picture, or gives students a group of words and they have CONTROLLED
to create their own sentences using the new grammar
Structured The teacher presents students with a situation that lends LOOSELY
discourse itself to further using the new grammatical item but which CONTROLLED
involves one of three kinds of gaps: information gap
(some students have information that others don’t), a
reasoning gap (a problem students have to work together
to solve) or an opinion gap (where students need to
discuss their position).
Free Students engage in free writing, discussions, debates, FREE
communication etc.
Table 7.2 - A progression of language practice activities


The approach to the teaching of grammar that we have described

in this chapter is one that departs from the prescription of tradition
and focuses more on the contributions that the learner can make to
the foreign language learning process. In this sense, we conclude with
Thornbury (2001, p. 78) “A presentation-transmission approach to
teaching grammar assumes that there is something the learners don’t
know, and that the teacher’s role is to provide them with that knowledge.
It is a deficit model of learning. An emergent view of grammar, on the
other hand, starts from the assumption that there is something that
learners can already do, and that the teacher’s role is to help them to
do it more effectively. It could therefore be described as an empowering
model of learning.”

Choose an activity from a language learning textbook you are familiar with. Assess the activity in
terms of the criteria we discussed above:

short and varied thorough generative ease of implementation

appropriate ease of monitoring balanced

Try to modify the activity so that it fulfills all the criteria. Share it with colleagues.


In his 1969 review of twenty-five centuries of language teaching,

L.G. Kelly introduced the metaphor that Pronunciation is the Cinderella
of language teaching, and it appears that even today this is still the case.
While this may seem to be true, it is also a fact that, throughout the
history of language teaching methodology, different approaches have
placed varying degrees of emphasis on the teaching of pronunciation.
These have ranged from completely ignoring it, to actually putting it at
the center of the teaching and learning processes.
Grammar translation, for example, ignored pronunciation
altogether, whereas the Direct Method and other Naturalistic approaches
(such as The Silent Way or the Natural Approach), emphasized teaching


pronunciation via imitation or repetition. While in these approaches

pronunciation was important, in others it was fundamental. Such
was the case of the Audiolingual Approach where pronunciation was
taught using a whole host of materials and techniques such as phonetic
alphabet tables, sagittal diagrams (cross sections of the head that show
where sounds are articulated), minimal pair drills, and tongue twisters.
All these were put to the service of helping students learn individual
sounds, also known as segmentals.
Since the 1970s, and with the advent of Communicative
Language Teaching, there has been little or no focus on pronunciation,
and whatever teaching of it has focused more on the suprasegmental
or prosodic features (stress, rhythm and intonation) than on the
segmentals (individual sounds).
Let us develop this idea further by citing some experts in the field.
For example, Goodwin (2014, p. 136) explains “The sound system of
English is broadly divided into two categories: consonant and vowel
sound (known as the segmental features) and more global aspects such
as stress, rhythm and intonation (known as suprasegmental features or
prosody)... As speakers, we usually do not think about what we are saying
sound by sound, or even syllable by syllable, unless communication
breaks down. So the bottom-up approach of mastering one sound at a
time and eventually stringing sounds together has been replaced by a
more top-down approach in which the sound system is addressed as it
naturally occurs--in the stream of speech.”

Learners and pronunciation

Many students find that learning pronunciation, which
approximates the norm of the English L1 speakers, is their main goal.
However, this goal is often quite unattainable and not really desirable.
In a globalized world where English is increasingly studied and spoken
by far many speakers than those residing in English-speaking countries,
attempting to approximate the native norm is more of a mirage than a
reality. What we should be concerned with is intelligibility, particularly
in those areas of pronunciation that tend to affect the meaning of
the message. Brown (2007, p. 340) rightly acknowledges “Our goal as
teachers of English pronunciation should therefore be more realistically
focused on clear, comprehensible pronunciation.”


But what constitutes intelligibility? In order to answer this

question, we need to look in detail at what is involved in English
pronunciation. Goodwin (2014) explains that pauses and intonation in
oral communication are used to break speech down in listener-friendly
chunks (also called thought groups or intonation units). Within each
group, stress and pitch are used to draw in the listener’s attention.
Stress is used to highlight key words in the thought group, with other
words that we assume the listener will understand being squeezed into
the intervals between stressed syllables. The patterns of stressed and
unstressed syllables create a rhythm that “listeners use to comprehend
what they hear, predict what will come next, form ongoing hypotheses
about the overall meaning, and fill in any gaps in comprehension”
(Goodwin, 2014, p. 137). Here is a summary of the main issues involved
in the description above:

• Thought groups
Thought groups generally represent a meaningful grammatical
unit. In that sense, they have boundaries that are generally
signaled by pauses. Some students think that if they pause, then
they are not fluent, and tend to talk in extremely long sequences
without even breathing. It is important that we help students
identify logical breaks in spoken texts used for fluency practice.

• Prominence
Within thought groups, there is one element that is more prominent
than the rest and this is called the sentence focus or tonic
syllable. This focus allows the listener to get the exact meaning
that the speaker is intending to convey. It is not the same to say:
I LOve you. (I don’t just like you).
I love YOU. (I don’t love anyone else).
I love you. (It is I, not him or her, who loves you, it’s I).
Each focus syllable conveys a radically different meaning. Note
that the particular meanings are derived from context so we need
to explicitly draw students’ attention to this feature so as to raise
their awareness of how the sound--meaning relationship operates.


• Intonation
Focus, or tonic, syllables that are made prominent are in general
accompanied by a rise or fall of the pitch forming a melodic
pattern that we call intonation. In English there are two distinctive
intonation patterns: rise and fall. Whether we use one or the other
will also depend on the contextual meaning of the utterance. For
example, we may use a fall pattern when we ask for information
(e.g. Why are you HERE? but a rise intonation when we just want
to clarify a mishearing or misunderstanding, on when just checking
(e.g. WHY are you here?).

• Rhythm
In English, rhythm is created by a combination of stressed
(prominent) and unstressed (non prominent) syllables. We generally
make prominent: nouns, main verbs, adverbs and adjectives (also
known as content words) and tend not to stress function words
(articles, prepositions, pronouns). Goodwin (op. cit., p. 138) reminds
us that “Rhythm, also called sentence stress, refers to all the syllables
that receive stress in a thought group, while prominence refers to one
of those stressed elements (the one that receives the most emphasis.”

• Word stress
Individual words composed of more than one syllable also exhibit
stress patterns (also called lexical stress). In these multi-syllable
words, one syllable receives the most prominent stress (primary
stress) while the others receive very weak stress (secondary stress).
Lexical stress is important in that a change in stress can determine
a change in the meaning of the word (e.g. ADDress= the location of
a building; addRESS = to make a speech to a group).

• Connected speech
In fluent English connected speech, a variety of modifications
occur that make the boundaries between words appear blurred.
Some of the features of connected speech are:
- Assimilation
The influence of one sound on another to become more like itself /t/
“in that man” /ðæpmæn/ or “How d’you do?” /ha du:/


- Elision
The complete disappearance of a sound in a word or phrase. For
example: /t/ in “Next, please!” /nekspli:z/ or in “I don’t know”
/a d n /
- Liaison
This is the insertion of a sound between two others so as to keep
the flow. For example: “Get to it!” inserts a /w/ in between / / and
/ / /get w t/
- Reduction
This refers to the substitution of the weak central vowel in
unstressed syllables. If there is no elision of that sound, the weak
central vowel is substituted by / / (called schwa). For example, “a
bit of time” / ’b t v’ta m/.
These features of connected speech help speakers to squeeze
unstressed syllables in between stressed syllables. Because stress
is what determines the rhythm in English, this language is said to
be stressed-timed, in contrast with syllable-timed languages such
as Spanish or Korean. Students may experience difficulty both
identifying and producing these features.

• Consonants
Consonant sounds in English are characterized by movement of the
organs of speech and different blockages to the flow of air. Because
of this, consonant sounds can be described in terms of their place
of articulation (the organs of speech that are needed to make the
sound), the manner of articulation (the way the organs of speech
interact), and voicing (whether or not the vocal cords vibrate).

Making students aware of how the organs of speech interact can

help them learn to produce the consonants sound correctly. Sagittal
diagrams that show a cross section of the head can be useful tools to
make students aware of this. Here is an example



Alveolar Ridge
Hard Palate Soft Palate (Velum)
Upper Teeth

Upper Lip
Lower Lip

Lower Teeth

Vocal Chords

Figure 7.2 - Sagittal diagram of the organs of speech

• Vowels
Producing English vowels involves a movement of the tongue and
jaw, a certain degree of lip rounding and a degree of tension of the
muscles involved. Hence, vowels in English can be described as
frontal, central, or back according to the position of the tongue; as
high, mid, or low in terms of the movement of the jaw; as rounding
or spreading according to the rounding of the lips; and as tense or
lax according to the tension in the muscles involved. Students may
experience difficulty perceiving the different vowel sounds as well as
producing them. In this respect, sagittal diagrams that show where
each vowel is produced can be a helpful teaching aid. An interactive
tool that students can consult on their own can be found at: http://

As it can be seen from the description above, mastering the

phonological system of English is no easy feat because of its
complexities. Additionally, students bring to the learning process their
own particular features, which might pose even more difficulties.


Brown (2007) has identified the following factors affecting the

learning of pronunciation in second and foreign language learners.
These have been summarized in the following table

Factor Suggestions

Native language Become familiar with the typical difficulties of

learners of English who have a particular L1. Help
students notice L1-L2 interference.

Age Children in general, have a better chance

to acquire native-like pronunciation. But
older learners can also develop very good
pronunciation with an accent. This is completely
acceptable. Reassure your students of this fact.

Exposure The quality and intensity of the exposure are

more critical than the length of time. Spend class
time focusing on pronunciation.

Innate phonetic Raise students’ awareness as to how sounds and

ability other features of connected speech operate.
Help them notice, mark and apply the learning.
The common “having an ear for languages”
argument is a myth.

Identity and Students’ attitudes towards speakers of an L1

language ego are crucial. Favor positive attitudes towards L1
speakers (particularly with teenage learners) and
helps students embrace their second identity as
speakers of an L2.

Motivation and Some learners are concerned with how they

concern for pronounce, while others are not. Motivation to
good pronounce well can derive in fruitful effort. But
if they do not exist, help learners perceive that
motivation by showing the importance of clarity
of speech in helping them attain their goals.

Table 6.2 – Factors affecting the learning of pronunciation (adapted from

Brown, 2007, p. 340)



Besides learner variables, in order to account for why pronunciation

has been portrayed as the orphan skill, we should not overlook teacher
variables that may have an effect on how it is taught. With the expansion
of English language teaching around the world, many times those
who teach the language are not as confident to teach pronunciation
as they are when teaching grammar or vocabulary. Also, as it has been
reported by various authors (Brown, 2007; Brinton, 2012; Goodwin,
2014) that teacher education programs have not always been successful
in equipping teachers with a knowledge base that would allow them to
implement effective pronunciation teaching.
Brinton (2012) referring to her work with Celce-Murcia and
Goodwin in 2010, presents an outline of the required knowledge base
for teaching pronunciation. The following diagram comprehensively
illustrates this knowledge base:



PROBLEMS (e.g., PRIORITIES (i.e., which
FEATURES (e.g., rules,
stemming from features should be
occurrences in discourse,
students’ L1 or taught and when).
diagnostic work

Figure 7.3 – A required knowledge base to teach pronunciation

(source: Brinton, 2012, p. 248)

And here is their outline of a pedagogy for teaching pronunciation

in a communicative way:

DESCRIPTION AND ANALYSIS - oral and written illustrations of

1 how the feature is produced and when it occurs within spoken
LISTENING DISCRIMINATION - focused listening practice
2 with feedback on learners’ ability to correctly discriminate the


CONTROLLED PRACTICE - oral reading of minimal pair

3 sentences, short dialogues, etc., with special attention to the
highlighted feature in order to raise learners’ awareness.
GUIDED PRACTICE - structured communication exercises, such
4 as information gap activities and cued dialogs, that enable the
learner to monitor for the specific feature.
COMMUNICATIVE PRACTICE - less structured, fluency-
5 building activities (e.g. role-play, problem solving) that require
the learner to attend to both form and content of utterances.

Table 7.3 – A communicative framework for teaching English pronunciation

(source: Brinton, 2012, p. 249)

A similar, although more detailed sequence for teaching

pronunciation is offered by Ur (2012, p. 131). This author suggests that:
“Pronunciation improvement activities may include:

• receptive awareness-raising, perhaps contrasting minimal pairs;

• focused explanations of how particular sounds are produced;
• imitation by the students of pronunciation of single words;
• production by the students of the target pronunciation item
within phrases or complete utterances;
• meaningful tasks contextualizing pronunciation items.”

Finally, Scrivener (2011) adds the following ideas to our list of

resources for teaching pronunciation in context:

Model new words in context

• When teaching new lexis give students the opportunity to hear you
saying the item naturally spoken in the context and have students
repeat the phrase, giving them honest feedback.

Model intonation
• When teaching grammar have students listen to some typical examples
of natural uses of the language and have them imitate stress and

Recognizing the feeling

• Write some short spoken phrases on the left hand side of the board,
and a list of moods or feelings on the right hand side. Say the phrases
using different moods. Have students attempt to do the same.


Use dialogs
• Engage learners in thinking how the dialog may sound before exposing
students to an audio version. You can ask them to refer to the printed
version and predict which syllables may be stressed and then listen and
confirm predictions.

Shadow reading
• Students read at the same time with a competent reader. Once you
have gone over a text and ascertained that students understand it, you
can read it out loud (or play the audio) and have students read aloud
along. It is more useful if this is done more than once. You can then pair
students up to do the same.

We have seen how complex the English phonological system is

and how, through the years, pedagogy has failed to address it in all its
complexity. We can conclude with Cook (2008, p. 80—81) that “One
clear implication from SLA research is that the learning of sound is
not just a matter of mastering the L2 phonemes and their predictable
variants… While phonemes are indeed important, pronunciation
difficulties often have to do with general effects...Learners have
their own interlanguage phonologies...Understanding how to help
students’ pronunciation means relating the faults first to their current
interlanguage and only second to the target.”


Our analysis of lexis, grammar and syntax so far has been an

atomistic one. We have looked at each system individually so as to
learn how research and theory say they work in real life. However,
we should bear in mind that the three systems are mutually inter-
dependent and operate in unison based on two relevant factors: the
communicative intention of the speaker/writer and the sociocultural
context of signification in which that writer/speaker operates. These
two variables will determine what specific realizations of grammar,
lexis and phonology will be enacted in the particular contexts for the
speaker/writer to be able to attain his or her communicative intention.
However, by closely examining each of the systems a series of
common features begin to surface:


• There are syntactic relationships that determine how words,

structures and phonological features operate. These are not
independent systems but mutually related resources from which
speakers/writers draw at the moment of expressing something.
• Expression is heavily influenced by the context in which the
speaker/writer operates. This leads to the existence of various
contextual rules that determine what can be said, when and how.
• In order for language learners to have access to the complexity
of the resource called language, they need to engage in
sustained communication. This engagement will allow them to
notice aspects of the L2 that they need to master. Only when
they have become aware of a gap between their current stage
of foreign language development and the standard form of
the foreign language, will students be able to progress in their
language learning.
• Learning lexis, syntax and phonology is best understood not
as the mastery of objects of learning but as processes that
evolve over time and that require that students actively engage
in communication.
• The role of the instructor is to help students notice and become
aware of authentic language in use, as well as to select what
needs to be learned and design learning opportunities that
cater for both accuracy and fluency.
• Teaching is understood not as the provision of input and the
careful transmission of rules, but as a process of progressive
scaffolding of language that begins to emerge from students who
are deeply engaged in exchanging meaning. During this process,
the teacher secures that students gain progresively higher levels
of control over expression. In order to achieve this, the teacher
will resort to a multitude of activities and techniques that range
from direct instruction to student-initiated discovery.
• The most crucial condition for students to gain progressively
more complex mastery of lexis, syntax and phonology is their
engagement in ongoing real-life communication.
These agreements about the teaching and learning of the different
systems that make up the resource we call language can serve as
guiding principles towards the development of a pedagogy of foreign/


second language instruction that departs from the traditions that are
popular—though not always effective—in the field. In the remainder
of this chapter, we will look at some basic instructional techniques that
can be used to promote this kind of pedagogy.


The history of language teaching is extremely rich. It abounds

with methods, materials and activities that were popular at one time or
another and that have been perpetuated until today because of their
effectiveness. Even when most of the methods in language teaching
replaced previous ones, many times throwing away the baby with the
bathwater, we can identify a core set of instructional techniques that
have survived and that can be readily used to teach various aspects of
language. These techniques constitute a very basic toolbox that needs
to be contextualized by teachers taking into account the needs and
motivations of their learners. They can also be supplemented with the
techniques presented in the Classroom Management chapter.

Clarifying use
We have seen above that the context of use is what determines the
grammatical, lexical and phonological realizations of the meaning we
intend to communicate and, because of this, it should be fore fronted at
the time of clarifying the meaning of new phonological features, lexis
or grammar.
The main tool for conveying use is a good situational context
from which the new grammatical, phonological or lexical item can be
clearly elicited and that provides information about the topic and the
participants in the conversation.
Before engaging in disclosing the meaning or the form of a new
item, teachers need to establish the context of use. In order to do that,
the teacher can use questions such as:

• What is the topic here?

• Who are the interlocutors/ Who is the writer?
• Who said/wrote this?


• Why did that person say/write this?

• Where is this person?
• Who else is involved?
• If this person says [sample new language], what are the likely
• Why did the person say “X” and not “Y”?
• Let’s draw a picture of this situation.

Clarifying meaning I: Eliciting

Although we have already seen this in Chapter 4, let us review
some basic classroom management techniques. Eliciting means guiding
students towards discovering what you want them to say in the foreign
language. Meaning can be drawn from students and attempting to do
so, means putting in place a dialogic kind of interaction where students
are actually empowered as learners and as individuals.
Eliciting can be done in a variety of ways. You can mime actions,
use pictures, use gestures or facial expression, draw on the board or use
symbols, use color to highlight particular features, use word relations
such as antonymy, synonymy and hyponymy, or use concept questions
(see below).
For example, a teacher is trying to establish the meaning of
the phrasal verb “break up.” For that she designs a short anecdote.
She shows a picture of two teenagers holding hands and elicits the
topic. Then, she mimes that one of the characters is crying and invites
students to speculate why (they broke up). She follows this by asking
two concept questions “Did they use to date?” “Are they dating now?”
She asks students to provide a synonym for “break up.” Finally, she
rounds off this explanation by writing the words “break up” on the
board and drawing a broken heart.

Clarifying meaning II: Concept questions

What does “You should have gone home” mean? It means that:

1. There was some kind of obligation for you to go home, and

2. You didn’t fulfill an obligation. Or, in simpler language:
3. Someone (maybe a doctor) told you to go home
4. You didn’t.


Now, if we turn these statements into questions, we get concept


a. Did the doctor tell you to go home? (Yes)

b. Did you go home? (No)

Correct answers indicate that the learners understand the

Concept questions are one way of checking concept. They are
designed to highlight (for the student) the meaning of the new linguistic
point, be it phonology, vocabulary or structure.
They are particularly useful when trying to elicit the language
because they aim the student in the right direction. Also, they focus
attention on meaning once you have provided the new language item.
By nature, concept questions should be simple to understand
and to answer. You’re not supposed to be testing the students’
comprehension of the question. Hence, they should contain familiar
vocabulary and structures but not the word/s for the item being taught.
Most concept questions probably have YES/NO answers but it is
useful to also follow them up with some more complex WH- questions
whose answers come from the context.
You can repeat concept questions any time during the lesson,
especially if you think the students haven’t really got the meaning.
They can also be written up on the board together with the structure/
word/etc. to serve as a reminder.

How to Make Concept Questions

• Reduce the language to be taught to a number of simple
statements (usually two or three) that describe the MEANING
of that language item.
• Turn those statements into questions, and ask the learners.


Clarifying Meaning and Form: Gestures, Boardwork and Cuisenaire

Using gestures: Your fingers
Using your fingers, you can provide learners with information on
stress, intonation, grammar and even features of connected speech.
Look at the examples below:
She read a novel.


She novel

Here the teacher is drawing students’ attention to the word order

of the sample sentence. The teacher can point to specific items and
even bend the fingers depicting unstressed words in the sentence to
show rhythm.
The teacher can also demonstrate weak forms by putting her
fingers together to show rhythm or pinch a particular fingertip in order
to signal that something is missing.
Other gestures that can be used are the following:

Intonation pattern Gesture with arm (rising or falling)

Word stress Beat correct rhythm, raise finger or draw: ooOo
Word order Gesture with both hands or one hand only
Identifying an incorrect word
Get students to say one word at a time as you use your fingers
and when they get to the incorrect word, bite that finger.
Wrong word/Missing out word Count on fingers until you get to mistake and grab the finger
where the word is missing. Signal for students to provide the
missing word or correct the wrong one.
Confusion of time Point forwards or backwards
Contraction left out Put two fingers together
Table 7.4 – A typology of gestures to support language learning


When clarifying the meaning of tenses, timelines can help by
providing a graphic representation of a concept. In general, we would
advise to draw the timeline after having established meaning via
concept questions. Look at this example of a timeline for the target
sentence: “I have been to Paris three times in my life.”

I have been to Paris three times
in my life

past future

tree times

When creating timelines:

• clearly establish past, present and future and write the words.
• use consistent symbols. For example, a wavy line for
progressive, a straight line to mark time relationships.
• instead of simply drawing the timeline, ask students questions
that reinforce the concept questions you have asked and get
them to help you build the timeline.
• use target sentences that students have already seen and that
are contextualized.

Using Cuisenaire rods

Cuisenaire rods are a set of colored sticks measuring from 1 to
10 centimeters. They were originally developed for the teaching of
Mathematics, but Caleb Gattegno, creator of The Silent Way, used
them to teach language. Rods are a flexible tool that allows the teacher
to create different situations where meaning can be easily elicited. Rods
are also useful in teaching pronunciation (both stress and rhythm) and
also grammar. Take a look at the following photographs.


Photo 1

Because they come in different sizes, are colorful, and can be

manipulated in many ways to create very straightforward linguistic
situations, rods help create memorable experiences.

Photo 2

For example, take a look at how to establish the difference

between “She has visited Paris three times” and “I have visited Paris
three times in photo 2. Students can manipulate shapes and colors and
actually “see” grammar in action.

Photo 3


If students have difficulty stressing a word, you can also use the
rods to mark stress. Photo 3 shows the stress pattern for the word “PAris.”

Photo 4

Also, as you can see in picture 4, you can use the rods to mark
stressed and unstressed syllables in a sentence thus marking its rhythm,
e.g. “SHE has NEVER BEEN to FRANCE.”
Additionally, you can create situations with the rods and thus help
learners discover the meaning of new language. Each rod can stand
for a person in the situation and, since they can be moved around, you
can develop a context for students to notice the new language in a
non-written way.
Rods are a flexible tool that can help you highlight use, meaning
and form of grammar and pronunciation. They engage students
because of their color as well as the chance to manipulate them. Thus,
they are a wonderful and economical teaching resource.

Working on form: Substitution tables

Substitution tables were a frequent technique in Audio Lingual
times. They were used to clarify form and also to provide practice
opportunities. Today, we can use substitution tables to highlight the form
of a new grammatical item, as well as to engage students in controlled
repetition of sample sentences. For example, the substitution table on
the left can be used to practice both the affirmative and negative forms
of the present perfect. We introduced the new grammar item with a
situation about a person who is visiting Paris.


You may make the tables as simple or as complex as you want.

The important thing to remember is that the sentences they contain
must be contextualized to the situation used to highlight the use and
meaning of the new item. In our case above, you can ask students to
use the table to say as many true sentences about the situation we used
to introduce the item as possible.
Encourage students to copy the substitution tables in their
notebooks and to use them to practice making sentences applying
the new grammar item. Substitution tables are an efficient way of
highlighting how the new item is syntactically organized at the level of
the sentence, while providing a controlled way of practicing the new
pattern in a meaningful context.

Beginning practice: A few words on Drilling

Drills are another technique derived from the Audio Lingual
Approach. While in that approach, the whole lesson involved oral and
written drills, as it was believed they established good verbal habits,
nowadays we know we can use them mostly to provide students
practice with pronunciation. Pronouncing in a new language is mostly
a motor skill. The different organs of articulation may be used in ways
that are unfamiliar to us in our L1. Hence, we can say that the only way
to master the pronunciation of a new language is through practice and
repetition. We cannot simply construct a new pronunciation —meaning
we rationally figure out how it works— we must actively verbalize our
understanding of segmentals and suprasegmentals. Also, drills are a
useful way of helping with “the tripping of the tongue,” i.e. the sequence


of articulation necessary to enunciate longer stretches of sound in a

foreign language.
Drills should not dominate the class. They should be done at a
brisk pace, maintaining the natural rhythm and intonation of spoken
English, and always contextualizing them to the situational context
used to introduce the new item.

A procedure for drilling

• Elicit or tell learners the word or sentence you want students

to practice saying.
• Get everyone’s attention onto it. Say “Listen!” and put your
hand to your ear. When everyone is looking at you say the
word or sentence at natural speed, clearly, two or three times.
Then, highlight the stressed syllable, the number of syllables,
the contractions on your fingers or on the board or with
Cuisenaire rods while you say it again. If you write any words
on the board to show learners, then erase them after this step
so they listen to you after they’ve seen it.
• Say the target sentence (or play it on tape). Accompany this by
beating on the desk or clapping your hands to mark stress and
rhythm, using the right intonation and at natural speed.
• Get the whole group to repeat after you in unison. This is called
choral repetition. If they experience problems because of the
length of the sentence, use back chaining. This means, building
up the sample sentence from the end to the beginning always
using meaningful chunks. For example: “/I have visited Paris
three times in my life/.../life/.../my life/.../in my life/…/
Paris/.../visited Paris/.../I have visited Paris/.../I have visited
Paris three times in my life/.”
• After choral repetition, you may want to have individuals
repeat. One frequent procedure is to nominate a student to
repeat who, in turn, nominates another student. This is called
open pairs repetition. Finally, you can put students in pairs for
them to take turns cueing each other and repeating the sample
sentences. This is called closed pairs repetition.


• Avoid comments such as “Great!” or “Fantastic!” and refrain

from saying “Repeat.” Instead use gestures to indicate when
you want students to repeat.

Types of drills

• Verbatim repetition – learners repeat exactly what the teacher

has said.
T: I have visited Paris three times in my life.
Ss: I have visited Paris three times in my life.

• Single-slot substitution – teacher gives a model and provides

one word for learners to substitute in that model.
T: I have visited Paris three times in my life… Rome
Ss: I have visited Rome three times in my life.
T: Four
Ss: I have visited Rome four times in my life.

• Multiple slot substitution – teacher gives a model and provides

two or more words for learners to substitute in that model.
T: I have visited Paris three times in my life...Rome/four
Ss: I have visited Rome four times in my life.
T: She/five
Ss: She has visited Rome five times in her life.

• Moving slot substitution – teacher provides a model and a word

for learners to substitute. This word changes category (noun,
verb, adjective, etc.) with each new repetition.
T: I have visited Paris three times in my life...Rome
Ss: I have visited Rome three times in my life.
T: She
Ss: She has visited Rome three times in her life.
T: not
Ss: She has not visited Rome three times in her life.


As we have indicated above, these basic instructional techniques

are the “default” settings that we can use to guide initial language
analysis and practice. They have proved effective for clarifying and
practicing what has been noticed and explained. Hence, they should
not be used indiscriminately, but judiciously, if and when students need
that kind of explanation.


In this chapter we have analyzed the three main systems that make
up the resource we call language. We concluded that phonology, lexis
and syntax can be taught inductively or deductively and proposed a
framework for their teaching that starts by providing students with rich
and varied input of real language in use. This input is used for students
to notice features of the target language so as to raise their awareness
of how they can best enhance their expression in the foreign language.
Hence, phonology, lexis and syntax are best taught through rich contexts
that make their use, meaning and form salient for students. We can the
conclude that, without knowing why people use a particular item in a
specific situation, students will be unable to make sense of language.


What is the most important What lingering questions What steps will you take
learning you have derived about teaching the language to find answers to these
from this chapter? systems do you still have? questions?


Observation task

Arrange with your cooperating teacher or a colleague to observe a lesson where the language
systems are being taught. During that lesson pay attention to how the instructor teaches lexis,
grammar and phonology. Note down techniques, materials and procedures used for teaching
these systems.
Reflect on how closely the principles discussed in this chapter were taken into account in the
teaching of this lesson.

Reflective journal task

Select three current communicative textbooks and...

• analyze how they each present lexis, grammar and phonology.
• evaluate whether the way these systems are presented is congruent with our current
understanding of language teaching pedagogy.
• share your reflections with your peers.

Portfolio task

1) Design a lesson in which you typically teach language to your students.Arrange to have the
class videotaped or observed by a more experienced peer/ cooperating teacher. Make sure
you follow the guidelines and frameworks that are given in the chapter for the teaching of the
language systems.
2) At the end of the lesson ask your students these questions and have them write their answers
and give them back to you:
• What did you learn today that you did not know?
• What did you do today that you already knew?
• What can you do in English now that you could not do before this lesson?
• What did the teacher do that helped you learn?
• What did the teacher do that prevented you from learning?
• How do you compare this lesson to other English lessons?



Games are a fun and low-risk way of practicing language (phonology, lexis and grammar). They
are also an ideal way to help learners use language without realizing they are doing so. This short list
of games can be adapted to practice all the aspects of language we discussed in this chapter.
grammar battleships
Prepare a grid like the one shown below. Students work in pairs. They first tick two of the boxes (e.g.
ugly and building). Then they ask each other questions “Do you have a small red house?
big ugly city
small white house
large red building
When the answer the to a question is “yes,” then, the person who asked the question wins. Adapt it
also for different sounds, vocabulary sets or other grammar items by expanding the grid.

Candidates games

Prepare a list of four or five fictitious characters together with a description for each of them. Include
for each: age, occupation, hobbies, personality, likes/dislikes, etc. Make them as different as possible.
Then set up a situation where students would need help accomplishing something and have them
match the right person to the need.

Musical chairs with a twist

Decide on a vocabulary category (e.g. items of clothing). Set the classroom with chairs in a circle.
There should be one chair per student, minus one. One volunteer stands in the middle of the circle
and says “I want a salad made of….” and then says an item of clothing and a color. The students who
are wearing that item of clothing must change chairs. Whoever is left without a chair stands in the
middle of circle. Change word categories to practice different vocabulary sets.

Prepare a bingo boards with words showing differences in one sound (e.g. ship - sheep). Give out
one bingo boards to each student. Start saying sentences using the words. Students cross out the
words on their board. If they get three in a row, they must shout BINGO! Then they come to the
front and say sentences with the rest of the words on their board. You can also use these boards to
practice grammar and vocabulary.

Draw a three-by-three squares board and fill it with verb forms (infinitive, past form, and past
participle). Students take turns selecting a verb and saying a correct sentence with it. If their sentence
is correct, they can claim the square. Play until someone gets Tic-Tac-Toe. This game can be adapted
for phonology and vocabulary.

Fill in the....
To practice vocabulary sets, put students in pairs and give each pair a dice. Students label themselves
‘A’ and ‘B’. ‘A’ students must try to roll only odd numbers, ‘B’ students must try to roll even numbers.
The task is to fill in something (e.g. a fridge). Students roll the dice and when they roll a suitable
number they must name an item to go in the fridge and write it to show their score. Use this game for
clothes, stores, items of furniture, positive/negative adjectives, etc.


learningabout: about:
• • reading, writing and
other literacy practices
• in the twenty-first
learning communities
• century.
teachers’ roles
• • schemata and schema
teachers’ use of L2 in
• top-down and bottom-
up processing.
learning how to:
• • genres and registers.
develop and value a
learning community
• plan lessons to cater
for different energy
levels and attention
learning how to:
• design effective
The development of writing marked an important signpost in human • reading and writing
use the white or
evolution. It is with writing that history began to be recorded and has been sequences.
• • develop students’
use the classroom
made accessible to us. However, the original purpose for the creation of
language through
seating arrangements
written records was not educational, but mostly commercial. Writing was reading and writing.
to optimize learning.
the product of agrarian societies that had abandoned their migrant hunter- • respond to students’
gatherer traditions and opted out to develop settlements where they could writing.
plant and harvest food and live in the company of other individuals. It was • assess reading and
the need to keep a record of their animals, and measures of grain or parcels
of land that prompted the development of writing as a form of record
keeping. There are as many systems of writing as there are languages in
the world. This is because, with time, writing became a practice strongly
tied to the cultural contexts and purposes for which texts were created.
Because of these facts, reading and writing practices vary across the world
and language teachers need to pay attention to those variations when
helping students understand or express themselves through the written


literacy traditional views

of skills

reading writing
Literacy Skills

Schema theory written language

bottom-up genres
& top-down processing Product approach
Pre-reading Process approach
while-reading text-based approach
Post-reading assessing writing
assessing reading

What do you already know about literacy skills?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about reading and/or writing have you heard your
colleagues or cooperating teacher discuss? Why are they important/



Read the following comments about the teaching of reading and

writing. Which ones resonate with your experience either as a teacher
or as a student?

Teachers say…

• I don’t have much time to do pre- and post-reading activities. I

need to cover a certain number of lessons in the book and if the
book does not provide these activities, I do not incorporate them.
• My students cannot understand real-life texts so I just use what is
in the book. I know the language is extremely simplified, but I do
not want to frustrate them.
• My students are hopeless at writing. They make so many mistakes!
• I do not have the time to implement a process approach to
teaching writing. There is no way I can respond to more than 200
drafts per week!
• My students will take a standardized test that requires they write
only certain text types so I give them lots of models of those texts
for them to copy. In this situation real writing is not a possibility,
so why bother?

Students say…

• Reading is hard for me because I am always under pressure to

answer questions, say true or false, etc.
• The teacher always starts the lessons with a reading activity with
exercises. I want to be able to speak the language. Enough with


• Writing is boring. Whenever we run out of time in class, the

teacher asks us to write something for homework. Then, he takes
ages to return the papers.
• When I get my writing back, the teacher has generally corrected
all the mistakes. I make so many mistakes every time that I do not
like to write. I am better at speaking.
• My teacher wants us to plan and then write drafts. This is boring
and I never do it. In general, I sit down and write the composition
and the next day I hand it in.

How would you respond to these teachers’ and students’ comments?


“Those who do not possess considerable literacy will be effectively

‘locked out’ from so much of the knowledge, information and ideas which are
part of the culture of society”
- Christie (1990, p. 20)

In foreign language education the written word has been long used
and abused. For most of the twentieth century, the notion of Literacy
revolved around the ability to express oneself through writing, which
implied the ability to read as well. It was not until the emergence of
the Communicative Approach that reading and writing ceased to be
alternative ways to practice grammar and were recognized as skills in
their own right.
Nowadays, with the influx of technologies and the phenomenon
of globalization, literacy has come to mean more than being able to
read and write. Other forms of literacy have become important, such
as information literacy (the ability to select information that is relevant
by knowing how to search, tag, filter, and critically evaluate information


we read or write); language-based literacy (including the ability to use

print in communicative acts such as texting or hyperlinking, making it
a multimodal form of literacy); and connective literacy (allowing us to
relate to others through networks via mostly written language).
These literacies have become true twenty-first century skills,
without which, individuals may be denied access to information and
opportunities for development. Reading and writing are important
social processes and are bound by cultural and historical norms created
by discourse communities that make use of them to communicate.
Hence, we should view the development of literacy skills as a way of
helping our students become members of those discourse communities,
each of which has particular ways of organizing discourse and
negotiating meaning through writing in order to achieve their different
communicative goals.


For many years, the skills of Listening, Reading, Speaking and

Writing tended to be categorized as “receptive” (because students were
supposedly not actively involved in production) or “productive” (given
that students were actually expressing themselves through language).
In recent times, some prominent methodologists (e.g. Harmer, 2007;
Brown, 2015) also chose to keep the same nomenclature. In this light,
Reading and Listening are “receptive” skills and Speaking and Writing
are “productive” skills. However, research in Applied Linguistics has
demonstrated that even when students are supposed to be at the
receiving end of communication, there are a number of cognitive
processes at play that are far from being receptive.
Because of this, we have chosen to categorize skills in terms
of the medium favored for their development. In our understanding,
Listening and Speaking are Oracy skills and Reading and Writing are
Literacy skills.
In this chapter we will explore the nature of written language
and how it may affect the development of reading comprehension and
written expression bearing in mind, at all times, that while we divide
skills in categories for the sake of understanding how they develop,


in real life, skills are actually integrated (see Chapter 9 for more on
integrated skills). This means that in everyday communication various
skills are put at play simultaneously, or sequentially, so that the
individuals interacting can achieve particular communicative goals.
For example, we may be in class, listening to the teacher and
taking notes (that would be listening comprehension) and at the same
time we may be writing comments to our notes (that would be writing)
and perhaps asking the professor or a colleague for clarification (this
would be speaking and listening). Hence, we must understand that the
separation of skills into individual units is done solely for the purpose
of improving your understanding of how they evolve and can be

Characteristics of Written Language

While it is true that written language surfaced in the history of
humankind out of a need to communicate when two or more individuals
were separated by time and/or space, this is a simplistic view of the
complex process of composing. Brown (2007, p. 391) explains

“One major theme in pedagogical research on writing is the nature

of the composing process of writing (O’Brien, 2004; Silva & Brice,
2004). Written products are often the result of thinking, drafting
and revising procedures that require specialized skills that not every
speaker develops naturally.”

Whether we look at written language from a comprehension or

expression perspective, we must recognize that it encompasses a range
of modes of communication that have unique characteristics and which
set it apart from oral language. Compared to oral language, written
language is more permanent than what has been written tends to last,
whereas oral messages are ephemeral (unless they are recorded).
This imbues written language of a number of characteristics. Ur
(2012) highlights how written language is generally geared towards an
absent audience. As a consequence of this, the writer does not receive
immediate confirmation of understanding by the reader. This leads the
writer to apply a number of strategic moves to make the text accessible
to that audience. First and foremost, written text is dense. It is devoid


of redundancy and repetitions or false starts. Because of this, writing

takes time and effort to develop, and the language used in writing tends
to be more standard than that used in speaking, resulting in a quality of
expression radically different from that found in conversation.

These characteristics have important implications for teaching.

For a start, we must recognize that writing cannot just be acquired but
needs to be taught explicitly. Also, the permanence of written language
offers students forms of support not afforded by oral language. As
a consequence, the processes for developing comprehension and
expression skills and strategies via written texts, need to target both
the characteristics of the written products and those of the writing
process, while capitalizing on the opportunities they afford students to
enhance their overall language development


Think back to the times when you were learning how to write in a foreign/second language. How did
your teachers teach you to write? What were some of the typical activities you did? Did you write in class
or for homework? How would you describe your experience learning how to write in that language?

Language teaching pedagogy has, for many years now, relied

heavily on two main approaches to the development of writing skills:
the product approach and the process approach. In these approaches,
the emphasis has been on mastering either the language required
to craft a text while attending to its characteristic formal features
(product), or the strategies and dispositions of effective writers that
help them compose highly appealing texts (process). In this sense,
the methodologies for the development of the writing skill have not
departed from the dualism that is so common in our profession. In
the case of writing, the frequently found contradictions between
meaning and form, accuracy and fluency have remained a constant. It
is no wonder then, that teachers and students alike frequently express
dissatisfaction with and even frustration at the moment of writing. By
continuing to focus on either the product or on the process, we are


ignoring the fact that writing, as a social endeavor, is a process that

leads to a certain pre-defined product and that both aspects are needed
if students are going to succeed at becoming independent users of
meaningful, written texts.
Fortunately, over the past twenty years, a third alternative to the
development of all skills has surfaced that holds the promise of doing
away with this dichotomy, particularly in what respects the development
of writing skills. As we saw in Chapter 6, thanks to the work of Halliday
(1978) among others, a movement promoting language teaching
through texts has been gaining momentum.
The theoretical basis for this movement sees language as emerging
in the life of individuals through an ongoing process of interaction
during which participants negotiate meanings with one another. As we
have seen before, language ceases to be understood as a collection of
fairly independent systems (e.g. syntax, lexis, phonology) and becomes
a resource for meaning making on which users of the language draw
every time that they use it. One characteristic of this interaction is
that in order to exchange meanings, users create texts. Feez (1998,
p. 4) defines texts as “any stretch of language that is held together
cohesively by meaning.” She goes on to say

“Whether a stretch of language is a text or not has nothing to do

with its size or form. It has to do with the meanings of the stretch
of language working together as a unified whole. The single word
Stop on a road sign and Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace are both texts
because they are unified wholes” (Feez, loc. cit.).

One important point to add here is the social nature of these

texts, as they are shaped by the social and historical contexts in which
they are used and, at the same time, these contexts are shaped by the
people exchanging meanings through the language.
We have already seen that this view of language assumes that
whenever they use language, participants in a communicative situation
dwell on three layers simultaneously. One first layer refers to meaning
(also called discourse semantics) that clarifies three kinds of meaning
or macrofunctions, as we saw previously: ideational meaning (related


to the social situation for which the text is being created); interpersonal
meaning (related to the social relationship of the people who are involved
in negotiating meaning); and textual meaning (related to the spatial or
temporal distance between the people using the language). A second
layer of language is comprised of words and structures, also called
lexicogrammar. It is through this lexicogrammar that the three kinds of
meaning above are coded for communication, imbuing language of its
creative power and complexity. The last layer of language - that makes
the second layer concrete so that it can be perceived in the physical
world - is that of phonology and/or graphology. Sounds and letters
allow us to express the meanings we are negotiating as either speech
or writing through a limited set of symbols or sounds that are mutually
comprehensible to the participants in the communication situation.
By placing interaction at the front and center of the process of
communication, and by categorizing communicative events according
to the texts (oral or written) used by participants in order to create
meaning, this systemic-functional view of language opens up the
possibility of attending to language in use in real contexts. In this sense,
it is particularly suited to the development of writing skills as it allows
you to attend to both process and product while engaging learners in
understanding and producing different genres.
To review some of these ideas that we saw in previous chapters, in
the immediate social context, we can say that language is characterized
by a particular register that is the product of the combination of three
variables. First, there is the field, or the actual social situation that
will determine what kind of text is needed. Then, there is the tenor
that makes reference to the proximity or distance in status between
those who communicate. Finally, there is the mode, which refers to the
temporal or spatial distance between people communicating. Hence,
specific activations of the different language layers are characteristic
of particular situations and the people interacting in them. There is one
register that is adequate for communications in business and another
one, which is adequate for communication in the home, for example.
We said above that the social context shapes the language and that
at the same time the social context is shaped by the people engaged
in communication. In the broader cultural context, we can recognize


patterns and structures in the texts that have been put in place in order
to achieve particular purposes. These patterns that characterize the
cultural and social function of texts are called genres.
The following table (adapted from Gibbons, 2002), summarizes
the main genres typically explored in schools, together with their

Discussion (one
Recount Narrative Report side) Argument
(How to upload
(What I did at (“The tortoise (Life cycle of a (Two sided)
Type of text a video to the
the weekend) and the hare”) plant) Should smoking
be made

To persuade
To tell what To entertain, to To give To tell how to others, to take
happened teach information do something a position and
justify it

Personal state-
ment of position
Orientation General
Orientation (tell Argument(s)
(tells who, statement
who, where, and supporting
where, when) Characteristics Goal
when) evidence
Organization Series of events (parts, Steps in
Series of events. Possible coun-
Personal processes, etc.) sequence
Problem terarguments
comment/ May have
Resolution and supporting
conclusion subheadings

Connectives To do with time To do with time irst, second,

(first, then, next, (once upon a in addition,
and other Not usually First, second,
afterwards, at time, one day, therefore,
cohesive the end of the later, afterwards,
used third, finally, etc.
however, on the
devices day in the end) other hands.

Past tense, tells

Uses “to be”
about what May use
and “to have”.
Past tense, tells happened Uses verbs to persuasive
May use
Other about what Action verbs give instructions language (e.g.
language happened Describing (e.g. take, mix, it is obviously
features Describing words. May add, chop, wrong, it
words have dialog bake) is clearly
or scientific
and verbs of inappropriate)

Table 8.1 – Most frequent school genres. (Adapted from Gibbons, 2002).


The table on the previous page shows how the various genres are
realized through different registers and how these, in turn are made
possible through the three layers of language. By using this framework,
it is possible for the teacher to help students develop their writing skills
while focusing on the process without losing sight of the product. Initial
applications of a particular framework for implementing text-based
skills instruction seem to indicate that students become stronger users
of more realistic language than when taught via the product approach
or the process approach alone.


a- Teaching writing as a PRODUCT

This approach was popular over half a century ago, but it is still
used in many examination preparation courses, as well as in many
contemporary language-teaching textbooks. The main concern of this
approach is with the product (an essay, a report, a narrative) but little
attention was paid to the actual composing process. Instead teachers
tended to focus on whether students were able to meet the requirements
of certain rhetorical styles, using accurate grammar and vocabulary
and organizing their texts in accordance with the requirements of the
particular text type.
In general, teachers followed two bottom-up parallel processes
to reach the final product. A bottom-up approach focuses on accuracy
through analysis and/or practice of discrete components of language
(grammar, vocabulary, spelling, correct use of connectors, etc.). The
center of the class was a model text, which students were supposed
to imitate. In order to facilitate that imitation, teachers would create
a motivating skills activity to elicit ideas and at the same time, look
for clues about deficits in students’ language production. This was
followed by an analysis of the grammar, vocabulary and organizational
characteristic of the model text and, in parallel by the provision of
exercises aimed at reinforcing students’ command of those features.
The final stage would involve students in writing the text on their


own. This writing was little more than a written substitution drill. For
example, if the model text were a letter of complaint, students would
have received a text that read:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to complain about a watch that I bought at your shop on
Prince Street last week .

They would then be encouraged to write a letter of complaint

about another product they may have bought at a different
store or branch. Of course, there is not much creativity here, as
students just substitute one piece of information for another. So,
students’ production would look something like:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to complain about a blender that I bought at your shop
on Christopher Street last Monday.

The following diagram illustrates the product approach to writing

Students writing the

text on their own

Discrete language analysis of the text to

exercises to practice the pinpoint how the language
grammar and vocabulary practiced in the exercises is
characteristic of the used in the model text.
model text.

Motivating skills activity use model text as input

to introduce the topic for the motivating skills
and elicit ideas. activity.

Figure 8.1 – The product approach to teaching writing


By providing intensive practice in formulaic language and

encouraging substitution and memorization of certain text features,
students were able to write texts that faithfully replicated the model.
However, problems with punctuation, vocabulary, grammar and style
were not uncommon when students had to depart from the formulaic
language provided by the teacher in order to express their own ideas.
This fact notwithstanding, the product approach to teaching
writing is effective in promoting a certain degree of writing fluency in
that, if students are familiar with the text organization, as well as with
the formulaic language that characterizes it, they can save time and
cognitive effort to attend to more creative aspects of the writing.

b- Teaching writing as a PROCESS

As is the case with many developments in our field, the process

approach to writing was born as a reaction to the fallacies of the
product approach. The process approach tries to capitalize on fluency
more than accuracy. In order to do so, students are involved in a series
of recurring stages intended to replicate the practices of good writers.
While in the product approach students were seen as users of language,
the process approach focused on helping them become creators of
language. The process approach looks like the following diagram:





Figure 8.2 – The process
Prewriting approach to teaching writing


• The writing process starts with prewriting activities in order to

help students discover that they have something to say. Typical
prewriting activities include: brainstorming, debating, free writing
(where students jot down ideas related to a theme), planning,
diagramming, etc. The purpose of this stage is to encourage
students to come up with various ideas, some of which may end
up in the text.
• This stage is followed by drafting, that is to say, the opportunity
for students to develop one or more of their ideas in writing. At
this stage the teacher will help students by addressing the types of
discourse needed to express their ideas, as well as by encouraging
them to think of the audience for which they are writing. The text
that is produced at this stage will be flawed in many respects as the
focus is on expressing ideas and not on controlling the language
to do so.
• Once the initial ideas are put in writing, the teacher engages
students in conferencing with peers. They will respond to the
ideas in the text and provide feedback on what can be understood
from the text (or not). The aim of this stage is to give learners a
sense of audience. If the student asks the teacher to respond to
the draft, the teacher will focus on the ideas and not on the use of
language. A usual practice at this stage are one-to-one student-
teacher or student-student conferences, where writers explain
their composing process and composing efforts to their audience
so as to receive feedback that can be used in the next stage of the
• During the redrafting stage, students work on using the feedback
obtained during the sharing stage in order to improve their text.
At this stage, the teacher can also intervene by providing activities
that help learners gain awareness of their language use. This may
also include some language practice activities or sharing a model
of the text type with students. While the teacher may provide
these scaffolds, the focus for assessment will still be heavily placed
on the meaning conveyed by the text.
• Following the focus on language and ideas, students revise their
text so as to try to focus on accuracy. They can share the text with
peers who will provide further feedback about the ideas and also


the use of the language. The editing stage may involve students
in further rewrites and feedback conferences as they prepare to
make their text public.
• The final stage of the process is publishing. Here the teacher
becomes the student’s audience and will provide corrective
feedback on both language and meaning, as well as provide
learners with an assessment of the effectiveness of their text.

By following the process approach, students gain fluency in

writing while they develop a battery of very useful writing strategies,
particularly those that relate to monitoring and self-evaluating. Also,
by working with peers, and with the support of the teacher, students
gain insights into what effective, communicative writing entails.
While still popular and widely used, the process approach to
writing has been described as extremely time consuming and not
really suitable as an instructional framework when the focus of the
course is on standardized tests. Likewise, teachers and students alike
have expressed their concern about having to go over the text so
many times. For the teacher, having to respond to so many drafts can
prove burdensome, particularly if they teach many classes. For the
student, the sustained focus on the same text can act as a deterrent
to motivation and may actually prove counterproductive as a strategy
aimed at encouraging more writing. It is worth mentioning, however,
that when applied correctly, the process approach yields much
more realistic texts than the product approach and it helps students
become more strategic and self-directed writers. This is particularly
true at advanced levels, when writers have more language resources
to dwell on.

c- Teaching writing as TEXT CONSTRUCTION

We started this chapter explaining how there is now an emerging

“third way” that seems to be more in line with a truly communicative
and interactive view of language. What has been called a Text-Based
Approach is used in classrooms around the world to develop not
just writing, but all four main language skills. The premise is that, by
deconstructing, co-constructing and independently constructing texts


across the curriculum, students can become more effective users of

the foreign/second language than by focusing on either product of
process alone.

Gibbons (2002) proposes a “Teaching and Learning Cycle” for the

implementation of a text-based approach, which is very similar to the
Fisher and Frey framework we saw in the previous chapter. This cycle
consists of four stages:

Stage 1: Building the Field. In this stage the aim is to make sure
that your students have enough background knowledge of the topic
to be able to write about it. The focus here is primarily on the content
or information of the text. At this stage, students are a long way from
writing a text themselves, and activities will involve speaking, listening,
reading, information gathering, note taking, and reading.

Stage 2: Modeling the text type. In this stage the aim is for students
to become familiar with the purpose, overall structure, and linguistic
features of the type of text they are going to write. The focus here is
therefore on the form and function of the particular text type that the
students are going to write.

Stage 3: Joint construction. Here the teacher and students write a

text together so that the students can see how the text is written. The
focus here is on illustrating the process of writing a text, considering
both the content and the language.

Stage 4: Independent writing. At this stage students write their

own text.

Finally, Feez (1998) added a fifth stage to this same framework

that helps it make a much stronger impact on students, as it helps them
integrate the new learning to new contexts:

Stage 5: Linking related texts. Here students search for and work
on understanding or crafting other texts within the genre.


building Modeling
the field the text type

linking Joint construction

related texts of the text


Figure 8.3 – The genre-based approach to teaching writing

Here is a useful list of activities, adapted from Gibbons (2005)

that can be successfully implemented at each stage of the teaching and
learning cycle:

STAGE 1: Building the field.

• Build a brain map of students’ current knowledge of the topic, teaching new vocabulary as
appropriate. You can do this as a whole class activity.
• Use bulletin boards to keep a permanent record of students’ ideas. Give each student three pieces
of paper and ask them to write what they know about the topic. They put their words in the bulletin
board. Invite students to read what others have written and comment. Provide prompts for the
comments (e.g. “I didn’t know that…” “I agree with the one that said…” “I don’t think that…”).
• Use pictures to elicit and/or teach vocabulary. A good strategy is to have learners match labels to
drawings. This is a good time to introduce technical vocabulary (if you are teaching students how
to craft a text for the content areas). Make sure students keep these handy at the time of writing
their texts.
• Read about the topic with students using reference books, fiction, and also exploring the topic
through technology and videos. Use these activities to develop critical thinking skills, as well as
information literacy skills. Show students how to locate and assess information that is relevant.
• Develop word banks and keep them on display throughout the development of the writing cycle.
Students can also use library cards to develop their own word banks. As you develop the topic, you
may want to engage students in playing card games with the words they have collected.
• Use jigsaw listening or reading to extend the students’ knowledge base. Different groups can
listen to recordings of different stories and take notes. You may use a “WH- grid” for this, just like
the one below.

WHO A researcher
WHAT discovered a new definition for a technical term
WHERE in a little-referenced paper
WHEN written in 1976
HOW by using Discourse Analysis as a research method
WHY because he believed the popular definition was wrong


• Use tasks that require students to fill a gap (information gap, opinion gap or reasoning gap). For
example, you can ask students to “Find ‘x’ differences between two pictures.”
• Get the students to interview students in other classes about their knowledge of the topic at
hand. Alternatively, invite an “expert” to class and help students prepare questions to ask that
person about the topic. Also, make sure to provide support for note taking by providing graphic
organizers such as T-lists, Venn diagrams, etc.
• Build up an information grid on a piece of construction paper and display it in the classroom. As
students contribute or discover different pieces of information, enter these in the grid. Categories
in the grid could include: text type, purpose of the text, participants, organization, cohesive
devices, key vocabulary, key language, etc.
• Use the topic to practice or introduce language structures that are characteristic of the text
type or the topic. For example, introduce different ways of talking about the past to teach how
narratives are structured. Make sure you keep the focus on form grounded in actual language use.

STAGE 2: Modeling the text type.

• Read and show the model text to the students, and discuss with them its purpose. You may want to
compare and contrast this particular text with other texts students are familiar with.
• Draw attention to the organizational structure or “shape” of the text, as well as to the function of
each stage. Help students identify the different “sections” of the text, in terms of what is being
talked about as well as the purpose of each distinct section. Next, focus on any grammatical
or lexical features, which are characteristic of the text. Alternatively, you can engage learners in
deciding what these features are and why they are needed in this specific kind of text.
• Engage students in text reconstruction tasks, such as the ones below.
- Reconstructing a paragraph: provide students with the complete text and choose one particular
paragraph for which you will jumble the sentences. Students try to put the sentences in order.
- Reconstructing the whole text: jumble the different paragraphs in the text and ask students to put
these in order.
- Reconstructing two texts. Select two texts in the same genre and about the same topic, jumble
their paragraphs and have students sort out and reconstruct both texts.
• Use a “dictocomp” as a way of providing a model text. The dictocomp or dictogloss (also known
as précis writing), is a technique in which the teacher reads out loud a text and students attempt
(individually or in groups) to reconstruct it. The procedure has different stages:
- The teacher reads the text once at normal speed. Students listen and do nothing. The teacher
checks general comprehension by asking questions.
- The teacher reads the text a second time, always at normal speed. This second time around,
students take notes.
- Students compare individual notes.
- The teacher reads the text a third time for students to complete their notes.
- Students compare individual notes and then, individually, in pair or in groups, attempt to
reconstruct the text.
- Students read out their text to the rest of the class.
- The teacher provides the original text. Students compare their version to the original. The teacher
can use this time to point out salient features of the genre.


• Use a running dictation as a way of providing a model text. The running dictation is a fun activity
that helps students integrate important macroskills while collectively working towards building a
model text. The procedure is a follows:
- The teacher displays the model text prominently in a place far from where the students currently
are (e.g. you can put the text on the wall outside the classroom, or on the back wall.
- Students work in groups. They take turns running to the spot where the text is displayed,
memorizing chunks of it, and returning to their groups to dictate the text.
- It is important that you give clear rules and make sure these are respected at all times or else
the activity can become chaotic. Here are the rules: students must individually go to the text and
memorize as much of it as possible. They then come back to their groups where they first write
what they remember and only then do they dictate it to their peers. Once all their peers have
taken the dictation, another student leaves the group and does the same.
- Once all groups have finished, the teacher distributes or displays the original version of the text
for students to compare and contrast with their own.
- Note that running dictation texts need not be extremely long. In general, a paragraph or two
should suffice.
• Use cloze activities to help students access the model. Cloze procedures are reading techniques in
which certain words in a text are deleted for students to complete while reading the text. Originally
intended as a test of reading comprehension, cloze procedures have taken many different forms:
- Regular cloze: the rule for creating a regular cloze test is to delete every 7th (or 11th) word. If
the word to be deleted is a proper noun or a word with heavy content (i.e. the word cannot be
deduced from the context) then you may skip to the next word.
- Selective cloze: here the teacher selects which words or grammatical features to delete.
- Vanishing cloze: the teacher writes a short text on the board. Student read the text out loud.
Then, the teacher asks students to close their eyes, and s/he erases one word. Students open
their eyes and attempt to read the text including the missing word. The procedure is repeated
(with the teacher erasing one or more words at a time) until all the text has been erased. Students,
working individually, attempt to reconstruct the text. The compare their version with those of their
peers and agree on a final version. Finally, the teacher displays the complete text for students to
compare to their own version.
- Total cloze: this is another class activity in which the teacher provides only the title of the text,
followed by a series of blanks (each blank representing a word). Students suggest words that can
go in the blanks and the teacher writes the correct ones in the right space. The activity becomes
progressively easier as the students help flesh out the text.
- Partial cloze: in this activity, the teacher provides students with a text but covers part of it. Students
have to work together to reconstruct the parts of the text that are missing. The teacher then
provides the complete text for students to compare. Here are some possibilities:


STAGE 3: Joint construction of the text.

By now students will have a lot of information on the topic (i.e. the content) and they will also have seen
examples of the genre that they have analyzed and “manipulated.” It is now time to engage students in
writing, but not yet independently.
During the joint construction of the text, encourage students to go back to the information organizers they
created in stages 1 and 2 (word walls, bulletin boards, diagrams, mind maps, etc.), and also make sure to
indicate relevant helpful information that they may have already discussed when working with similar texts.
Start this stage by discussing with students the topic they would like to write on. Make sure that the task
remains focused on the genre studied and that the text to be created fits within that genre. Your role
within this stage is that of a true facilitator: you will guide students to activate the knowledge gained in
stages 1 and 2, making suggestions as to what could be improved in their contributions, and pinpointing
the direction that their thinking should take. As Gibbons (2005, p. 292) explains, “While the joint
construction stage is teacher-guided, it should not be seen as teacher-dominated. The teacher does not
simply write her ‘own’ text. Rather, her role is to take up the ideas of the students, leading the discussion
of any linguistic aspects that students are still learning to control. This is a very important part of the
curriculum cycle because it illustrates to students both the process of composing a text, and a product
that is similar to what they will later write themselves”.
Throughout the process, make sure that you engage the students in re-reading together what they have
written, and intervene with question such as:
• What do we need to start with?
• Is that the best way to say it?
• Can anyone think of a better word than that?
• Is this all OK now? Can anyone see anything that needs fixing up?
Also, make sure to remind students of the model texts that they have looked at with questions such as:
• Can you remember what the other [text type/genre] was like?
• What do you think we should talk about next?
Remember that at this stage, teacher and students discuss the overall structure of the text, suggest more
appropriate vocabulary, consider alternative ways of wording an idea, and work on correcting grammatical
mistakes, spelling and punctuation. If you feel your students need it, this is a good time to provide an
explicit focus on grammar again (focus on form), followed by meaningful and useful grammar practice.
However, note that, contrary to what happens in a traditional, grammar-oriented classroom, the focus on
form we advocate for here occurs in functionally relevant ways—“in the context of actual language use,
and at the point of need” (Gibbons, 2005, p. 291).
While at this stage the teacher’s focus is on encouraging students to concentrate on and take into
account all aspects of writing, this stage is also intended to model the process of writing. In this sense, as
students make suggestions, you will cross out, amend, and add to the students’ ideas as they progress
towards an agreed first draft. Either you or the students should copy this draft in a large piece of paper
that will remain in the classroom as an additional model text.
This third stage in the process is the one where multiple forms of scaffolding occur. There is scaffolding by
an expert (you, the teacher), but there is also peer scaffolding (when students work together) and, more
importantly, there are various opportunities for self-scaffolding, as students begin to master the genre by
resorting to their own experiences with it.


STAGE 4: Independent writing of the text.

After going through the previous three stages, students are now ready to engage in independently
writing a text within the genre. They can do this individually or in pairs. Gibbons (2005, p. 292) says, “By
now there has been a considerable amount of scaffolding for the writing. Students have developed
considerable background knowledge about the subject, are aware of the linguistic characteristics of the
text type, and have jointly constructed a similar text. This preparation, or scaffolding, for writing will help
ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to be able to write their own texts with confidence”.
This is also the time to remind students about their role in the actual process of writing: doing a first
draft, self-editing, conferencing with peers and the teacher and finally producing a “published” text,
which can be displayed in the classroom, compiled into a class book on the topic, and even used as a
model text for future students.
During this last stage, you should make sure you provide students with clear assessment criteria (for
example, an analytic rubric) that will be used to judge their writing, and to use these as a further scaffold
to aid in the independent construction of their text.


As with all other skills, the topic of assessment is as Brown (2007,

p. 412) puts it, “a thorny issue.” Many times, teachers are at a loss as
to how to grade a piece of student writing. Should they respond to the
ideas in the text or to the language used? How do you assess the value
or worth of an idea?
The answer to these and other similar questions will depend a lot on
the approach to teaching writing that you have implemented and also on
the kind of writing students were asked to perform during the evaluation.
Brown (2007, pp. 414-415) suggests different assessment activities
for four distinct kinds of writing:
1. Imitative writing: exercises in handwriting or typing, copying,
listen and write, picture-cued exercises, completing forms,
spelling tasks and one-word dictation tasks.
2. Controlled writing: dictation (phrases and simple sentences),
dictogloss, grammar transformation exercises, picture
descriptions, ordering and sentence completion.
3. Responsive writing: paraphrasing, guided writing (providing
a set of questions for students to write a text on), paragraph
reconstruction tasks, responding to a video, text or audio.
4. Extensive writing: essays, tasks on different genres (narrative,
description, etc.)


Of course, a crucial issue with this typology is how the different

products will be evaluated. One frequent way of assessing writing is by
means of a rubric. One popular rubric used in K-12 programs in the
United States is the 6+1 Traits model rubric. This is a collection of
generic rubrics that can be used in different grades to assess students’
writing. You will notice that the rubric is not task-specific, so it does not
focus on a particular genre, but it is intended to assess all kinds of writing.
However, since it clearly addresses the components of a good
piece of writing, it can prove useful at the time of creating our own task
and genre-specific rubrics. The version of the rubric we share here has
been adapted from the original by the Utah Education Network.

5 3 1
IDEAS This paper is clear The writer is beginning As yet, the paper
and focused. It holds to define the topic, even has no clear sense of
the reader’s attention. though development is purpose or central
Relevant details and still basic or general. theme. To extract
quotes enrich the central meaning from the
theme. text, the reader must
make inferences
based on sketchy or
missing details.

ORGANIZATION The organization The organizational The writing lacks a

enhances and showcases structure is strong clear sense of direction.
the central idea or theme. enough to move the Ideas, details, or events
The order, structure, reader through the seem strung together
or presentation of text without too much in a loose or random
information is compelling confusion. fashion; there is no
and moves the reader identifiable internal
through the text. structure.
VOICE The writer speaks The writer seems sincere The writer seems
directly to the reader in but not fully engaged indifferent,
a way that is individual, or involved. The result uninvolved, or
compelling, and is pleasant or even distanced from the
engaging. The writer personable, but not topic and/or the
crafts the writing with an compelling. audience.
awareness and respect
for the audience and the
purpose for writing.


5 3 1
WORD CHOICE Words convey the The language is The writer struggles
intended message in functional, even if it lacks with a limited
a precise, interesting, much energy. It is easy vocabulary, searching
and natural way. The to figure out the writer’s for words to convey
words are powerful and meaning on a general meaning.
engaging. level.

SENTENCE The writing has an The text hums along The reader has to
FLUENCY easy flow, rhythm, and with a steady beat, practice quite a
cadence. Sentences are but tends to be more bit in order to give
well built, with strong pleasant or businesslike this paper a fair
and varied structure that than musical, more interpretive reading.
invites expressive oral mechanical than fluid.

CONVENTIONS The writer demonstrates The writer shows Errors in spelling,

a good grasp of standard reasonable control punctuation,
writing conventions (e.g., over a limited capitalization, usage,
spelling, punctuation, range of standard and grammar and/
capitalization, grammar, writing conventions. or paragraphing
usage, paragraphing) Conventions are repeatedly distract the
and uses conventions sometimes handled well reader and make the
effectively to enhance and enhance readability; text difficult to read.
readability. Errors tend to at other times, errors are
be so few that just minor distracting and impair
touchups would get this readability.
piece ready to publish.
PRESENTATION The form and The writer’s message is The reader receives a
presentation of the text understandable in this garbled message due
enhances the ability for format. to problems relating
the reader to understand to the presentation of
and connect with the the text.
message. It is pleasing to
the eye.

Table 8.2 – 6+1 Traits Rubric adapted from Utah Education Network.


We invite you to look at the Plug-in in Chapter 11 for more ideas

on how to use Writing Calibration for the assessment of students’


Mastery of writing as a skill, as well as of the genres typically

found in educational materials that students use, will certainly result in
enhanced comprehension of the written word. We will now consider
how Reading, the other literacy skill we will explore in this chapter, can
best be understood and developed.
As we have explained before, for many years, Reading was
described as one of the two receptive skills. This Audiolingual tag
seemed to imply that the reading process was one of assimilation
of the information in a text by the reader, with no particularly active
involvement of that reader in the comprehension process. However,
research carried out in the early and mid-1980s showed that the
reading process, far from being a matter of absorption, was in fact,
a very active process in which the background knowledge of the
reader interacts with the information in the text in a number of ways.
Comprehension, in this light, is the product of the interplay between
prior knowledge (schemata) and a written text or passage. Schemata
encompass knowledge of the topic, knowledge of the language and
also knowledge of the rhetorical structures that characterize different
genres and of the strategies and skills associated with such texts.
The reading process benefits from the interplay between two
main forms of processing: a bottom-up process in which the reader
uses linguistic knowledge to decode the written word; and a top-
down process in which the reader contributes their prior knowledge
to the understanding of the text. Hence, an interactive approach to the
development of the reading skill would take into consideration both,
bottom-up (language based) and top-down (meaning based) approaches
to reading. Top-down elements would focus on activities that allow
learners to actively contribute to the text (such as predicting), whereas
bottom-up activities will focus on specific aspects of the language (for


example, knowledge of grammar or vocabulary) needed to decode the

written word.
In this interactive approach, learners are expected to be actively
engaged in the ongoing construction of knowledge via negotiation
of meanings that lead to comprehension, while you will act as a true
facilitator, providing those scaffolds that would help learners interact
with the text.
In order to make reading truly interactive, you need to design
opportunities for students to activate their background knowledge,
engage with the text and also make connections between the new
information and skills learned through the text and what they already
There seems to be agreement among theorists that in order to
accomplish this, an effective reading lesson should be comprised
of three stages: a pre-reading stage aimed at activating students
background knowledge; a while-reading stage comprising activities
that help learners manipulate the text in order to understand it; and
a post-reading stage aimed at synthesizing new and old information,
as well as expanding comprehension via the involvement of other
skills. Each of these stages will activate either bottom-up or top-
down processes with the aim of helping students understand. There
is a danger, however, that interaction does not happen. Hence, what
is needed is a framework that can bring together both processes in a
balanced way.

Three steps to better comprehension

The framework that we propose promotes teacher scaffolding for
the co-construction of knowledge among learners, the text and the
teacher, while focusing on the interplay of top-down and bottom-up
processes that can contribute to understanding. While there are many
three-step frameworks for the development of reading comprehension,
the one we present in this section is characterized by its explicit
emphasis on balancing the learners’ contributions to the text and the
potential meaning gains resulting from involvement with it and also
from promoting high levels of interaction among students, text and


The following diagram illustrates our understanding of this

interactive framework

Pre-Reading Stage While-Reading Stage Post-Reading Stage

• Background knowledge • Vocabulary • Oral summary
• Prediction • Archaeological dig • Written summary
• Preview • Questioning • Comparing themes

• comprehension
• motivation
Figure 8.4 – A possible model • communication
of the reading process

a- Pre-Reading stage

All encounters between students and texts should start with a pre-
reading stage. The purpose of the pre-reading stage is to help learners
prepare to understand the text. Hence, it relies mostly on top-down
processing, as the emphasis will be on generating meaning. During this
stage you will guide learners by helping them activate their background
knowledge (specific knowledge about the topic and text type) and make
predictions about the text. We suggest that you follow the phases in this
stage in the specific order in which we present them. This will help you
make sure that students are suitably scaffolded in their approach to the text.
Our pre-reading stage starts with an exploration of students’
background knowledge about the text and its contents. Here you can
use a variety of activities, such as:

Pre Reading Activities

• Giving students a few words from the text and asking them to connect all those words in a sentence.
Then, discuss what the text may be about.
• Using listening or videos to build background knowledge.
• Asking students to brainstorm around a key theme to be found in the text. This is also an excellent
Activity to diagnose future vocabulary needs.
• Involving students in using technology to build background knowledge about the contents of the text.


Next, comes the prediction phase of the pre-reading stage. Here

students will get some ideas about what the text may be about and they
will be able to make predictions about it. Activities may include:

Prediction Reading Activities

• Providing the title of the text and asking students to predict what it is going to be about.
• Providing key words and asking them to predict the contents of the text.
• providing students with one sentence from the text and asking them to collectively build a text
around it.
• Providing students with a short description of a character or a setting in the text and asking them to
develop a story for this character.
• Using a K-W-L chart. This is a three-column table that scaffolds students’ predictions about the
text just like the one that appears next to each brain map in each of the chapters in this book. This
activity works best if done in groups. In the first column, students answer the question “What do
we know about this text/topic?” In the second column, they set goals for reading by answering the
question “What do we want to learn about?” The third column is left for the post-reading stage,
when students will work collaboratively to answer the question “What have we learned about this

Finally, students get a “sneak peek” of the text so as to help them

connect the background knowledge they have activated and also to
confirm or discard their predictions. This is done during the preview
phase. In order to accomplish this you may choose to:

Preview Phase Reading Activities

• Give a skeleton version of the text (e.g. a gapped version of the text, where content words are
deleted at regular intervals) and ask them to confirm or modify their predictions.
• Give the first and last sentence of every paragraph in the text and ask students to confirm or modify
their predictions.
• Show the first or last paragraph with the same purpose.
• Ask students to quickly skim the text to find out whether their predictions are correct or not.
• Use any graphic or pictorial element that supports the contents of the text. For example, if the text
comes from a newspaper, you may share the photo to illustrate the text and engage students in
talking about it.

It is important to remember that the more time you spend preparing

students to approach the text, the better their comprehension will be, which
will lead naturally to them being more motivated to continue reading.


Would you favor reading aloud to develop reading skills? What was your experience as a student?
Do you agree with the following ideas?

Many teachers like to have students read the comprehension

passages or texts aloud. This practice has both supporters and
critics. Our opinion is that reading aloud can be done to improve
pronunciation but not comprehension. Accessing the correct word-
sound correspondence in English (particularly at lower levels) is a very
cognitively demanding task. Because they concentrate on the correct
decoding, students will not be able to process the meaning of the
text. Also, they will be processing the text one word at a time, which
is not the way in which we approach texts in real life. Silent reading,
on the other hand, allows students to access the meaning of the text,
and create their own hypotheses as to how words are pronounced via
internal silent monologues.

b. While-reading stage

The second stage also has three phases, each concerned with
enhancing comprehension while developing interactive reading
strategies and skills. While the pre-reading stage favored mostly top-
down processing, the while-reading stage will foster mostly bottom-
up processing, thus allowing learners to apply their knowledge of the
language to the process of comprehension. Because students will have
direct access to the text, this particular stage will take longer than the
other two.
The first phase of the while-reading stage involves students in
working on vocabulary in context. Many published materials and also
some methodology books, recommend pre-teaching new vocabulary
prior to having students read the text. In our opinion, this does not lead
to productive vocabulary learning or even use. It makes more sense
to have students work out the meaning of new words in the context
in which they are used while providing them tools (such as learning
strategies) so they can activate that knowledge. Having said this, we


also recognize that, as we explained in Chapter 5, this type of activity

is likely to take significant amounts of time so that is something you
should bear in mind. Vocabulary activities may include:

Vocabulary Activities
• Asking students to find synonyms or antonyms in the text.
• Providing students with definitions of certain key words and asking them to locate those words in
the text.
• Multiple choice activities.
• “Cloze” activities where keywords are deleted from the text and students have to fill them in, if they
have encountered these words before.
• Word analysis activities such as working with literal and implied meaning of some key words or
substituting words in the text for phrases or expressions that have the same meaning.

The next phase is one we have chosen to call archaeological dig.

This is intended as a metaphor for the kind of work we will involve
students in during this phase. In digging out an artifact, archaeologists
first delimit a specific plot and then they carefully, and purposefully,
brush away the dirt until the artifact is exposed. In the same way,
teachers can choose to use the text in order to teach specific language-
related items, have students focus on characteristics of the genre or
promote awareness raising and noticing of language in use. You may
use the text to teach a particular grammar structure, a certain word
family, or a specific rhetorical structure. Because you are using the
text as a real-life model of these features, you can apply any of the
language teaching techniques we have seen so far. For example, you
may use an informational text that describes a process to focus on how
connectors help sequence the information. You give students the steps
in the process in jumbled order and ask them to put them in the right
order. Next, you refer students to the original text and ask them to
identify those discourse markers that help sequence the information.
Alternatively, you can blank out the discourse markers for students to
write them.
The final phase of the while reading has students respond to
questions. This questioning phase, in order to be effective, should
rely on questions that extend comprehension, more than on direct-
reference questions whose answers can readily be found in the text.


One framework that can help you organize questions is the taxonomy,
which we have already seen. In it, Bloom (1956) offered six levels of
cognitive complexity ranging from lower-order thinking (knowledge,
comprehension, and application) to higher-order thinking (analysis,
synthesis and evaluation). Later on, Krathwohl (2002) modified the
original taxonomy by distinguishing six levels, as well, but with certain
changes that reflect creativity. You can use the terms and prompts in
the taxonomy to create your own questions that progress from the
simplest to the most complex. This has a number of advantages. For
example, varying question types allows you to provide differentiated
opportunities for all students to participate. Also, when you build up
questions from the lower-order to the higher-order categories, you
are contributing to the development of students’ critical thinking.
Finally, varying questions using this taxonomy affords students various
opportunities to actually use the language, as they will be given the
chance not only to repeat, but also to defend, elaborate, question and
express their own opinions.
The following table summarizes the revised taxonomy and offers
key words and prompts that can help you formulate a multitude of
questions that target various thinking processes.

What does the process Sample key

Sample questions
entail? words

Remember Recalling facts, choose Who?

vocabulary, concepts define Where?
and previously learned
find What?
label When?
list How?
match Why?
name How much?
select How many?
show What does____________mean?
spell What happened after that?
tell Which is true or false?


What does the process Sample key

Sample questions
entail? words

Understand Demonstrating classify Which are the facts?

comprehension by compare Is this the same as __________?
organizing, comparing,
contrast What are examples of _______?
interpreting, and
describing demonstrate Choose
explain Explain why
extend What seems to be __________?
illustrate What statements support ____?
infer Draw _________
interpret Is it true that _______________?
outline Put ____________ in order.
relate What is the difference between
rephrase ____________and ___________?
show Now, say it in your own words.
summarize Find five statements that
support ___________________

Apply Solving problems by apply What will happen next?

applying knowledge, facts, build What would happen if _______?
techniques, strategies and
choose Write in your own words.
construct Who do you think ___________?
develop What do you think
experiment with ___________?
identify Why do you think
Explain _________________
make use of
What is this similar to?
What would change if _______?
Do you know other instances of
What is the main idea?
Can you group by
utilize characteristics?


What does the process Sample key

Sample questions
entail? words

Analyze Examining information analyze What is fact?

by breaking it down into assume What is opinion?
parts and identifying categorize What would you do if you were
motives and causes, classify _______________?
making inferences and compare What is the motive?
finding evidence. discover What does the author assume?
examine What ideas justify __________?
infer Who would think ___________?
list Why is ________ acting like this?
survey Which events could not have
take part in
How is ____________similar to/
different from ______________?
What are other possible
Can you distinguish between
___________and ____________?

Evaluate Make judgments, agree What are some of the

defend opinions, justify appraise inconsistencies?
information or ideas, assess What is (better/more moral/
using pre-specified valid)?
criteria. How would you defend _______
if you were______________?
What changes should we make?
How effective was___________?
What are the pros and cons of
estimate ___________________?
evaluate Why is _____________ of value?
explain Are there any alternatives? If so,
justify which?
What do you think


What does the process Sample key

Sample questions
entail? words

Create Put information together adapt Can you find an alternative

in novel ways and build solution to _________________?
propose alternatives. change How would you test _________?
choose What are the alternatives?
create How else would you_________?
design How many ways can we ______?
develop What would happen if _______?
discuss How can you say it in your own
Devise a way to _____________.
Provide a solution to ________.
How might you reorganize

Table 8.3 – Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain (adapted from Krathwol, 2002)

Reading strategies and the while-reading stage

Strategies are thoughts or actions that help us improve our
learning. Two commonly-taught reading strategies are skimming and
scanning. Skimming means reading for the general idea —or gist— in
a text. Scanning means reading the text closely in order to find specific
In more traditional three-stage approaches teaching reading
comprehension, a teacher would typically activate background
knowledge and encourage students to make predictions about the text.
Next, they would ask students to skim the text in order to confirm/
challenge their predictions. This was followed by one or more scanning
activities that required students to encounter the text various times in
order to answer questions, find specific information or learn a particular
grammar point.


While effective and very time-efficient, these two reading

strategies fail to help learners make important connections between
their prior knowledge and what they are learning from the text, when
used exclusively on their own. Hence, we propose that a third stage
be incorporated with the purpose of helping learners integrate their
prior knowledge and the new information gained from interacting with
the text.

c - Post-reading stage
The goal of the post-reading stage is to help students integrate
the new learning with what they already know. The phases in this stage
encourage students to organize their prior and current knowledge, and
put both to use.
The first phase within this stage engages students in an oral
summary of the text. The purpose of this phase is to recall new
information obtained through reading. You can use any new vocabulary,
textual feature or information from the text for this summary, in line
with the goals of the text you have selected. This summary can take
various forms, for example:

Summary Forms
• Ask learners to draw their favorite part of the text (character, plot point, piece of information,
moment in a story, etc.) and give reasons for their selection.
• Put students in groups and ask them to take turns saying what they remember about the text.
• Ask students to write one question about the text. Collect all questions and have students take
turns answering them.
• Ask each student to say something they remember about the text and then invite students to stand
up and organize themselves in the order in which these ideas are presented in the text.
• Play “20 questions.” Tell students you are thinking of a moment in or fact from the text and they
have to ask you Yes/No questions to discover what it is you are thinking. Get students to take your
place and continue the game.
• Play “Find the fib.” Say three statements about the text: two are false and one is true. Students
have to discover which one is true. The student who discovers the true statement takes your place.

The second phase engages students in providing a written summary

of the text. The purpose of this phase is to help students make explicit
connections between their prior knowledge and the knowledge gained


through reading the text by keeping a written record of their findings.

Potential activities for this phase may include:

Written Summary Activities

• Having students work individually or in groups to complete the last column of the K-W-L chart they
created during the pre-reading stage.
• Using graphic organizers to transfer information from the text. For example, you may give students
the following questions for them to recall information from the text: Who? Did what? When? How?
What for? What happened?
• Working with the class in lockstep, ask students to contribute one idea they remember from the
text and write students’ suggestions on the board, brainstorming style. Then ask students to write a
summary of the text using those ideas.
• Giving students a T-list to summarize the text. A T-list is a two-column table that looks like a capital
letter T. In the first column students write down the main ideas in the text and in the second column
they write details or information. A fun way of using a T-list is to have students exchange their list
with a partner and use the ideas in it to write a paragraph summarizing the text. Students then
exchange summaries with the creator of the T-list and compare their versions.
• Providing students with a version of the text that contains errors (factual, linguistic, stylistic, etc.) and
asking students to correct those errors.
• Simply asking students to write a summary of the text, by providing a fixed number of words for the
summary which should be fewer than the actual words of the original text.

By this time, students should be familiar with both, the content of

the text and the language used to express those ideas. The last phase
of the post-reading stage engages students in comparing themes. This
comparison is intended to extend students’ command of both ideas
and language and it can be done orally or in writing. Here are some
activities you can use:

Comparing Themes Activities

• Changing perspectives or points of view. Ask students to rewrite or summarize the text from the
perspective of a secondary character, or change the text by changing the setting.
• Asking students to role-play the text.
• Engaging students in finding similarities and differences between the text studied in class and
similar texts they can find on the Internet or the library.
• Changing the tenor of the text. For example, have students rewrite or retell the text by changing
the time, the place or the genre (turn a lab report into a fairy tale, for example, or turn a narrative
into a drama script and perform the skit).


As it can be seen from the ideas provided with this framework,

even though the focus of the lesson is on the reading process, all four
skills are actually put into play. Also, we should point out that it will not
always be necessary to cover all phases of all stages. If, for example,
you are using a reading text as background information to a speaking or
writing task, then you will not need to cover all three phases of all three
stages. However, if you are devoting class time to developing reading
comprehension, then the three main stages should be covered as they
support and scaffold students’ comprehension in an interactive way.


Reading comprehension is frequently assessed by using the classic

principles of assessment that will be discussed later on in Chapter 11. As
a rule, we should be specific about the micro or macroskills and reading
strategies we want to assess and select those assessment techniques
which best suit that particular. For example, if your intention is to
assess students’ comprehension of vocabulary in context, a multiple
choice question based on synonyms and distractors would be suitable.
If you want to test the learner’s overall comprehension of the text, then
a classic cloze (as described in this chapter) or a set of open-ended
questions or a summary may be appropriate.
Brown (2007, pp. 385-386) suggests four types of reading with
their related assessment tools:
1. Perceptive reading: reading aloud, multiple-choice recognition
or picture-cued identification.
2. Selective reading: multiple choice tasks, sentence-level cloze
tasks, matching tasks, grammar or vocabulary editing tasks,
gap fill exercises.
3. Interactive reading: discourse-level cloze tasks, comprehension
questions, cues for short-answers, re-ordering or sequencing
tasks, responding to charts, graphs and other non-verbal
4. Extensive reading: summarizing, note taking, outlining,
responding via essays.



Skills need to be explicitly taught and their development cannot

be taken for granted. Success in mastering literacy skills rests mostly
on your ability as a teacher to weave together bottom-up and top-down
processing in interactive ways. This is not to say that instruction has to
be teacher-centered. On the contrary, what is required for effective skills
development is a teacher who acts as a co-constructor of knowledge
with students, providing those scaffolds that they need in order to take
the next step towards mastery of written language, just as we saw in
Chapter 6.
In this sense, the framework for language development should
foster students’ exposure to rich and varied input of authentic language
with opportunities to put their evolving understanding and expression
into play in pseudo-authentic situations. In order to achieve this, you
will need to implement procedures that are inherently motivating for
learners, while providing judicious support of their learning efforts.


What is the most important What lingering questions What steps will you take
learning you have derived about teaching reading to find answers to these
from this chapter? and writing do you still have? questions?


Observation task

Arrange to observe a reading or writing lesson taught by your cooperating teacher or a colleague.
While observing, complete the first two columns in this chart:

Why it was done

What I saw during What I saw during What I thought
(connections to
the lesson the lesson (my understanding)

Teacher Students

Reflective journal task

Select three contemporary coursebooks targeting the same language level and:
• select a genre they teach (e.g. narratives, discursive essays, etc.).
• analyze the kind of approach to the development of reading and writing they advocate for.
• choose one of the sequences of reading and a writing tasks and provide concrete ways in
which it can be improved.
• share your work in your journal.

Portfolio task

1. Write the “literacy skills development platform” to be included in your portfolio. Explain:
• what the purposes of teaching writing to your students are.
• what approach/es and tasks you consider should be used and why.
• the impact that the use of those approaches and tasks may have on yourself, your students
and the course you are teaching.
2. Design a text-based sequence of tasks to teach a particular genre and teach it to your practice
group. Make sure to involve students in assessing your class.
3. Reflect about the advantages and disadvantages of using that approach with your learners.

Graded readers are collections of books whose language has been adapted so that it is
comprehensible for students at different levels of proficiency. Most publishers offer these collections at
beginning, lower-intermediate, intermediate and higher-intermediate levels and incorporate both original
titles and adapted versions of literature classics.
These readers are an ideal bridge between reading skills development and motivation, as they usually
present high-interest topics (both fiction and nonfiction) at language appropriate levels that make reading
pleasurable. Because of this, they are an ideal resource for extensive reading programs. Extensive reading
is an alternative to the intensive format we have presented in this unit in that students select what they
want to read and do not have to perform tasks around the text. The benefits of extensive reading have
been documented in the research literature and include, among others, enhanced levels of vocabulary
development; better language monitoring skills; enhanced motivation to learn the language; and
greater independence in language use by students. Setups for extensive reading include D.E.A.R. (Drop
Everything And Read) time, where the teachers devotes a segment of the class to have students read in
silence, and Sustained Silent Reading, where for a fixed block of time, teachers and students engage in
silently reading texts of their choice.
Teachers may also choose to use readers intensively in class by choosing a book that all students will
read. In this scenario, it is advisable to devote specific blocks of time in the weekly schedule to work with
the reader in class. If the reader is to be used intensively, the three-step approach to the development of
reading skills we presented in this unit is advisable. Here are a few ideas for reading activities involving
graded readers:

Chapter headings
Give learners the chapter headings and suggest three or four possible titles for the book. They have
to decide which would make the most suitable title and explain why. Alternatively, you can provide the
chapter headings but not the possible titles, and ask students to name the book from what they can
infer. A further alternative is to provide a collection of information about the book (some illustrations,
chapter headings, information about the author, etc.) and have students come up with a possible title
giving reasons for their choice.
Sequencing before reading
Give learners the chapter titles in random order and ask them to suggest a possible order and explain
why they have arranged chapters that way. Alternatively, you may want to share illustrations taken from
different chapters, or even “documents” that may appear in the book (for example, for the graded
reader “Dracula” you may provide a copy of a blood test, a shopping list where “garlic” is underlined, a
train ticket, etc.) and have the students sequence them.
Cover story
Photocopy the cover of the book and create as many questions as possible about it. Learners work
in groups to answer the questions. As they progress through the book, they check their answers.
Alternatively, learners can give the picture a title, or compare versions of the cover from different
editions of the same book. You can also give students sentence stems such as “I like the way,” “I
think,…/ I think…/ I am happy…/etc.” and encourage learners to complete the unfinished sentences
with some of that information derived from the cover of the book while giving reasons for their choice.

Whatever next
Read part of the chapter aloud (or play the accompanying audio if available) and stop occasionally. Ask
learners to predict what comes next as suggested in the DRTA Plug In below. Record predictions on the
board and check by reading on.
What was it about?
Ask learners to read a certain part of the book and then quickly summarize it orally. Alternatively, select
five key words from the section of the book students have just read and ask them to use those words to
write a 5-sentence paragraph summarizing the section.
Find the fib
Prepare a summary of the chapter learners have read and make sure to include some mistakes in it.
Learners read the chapter and, as they read along, try to correct the mistakes. You can extend this
activity by redacting the summary text so that there are missing parts that learners have to complete.
Personality poster
Learners produce a poster about one of the characters in the book using only pictures (no words).
Alternatively, they can use any of the poem formats in Plug In 3 to write a poem about a character.
Plot lines
Most stories follow the usual sequence of introduction-->conflict-->climax-->resolution. To make this
pattern evident to students, select key sentences from a chapter and ask learners to rank them from
the one which shows the greatest tension in the chapter to the least tense. They then create a graph to
depict the tension in the chapter.
Ordering puzzle
Give facts from the story in disorder and ask learners to order them as they read.
Dear Abby,
Have learners write a diary entry as if they were a certain character in the book or ask them to write a
letter asking for advice. Alternatively, they could write the letter or diary entry from the point of view of
a secondary character, an object an animal.

Change one
Ask learners to decide on what they would change about the plot if they could change only one thing.
Have them retell the story taking that change into consideration.
Book metaphors
Ask learners to suggest different things that could represent this book (e.g. a song, a place, a work of
art, a smell, etc. Get them to explain why.
Prepare a set of true sentences about different characters, facts and settings in the story. Give these
to learners in groups and ask them to match events, people and places. Once they have matched the
information, they can write a summary of the book or even a book review using it as notes.

Directed Reading and Thinking Activities are reading tasks that encourage learners to be more
thoughtful readers by keeping them actively involved in questioning and/or responding to the text at hand,
thus targeting higher order thinking. These activities teach students how to monitor their understanding as
they are reading the text while strengthening their critical thinking skills.

When to use them Pre-reading stage While-reading stage Post-reading stage

How to use them Individually Small groups/Pairs Whole class

Boundaries - the teacher Selective substitution - the teacher Prediction - the teacher se-
prepares a version of the text modifies some of the words in the lects stopping points within
that runs continuously and text so that students can change the text and inserts predic-
asks students to divide it into them. The teacher then shows the ori- tion questions for students
paragraphs addressing what ginal text and discusses with students to answer giving evidence
purpose each of the paragra- their choice of words. from what they have read
phs has. so far.

Wide angle questions - the Drawing and diagrams -

teacher creates questions students use drawings and
whose answers cannot be diagrams to present some
readily obtained from the of the information in the
text but that can be answe- text.
red based on facts or ideas
in it. Deletion - prior to reading
the teacher deletes key
Summary and Paraphrase words from the text. These
- students represent the text DRTA are words that add to the
using their own words or they main ideas. Students must
change the genre of the text. justify their choice of word.

Readers’ questions - prior

Sequencing - the teacher cuts to reading the text students
the original text in strips for write questions whose an-
students to reorder. swers they would like to find
in the text.
Values judgment - the
Role play - while reading the text,
teacher writes a series of opi- Text marking - as students
or after doing so, students act it
nions about the text and its read, the teacher asks them
out. Alternatives may include expert
contents prior to the students to underline or circle those
panels (where students give their
reading it. After students have parts of the text that make
opinion about a character or situation)
read the text, they choose reference to a certain idea,
or author interviews (one student
those statements they agree character, etc.
pretends to be the author of the text
and gets asked questions by the rest
of the class).

Poems are a useful form of writing in that they afford students the possibility to become really creative
in generating ideas. In writing poems, students will be using metaphors to express their meaning clearly
and they will be connecting with language at an affective level.
While much poetry makes use of rhyme, the collection of poems we offer in this section, do not
explicitly require it. We have found that, while students may want to use rhyme, not requiring it make the
composing process easier. The poems below offer ample opportunities for language practice and true
expression and can be adapted to any topic at any level.

Types of poems
Acrostic Concrete poem
Take a word and write it vertically. Write a poem Choose an object, person, topic or issue. Brainstorm
in which each line starts with each of the letters. words associated with it. Write the words one after the
other creating the shape of the object, person or animal.
Alphabet poems
Choose a sequence of five letters from the alphabet Haiku
and write them vertically. Have students write a poem Haikus are three-line poems in which each line has a
about the topic of the class in which each line starts with different number of syllables.
one of the letters. They can write just one word per line Line 1 - 5 syllables
or write full sentences. Make it more fun by choosing Line 2 - 7 syllables
sequences of letters from the beginning, middle or end Line 3 - 5 syllables
of the alphabet.
Diamond poem
Cinquain Diamond poems are about a topic, person or issue and
A cinquain is a 5-line poem made up mostly of individual use increasing and decreasing number of words per line
words. to form the shape of a diamond
Line 1: Topic (always use a noun) 1 word Line 1 - Noun (subject) 1 word
Line 2: A description of the topic in 2 words (adjectives) Line 2 - 2 words that describe line 1
Line 3: Three ‘action” words (verbs) related to the topic Line 3 - 3 “ing” words that describe line 1
Line 4: Four ‘feeling’ words about the topic. Line 4 - 4 nouns (2 connected to line 1 and 2 connected
Line 5: A synonym for the word in line 1. to line 7)
Line 5 - 3 “ing” words that describe line 7
Sense poem
Line 6 - 2 words that describe line 7
Sense poems consist of six lines in which students
Line 7 - Noun (subject) from the same word family as
describe a person, topic or issue by comparing it to the
line 1
five senses
Line 1: Name the topic, person, issue (1 word) WH poem
Line 2: X looks like__ Students use the usual five Wh- questions words to write
Line 3: X sounds like__ a poem.
Line 4: X smells like__ Who?
Line 5: X tastes like__ What?
Line 6: X feels like__ When?
Bio poem
Students are given these instructions to write a poem
about themselves. Alternatively, they can write the poem Shadow poem
about a character they have studied in class. Take a well-known poem, and ask students to change
Your name some of the words in it. For example, instead of
Four words that describe you “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” by Robert
One person you are related to Frost, students could change the poem to fit the title
Your favorite food “Stopping by the beach on a sunny morning.”
Something important to you
Your favorite color


learning about:
• the necessary
knowledge and skills
• for students to master
learning communities
• speaking and listening.
teachers’ roles
• effective ways of
teachers’ use of L2 in
promoting interaction
in oral language
learning how to:
• develop and value a
effective tasks and
learning community
activities for the
• plan lessons to cater
development of
for different energy
speaking and listening.
levels and attention
An old man went to the doctor complaining that his wife could barely • use the white or
learning how to:
hear. The doctor suggested a test to find out the extent of the problem: • set up, monitor and
• bring to a closure
use the classroom
“Stand far behind her and ask her a question, and then slowly move up and
interactive activities.
seating arrangements
see how far away you are when she first responds”. The old man, excited • implement pair and
to optimize learning.
to finally be working on a solution for the problem, runs home and sees group work.
his wife preparing supper. “Honey”, the man asks standing around 20 feet • balance process and
away, “What’s for supper?”. After receiving no response he tried it again 15 product in listening
and speaking.
feet away, and again no response. Then again at 10 feet away and again no
• assess listening and
response. Finally he was 5 feet away: speaking.
“Honey what’s for supper?”
She replies: “For the fourth time, it’s lasagna!”. 1

1 Great Clean Jokes (2013). Jokes of the day: Can you hear me? Retrieved from http://www.greatclean-


listening & Speaking

oracy oral vs written language
Views of skills

Speaking listening
Oracy Skills

Knowledge & Skills based Comprehension approach

Macro & Micro skills Schema theory
Designing tasks & activities bottom-up vs. top-down
Managing speaking tasks & processing
activities types of listening
assessing Speaking Micro & Macro skills
Designing listening tasks
assessing listening

What do you already know about oracy skills?

What do you expect to learn in this chapter?

What issues about listening and/or speaking have you heard your
colleagues/cooperating teacher discuss? Why are they important/



Read the following comments about the teaching of listening and

speaking. Which ones resonate with your experience either as a teacher
or as a student?

Teachers say…

• No matter how much listening practice we do in class, students

cannot seem to understand native speakers.
• I don’t have much time to do pre- and post-listening activities. I
need to cover a certain number of lessons in the book and if the
book does not provide these activities I usually do not incorporate
• Students do not take speaking activities seriously. They either do
not listen to one another or just do the activity in their mother
• I plan for lots of oral interaction activities during my lessons, but
students just respond with one word and they do not follow a
proper conversation.
• Most of my students are very self-conscious about their own
language proficiency so I do drills so as not to put them on the spot.
When students do choral drills, they can at least say something
without feeling threatened.

Students say…

• Listening is hard for me because I am always under pressure to

answer questions, say true or false, etc. and the teacher only plays
the audio twice.
• I don’t want to speak with my classmates. Their English is bad.
• I hate speaking classes because the teacher never corrects me.


• I can’t understand the English in the audio because they speak too
• My pronunciation is always bad and my teacher constantly
interrupts when I am speaking in order to correct me.

How would you respond to these teachers’ and students’ comments?


Listening and Speaking are Oracy skills since they rely heavily on
the use of verbal language. However, it should be noted that in oral
communication, meaning is also conveyed via non-verbal language
(paralinguistic features such as gestures, haptics, etc.). In order to
effectively use these skills, students need a thorough grounding not just
on language, but also on strategies that help them keep the conversation
going. Hence, the development of listening and speaking skills cannot
be taken for granted, since it requires extensive planning, monitoring
and feedback by the teacher.
Oral communication is, in general, a highly interactive process
involving two or more speakers who respond to one another in order
to exchange and negotiate meanings. Even on those occasions where
one speaker dominates communication (such as
in the case of presentations), that speaker will
modify his or her delivery based on the reaction
of the listeners. Therefore, we will approach the
development of listening and speaking skills from
the premise that one cannot develop properly in
the absence of the other.
The development of listening and speaking
skills has been the focus of much controversy
over the years. During Audiolingual times, these
skills were thought of as the two main skills that


provided access to the language. In that sense, all lessons used to start
with the students listening to the teacher and then speaking. However,
the speaking taught in those times was mostly imitative consisting of
repetition drills, dialogs and memorized role-plays. We can say that
these classroom activities did not involve real communication. Even
today, most textbooks follow the same sequence in their introduction
of new language features and the techniques mentioned above are
quite ubiquitous.
Furthermore, the language contained in some popular textbooks
—which are the source for much of the L2 input students receive—
is selected, not necessarily for its communicative value, but for its
syntactic, semantic or phonological relevance to the pre-established
scope and sequence of the book. This causes dialogs and other texts
used for the presentation of new language, to sound constrained and
artificial. In this sense, these texts provide over simplified language
samples that are more characteristic of written language than oral


The first decades of the twenty-first century have seen increased

attention paid to the work developed on Corpus Linguistics. Corpora
are databases of authentic oral and written language that can help
identify frequencies and patterns of language use; thus leading to the
elaboration of distinct descriptions of written and spoken language
that capture actual language in use. While the use of corpora started
in the twentieth century, it was not until relatively recently that the
information they provide has begun to impact language teaching.
Corpora of oral language have been instrumental in helping foreign
language professionals understand the complexities of verbal
Oral language can pose a number of hurdles to foreign language
speakers, both when listening and when speaking. One salient feature of
oral language is that it is structured not around complete, grammatical
sentences, but around brief clusters of phrases. Likewise, speakers
tend to be redundant in getting their message across, returning to the


same topic or point in a conversation, often using different words or

expressions to do so. Both speaking and listening depend on a steady
flow of language used in real-time. A series of performance variables
such as pauses, hesitations, false starts and the use of fillers such
as “uh,” “um,” “well,” “you know…”, affect this real-time language.
Given these characteristics, it is easy to see how language learners
can struggle with both understanding oral language and getting their
message across in a natural way.
Other difficulties that oral language may pose to foreign language
learners include the various patterns of stress, rhythm and intonation
used by native speakers to convey specific meanings, as well as the use
of words, idioms and phrases derived from colloquial language that
is not generally found in educational materials. If we add to this the
actual rate of delivery used by native and highly proficient speakers we
can see how the panorama is further complicated.
All these factors may conspire against the learners’ speaking
ability and their understanding of oral messages as they require
a highly sophisticated level of language processing not found in
beginning students. It is now clear that providing learners with
controlled grammatical or lexical samples of oral language—either as
reception or production—does not result in oral proficiency. Hence,
we should look at speaking and listening as requiring a particular
knowledge base while helping learners deploy a range of strategies to
help them overcome breakdowns in communication caused by some
of the factors described above.


For many years, the teaching of listening as a skill was taken for
granted and not really focused on. This fact has led some researchers
to claim that the history of the teaching of listening comprehension
is relatively recent (Field, 2012). In fact, prior to the advent of
comprehension-based approaches such as The Total Physical Response
or the Natural Approach, listening was conceived of as a mere means to
present new language, be it grammar or vocabulary, and not developed
as a skill in itself.


We begin to see a pattern similar to that of other skills here.

The pervasive influence of the Audio-lingual approach seems to have
rendered the different skills as nothing more than means to introduce
or reinforce discrete language items. With the emergence of the
Communicative Approach and other related approaches to language
teaching, the field began to realize how the different skills require
particular methodological configurations for their development.
While progress towards acknowledging and developing specific
methodological configurations for teaching the skills was steadily made
throughout the 1970s, it was not until the 1980s that a focus on the
development of listening skills was initiated. Because of this, much
of the literature on teaching listening seems to borrow heavily from
research on the teaching of the other “comprehension” skill: Reading.
Because of this, we will see many points in common in the teaching of
these two skills.
This fact notwithstanding, there have recently been interesting
developments in research on teaching listening and these have
contributed novel ideas that are crucial at the time of planning and
implementing listening instruction. However, before introducing some
of these ideas, it will be useful to review what traditional approaches
to teaching listening consisted in. We will do so with the intention
of rescuing from these teaching practices some of the valuable
contributions they made.
The traditional approach to the development of listening
comprehension has been called the “comprehension approach” (CA).
It consisted of a series of six sequential steps most of which can still
be found in various current, “communicative” textbooks. The sequence
was as follows:

• A pre-listening stage - during this stage the teacher would set the
scene by introducing the topic, pre-teaching key vocabulary and
organize activities oriented towards motivating students to listen
to the text. Texts were in general contrived in that they were not
generally authentic and were created in order to exemplify the use
of a particular language item.
• Extensive listening stage - this was the first listening of the text
by students and it was followed by the teacher asking general


questions in order to establish who the speakers are and in what

situation they are communicating. Typical questions included “How
many speakers can you hear?” “Where are they?” etc.
• Preset question or task - after the “extensive listening” stage, the
teacher would pose a question or set a task that would require
students to identify certain information in the listening text. The
purpose of the preset question or task was to focus and direct
students’ attention.
• Intensive listening - the previous stage was followed by a second
or third listening during which students were supposed to find the
specific information. The one, correct answer was discussed with
the whole class.
• Language focus - after the intensive listening, there would be other
opportunities for students to listen to the text in order to focus the
language or language function exemplified by the text.
• Final listening - eventually, after the text had been analyzed for its
linguistic value, students were provided with the audio script for
them to follow along as they listened to the text one final time.

As it is evident from the description of the procedures above, the

CA was a bottom-up approach to the development of listening, with its
strong emphasis on “taking things from the text” and its definite focus
on language.
This approach has been heavily criticized because of other
fallacies. One main hurdle that this approach poses is that it does not
really teach but tests students’ comprehension. It obviously places a
lot of emphasis on the product and disregards the process of listening
and, although it exposes students to language, it does not hone their
comprehension skills.
Brown (2007, pp. 301-302, after Richards, 1983) offers a model of
the comprehension process that explains the complexity of the act of
listening and highlights how the CA was an unsuitable framework for
its development. In this author’s view, the following are the stages we
follow through whenever we process auditory input for comprehension:
• Processing “raw speech” through an image in short-term
• Determining the type of speech event.


• Inferring of the speaker’s objectives through the type of

speech event, context and subject matter.
• Recalling of background information (schemata) relevant to
the context.
• Assigning a literal meaning to the utterance.
• Assigning an intended meaning to the utterance and matching
it to the perceived meaning.
• Determining whether information should be retained in short-
term or long-term memory.
• Dealing with the form in which the message was originally
received and pruning it.

He also points that listening is “clearly an interactive process as

the brain acts on the impulses, bringing to bear a number of different
cognitive and affective mechanisms” (Brown, 2007, p. 301) that impinge
upon understanding.
Because of all of the above, he suggests that teachers follow an
interactive approach to the development of listening comprehension
skills. If you remember, an interactive approach makes use of both
bottom-up and top-down processing modes. In other words, listening
does not merely consist of “taking things from the text” but also bringing
the listener’s personal contribution to it. In this sense, comprehension
is achieved through the interplay of prior knowledge and expectations
on the part of the listener that is confirmed or challenged by the
information in the text.
Examples of each of these processing modes include:


• Listening for unfamiliar words. • Guessing and predicting.

• Recognizing individual words, • Listening and confirming / rejec-
sounds, etc. ting predictions.
• Using grammatical clues to su- • Modifying guesses.
pport understanding. • Listening again to confirm/reject.
• Using stress and intonation to
help know which words are im-

Table 9.1 – Information processing modes in Listening comprehension


An interactive approach to listening also demands an active

response on the part of the listener; as is the case with live listening
(listening not to monologs but in dialog). In that situation, the listener
will need to engage in negotiation of meaning, request clarification,
attend to verbal and nonverbal signals, take turns, nominate topics,
strive to maintain rapport with the other speaker and develop suitable
strategies to terminate the communicative exchange.
Brown’s conclusion is that learning to listen is also learning to
respond since “good listeners are also good responders” (2007, p. 307).
He goes on to describe six types of classroom listening that are
characteristic of foreign languages classes and which activate either
processing modes:
1. Reactive - where students listen to the surface structure and
repeat it.
2. Intensive - which focuses students on individual components
of discourse in a bottom-up fashion (e.g. students listen for
specific phonemes or morphemes).
3. Responsive - which characterizes most of Teacher-Student
interactions in the classroom and follows an Input ⟶ Response
⟶ Feedback loop.
4. Selective - where students “scan” oral discourse for specific
5. Extensive - where students engage in top-down global
understanding of spoken language.
6. Interactive - characteristic of real-life communication and
which incorporates all previous five types of listening.



As we have indicated before, listening instruction shares a number

of methodological characteristics with the teaching of reading. Just
as is the case with all other skills, competent listening comprehension
implies mastery of a number of micro and macroskills. Some of these
will require bottom-up processing, and others will require top-down


Brown (2007, p. 308) has identified the following micro and


1. Retain chunks of language of different lengths in short-term memory.
2. Discriminate among the distinctive sounds of English.
3. Recognize English stress patterns, words in stressed positions,
rhythmic structure, intonational contours, and their role in signaling
4. Recognize reduced forms of words.
5. Distinguish word boundaries, recognize a core of words, and interpret
word order patterns and their significance.
6. Process speech at different rates.
7. Process speech containing pauses, errors, corrections, and other
performance variables.
8. Recognize grammatical word classes (nouns, verbs, etc.), systems (e.g.
tense, agreement, pluralization), patterns, rules, and elliptical forms.
9. Detect sentence constituents and distinguish between major and
minor constituents.
10. Recognize that a particular meaning may be expressed in different
grammatical forms.

1. Recognize cohesive devices in spoken discourse.
2. Recognize the communicative functions of utterances, according to
situations, participants, goals.
3. Infer situations, participants, goals, using real-world knowledge.
4. From events, ideas, etc., described, predict outcomes, infer links and
connections between events, deduce causes and effects, and detect
such relations as main idea, supporting idea, new information, given
information, generalization, and exemplification.
5. Distinguish between literal and implied meanings.
6. Use facial, kinesic, body language, and other nonverbal clues to
decipher meanings.
7. Develop and use a battery of listening strategies, such as detecting
key words, guessing the meaning of words from context, appealing
for help, and signaling comprehension or lack thereof.

Micro and Macroskills of Listening (Adapted from Brown, 2007, p. 308)


Various authors suggest a three-step approach to the development

of listening comprehension. Our version of the three-stage approach
reflects many of the points we made for Reading in the previous chapter,
although it contains some differences. Also, notice that while some of
the stages look like those in the Comprehension Approach (CA), both the
content and the purposes of our model are different from those in the CA.

Pre-listening stage
To start with, teachers will select a suitable audio text for students’
level and the curriculum topic under discussion. The suitability of the
text will be determined not solely by the grammar it contains, but by
how closely it relates to the thematic content under discussion in class.
Also, while students will benefit from exposure to authentic audio texts,
teachers should bear in mind students’ level and assess whether the
text selected will pose additional hurdles to students on top of the
difficulties that oral language generally presents. Finally, in recent
times, there has been an emphasis on the use of video clips as texts for
listening comprehension, which we wholeheartedly adhere to as they
are more representative of real-life communication than an audiotext.
Thereof, the same advice we just outlined for the selection of audio
texts applies to the selection of videotexts.
During the pre-listening stage, the teacher will seek to activate
students’ schemata for them to be able to make connections between
their prior knowledge and the audio text theme, but also so that
they can be prepared to make predictions. Another important action
teachers have to take at this stage is to establish a purpose for listening.
To do so, they can resort to engaging students in making predictions.
Some activities that can be used at this stage are:

Pre Listening Activities

• Show students a series of pictures related to the topic of the audiotext and engage them in
predicting what the text will be about.
• Provide students with some words or phrases that appear in the text and encourage them to
• Provide a title or the genre of the text and engage students in establishing the field (in the same
way we have seen in the previous chapter).
• Provide a series of sentences with true and false information about the text and have students
decide, based on their prior knowledge, which are true or false.


Conclude the pre-listening stage by having students listen to the

audiotext once so as to confirm or reject their predictions. Play the
audiotext as many times as students may need in order to achieve
the aim of this stage. Remember that we are teaching and not testing
listening. The purpose of this first approach to the audiotext is to
encourage students to listen for the general idea, and not for specific
details. In a sense, we are fostering global listening.

While-listening stage
The pre-listening stage will be followed by a task or series of tasks that
require students to process the audiotext using both top-down and bottom-
up approaches. We should remember that one of the modes of listening
that needs to be developed is interactive (and not just reactive) listening.
Hence, during the while-listening stage, teachers will provide opportunities
for students to provide intermittent responses to the listening text.
These responses will vary according to the micro and macroskills
selected for focus in the particular listening lesson in question and may
include responding by:

While Listening Activities

• doing by, for example, following directions
• editing the text by spotting deletions, additions or mistakes and correcting these
• choosing by ticking off items in multiple choice questions, or selecting the correct image to match
the audiotext
• answering different kinds of questions (multiple choice, true or false, yes/no questions, inferential
questions, etc.)
• condensing by providing oral or written summaries of the audiotext
• extending by contributing further information (for example, the teacher stops the audiotext at a
certain climactic moment and invites students to predict what will happen next or by getting them
to finish a story)
• modeling by engaging students in listening and repeating or imitating different features of the
audiotext that deal with both segmental and suprasegmental features
• conversing by using the audiotext as a starting point for a task or series of speaking tasks as
suggested in the next section of this chapter

The purpose of the while-listening stage is to engage students

in listening for detail, similar to the “scanning” strategy we saw in
developing reading skills. The balance between bottom-up and top-


down processing will be given by the different tasks that you set around
the selected listening text.

Post-listening stage
The final stage engages learners in blending their prior knowledge
with the new information derived from the audiotext. In order to foster
more interaction, the teacher can engage students in extended speaking
tasks that use both the language and the content that were the focus
of the while-listening stage. Alternatively, the teacher may choose to
incorporate other skills at this stage, too. Some post-listening activities
may include:

After Listening Activities

• having students retell the content of the audiotext but changing one of the elements of register
• having students work in groups reconstructing the text in writing, then listening to it again and
checking, in a way similar to the dictogloss we saw in the previous chapter
• engaging students in performing a role-play of the audiotext (even if it was not a dialog)
• engaging students in Sustained Silent Reading on the topic of the audiotext
• organizing project work around the topic of the audiotext
• having students work in groups asking questions about the content of the audiotext and then
interacting with other groups asking and answering the questions

The framework we have just discussed can be illustrated with the

following diagram:

Pre-Listening While-Listening Post-Listening

• Background knowledge. • Selection of macro or microskills • Comparing and extending
• Prediction. to focus on via responsive: themes.
• Confirmation/Rejection » bottom-up tasks. • Skills integration.
of predictions. » top-down tasks. • Interactive listening and
» meaning-focused tasks. speaking.
» language-focused tasks.

• comprehension
• motivation
Figure 9.1 – A possible model
• communication
of the listening process


Throughout the process, teachers should also help students

develop comprehension strategies such as looking for nonverbal and
verbal clues, focusing on key words, guessing meaning from context,
predicting, seeking clarification, and they should also offer practice in
common test-taking strategies and question formats.


The framework above exemplifies an interactive methodology for

developing listening skills. However, it does not offer advice on how
to design specific listening tasks. Various authors provide different
typologies of listening activities (see the difference between task and
activity in the next section), but few offer more than a list of common
test items such as questions, true or false or multiple choice. One of
the authors who has provided a coherent typology of listening task is
Ur (2012) who identifies four task types depending on the response
expected from the learner. This typology adds to the idea of interactive
listening we have advanced in this chapter, and that is the reason why
we include it in here:
1. No overt response - listening to stories, listening to songs,
watching films, theater productions or videos.
2. Short responses - following instructions, ticking off items, true
or false statements, detecting mistakes, cloze procedure (in any
of the versions discussed in the previous chapter), matching,
ordering and sorting tasks, questions requiring brief answers.
3. Longer responses - questions, note-taking, paraphrasing
(expressing ideas in the audiotext in their own words), and
long gap fill (where either the beginning or end of sentences in
the text is left blank for students to first predict and then listen
and complete).
4. Extended responses - problem solving (students listen to a problem
or case and work together to find a solution), dictogloss.

No matter what level students have, teachers should strive

to incorporate as many types of listening activities as possible
when teaching listening skills. The usual practice is for teachers to


construct short response items. These are not enough if we want to

extend students’ expression and comprehension, so make a point of
incorporating at least one more demanding listening task type every
time you teach listening comprehension.
In terms of general advice on how to design these different
types of tasks, various authors (Brown, 2007; Harmer, 2007; Ur, 2012)
coincide that the following principles be taken into consideration:
• Listening tasks should not overtax other skills (they should
not require extensive reading, speaking or writing in order to
achieve the outcome).
• Listening tasks should teach selective listening (they should
explicitly teach students what information to focus on and
what information not to focus on) or other useful strategies
that will support students’ understanding in real life.
• Listening tasks should have a clear purpose (they should
motivate students to listen by having clear, visible or audible
outcomes that give students a reason to listen).
• Listening tasks should sporadically incorporate ongoing
listener response (paper and pencil tasks alone will not help
students develop interactive listening skills and strategies).
• Listening tasks should be interesting (as we will see in
the next section, tasks provide a reason for students to
engage in negotiating meaning in order to bridge a gap in
communication. It is this goal orientation of tasks that makes
them interesting and not necessarily the topic they deal with).
• Listening tasks should be multimodal (incorporating sound,
video, and live speakers, such as guests).
• Listening tasks should match learners’ needs (by providing
them the micro and macroskills that will help them meet
those needs in the best way).

In short, at the time of designing listening tasks, teachers should

ask themselves two key questions (Ur, 2012, p. 107):
• Does the task provide listening experiences that prepare
students for real-life listening situations?
• How practical is it to do the task in the classroom?



Just as is the case with Reading, Listening can be assessed using

traditional testing items such as questions (true/false, multiple choice
or closed or open questions), and these techniques are extensively used
in most current textbooks in order to teach listening, thus providing an
unwelcome washback effect (for a definition of this term see Chapter 11).
We have seen that listening entails a much more complex repertoire
of operations and that different kinds of listening will require different
instruments to assess their presence in the students’ competence. Once
again, Brown (2007) suggests a series of assessment tools congruent
with his types of classroom listening:
1. Reactive listening - simple listen and repeat.
2. Intensive listening - minimal pair discrimination exercises (e.g.
ship/sheep); paraphrasing; repetition.
3. Responsive listening - open questions, multiple choice questions,
discourse sequences (responding to oral stimuli such as A:
“Hello, how are you?” B: “___________.”)
4. Selective listening - cloze, picture-cued matching or identification,
chart completion.
5. Extensive listening - dictation, dialog completion, note-taking;
6. Interactive listening - discussions, debates, conversations.

In selecting the type of classroom listening performance and the

activities to assess it, it is advisable to refer to standard level descriptors
such as those afforded by international frameworks of reference such
as the Common European Framework of Reference for Learning
(CEFR), Teaching and Assessing Foreign Languages, or the current
Proficiency Guidelines of the American Council for the Teaching for
Foreign Languages (ACTFL).


Speaking is generally taken as synonymous to achieving mastery in

a language. When people ask us “Do you speak English?” they are actually


asking, “Do you know English?” As Ur (2012, p. 117) explains “People

who know a language are referred to as ‘speakers’ of the language…
It is very difficult to design and administer procedures that actually get
students to talk: more so, that to get them to listen, read or write.” Due to
this, competence in speaking remains elusive in most parts of the world.
Various authors (Harmer, 2007; Ur, 2012; Thornbury, 2012) seem to
agree that the development of speaking skills requires both a knowledge
and a skills base. This can be achieved in a number of ways. For
example, Brown (2007) explains that speaking skills can be developed
via two different approaches. The first approach he calls “direct” and it
consists of analyzing oral language in individual components that are
taught, practiced and recombined (for example, sounds, words or fixed
expressions). This approach can be equated with the bottom-up processes
we saw in the previous chapter and it is still the one most frequently
used in designing conversation programs. The second approach to the
development of speaking skills is labeled as “indirect” and assumes
that speaking develops naturally and spontaneously through ongoing
interaction. In this second approach, students are encouraged to engage
in sustained communication and the teacher provides support as needed.
We have discussed how our field has been traditionally entrenched
in dichotomies that have done little to help advance it, so we might
conclude that favoring one approach over the other will not prove
productive. Instead, we should seek to strike a balance where both
approaches are brought to bear and their most useful features enhanced.
Classroom experience has demonstrated that both knowledge and
skills are needed to develop speaking so it is to a discussion of this that
we now turn.


Thornbury (2012) provides a thorough analysis of speaking skills

development. To this author, there are three main goals for students
to achieve in order to learn how to communicate orally in a foreign or
second language:
a) acquiring a working knowledge of the language systems
congruent with that of a proficient speaker,


b) attaining the ability to put such knowledge to use in real-time

to produce “fluent, intelligible, interactive and contextually
appropriate speech.” (Thornbury, 2012, p. 202), and
c) learning to apply a repertoire of compensatory strategies
when there are breakdowns in knowledge and skill.

Knowledge of systems
In order to master speaking, students should possess a working
knowledge of phonology, lexicogrammar, as well as of the different
genres and sociocultural conventions of the target language. However
commonsensical as this may seem, the fact remains that other
developments in the field, such as the move towards validating the
different varieties of English as an International Language (EIL) bring
to bear interesting issues at the time of deciding which “norm” of these
systems to favor.
In terms of phonology, there has been consensus for quite some
time already, that the achievement of native-like pronunciation is
no longer the aim. The English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) movement
advocates for the teaching of those segmental features needed for
mutual intelligibility so comprehensibility, and not native-like mastery,
should be the goal. However, we should stress the need to develop
strong suprasegmental awareness and proficiency, as it is these
features of connected speech that generally impinge upon mutual
understanding more than the mispronunciation of individual sounds.
As far as knowledge of grammar is concerned, there have been calls
to also do away with what was generally known as “standard English” in
favor of a “conversational grammar” derived from corpora. This would
mean equipping students with an awareness of the characteristics of
spoken language such as the frequent use of clause-like chunks that
make language less complex, the existence of hesitations, false starts,
repeats, incomplete utterances and syntactic blends. Again, the aim has
shifted from a concern with native-like competence, to the promotion
of intelligible, fluent language.
In what respects lexis, McCarthy (cited in Thornbury, 2012)
advocates for the teaching of only high-frequency nouns, adjectives,
adverbs and verbs, together with discourse markers and deictic
expressions that allow cohesion and fluency in expression. This is


proposed in the belief that students will be able to recombine these few
elements into longer stretches of oral language. In order to achieve this
aim, students should also be taught language for expressing attitude and
appraisal as well as fixed and semi-fixed multiword phrases also known
as formulaic language. These account for 60% of spoken English and
are a valuable resource for the development of fluency.
We saw in the previous chapter that language users dwell on the
preceding three systems simultaneously at the time of communicating
and that they do so through texts that are shaped by the sociocultural
environment in which they are created. In this sense, the knowledge
base of speaking should also include an awareness of a range of
discourse markers, connectives and speech events that characterize
these different genres, together with sociolinguistic and pragmatic
knowledge of how these contribute to expression.
While it makes a lot of sense to bear in mind the contributions
of the ELF movement (after all, most students will interact in English
with other non-native speakers) and we now have access to a thorough
corpus of oral language, the fact remains that most teachers will be
working from materials that still make reference to the systems of
standard English. Teachers can adapt these materials to include
elements of ELF that will best serve students.

Knowledge of skills
Douglas Brown (2007) explains that a conversation generally
consists of five basic moves. There is first of all a nomination of the
topic of the conversation. Next, speakers strive to keep the conversation
going by actively responding to what the other is saying (either
verbally or non-verbally). They take turns and interrupt one another
and eventually, they use socially established routines to terminate the
In order to achieve this dynamic in real-time, students need to
learn and systematically apply a range of skills that would allow them
to master three main forms of speaking:

a) Transactional: aimed at exchanging information.

b) Interpersonal: aimed at promoting social relationships.


c) Presentational: used when one speaker alone conveys

Brown (op. cit.) uses these three basic forms to create a typology
of classroom speaking performance that includes six distinct types that
teachers can promote in the classroom:
a. Imitative – the main purpose of this type of speaking is to
help students focus on forms. In a way, the teachers act as “tape
recorders” (Brown, op. cit: 327) and the preferred techniques
are drills and memorized dialogs.
Teacher: I like playing football.
Students: I like playing football.
Teacher: Baseball
Students: I like playing baseball.

b. Intensive – this is speaking performance designed to further

practice discrete items of grammar or phonology.
Example: (to practice the /I/ /i:/ phonemic distinction)
Teacher: Repeat after me: “Gene hid his jeans in a bin.”

c. Responsive – consisting of short replies to questions that do

not extend into a dialog.
Teacher: What would you do if you won a million dollars?
Student 1: I would buy a house and travel.
Student 2: I would stop working.

d. Transactional – this consists of an extended response in

which students exchange information.
Student 1: So, we have to agree on which movie to go and see.
Student 2: I like horror movies.
Student 3: I hate them. I like action and adventure movies.
Student 1: Here is one action movie.
Student 2: Yes, looks good.
Student 3: OK. We go see it.


e. Interpersonal – the purpose of interpersonal communication

is to maintain social relationships. In this sense, interpersonal
speaking performance consists of colloquial expressions, short
chunks and high interactivity. This can be tricky for students
but needs to be taught and practiced nevertheless.
Example: Teacher gives students cue cards specifying roles they need
to play so that they can use language naturally. Alternatively, the
teacher can give pairs of students the beginning of an interpersonal
dialog so that they develop it:
Student 1: Hey, dude! What’s up?
Student 2: Nothing much, just reading this Chemistry book for my
test. How about you?
Student 1: ……….
Student 2: ……….

f. Extensive – this kind of speaking performance synthesizes

all previous types and is characteristic of High Intermediate
and Advanced levels, where students are able to choose from
a variety of registers they have been exposed to. It may also
include formal presentations, debates and discussions.

Ideally, students should be exposed to all these types of classroom

speaking performance, with the teacher consciously weaving all the
types throughout the course. If extensive speaking is the final aim, then
teachers need to balance their teaching of speaking to systematically
include both language oriented (aimed at language use) and message
oriented (aimed at language usage) speaking activities in their teaching.

1. Produce chunks of language of different length.
2. Orally produce differences among the English phonemes and
allophonic variants.
3. Produce English stress patterns, words in stressed and unstressed
positions, rhythmic structure and intonational contours.
4. Produce reduced forms of words and phrases.


5. Use an adequate number of lexical units (words) in order to accomplish

pragmatic purposes.
6. Produce fluent speech at different rates of delivery.
7. Monitor your own oral production and use various strategic devices—
pauses, fillers, self-correction, backtracking—to enhance t