Reflective Essay: Skills for Life

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(831 Words)

Skills for Life, through embedded learning, have been seen to be vital these days. These skills, literacy, numeracy, and ICT are skills that are fundamental for any student to have as a minimum requirement. This fact was exacerbated many years ago by the Moser report ‘A Fresh Start’ (DfEE 1999) that highlighted 7 million adults literacy skills were below those expected of an 11-year-old.  This worrying figure emphasised the need for teachers to use any opportunity to embed these key skills in their lessons. I would like in this essay to reflect on my experiences of embedding which asserts “learn by doing”. Moreover, research has suggested if the skills are embedded the students actually feel more motivated (Roberts et al. 2005). I faced this with a research project I did involving Howard Gardeners Multiple Intelligences (1983). I studied students’ learning characteristics in an ESOL class and reflected on them using various techniques to aid their learning.

To begin, multiple intelligence suggests that students learn in different ways, so, for example, one learns more by being active (body kinesthetic) while another learns more from pictures (visual spatial). Of course, in an ESOL class language and literacy are paramount, but this had to be done in ways that were learner-centred with active learning which kept the students focused on the task, so they still used their English language. For instance, I gave each of them a picture of a famous person with some text about that person. I gave them the grammatically formed questions and answers to ask each other about their famous person (verbal linguistic). Incidentally, I had a higher level class get their information from the internet. So, they first had to read the text and write down the answers to the questions. They would then get to ask and answer each other who the famous person was, where they were from, how old, and an interesting fact.  I collected the faces, got the students into groups (interpersonal) and each group had to ask questions (logical mathematical) to find out who it was I was thinking about. It was like a game show. The winner was the one who guessed right first. Language was guided by myself, the teacher, to use complete answers and questions and the discussion in the groups was prompted by me also. The embedding here involved having a fun activity while pressing home language proficiency which is similarly shown in LLUK standard BS1, of ‘maintaining an inclusive equitable and motivating learning environment’. This class had competition, interest and a challenge which was valued as much as with English and literacy.

Still staying with learning languages, but this time related to numeracy, I had been teaching a class about nouns. I had had them in groups outside (naturalistic approach) describing objects. It was a kind of treasure hunt. They then had to write about what they found and present it. The presentation involved the characteristics of the object. The progression from objects was onto using nouns involved with shopping. I also felt for this subject the students should get used to prices. I found some newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door fliers that were filled with adverts for shops, filled with writing and numbers. So, I proposed that the students go through newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door flyers. The students needed to read them, cut out eight objects and stick them on a large sheet of paper (Bodily/Kinesthetic). However, the pictures had the prices missing. Then, they had to write about their object, ready for selling.  A few times, I actually did this part of the lesson with the computers and had the students make up a catalogue for their objects. There was certainly less clearing up. Once they were finished sticking, the challenge for the exercise was for each group to get the other groups to guess the answer to the price of the object. The students had to work in their group to guess the price. This meant they had to work in their group to come up with answers using their English. It ended up as ‘Price is Right’ competition with myself telling them they could not go over the real price. The nearest won, so, they had to work out the prices higher or lower which as embedded numeracy skills worked well.

To sum up, in this reflective essay I have shown that through my work and reflection with multiple intelligences, which was actually part of my ongoing continual professional development (CPD), as a teacher I try to embed key skills into my lesson. This I feel goes a long way to ‘discovering, respecting, and meeting individual needs’ (FENTO, 1999). My ESOL classes are full of opportunities to use not only to use literacy coherently in reading and writing but also in numeracy where for example we talk about telling the time and buying goods. Not forgetting, the use of ICT to allow the students to work on projects in groups or an individual basis.


Further Education National Training Organisation  (FENTO, 1999)

Moser, C. (1999), A Fresh Start. London: DfEE. Retrieved on 15 June 2008 from http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/

Roberts, C., Baynham, M., Shrubshall, P., Brittan, J., Cooper, B., Gidley, N., Windsor,

V., Eldred, J., Grief, S., Castillino, C. and Walsh, M. (2005), Embedded teaching and learning of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL: Seven case studies. London: National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy.

The classroom, language acquisition and Stephen Krashen

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(623 Words)

I think a few of you can recall I mentioned Stephen Krashen a few times and his theory on comprehensible input.  Of course, time is always with us over the two days, so I am always reticent to talk too long about certain theories, although I hope I do highlight it efficiently and effectively. So, I have written a few extra notes on language acquisition, the classroom and Krashen and his approach and theory that will hopefully make you think more about what goes on in the learning environment and the approach you take in teaching the students.

To begin with, an EFL instructor can be a fantastic teacher but how does he/she know if the students are ‘acquiring the language’ in the way they should be which is natural and not forced.  ‘Acquiring language’ is one of the salient points in children’s actual acquisition of a language. It is a fact that children, in a natural settings learn language rapidly and without formal instruction. Children are not given formal education when they are very young yet they acquire their language progressively to being fluent. It makes me think of some Thai schools I worked in where they barrage the students with grammar that is in such a formal setting that doesn’t leave any room for talking. The students can be very good at grammar but cannot speak and quite a few seem very shy also. Furthermore, if the students are not relaxed in the classroom (the setting) the teacher cannot expect them to learn. You would hope they learn their second language the same as their first language in a natural way where children never felt the language was demanding or never felt pressured and weren’t inhibited to use it.

The classroom as a setting I think should not be a place that is far from reality such that students can only speak in the classroom not outside where it is most important. I think that as a teacher the authenticity of the teacher’s teaching and the classroom has to be right so as to enlighten the learning experience. The issue here is students often learn their second language through constant grammar study so the similarity between it being similar to a natural, childhood, first language acquisition and later second language acquisition is not apparent. Thus creating a real classroom experience is a must for the students. The use of real objects, pictures, videos, roleplays, situations, even field trips (not forgetting the teacher/facilitator’s approach) to get the feeling that the students will use this language outside the classroom in numerous settings is a must.

Stephen Krashen whose ‘acquisition theory’ is used in teaching, states that ‘language learners need language ‘input’ which consists of new language along with clues as to what the language means’. As a teacher, you should follow this path that allows the students to speak in class while giving them that little bit more to expand their language. The teacher should build on what the students already know. I think this normal delivery of speech and with ‘hands-on’ language acquisition experience facilitates the natural learning process. If you remember when you were a child and your parents never really gave you a formal education in language acquisition, here lies comprehensible input that naturally supplies children: it is slower and simpler. Moreover, it focuses on the here and now, it focuses on meaning over form, and it extends and elaborates on the child’s language.

I think the students should not be treated like kids but you should allow the students to speak and acquire more language as they use their already known language such that the process will follow that the students will acquire more in your interesting natural approach classes.


Would you select prescriptive or descriptive method of teaching grammar? Give reasons?

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There are, of course, different ideas from different people and no method can be thought of as the ultimate for learning. Although this is said, I would certainly lean towards a more descriptive method of teaching. A descriptive method can relate to the abundance of people who speak the language where it is noticed that in the global world mostly everyone needs to speak some sort of English. This also relates to countries which are very multicultural. We can not say that every one of these conversers speaks complete standard English. I will keep away from saying correct English as I think within reason there is no exact or correct way to speak. A descriptive method of teaching can be favored which allows a teacher to extract exact meaning from conversation not extracting from sentences as this could be relating back to a prescriptive form where there is a formal education that does not intrinsically allow for students’ conversational construction. One question would be: does the speaker need to be perfect grammatically to get their message across?

England, you would think after many years of using the language, the population would adhere to a ‘standard’ form of speech, but it is probably spoken natively by about 10% of the population. This was a guesstimate by Peter Trudgill. So, it shows simply being a native speaker of English is not a qualification for setting up as an EFL teacher; however well you speak it. The students, as well as the teacher, need to be aware of the situation they are in and how they should use their language the best. A language teacher can teach the students a prescriptive grammar, but on the whole grammar and language is continually in transgression. The importance of English as the language of communication nationally and internationally must input the importance of meaning. For example, Stephen Krashen wrote,”acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.” (S. Krashen, 1981)

Of course, there are a few problems with prescriptive grammar as it only prescribes to one way of speaking. This could well be a model to rely on and teachers would be wrong to ignore the standard grammar, but to say that an English speaking person is wrong in the way they colloquially speak could well lower some learning ability. Descriptive linguistics will tell you that they do not raise questions about who is right and who is wrong, or about who has the right to adjudicate. There will be teachers and parents who will certainly tell you to speak properly, but in most cases, this would be when it is more formal occasions where you must be polite. This does mean that a person will always be in a formal occasion where ‘standard’ English is needed.  There is a time and a place for using formal and non-formal language. The students need also to work this out for themselves. They need to be problem solvers. The teacher needs to put them in these social positions through role-play so the students can find out for themselves how to act. This perspective views teaching as a “conversation” in which teachers and students learn together through a process of negotiation with the curriculum to develop a shared view of the world

English is very heavily codified for non-native learners. Prescriptive grammar actually takes away the forms of English that a lot of other people use. Of course, the use of grammar is to get the right point across. For example, if someone is on the phone and they asked for a pencil. An answer could be ‘a pencil is on the table’. Although this answers the question the appropriateness of the answer is not sufficient.  This relates to the meaning of grammar and how we use the language. People do use different structures. There is one problem that students will take their dictionary into the class and once they have a problem they will consult it. This does not accept their authority on meaning or grammar. For example, students will learn the ‘dead’ which is the right word for someone who has died. The sentence ‘he is dead’ is correct grammatically but would a policeman say this to the unfortunate person who he has to tell about their unfortunate relative. He, of course, would choose his words carefully as to try to lessen the strength of the sentence using ‘he has passed away’. From this little example, it is very clear that the children must be taught English and when to use it. Students should be taught that language varies. This shows the movement away from the prescriptive grammar. There is certainly a flexibility in the language and the choices of sentences for every occasion and how they and their ideas are perceived by the receiver. It has also to be said that people do not speak in complete sentences and can jump from one subject to another rapidly.  Students need to be aware of speaking appropriately in different contexts, adapting their talk for a range of purposes and audiences including variants of English regionally spoken. Pupils should be taught about the variations in written English and how they differ from spoken language, and to distinguish varying degrees of formality, selecting appropriately for a task.

Focusing on communication in the classroom, the interactionist theory of teaching can be mentioned here. Learning a language in the classroom is essentially through interaction and interpersonal activity where the teacher can make sense of and respond to the behaviour of their students. Lessons can still involve using a certain grammar point, but this can be learnt subconsciously. A lot of language acquisition takes place through conversational interaction the students have. The students can work together to achieve a context and meaning to the lesson with the teacher as the facilitator. This communicative approach to learning has interaction as an important factor which supports language learning. The learning strategies for the students are where they use their teacher and their peers to further their language acquisition. This interaction can be vastly beneficial to the students’ natural acquisition. This means that the students can take control of their learning. The teacher can help [1]learners to use communication strategies as a way to negotiate meaning. This will not only help their comprehension but also help them learn new words. The students, then, have an opportunity to talk in their second language. Therefore, this highlights a teacher’s teaching methodology which should provide more chances for students to interact with each other as well as with the teacher. The teacher also has to recognize that while giving the students more freedom, the communicational input is beneficial at a right level that empowers the enthusiasm to work and mix in a group.

To conclude, I would select a descriptive teaching method as it allows the students to communicate in situations that show how they are aware of how to act. This gives the teacher the chance to see the way they are working and learning. It makes the language available to be understood and shown out in the open. This gives the students more opportunity to see the language at work instead of just written on paper.

(1222 Words)

[1] Yule and Tarone, 1991. Yule and Tarone allied with the interactionist theory.

A TEFL Trainer – Ofsted Quality Assurance

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(1011 words)

Quality Assurance is a high priority for the company I work for. First of all, the students are our customers, so the company’s aims revolve around giving a high standard product that leaves the students feeling they made the right move to choose our company’s second language teaching course. For this piece of writing, I will outline some of the provisions my company and I have/use to not only keep the quality high but also to gain knowledge for improvement.

To promote equal opportunities

The courses I teach have students from many backgrounds, countries, and of varying ages. It is my job to accept all these people as achieving the goal of passing the course and being involved.  For example, on the last course, there was a woman from Poland who was 28, an 18 year Englishman who was just taking his A levels, and an older Englishman of about 55 years of age. Taking these three as an example, they all had their reasons to be there, and the only way for them to pass the course was to work together as a group and as individuals.  To promote this combination, my first job as their teacher trainer, as soon as they arrive, is to welcome them and get them introduced to each other, so they feel part of the group and they get the chance to meet each other. During the course, there are many pair-work and group-work activities, so it is my job to encourage collaboration between these kinds of people whatever their background. I promote peer and group evaluation where students constructively help each other. Eventually, when they come to complete their practice teaching in pairs there is encouragement from all the class towards a successful conclusion.

 To identify, understand and learn from the factors which facilitate or hinder the students

The course has set modules, but within that, in my job as a trainer, I still have to make the students confident and knowledgeable about teaching a second language. In this respect, formative assessment is taken after each module to give feedback to the trainer, and for the students to be able to discuss how the course is progressing and their grasp of the facts so far. For example, one formative assessment has each of the students choosing to stand in a particular corner of the room which relates to their experience and knowledge of the class they just had. One corner may have the statement, ‘I have a question’. The students who stand in this corner have a chance to discuss issues they may have. They are then told to write down some questions they may have which are then discussed with the trainer and the rest of the group. The trainer can take away this assessment to improve on the next lesson while the students have been given a platform to voice their problems (good or bad). The reason for writing their ideas is that the trainer can take away the material and assess it to see for improvement.

Post Course Feedback from students

Once the students’ course is complete, they are sent a feedback form where they are given chance to comment on the course and the trainer that delivered the course content.  That feedback is collated by my company and discussed with them internally. If need be I am contacted and made aware of issues that the students had or content that was valuable for the students. Correspondence is always made between myself and my manager post-course to discuss issues.

To set and achieve high standards and targets across all provision 

For the 20 hours of study, a scheme of work and lesson plans are written detailing all aspects of the course. This makes provision for the encouragement of active learning while giving available time for the students to practice their teaching and discuss material. There are also resources for the students to use and contemplate over that show course content. The trainer also uses Prezi presentation facility to help students understand the content clearly.

Observation (form and feedback)

Over the 20 hours of study, the students complete two practice teaching lessons. They are given help in completing their lesson plans by the trainer. This sets them on the right path while lesson stages are discussed. This puts them in good stead for performing for the first time in front of the class. Once they start their practice teaching they are observed by the trainer who completes an observation form. This form is given to the students which includes all stages and the techniques they used in their lesson as well as comments on how they performed. There are also comments on what may need to be changed in their next practice teaching. This form is given to them for them to contemplate over and ask questions if need be. Also, after their teaching is finished as a group there is a feedback session where students can make comments on what they liked, and maybe what they would change. I feel this gives the students a holistic picture of where they are at with the course and their teaching.

Facilities for learning (To provide a safe environment)

The students are first welcomed outside the class. Coffee, tea, and biscuit are provided nearby. The students have seats and two sofas, so they can relax before the course starts. At times when there is a break, these facilities are used. The classrooms are adequate for the 15 to 20 students there are. There is a good size screen for the projector for the students to observe the course content. The table and chairs are put into a U shape which encourages discussion. The heating in the room is put on before the students arrive, so once they have had their coffee they are welcomed into the warm classroom. The provision for food is excellent as below the classroom there is a restaurant, and within 3 minutes walk, there is a newsagent and a Tesco store that sells less expensive food (sandwiches, crisps, and drinks).

Teaching Young Learners – Listening

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TASK: design two listening activities for beginner young learners or teenagers

1. Airport announcements

Age: Teenagers

Aim: Practice listening to schedules

Practice listening for times, cites, airlines (airport information)

Preparation: Collect some pictures of the cities mentioned in the announcement

  1. The teacher put up pictures on the white board (kangaroos, beach, hotel, Big Ben, Mickey Mouse, Suitcase, airplane).
  2. The students make educated guesses for what the pictures are. And what the subject is.
  3. The teachers explains the subject is ‘holidays’
  4. The teacher gives an example ‘I go on holiday to Madrid in Spain’ then gets the students to ask each other ‘where do you go on holiday?’
  5. The teacher gets feedback from the students trying to elicit cites
  6. The teacher puts up pictures of cities on the board.
  7. Students look at them in groups and try to work out which cities they are.
  8. The students or teacher writes up the names of the cities on board.
  9. Each student has to choose one city she would like to visit. Why? Give three reasons. This can be done in pairs.

10. The teacher puts a picture of an airport departure board on the whiteboard and tells the students that they are going on holiday. The teachers can elicit some times from the pictures as an example.

11. Then the teacher gives each learner a form and gets them to write the name of the city on the form (below)

12. The teacher pre-teaches airline names

13. Students listen and complete the information they hear in the departure lounge announcement on the form.

Flight number 
Gate number 

14. Feedback. The teacher can get the students to find out who has the earliest flight and the latest.

2. Sports and Numbers

Age: Teenagers

Aim: Practice listening for numbers

Practice: Years, facts, times

Preparation: Pictures of sports and famous sports stars

  1. The teacher shows pictures of sports. This introduction gives some idea of the context that they are going to listen to.
  2. The teacher asks ‘what sports do you like?’ Personalisation of the activities is very important here. A pair-work discussion about the sports they play or watch, and why, will bring them into the topic, and make them more willing to listen.
  3. The teacher then explains that each sports has its stars and produces a picture of David Beckham as an example of someone who is associated with football..
  4. The teacher then produces some more photos of famous people eliciting their name and putting them on the board.
  5. The teacher now spends a little time establishing some ideas of the famous people to transfer or activate their knowledge.
  6. The teacher writes on the board. 1) How old are they? 2) When did they start playing? 3) When were they born? 4) How many years have they played? 5) How many competitions have they won? 6) How much do they earn a year?
  7. The teacher then allows the learners to predict possible content. The teacher gives the learner a choice of things that they may or may not expect to hear. This is done by the use of card with the answers plus additional wrong answers to make it a little more difficult.
  8. The teacher asks them to choose those they think will be mentioned. (All the potential answers are laid on the groups table.
  9. The teacher plays the tape them get them to grab the right answer
  10. The teacher plays the tape again.
  11. The teacher gives them a sheet to fill in  the correct answers

12. The teacher reviews the answers.

13. The teacher has a feedback session and sees if anybody knows about other sport stars.