second language

Classroom-Based Research Project Aspects of Language Acquisition

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(8591 Words)

For this project, I have focused my inquiry on the way students acquire language. The question that I would like answered is: How do students acquire language in the classroom environment and what best techniques fit their style of learning? This includes styles that I think do/did not fit in the classroom environment and could actually hamper students’ learning and their acquisition of a language. The classroom data that I used for this essay comes from the teacher (me) and the students that I was teaching. To add to this data in the inquiry, I also observed another teacher, who for one period taught the same class of students. For this essay, I wanted to work out, through analysis, how certain commands such as asking the students to do tasks, either work or not. A few subset questions came to mind such as: how do the teacher’s concise instructions alter students’ concentration or understanding in the acquisition of their language? In what way does the lesson move ahead through controlled teaching? What gives students that drive to a better understanding? I would like, through analysis, to delve deeper into the teaching methods and come to realize for myself, that much more, how the students’ minds work. This better understanding means that my methods of teaching, hopefully, make those students speak more fluently, without hesitation, or worry about their mistakes and aids their learning. I have, through this essay, tried to equally use my thoughts as well as the students. I hope that this essay gives a clearer picture for the reader, as well as myself, on helping students acquire language.

I would just like to add that, apart from studying/researching the class, the most intriguing and challenging part of this classroom research for me, was the research that occurred in the privacy of the staff room. There was a lot of material to be sifted through and connections to be made. This made me make sure that the students provided me with the best possible information untainted by fears of evaluation and embarrassment. I had to analyze the information I received: “How were they thinking about this subject? Why? What shall I do next?” Classroom research for me was intellectually very demanding and at times, quite perplexing. Also, I had to take criticism from some of the tasks that maybe didn’t work in class. The advantages for me as a teacher of using self-evaluation for this research are hugely beneficial for my deeper understanding of the students’ acquisition of language. The scrutinizing of a teacher’s instructions and seeing their students’ reaction to extra instruction, where it is realized that the students don’t get the meaning, is enlightening in respect to the analysis of the teacher’s methods.  A teacher can often see their mistakes with a bit more thought. I found that it made me think more about my techniques.

I also think for many reasons my students benefited immensely from my research. Firstly in the act of self-assessment, I think the students developed some knowledge/abilities to see themselves more clearly as learners in relation to their course objectives. Secondly, students who were in small group discussions got to compare and contrast their experiences with others and through large group discussion they developed a sense of the whole class learning and where it’s moving. Thirdly, I not only got insights into how this group of students were doing, but it also opened up channels of collaboration for me to work with individual students on their progress in the course. I think for the students, in hearing what their peers thought, students were able to overcome the isolated, individual student/teacher relationship. They could see themselves as part of a group (including myself) that was marked not by competition, but by solidarity in a common enterprise of understanding and using the subject matter with competence and confidence. For me, I think the students were not used to evaluating their learning or the teacher’s teaching, so it was an enlightening experience, I think for us both. And a process I will continue with the same students as I feel we have a better understanding, now.

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A Teacher: The fine art of listening

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(847 Words)

I would like to reflect on the attitude of teachers as listeners with regard to the classroom. It has made me think more about the person (teacher) I am. When I think about how I am in the class, it makes me reflect on the attitude I should have towards students who are trying to speak in class, thus the essence of this essay is, am I a good listener and reciprocator?

I think when people speak ideas begin to grow. These ideas growing within us is thinking of the students in the class with something to say and the teacher letting them speak but encouraging those students to expand on their answers. Thus, the teacher is the listener to the students expanding their ideas and their second language. The proposition is, how do we listen to others? I think people listen, the fact is sometimes this may not be attentive. Referring to a classroom setting, I think there could be a moment where the teacher does not listen to the students as attentively as one should. This does not mean the teacher is being rude; he or she might have their mind on completing the lesson or the fact that the student has answered the question, so the teacher can move on. I think here is where the teacher should take a step back to think about their attitude.  I think when the teacher has these moments in the class where the students have a chance to speak, they can expand on those junctures because they are courteous listeners who provokes the students to speak more.

It could be said there are lecturers (teachers) out there that love the sound of their voice and do stifle people’s thinking that stop them talking. They may be brilliant performers but by not giving the students a chance to talk, they do not let all involved express their thoughts and expand. I think that as a teacher one could get confused that they are doing a great job teaching, but why are the students not talking? As such the teacher never realizes that it could be them (the teachers) that are the problem. I think that this creative spark from the students has got to be given time, and some teachers may not give time to let this creativity start working. Students can be given too much work that they are not sure where to start. I think with clear and modeled instruction which specific objectives the students know what to do, they then have focus, thus they know what to speak about to which the teacher can listen with captivated attention.

The formulation of ideas has to be a task that most students find difficult to complete especially with their limited knowledge of second language vocabulary. Those that do have a wider knowledge, for them fluently remembering all this vocabulary is still a problem. For myself, I have had times when I know the word in a foreign language, but I just forget it only to find out later that, of course, I knew it. This goes along with sentences as well. I make this point because a student talking, although their language may be limited at first when they begin to think, speak and use their English language, can show their true self. For example, I had a situation in my class where a woman student was translating everything that I said. It was, I thought, stopping the students in the class from actually understanding me. Anyway, one break-time another female student wanted to tell me she was leaving after break time for some reason. As the student, who wanted to leave, was trying to tell me her problem this “translator” woman came over, translated, and tried to tell me the student’s problem. As diplomatic as I could, I explained to her that this was not her problem, and I wanted this student to tell me herself. Being a forceful woman as she was, she did not really listen, so as she was hearing the student having problems she again tried to help. Again, I said I wanted to hear the student. Well, the student took about a few minutes to tell me her problem and after trying really hard and me being an active listener, she got her point over. I think by me listening and understanding that she was not proficient in English and that I would have to take my time to let this student build up the confidence to tell me made for a more relaxed situation. Thus, she was able to speak English, and her vocabulary was enough for me to understand. I felt good because some students are not listened to because at that first moment they do not have the vocabulary or are a little nervous, but they can actually formulate what they want to say given time.

Finally, it just makes me think about what relationship the teacher has with each student. Hopefully, by writing this, it does make me think that we should be more attentive that leads to expansive language from the students.

Classroom based report on Second Language Learning

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(11970 Words)

Abstract

Learning any second language can be challenging. Lower level students, who are new to learning, are those students that need all the support and understanding for their acquisition of a new language. For this paper, I have produced a research plan for a new class of lower-level students. This was devised to create thinking on how students were learning their second language. I wondered how I could facilitate their learning and their classroom experience that would help make the English language easier for them to comprehend. My initial thoughts were on using as many different ways to reinforce a language point. My thinking was that if the students get to look at a specific grammar/language point, whilst using it and thinking about it, in different ways, the language will stay in their memory that much easier. I felt that if you used the language in various ways such as activities, methods of teaching, and games, their possession of the language could be helped.

I looked at my ideas for lesson plans and checked how I planned to use the time in class to vary my methods. I also looked on the internet for any information that would correspond with my area of interest. I tried reading as much material that honed in on my specific area of interest. This was the material that was related to different methods and activities. It was while I was acquiring my new knowledge that I got to read about an interesting theory where different activities were used regarding multiple intelligences. This I found on a website called ‘developingteachers.com’. The article in question that took my interest was called ‘Starting with multiple intelligences – activities for foreign language teachers’ by Rolf Palmberg. I immediately realised this article was very much linked in with my ideas, that I had proposed. I did a lot of preliminary reading on the subject until I felt that I should put my old and new ideas about how to get the students speaking more into effect. This paper and the theories within is helped by what I found from the initial article by Rolf Palmberg and increasingly by reading about American psychologist Howard Gardner who developed ‘The Theory of Multiple Intelligences’ documented in his book Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

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Teacher Classroom Observation Questions

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Do second language students often ask for clarification, verification, or correction? 

Do the L2 students co-operate with their peers or seem to have much contact outside of class with more proficient users?

Do your lesson plans incorporate various ways that L2 students can learn the language you are modelling, practising or presenting, in order to appeal to a variety of learning styles and strategies?

Does your teaching allow L2 learners to approach the task at hand in a variety of ways? Is your Learning Language Strategy training (LLS) implicit, explicit, or both?

Is your class learner-centred? 

Do you allow L2 students to work on their own and learn from one another? 

As you circulate in class, are you encouraging questions, or posing ones relevant to the L2 learners with whom you interact?

Do L2 students seem to have grasped the point?

Did they use the LLS that was modelled in the task they were to perform? 

What improvements for future lessons of this type or on this topic might be gleaned from L2 students’ behaviour?

Questions for students

In this class: 

I want to….

will/won’t…. 

My favourite/least favourite kinds of class activities are… 

I am studying English because…….

Journal Questions

This week:

I studied… 

I learned… 

I used my English in these places…

I spoke English with these people… 

I made these mistakes…

My difficulties are… 

I would like to know… 

I would like help with…

 My learning and practising plans for the next week are…

Why is it important to teach a second language?

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(413 words)

TASKS:

  1. There are at least 3000 spoken languages in existence today.  T/F

This is true, it has been estimated that the peoples of the world speak at least 3,000 or more different languages although it can be estimated that there are as many as 10,000.

2. Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. T/F

This is true, with 400 million people speaking Chinese (Mandarin), although If the English language is included with its second language use then this would be the most widely spoken language.          

3. Some countries have more than one official language. T/F

This is true of some countries that are made up of many peoples. They speak different languages.  For example, Switzerland has four national languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansch with German existing in two major dialects.  Belgium counts French and Flemish. Canada has two official languages, English and French.

4. Bionic and laser are words that have been in the English language for more than 100 years. T/F

This is false. One specific feature of English is the ease with which new words can be introduced or formed to meet the communication needs of science, popular culture, politics, administration and ordinary speech. The two examples ‘Laser’ and ‘bionic’ are recently adopted words. It can be seen that the English language has an exterior that is forever changing but the core stays the same. An example of this peripheral evolvement of the English language is shown by there being every year a new buzzword (“a word or expression from a particular subject area that has become fashionable because it has been used a lot especially on television and in the newspapers”). The buzzword for 2004 was ‘Chav’. This is a noun which describes young men who wear cheap gold jewellery and baseball caps and hang around in shopping centres all over Britain.

5. English is widely used as an international language in science, commerce academic study, and training. T/F

There are many nations whose unique languages are spoken by no more than a few million people. This is the case with several countries of Europe such as the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Holland, and part of Belgium. For these kinds of countries simply to have a large enough market for publication, many books especially scientific, technical, or academic are printed in English. For them, English has become the dominant international language in communications, science, business, aviation, entertainment, and diplomacy and also on the Internet.