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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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.

Extended Reflection on TEFL Classroom Practice

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(words 2117)

The TEFL lesson that was just taught I feel went satisfactory. There were many aspects in the lesson that were a positive learning experience for the students. I think I tried to keep the students’ attention all the way through the lesson. I think this aided the students learning because I didn’t give them a chance to start talking about any other non-English language-related subjects. During the ‘use’ stage of PPU teaching method, there was a lot of free talking, so I felt some accomplishment. The overall feeling, if an observer was to look at the whole lesson, is to say that the objectives were certainly on their way to being achieved. These objectives were for students to use adjectives to describe people’s feelings,  There are some points, I would like to pick up on in relation to students not fully achieving their goals as such I will include them in this essay to fully explain. I must say though that if I were a student in this class, I would have felt the lesson moved along at a pace that kept me attentive. With this attentiveness hopefully, the students would have attained that new information.

I think the ‘use’ stage, which involved the students telling an interesting story, was a significant part because this is the stage that showed me how well all the prior practice and ‘presentation stage’ went. Looking from the student’s perspective, they were ready to tell their story after hearing the teacher give an example of a model story, which made them more aware of what had to be done. I think as a student this would have given me the inspiration to think of an interesting story that had a beginning, climax, and end. The students knew what their task was and they went about it with the right attitude. Once they had their stories they stood up and told each other by going in pairs and telling their stories with the other students using the new vocabulary which I had taught, to help them along (conversation prompts). The students were up and talking and exchanging stories that would provoke feeling, which is what I wanted them to do. I think by giving them five minutes preceding the activity to write and think about their stories was a suitable idea because when I looked at some of their writing, some of the students were very slow to start. I think as a student you need this time and the teacher has to remember that it is fresh in his/her head plus the teacher has had time to think about the subject, the students have not. I think also that once the activity started, it was right to leave them to get on with the activity by themselves without really interfering with the students’ conversation. I periodically joined in with the pairs just to check they were okay which I found didn’t interfere with their talking that much. This exercise worked because I modeled the activity well before the students stood up. I modeled with two students giving my conversation prompts, which moved the conversation along. The conversation prompts were another good idea. The students certainly had some interesting stories to tell. There were a couple of points that hindered the process though these were firstly not making sure the students moved around and changed partners. Some students gathered together a little (more than two) which I didn’t really want. The process would have been better if I had kept them in their pairs and for them to tell each other their stories then move on. I think getting them to move, would have been helped by me clapping my hands and saying ‘okay, change partners’. Secondly, I should have told them to talk to only five people. This would have meant the process had an ending, a goal for the students to reach. This would have kept them focused I think. 

Another aspect of the lesson that I think went well was the ‘practice’ stage where I gave the students strips of paper with situations on them. This was for the students to use with a dialogue using the adjectives they had learnt, to say ‘How they felt’. I think this is a great way to get the students off their chairs thus changing the lesson with a different technique and giving them a chance to speak and use the specific language associated with the lesson. As a student, I would have been glad to start using the language and mingling instead of sat down listening to the teacher. The students were up off their seat hearing their replies. I think, as a practice this exercise was adequate as it was controlled and was kept within the boundaries of the language that was to be used. Also what helped was the students were given a model conversation to help them practice with. This was modeled with the ‘teacher–student’ to help them. The conversation gave the students a platform to start, thus as a ‘practice’ stage (which is where the teacher can check and monitor). I think, as an exercise, this was fine. The only part that hindered the process was that the students kept hold of the strips of paper and they were not given a chance to change. The students seemed a little bored because they were saying the same sentence over and over again. I think, as a student, I would have felt the exercise was a bit tedious. The students’ strips of paper (situations) should have been changed after each pairs’ conversation, this would have created more thought and got the students more engrossed in the exercise. Moreover, it would have prolonged the exercise because they would not have thought the process was dragging on. 

The part of the lesson I think didn’t go as planned was the worksheet. There was ‘situation’ on the worksheet and ‘how did you feel’ in two separate columns for each. For a situation, the students had to write an adjective in the designated gap under the heading ‘how did you feel’ to describe how he/she felt in that situation. And when there was an adjective the student had to think of a situation and write it in the designated gap under the heading ‘situation’ on the paper. I gave the students the worksheet and then modeled it. I think once the students had this worksheet they started to complete it. They were used to being given worksheets so I suppose they knew the drill. The fact was that some of them thought it was a matching exercise, which it wasn’t; this made me realize I had got things wrong. By now they were confused and some were trying to write which I didn’t want. I think as a student once I got this paper I would have wanted to finish it in my own way, regardless of what the teacher was saying. I think this shows you what students do. Students can be sidetracked and lose their concentration thus their attention wanders away from the real point of the exercise. This experience tells me that a teacher should give clear instruction first before giving out a worksheet and reiterate it by having the students tell the teacher what he/she had just said. Concept questions I think could have helped.

Another aspect that did not go as well as I would have liked was the challenging of students and the giving of information. I felt as though I wrote some sentences on the boards that were not worth doing also I was repeating the sentences as though I thought the students needed the practice. From the students’ perspective if I had heard the teacher the first time he/she spoke the sentence I would be a bit puzzled as to why the teacher would want to put it on the board and repeat it. The students I think might have lost a little interest when it came to doing other stages in the class because the teacher was teaching stuff they already knew. I think that for the level the students were in, this process was demeaning their level of English and taking up valuable time. Such that by giving them basic sentences the students might have lost interest and felt as though they were not learning. I think as a student the basic process of learning is to feel as though the lesson is testing my abilities. I think they should have been brought out their comfort zone, which is challenging them with the material they do not know.

A final thought on aspects that did not go well was my use of language. Sometimes I don’t speak fluently and break up my sentences, which are not complete, and grammatical. This I think makes the language a little strange. I think from the perspective of a student who is learning a new language, is that they could find it hard to follow the teacher’s sentences. The sentences are broken up and leave the student a bit confused. I think there could be a few factors that explain my language. Firstly I have been teaching lower-level students, some twelve years old, where you have to be slow for them to understand you, maybe this played a part. Also, I think, maybe it is where I think if I speak slower and pronounce the word with more stress they will understand. The good thing though, and I have been told in feedback, is that I recognize the problem and I will try to rectify it in the next lesson. I think with clear instructions, which are kept to a minimum. To a minimum, I mean less teacher talk time where unnecessary language is used will help to make for a clear voice that sounds normal. 

Regarding SWBAT’s during the lesson, I think they were achieved. If I look at the final ‘use’ stage I had the students describing their stories, which is what I wanted. This was an objective of mine. I am not sure that I achieved an overall goal of getting the students to achieve their objectives, which would have been to learn far more new material and new vocabulary. I think as a SWBAT of getting them talking about the subject of feelings, the students did generate some quality stories which they told very well. Their ideas for the stories were funny and interesting, although I cannot really say they were challenged. I had SWBAT’s for each stage but I think should make them a little harder and made sure they understood each one until I moved on. The challenging part would have been less writing of basic sentences on the board. The more adjectives I could have written on the board would have gauged the students’ strengths and weaknesses. The reaction would have told me how difficult they were. Thus if I had heard these new words in the ‘use stage I would have felt I was achieving and this would have told me that the students achieved their objective. I think this ‘use’ stage of the class, which was one of my SWBAT’s, informed my beliefs because it was a measure of how the students understood the lesson, although I think that students can still fall into the trap of using grammar and vocabulary they already know. I think maybe if you can have students demonstrate in front of the class and make them use the new grammar and vocabulary this will give you a fair measure of how well they have learnt during the class. I think overall every SWBAT was challenged but I could have made the lessons (SWBAT’s) a little more difficult as to challenge the students and also made sure at each stage I checked that I reached the SWBAT.

There are many goals I can now set myself from the reflection I have just done. I will plan a better lesson; firstly a more challenging lesson that has more questions coming from the students, such that I can measure their learning by the questions they ask and the amount of student interaction. I feel as though the objectives should be properly met at each stage and should be checked by me before I go on. Also, my voice will be clearer and I have to realize that I should speak as if talking to another English-speaking person (less the idioms and slang speech). I think the more relaxed and less worried you are going into the class the lesson will flow. I will make sure that the students feel that they have achieved in the class and that they have something to talk about once leaving the class.