students

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 critical appraisal of an article –  Teaching: the Reflective Profession Incorporating the Northern Ireland Teacher Competences

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There are always areas of any profession people are in to which they feel may need change and/or improvement. Teaching is no exception, I feel. Any teacher needs to be enthused to bring light to new areas of interest in their line of work. Having read many articles on professional teacher development, I came across a document that inspired me with some core beliefs. It made me read more, delve deeper, and look at a specific area of the teaching profession that I hope empowers me. The document is ‘Teaching: the Reflective Profession’. It was published by ‘The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI)’ to show competence for reflection and discussion. It was written to address the issues and recognise the complexities of teaching. In this appraisal, I will address how this document gave me an insight into an area I feel may be missed by teachers in their daily toil.

One true fact is that children need to develop not just as ‘rounded individuals able to prosper in the world but, as importantly, to live together in a culture characterised by tolerance and respect for diversity’.  These words speak volumes when I consider the position and the factors I face every day with my school. From observations of various teachers in my school, I feel, they do not, in reality, recognise their students’ true needs for the outside world they will be entering. The teacher is usually sat at a desk. A microphone is always used because the students are so loud. The students are there solely as listeners in nearly every subject. The situation reminds me of Charles Dickens‘ ‘Hard Times’ where the students learnt facts and imagination was not on the syllabus. There seems to be no thought process involved. I see students turning off, then, just copying other people’s work to get a mark. I feel it is a culture of ‘It’s there if you want it’ mentality. The brighter kids are at the front and the ones that really need help are at the back where there left behind. This cannot help them to survive in the real world. The students are only worried about final marks not what went into getting that mark, be it copying or cheating.

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Helping Students Create Their Own Learning Goals By Greta. J. Gorsuch

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Reflection on an Article

(756 words)

Students learn (language) for various reasons from those who need English to study in university to those that just want to talk to more people from around the world. But what makes them achieve what they set out to do which is speaking English competently? You could say it is a goal, their intention, their aspiration to be this person who has no problems with language. The only difficulty is, do they really know what their targets are? These can be for a course of English language, for example, thirty hours or the end product over a longer period. I will try in this piece to explain some points regarding learning goals in relation to the article by Greta J Gorsuch.

First of all, I have to talk about the teacher and their role in the classroom with regard to student learning goals. What do the students think they are there for? Is the teacher there to do everything? Is the teacher there to spoon-feed the students so to make it easy for them? These are the sorts of questions that might be asked but is the teacher there to do everything? Greta’s article mentions that teachers are ‘traditionally the primary source of information and inspiration’. It is true that the students can be sat waiting for the teacher to speak, the idea that the students do not speak unless spoken to. They can actually feel afraid to ask further questions or just get the exercise done. This is where concrete learning objectives can try to make the students come away from relying on the teacher to create goals for themselves as students and as such putting more emphasis on themselves (students) and what they want to achieve.  Greta says, ‘language students themselves are the best source of information’. To be a language learner does not just involve coming to class and listening to a teacher then going home. It involves being a language learner for life in and outside class.

It is here inside the class (not to mention outside) that the teacher if they want to create a learning environment they should encourage these learning goals for the students. Some teachers do not have ‘effective strategies’, Greta says. I agree with her as they can go into the class and teach a great lesson, but there could be more from the students. Greta mentions, ‘simple goal clarification activities’. This, I think, is the ‘use’ part of the lesson where the teacher actually gets the students to show that they have achieved their goal if only for that week by speaking and presenting what they have learned. This incentive, I think at least, gives students that pleasure of reaching a goal and then setting another one. The satisfaction to think that they set a target and have reached it must be beneficial in scaffolding their learning for future progress.

Greta’s ideas for future progress relate to giving cards out, getting the students to fill in their goals, making sure they are achievable and realistic ones at that. The only part, I think, that they must do is share these with other students. I think this honesty in class will get the students to realize what they are in class for. They must also be kept focused on these goals. Greta says, ‘ during the next few weeks, get students to look back at their card, and rewrite their responses’. Again, the teacher should never shy away from keeping the students focused on their goals. If one student does not feel they have reached their goals this is a great time to focus on why. It is true that a student may do, for example, thirty hours of study and then go up another level. In this student’s mind is that they are now a level higher, so their English language must be a level higher. This idea could be far off the mark, thus having students with achievable goals makes the students fully aware that they have reached that goal or not, and when this goal is relayed to the teacher he or she can give advice on what they can do next.

To conclude, it can be said teachers have to do their job but just as much the students have to do their job too. This does not mean forcing them; it means giving them that focus. Hopefully, the students will realize that a new foreign language is part of their life not just in the classroom for a few hours every week.

Grammar assignment

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Students are always worried about grammar. There is a consensus of opinion that they need to study a lot more on their grammar. Of course, a teacher who does not know grammar would seem a bit strange, and they will be asked about it and will at times have to highlight it in the course of their teaching; once they are over that I feel the teacher should, in essence, focus on providing information about the students’ specific goals so that acquisition activities can focus on the topics and situations most relevant to the students’ needs. It can be shown that “we determine the situations in which they will use the target language and the sorts of topics they will have to communicate about” notwithstanding “we do not organize the activities of the class about a grammatical syllabus” (Krashen and Terrell 1983:71). All the same, on my TEFL course I had to complete a grammar assignment. I have added it here for you guys to get a feel of what is involved which is not just knowing how the grammar point is formed.

Grammar Assignment

Form

Past perfect tense in the if clause                  and would have + past participle 

(had + past participle)                                  the other part of the sentence

Example

If you had asked me                                      I would have told you

Real situation = you didn’t ask me, so I didn’t tell you.

Use

When do we use 3rd conditional?

We use the 3rd conditional to talk about –       regret, wishes, hindsight

Meaning

*Unreal past situation (imagining the impossible): to talk about hypothetical past situations. The speaker is dreaming of or imagining a different past. But the past cannot be changed.

*The conditional may be with a negative. In the case of a negative with the past tense, the opposite of what is said is true, that what was said in the negative did, in fact, happen, like ‘If it had not rained…’, meaning it did rain.

*You must watch the tense; maybe it is in the past, even though a conditional sentence. If the verb is in the past perfect tense, it can refer to something that did not happen in the past.

Example

‘If I had known I would have told you’.

Real situation = I didn’t know. I didn’t tell you

* The if sentence that describes the past, describes something different from what happened,

Example

‘ If we hadn’t invented paper we wouldn’t have had newspapers; in fact, we did invent newspapers.

When the time referred to is the same in both clauses, we have:

‘If he had done this (or ‘Had he done this’), he would have sinned’; ‘Had we done this, we should have let you know.’

Real situation = He didn’t do this, so he didn’t sin.

*Strategy: When you hear an ‘if’, you must think that this is a conditional and that if the sentence is positive, then the speaker means the situation never happened or has not yet happened and if it is negative and in the past, then the situation did happen. Don’t forget the inverted form of the conditional, like ‘Had it not rained…’ for ‘If it had not rained…’; in both cases, they are of course the same, it did rain!

Pronunciation (problems with)

Example

If  (1) you’d listened you (2) wouldn’t have failed the exam.

If you (3) hadn’t gone I would have spoke with you.

(1) The pronunciation of  YOU + HAD when contracted = YOU’D with the /d/ sound.

(2) The pronunciation of WOULD + NOT when contracted = WOULDN”T with the /nt/ sound.

(3) The pronunciation of HAD + NOT when contracted = HADN”T with the /nt/ sound.

Mistakes that can be made

Different structures using conditionals makes for different meanings.

Example (Second conditional)

If I were rich I would spend my time traveling.

This sentence is talking about unreal or improbable situations now or in the future.

CORRECT example using (Third conditional)

I f I had been rich I would have spent time traveling

The speaker is dreaming of or imagining a different past. But the past cannot be changed.

Example

If my father hadn’t met my mother I wouldn’t be here now.

This sentence is talking about the present situation that is no longer possible because of the way things have turned out.

Comprehension checking questions

If  I hadn’t gone out  last night          I wouldn’t have crashed my car

Did I stay in last night?

Did I go out in my car last night?

Did I get home safely last night?

Did I crash my car last night?

Was my car damaged yesterday afternoon?

Is my car damaged now?

Did I go out then crash my car?

Did I crash my car then go out?

Real situation: I went out last night and crashed my car.

(b) If Jeff had gotten up early, he wouldnt have missed the plane

Did Jeff get up early?

Did Jeff miss the plane?

Real situation: John didn’t get up early, so he missed the plane.

The grammatical form changes from the unreal to the real in the answers to a conditional sentence.

Exercise (Testing Point)

*Strategy: When you hear an ‘if’, you must think that this is a conditional, and that if the sentence is positive, then the speaker means the situation never happened or has not yet happened and if it is negative and in the past, then the situation did happen. Don’t forget the inverted form of the conditional, like ‘Had it not rained…’ for ‘If it had not rained…’; in both cases, they are of course the same, it did rain!

Example: If the children had been better fed, they would not have fallen ill.

(A) The children became sick.

(B) Children were not fed and that made them ill.

(C) It was wrong for them to feed the children.

(D) Even though they were well fed the children fell ill.

Correct Answer: A

Explanation: The result of the situation was that the children fell ill, or became sick, but not as in B, because they were not fed, but because they were not ‘better’ fed. The condition was that they were not fed well, and if they had been they might not have fallen sick.

Complete the dialogues

(1)

A: My shirt is too small.

B: Did you throw away the receipt?

A: No, I’ve still got it. Why?

B: If you ______________ you wouldn’t have been able to take it back to the shop.

(2)

A: I got drunk last night and got into work late.

B: You shouldn’t drink so much.

A: If ________________ so much last night I wouldn’t have been late this morning.

Write a sentence for this situation

You are upset because last night you said ‘you are stupid’ to a friend. Your friend walked out of the restaurant very angry. Use the third conditional to imagine a different past.

If I ____________________________ I _____________________________________

Use of special conditional structure

Example: __________ , we wouldn’t have gone to the beach.

(A) If it rains

(B) Had it rained

(C) It rained

(D) If it has rained

Correct answer: B

Explanation: The sentence is conditional, as can be seen by ‘would’ in the main clause. The subordinate clause could begin with ‘if’ ; ‘If it had rained’ to be parallel with ‘would not have gone’. However, an alternative structure is the inverted form without ‘if’ , ‘Had it rained’.

Activity (Desert Island Game)

The teacher outlines a situation:

The story

A man went out in his boat and there was a storm, he could not get back to the harbour because the engine was broken and the sails ripped in the wind. He was blown hundreds of miles off course. He landed on a desert island with no supplies, food or radio equipment.

Students’ Job

The students must decide which 10 things he should have done or shouldn’t have done that would have helped him; being on a desert island using third conditional.

The students in their groups must justify their answers.

List of resources

A-Z of English grammar & usage by Geoffrey Leech – Longman

Practical English Usage – Michael Swan – Oxford University Press

English grammar in use – Raymond Murphy –Cambridge University Press

Inclusive Learning with Multiple Intelligences: we are all unique in our own way

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(1567 Words)

‘Every child matter’ was the bold statement that put out a strong message for all teachers: a fact that subsequently continue to reverberate through inclusive learning and differentiation in the classroom in the modern day classroom. The child-focused initiative launched by the then British Labour Government in a green paper to be followed by the Children’s Act 2004 highlights that the classroom is full of individuals all with their learning abilities, methods, and idiosyncrasies. Improving and progressing, the all-inclusive learning experience for students developed further with the ‘Developing and Embedding Inclusive Policy and Practice of Higher Education’ which was launched in 2007. One example of this 2007 policy’s holistic outlook focuses on the courses that are being studied, and that the approach by teachers could be obstructing the learning of the students that do not include all individuals. Thus, teachers adapting the classes to all complements each student. This would demonstrate that inclusive learning and differentiation are paramount and are a dominant force for change that tries to give empowering success in every student. This brings forth, and the focus of this piece of writing, the ideas of the American psychologist Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences, from his book Frames of Mind (1983): looking after the needs of all students and their unique learning and performing methods in the classroom. Basically stated one student could work better by using their practical knowledge while another by their theoretical knowledge; recognising the fact that these two students are learning the same subject matter. I will further discuss the attributes of Multiple Intelligences highlighting first that individuals have cognitive nuances and hidden abilities, moving onto an example of a kinesthetic model that has the students actively working on the subject matter. I will then talk about creating interest for the students through their understanding of the lesson and also onto the actual students’ intelligence and the teacher underestimating them. I will finally discuss going beyond the norm for teachers and them not taking classes or the individual students for granted.

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