Classroom based report on Second Language Learning

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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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Motivation for a varied life in teaching

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What motivates a teacher to start in the profession? For sure many reasons make someone begin a career in teaching. Is it pay or job security or is it a fall back option? This being said, initial motivation does not mean that years later the same can be said. The fact of the matter is the evolution of the new teacher into a mature tutor. This is then the professional person who has recognized the true meaning of teaching. This person recognizes their role in helping to shape young minds and impart moral values through education. Teaching has to be a vocation. In part an autobiographical story highlighting aspects of Asian teaching and also analysis, there are many aspects that any teacher has to realize to fulfill true potential.

Certainly, ongoing professional development highlights certain challenges in teaching that a teacher has to face up to. A focal point has to be the realization that students do not really know how to learn. How can any teacher, great as they may think they are, not realize that the students are naive about how to get the most benefit from a lesson? Any teacher has to look at the students’ own learning traits in light of today’s imperative that they both foster lifelong learners in their classrooms as well as become lifelong learners themselves. It’s the teacher’s inspiration that plays a huge part in a student’s education although every student and the class as a whole have to progress to help the teacher get the most out of them.

Different countries have varying approaches to learning and teaching. How does a foreign teacher survive in another country’s learning environment? Any foreign teacher working abroad has to adapt and work within the culture. It can be hard to change teaching methods to what has been ingrained from school through to university. Motivation to rise above some of another country’s inequalities as you see them is paramount. In some of these cultures, students tend to be passive and may be reluctant to participate in communicative exercises. A change in the style of teaching to suit these learners’ needs is essential because completely following an Asian model would be alien to any foreign teacher; a balance has to be met. A new foreign teacher would think it is strange to see no encouragement given to the students to think independently while just following the examples of the teacher, who is held in high esteem. Progression as a teacher means drawing attention to many facets of teaching. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. Breaking the barriers that slow students’ learning and build foundations that provoke students’ development has got to be a motivator.

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What makes a good (English) teacher working in Thailand? – Thai class survey

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Any new foreign language teacher in Thailand can feel that they have studied and acquired the knowledge to feel confident in a classroom full of excitable children. This knowledge lies at the feet of the teacher having the foresight to know how the students might react in any learning situation. One of the most important factors of teaching is the students who have to be in the right frame of mind while having the willingness to learn. This said, a confident teacher still has to change course when their best-laid plans do not seem to be working because of uninterested/reluctant students. For this report, I based my research on what a good teacher should have and do in class. I surveyed 50 Thai students who were between 15 and 17 years of age. This was done by way of a survey during the class where I had the chance to circulate and talk to the students.

My initial thought was to use a list of factors I thought the students would empathize with that showed the character of a teacher.

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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


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

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


If you had asked me                                      I would have told you

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


When do we use 3rd conditional?

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


*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.


‘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,


‘ 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)


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.


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


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.


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

Mention the features of Community Language Teaching

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The Community Language Teaching (CLT) model has many features. A lot of these features are completely opposite to a traditional school model of learning. It is true that teachers like to stand in front of the class and take control. This is what anyone would think of as a normal approach and what most students expect. This allows the teacher to be the instigator of most topics while the students sit passively at their desks. CLT goes against the traditional grain and tries to make the learning experience more group structured. In this essay, I will show that the learning experience is based more on a type of counseling learning where the use of counseling techniques are used to develop language for all concerned. Everybody has a part to play and a community is born where students can empathize with each other.

This CLT method was developed in the early seventies by Charles Curran. It involved recognizing the affective and the emotional factors as paramount in a classroom. It is always hard for a student to feel relaxed in a new class let alone having confidence in speaking let alone a second language. There is a consensus that views community language as learning that can help reduce anxiety. This is, of course, one of the main factors in learning (a language) where the students feel anxious about expressing their feeling in a class full of people that in the main they do not know. There is a move towards the interpersonal contact between student and teacher as well as student and student. The teacher should have the skills that involve counseling and bring the students together through their techniques. If the class can have a good relationship language and confidence should flow better. One way to get the students to be more familiar with each other is to get the learning group into a circle. There is less turning of heads and the shy people can not be stuck in the corner. In all of this, the teacher is more of a facilitator and tends to sit outside the circle. This format is fine if the group is of a smaller size that helps everyone to be seen and heard. A desirable amount of students would be about 10. This gives the students more time to speak, less time to get distracted, the teacher also has more time to cater to all the students.

The process of the CLT pertains to a pervading tone in the classroom where the students can take control and build their skills and language with the help of others. The students become active learners in their own right. It has been said that the teacher should not control the conversation in CLT, but let students talk about whatever they want to talk (Rardin et al., 1988). Firstly the group can sit in a circle and think about what they want to say. If ideas are flying around they can be written on the whiteboard and brainstormed to see which is liked the best. Students are allowed to use their mother tongue and the teacher translates this language and the building process starts. Students are made to feel more comfortable talking in the conversation circle. This allows them to express their feelings. The student can mention something in their own language. This is then put into small phrases by the teacher and then the students can work with the teacher before they open up to the rest of the class. There is not so much error correction.

Even though the layout of the class and the relaxed atmosphere may bring on some anxiety at first, the students through the CLT feel less stress as goes on and begin to work with their peers which is the goal. This highlights the awareness of community which is in a non-competitive atmosphere with a sense of involvement. The students also take responsibility for their learning and make themselves become active learners that are inquisitive of language and each other.

Once the class has finished a reflection session is essential in the CLT approach. Trust between the teacher and learners or among learners is established by sharing their feelings, anxieties, frustrations or demands. By sharing anxiety, learners may build a sense of unity to do one task together (Rardin et al., 1988). The teacher also uses less error correction during the class as not to stop the flow. If any correction is used it should not be intrusive as the method is to let the students express their meaning. The teacher’s job is to try and extract as much information as can be without pressuring the student. There is a focus on meaning over accuracy.  After class, the teacher’s job is to write up a report of the students’ language during the lesson as to be a reflection of all that went on and give the students some resources to look back on. This shows all the key structures and vocabulary they used.

To conclude, the CLT method certainly helps promote better communication in the class. The classes will succeed if the students get used to taking part in their learning. It also focuses on the teacher’s ability to promote this working relationship with all involved.

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