Skip to main content

Learning strategies (2)

This is the second blog in the mini-series about learning strategies. This was material that we could not fit into The Language Teacher Toolkit.


Using learning strategies 

Working with strategies is firstly about making explicit the processes students are already using to help them learn and, secondly, exposing them to a greater range of strategies in order to widen their repertoire and make their learning even more effective.

There is general agreement in the literature that instruction about strategies should be explicit and that we should not just assume students will pick them up. However, it is debatable whether strategies should be taught separately or integrated into normal language learning activities. Pachler et al (2014) take the latter view and we would agree. Whichever route you take, it is always worth reminding students to use strategies. It may serve little purpose to tell students once and assume they will always remember what to do.

So we are talking here about integrating strategies into the whole ‘assessment for learning’ framework (formative assessment): helping students as often as possible to find the best way of working for themselves to make the maximum progress. To make things clearer for you, we present in summary form below a list of strategies under the headings meta-cognitive strategies, using what you know, using the imagination, using organisational skills and using resources (from the site of NCLRC – National Capital Language Resource Center – nclrc.org).

Meta-cognitive strategies 

Organising and planning: Plan the task or content sequence; set goals; plan how to accomplish the task.
Manage your own learning: determine how you learn best; arrange conditions that help you learn; seek opportunities for practice; focus your attention on the task.
Monitor: while working on a task, check your progress on the task; check your comprehension as you use the language; are you understanding?; check your production as you use the language; are you making sense?
Evaluate: after completing a task, assess how well you have accomplished the learning task; assess how well you have applied the strategies; decide how effective the strategies were in helping you accomplish the task.

Using what you know 

Use background knowledge: think about and use what you already know to help you do the task; make associations.
Make inferences and predictions: use context and what you know to figure out meaning; read and listen between the lines; anticipate information to come; make logical guesses about what will happen.
Personalise: relate new concepts to your own life, that is, to your experiences, knowledge, beliefs and feelings.
Transfer/use cognates: apply your linguistic knowledge of other languages (including your native language) to L2; recognize cognates. Substitute/paraphrase: think of a similar word or descriptive phrase for words you do not know in L2.

Using the imagination 

Use imagery: use or create an image to understand and/or represent information. Use real objects: manipulate real objects as you use the target language.
Use role-play: act out and/or imagine yourself in different roles in L2.

Using organisational skills 

Find/apply patterns: apply a rule; make a rule; sound out and apply letter/sound rules.
Group/classify: relate or categorize words or ideas according to attributes.
Use graphic organizers/take notes: use or create visual representations (such as Venn diagrams, time lines, and charts) of important relationships between concepts; write down important words and ideas.
Summarise: create a mental, oral, or written summary of information.
Use selective attention: focus on specific information, structures, key words, phrases or ideas.

Using resources

Access information sources: use the dictionary, the internet, and other reference materials; seek out and use sources of information; follow a mode; ask questions. Cooperate: work with others, including the teacher, to complete tasks, build confidence, and give and receive feedback. Talk yourself through it: use your inner resources; reduce your anxiety by reminding yourself of your progress, the resources you have available and your goals.

Next time we shall look at how to teach strategies and, in particular, specific strategies for teaching listening and reading.

References

National Capital Language Resource Center  http://www.nclrc.org/

Pachler, N, Evans, M., Redondo, A. and Fisher, L. (2014). Learning to Teach Foreign Languages in the Secondary School. London: Routledge.

Smith, S.P and Conti, G. (2016) The Language Teacher Toolkit. Createspace Publishing Platform.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for frenchteacher.net three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from pixabay.com to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:





Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

For students to become good listeners takes lots of time and practice, so there are no quick fixes. However, I’m going to suggest, very concisely, what principles could be the basis of an overall plan of action. These could be the basis of a useful departmental discussion or day-to-day chats about meth…