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Showing posts from November, 2020

The role of phonics teaching

You are probably aware that phonics teaching is all the rage at the moment, at least in the UK. Systematic teaching of sound-spelling correspondences is being encouraged both for first language pupils in primary schools and for second language learners at Key Stage 3. This blog post is an extract from our book Breaking the Sound Barrier: Teaching Language Learners How to Listen (2019) in which we discuss the role of phonics teaching.... There has been much debate about the value of teaching synthetic phonics (i.e. a structured course of sound-spelling instruction) in L1 teaching during early schooling. Some argue that while phonics teaching may help with recognising and pronouncing isolated words, including invented words (also known in the literature as pseudo-words , nonsense words or non-words ), it does little for reading comprehension (e.g. Krashen, 2001, who cites a range of studies) and Huo and Wang (2017) who looked at 15 studies on what they called phonological-based inst

What is skill acquisition theory?

For this post, I am drawing on a section from the excellent book by Rod Ellis and Natsuko Shintani called Exploring Language Pedagogy through Second Language Acquisition Research (Routledge, 2014). Skill acquisition is one of several competing theories of how we learn new languages. It’s a theory based on the idea that skilled behaviour in any area can become routinised and even automatic under certain conditions through repeated pairing of stimuli and responses. When put like that, it looks a bit like the behaviourist view of stimulus-response learning which went out of fashion from the late 1950s. Skill acquisition draws on John Anderson’s ACT theory, which he called a cognitivist stimulus-response theory. ACT stands for Adaptive Control of Thought.  ACT theory distinguishes declarative knowledge (knowledge of facts and concepts, such as the fact that adjectives agree) from procedural knowledge (knowing how to do things in certain situations, such as understand and speak a language).

Semantic versus thematic clustering of vocabulary

This is a snippet from our forthcoming book about memory. This is from a chapter about remembering vocabulary.   Researchers have sought more efficient ways of learning vocabulary from lists. One popular comparison has been made between semantic and thematic vocabulary clustering types. Semantic clusters provide students with groups of words that are related by their meanings. For example, parts of the body, such as eye , head , ear and mouth . The argument for semantic clusters is appealing. Firstly, the similarity between the words should ease the learning task and secondly, the student should become aware of slight distinctions between the related words. In addition, most of us have been used to learning and teaching words in this way. Nation (2001) argues that: 1.       - It requires less effort to learn words in a set. 2.       - It is easier to retrieve related words from memory. 3.       - It helps learners see how knowledge can be organised. 4.       - It reflects