Friday, October 26, 2012

Giving feedback

Feedback is giving information to someone about their learning  and /or showing them that you have understood (or not) what they have said. In the classroom, teachers can give feedback to learners, and learners can give feedback to teacher.

Wherever possible, feedback should be balanced, focused and helpful. It needs to be balanced so that there is comment on positive aspects of a learner's work as well as areas he/she needs to improve; focused so that the learner knows exactly what the good points are and what the problems are; It is helpful, so the learner knows what the steps to make to improve.

Written or oral feedback can be given to learners after formal assessment in addition to a mark or grade. This feedback should include guidance on how learners can improve their work.

Learners diaries provide teachers with an opportunity for individual, private two-way feedback.

Correcting learners

We correct learners sometimes when they have made a mistake and we want to show them that something is wrong. There is a range of correcting strategies and techniques we can use to indicate that there is a mistake.

Oral correction
1. Time lines
2. Finger correction
3. Gestures and / or facial expressions
4. Phonemic Symbols
5. Echo correcting
6. Peer and self correction
7. Ignoring errors
8. Reformulating
9. Recasting

Writing correction
Symbols correction code

Grouping learners or interaction patterns

There are different ways in which we can organise our learners in the classroom. Learners can work on their own, as a whole, in pairs, in teams, or in groups.
The interaction patterns we choose depend on the learners and their learning styles, our teaching style and preferences, the teaching approach, the learning context, the type of activity, the aim or learning purpose of the activity and the stage of a lesson.

Interaction patterns

* Groups or pairs
   Students working with other students.
* Students to the teacher
* Whole class
   Teacher to students
* Individuals
   Students complete their tasks on their own.
* Pairwork
* Open pairs
   Student to student with the teacher facilitating
* Mingling activity
   Students move around the classroom asking questions of other     
* Groups or pairs 
   Students compare and discuss their answers.

Whole-class activities
Such as mingles, enable all the students to practise the language at the same. These activities are good for increasing confidence, specially amongt shy or weaker learners.

Individual activities
Give students a chance to work at their own pace and to focus and organise their thoughts.

Pair and group activities provide students with opportunities for developing longer turns and fluency through interaction.

Teacher roles

Teachers need to behave in different ways at different stages of a lesson to manage the classroom and to successfully guide learners through the lesson. The different ways of behaving in and managing the class are called teacher roles. Teachers adopt a number of different roles in every lesson. Teacher roles vary depending on the teaching approach used and on the teachers' and learners' preferred learning styles and learning needs.

Here are some roles teachers often adopt.
1. Planner
2. Manager
3. Monitor / Observer
4. Facilitator
5. Diagnostician
6. Language resource
7. Assessor
8. Rapport builder

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Error correction 2 from British council

Error Correction 2

As mentioned in Error Correction 1, students can differ greatly in their attitude to producing spoken English. Some are only interested in developing their fluency at the expense of accuracy while others are so focused on accuracy that they have no fluency. While these are clearly extremes, it is not unusual to find students like this in a typical class. In Error Correction 2 we look at...

A basic approach to improving fluency and accuracy
Dictogloss - A way of raising students' awareness of their inter-language
Criteria for dealing with spoken errors
Practical techniques for correcting spoken English
Further reading

A basic approach to improving fluency and accuracy
In contrast to writing, students have very little processing time when it comes to speaking, so it is hardly surprising that the following may occur.
Students don't experiment with new language presented by the teacher.
At lower levels students' output is mostly lexical.
The more accuracy-focused students test the patience of the listener in the time they take to say something.
The speech of some very fluent students is littered with errors and therefore may have a negative effect on the listener.
 Just as with writing we can help students to improve their accuracy and fluency. Teachers can help students improve their fluency by giving guided preparation time for a task. Students receive specific guidance in choosing appropriate language as well as rehearsal time. Task-based learning research shows that this leads to a greater range of language being used.
When it comes to accuracy, research into second language acquisition says that the first stage of improving accuracy is awareness-raising. Namely, raising students' awareness of gaps in their inter-language. You can do this by using a recording of teachers / higher level students performing the same task that your students have done. Use awareness-raising exercises to focus on specific linguistic areas in the recording. 

Dictogloss - A way of raising students' awareness of their inter-language
Dictogloss (see 'Grammar Dictation' by R.Wajnryb OUP) is a very effective technique for doing this. After an introduction to the subject and some pre-teaching of essential lexis, students are read a text twice. The first time they listen to get the gist of the text. The second time they have to note down the key words. Then, in groups they work together to produce a version of the text. The emphasis is on successfully communicating the main points using their English. If they can reproduce the original text, that is great, but it is not essential. The teacher and groups then correct their texts and compare them with the original. The aim is to make students aware of the gaps in their inter-language. 

Criteria for dealing with spoken errors
In 'Correction' by M.Bartram and R.Walton, these questions are presented as a guide to deciding whether to let an error go or not. Which do you consider to be the most important?

1. Does the mistake affect communication?
2. Are we concentrating on accuracy at the moment?
3. Is it really wrong? Or is it my imagination?
4. Why did the student make the mistake?
5. Is it the first time the student has spoken for a long time?
6. Could the student react badly to my correction?
7. Have they met this language point in the current lesson?
8. Is it something the students have already met?
9. Is this a mistake that several students are making?
10. Would the mistake irritate someone?
11. What time is it?
12. What day is it?
13. What's the weather like?

Practical techniques / ideas for correcting spoken English

On-the-spot correction techniques.
These are used for dealing with errors as they occur.
Using fingers 
For example, to highlight an incorrect form or to indicate a word order mistake.
For example, using hand gestures to indicate the use of the wrong tense.
This is useful with pronunciation errors. The teacher mouths the correct pronunciation without making a sound. For example, when an individual sound is mispronounced or when the word stress is wrong. Of course it can also be used to correct other spoken errors.
For example: 
Student: I went in Scotland
Teacher: Oh really, you went to Scotland, did you?
Delayed Correction techniques - For example, after a communication activity.
Noting down errors
Either on an individual basis i.e. focusing on each student's mistakes or for the class as a whole. 'Hot cards', as Bartram and Walton call individual notes, can be used to focus on recurring mistakes. The student then has a written suggestion of what to work on.
In addition to recording students (individually, in pairs etc.) during a speaking task to make them aware of errors that affect communication we can use a technique from Community Language Learning. Students sit in a circle with a tape recorder in the centre. In monolingual classes they check with the teacher, who is bilingual, about how to say something in English, then rehearse it and record it. At the end of the lesson they listen back to the tape and can focus on specific utterances etc. With higher level multilingual classes students take part in a discussion which they have prepared for in advance. When they have something to say they record themselves and then pause the tape. Just as with monolingual classes they can use the teacher as a linguistic resource. At the end of the discussion students analyse their performance with the teacher. The focus is on improving the quality of what they say and expanding their inter-language. Although this form of discussion may seem a bit artificial it has two main advantages: 
Students pay more attention to what they say as they are taking part in a kind of performance (it is being recorded)
Students not only become more aware of gaps in their spoken English but also can see how their spoken English is improving.

More of error correction from British Council

Error Correction 1

When it comes to error correction we are dealing with one individual's reaction to a student's piece of writing or utterance. This inevitably means that there will be some disagreement among teachers about what, when, and how to correct. Therefore the aim of this article is not to be prescriptive, but to highlight some key areas. It is in 2 parts. In the first part we look at ...

Attitudes to error correction
Categorising errors
A model for correcting writing
The role of planning
Practical techniques / ideas for correcting writing

Attitudes to error correction
Attitudes to error correction vary not only among teachers but also among students. A teacher may be influenced by:
The fact that English is their second language and great emphasis was placed on correctness at their teacher training college.
The fact that as a native speaker they have never had to worry about their English.
A particular methodology / approach. In the 1960s a teacher using Audiolingualism would have adopted a behaviourist approach to error. More recently a teacher following the Natural Approach (influenced by second language acquisition theory) would have adopted a wholly different approach. Other methodologies / approaches, such as Suggestopaedia and Total Physical Response, highlight the psychological effects of error correction on students.

As for students, we not only have to consider their age but also their approach to learning. Some students are risk-takers, while others will only say something if they are sure it is correct. While being a risk-taker is generally positive as it leads to greater fluency, some students only seem to be concerned with fluency at the expense of accuracy. The same can be true when it comes to writing. Some students take an eternity to produce a piece of writing as they are constantly rubbing out what they have written while at the opposite extreme the writing is done as fast as possible without any planning or editing.

Categorising errors
We can categorise an error by the reason for its production or by its linguistic type.

What's the reason for the error?
It is the result of a random guess (pre-systematic).
It was produced while testing out hypotheses (systematic).
It is a slip of the tongue, a lapse, a mistake (caused by carelessness, fatigue etc.) (post-systematic).
To be sure about the type of error produced by a student we need to know where the student's interlanguage is (the language used by a student in the process of learning a second language).

What type is it?
We can classify errors simply as productive (spoken or written) or receptive (faulty understanding). Alternatively we can use the following: 
A lexical error - vocabulary
A phonological error - pronunciation
A syntactic error- grammar
An interpretive error - misunderstanding of a speaker's intention or meaning
A pragmatic error - failure to apply the rules of conversation

A model for correcting writing
When writing we do not have the chance to rephrase or clarify what we are saying. Our message must be clear the first time. Written errors are also less tolerated than spoken errors outside the classroom.
Look at this model for correcting written work and evaluate it for your teaching situation.

1. Comprehensibility
Can you understand the output?
Are there areas of incoherence?
Do these affect the overall message?
Does communication break down?
2. Task
Has the student addressed the task?
3. Syntax and Lexis
Are they appropriate to the task?
Are they accurate?

The role of planning
Giving students time to plan not only results in a wider range of language being used, it also helps students to avoid some of the following:

Inappropriate layout
No paragraphs
Lack of cohesion
Inappropriate style

Whichever style of plan (linear notes or a mind map) these questions will help students to plan their writing:

What am I going to write? (An informal letter etc.)
What layout do I need?
What information am I going to include?
How many paragraphs do I need?
What grammar / vocabulary am I going to use?
What linking words (because, and etc.) am I going to use?

Practical techniques / ideas for correcting writing

Training students to edit
Even though they have invested time in doing a writing task, students often don't spend a few more minutes checking their writing. The following activities not only help to develop students' editing skills in a fun way, but also enable the teacher to focus on key errors without individual students losing face. 
Grammar auctions: (From Grammar Games by M.Rinvolucri CUP) Students receive a number of sentences taken from their written work. Some are correct, some wrong. Students in groups have to try to buy the correct ones in the auction. They have a limited amount of money. The team with the most correct sentences wins.
Mistakes mazes: (From Correction by Bartram and Walton Thomson Heinle). Students have a list of sentences. Their route through a maze depends on whether the sentences are right or wrong. They follow white arrows for correct sentences and black ones for incorrect ones. If they have identified all the sentences correctly they escape, if not they have to retrace their steps and find out where they went wrong.
Correction techniques
It can be difficult to decide on what and how much to correct in a student's piece of writing. Students can develop a negative attitude towards writing because their teacher corrects all their errors or if the teacher only corrects a few, they might feel that the teacher hasn't spent sufficient time looking at their work. Evaluate the following techniques and decide which would be appropriate for your teaching situation. Underline inappropriate language in a piece of writing using a specific colour.
Using a different colour from above, underline examples of appropriate language.
Correct errors by writing the correct forms in their place.
Use codes in the margin to identify the type of error(s), for example, VOC = a lexical error. Students have to identify the error(s) and if possible make a correction.
Alternatively put crosses in the margin for the number of errors in each line. Students then try to identify the errors and make corrections.
Put students into pairs / groups. They correct each other's work using one or more of the techniques above.
From time to time give students an individual breakdown of recurring problems in their written work.

Categorising learner's mistakes

Mistakes are either errors or slips. There are two main reasons why learners make errors:
* L1 interference and the stage of learner's development.
* Mistakes result in problems of accuracy, appropriate.
* Mistakes can of course be oral or written.

* Inaccuracy: grammatical
* Inaccuracy: pronunciation
* Inappropiate style / register
* Inaccuracy: lexical
* Inaccuracy: spelling
* Inaccuracy: punctuation

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Identifying the functions of learners' language

How do we identify the functions of learners' language?

The functions of learners' language are the purposes for which learners use language in the classroom. This purposes include taking part in tasks and activities, interacting with the teacher and with each other. Learners make use of a wide range of language functions as they take part in different aspects of a lesson.

Learners' possible language functions

* Greeting
* Apologising
* Explaining
* Checking answers
* Expressing doubt / surprise
* Asking for clarification
* Suggesting
* Negociating
* Confirming answers
* Disagreeing
* Providing information
* Retelling a story
* Summarising
* Explaning
* Giving a defiition
* Repiting
* Self correcting
* Checking instructions

Learners need a range of exponents so they can interact appropriately with each other and with the teacher. In most classrooms, learners will use exponents wich are natural in style.

Teachers' and learnenrs' language in classroom

Using language appropriately for a range of classroom functions.

Classroom functions are the purposes for wich we use language in the classroom. These functions are many and varied:

* Explaining
* Instructing
* Modelling
* Encouraging
* Nominating
* Prompting
* Swap
* Set a question
* Stimulate discussion
* Report back
* Exchange

Exponents used in the classroom must be appropriate for the classroom function, for the learning context and purpose, and for the level and age of the learners.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Supplementary materials and activities

Supplementary material could be:

Class library of readers
Skill practice books
Teacher's resource books / downloadable
Language practice books
Electronic materials

Check this site:

Consulting reference resources to help in lesson preparation

Reference resources are all the sources of information about language and about teaching that we can refer to for help in lesson preparation.

Reference materials:
Grammar books
Articles in teacher's magazines

Supplementary materials in a course book:
Phonemic charts
Lists of irregular verbs

As teachers, I mean, as professional ones, we should:
* Check the form and use of grammatical structures.
* Check the spelling, pronunciation and use of lexical items. 
* Develop our understanding of language.
* Anticipate learners' difficulties.
* Look for new approaches to teaching lessons and new classroom activities.
* Find out how to use the material in our coursebook.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Is a portafolios a good way to assess?

Portafolios are:
* Easy to integrate into teaching and leraning.

* Are inclusive, they include the whole range of learners work, not just a few tasks.

* Are informative. They provide a wide range of useful information for teachers, learners and parents, as they focus on productive receptive skills, and they show what learners can do with language in classroom and outside.

* Are developmental, they show how learning is progressing.

* Can be reflective when the owner of portafolios writes some comments.

Check this link:

Chossing assessment activities

Assessment mean collecting information about learners performace, progress or attitudes in order to make judments about their learning.

We need to think first about reasons for assessing.

The assessment could be informal (by monitoring or observing) or formal (by tests or examinations).

Examinations' purpose could be a proficiency test, to assess overall language ability, achievement test, to assess learning at the end of a course, or a progress test, to assess learning at the end of part of a course.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Assessment activities

a) Cloze test
b) Gap-fill
c) Jumble sentences
d) Sentence transformation
e) Multiple-choise questions
f) True / False questions
g) Information transfer
h) Matching
i) Sequencing (text or pictures)
j) Dictation
k) Summary writing
l) Guided writing
m) interview
n) Information-gap activity

Every assessment activity has advantages and disadvantages. A good formal test includes a variety of assessment activities.
We can use an informal assessment activity, continuous assessment or a portafolio, to assess learners over time.

Some forms of classroom assessment

Assessment Types