Language Teaching Strategies And Techniques Used To .

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Language Teaching Strategies andTechniques Used to Support StudentsLearning in a Language other than TheirMother ToungeNatascha Thomson, Kongsberg InternationalSchool2012Executive Summary

Table of ContentsIntroduction . 3The Research Investigation . 3Overview of Participants and Class Information . 4Data Collection Methods and Procedures . 4The Findings . 6Data Analysis . 11Recommendations. . .14References . . . 152

IntroductionIn today’s global society many learners are facing the challenge of accessing anInternational Baccalaureate (IB) programme in a language other than their mother tongue.To enable learners to fully participate in both the academic and social aspects of school life,educators need to recognize how this phenomenon impacts on teaching and learning andidentify ways to support language development.Learners who are learning in a language other than their mother tongue will often have awealth of knowledge in a language other than that of the classroom. However, thesestudents will often not have been introduced to the vocabulary and concepts of the newlanguage necessary for comprehending content. Cameron (2000:40) comments, “ if theyare not understanding, they cannot be learning.” As it can take up to seven years forlearners who are using a language other than their mother tongue to attain the same levelsof academic language proficiency as those expected for learners learning in a mother tonguethe implications of this in relation to learning are paramount.The Learning in a Language Other than Mother Tongue Document (InternationalBaccalaureate 2008:6) states, “A threshold level of proficiency in cognitive academiclanguage is essential for the learner participation and engagement that is necessary forsubsequent success in an IB programme.” Ways to develop this proficiency seemed to be aquestion of many during a Primary Years Programme (PYP) workshop that the researcherattended. The issue of how to teach the PYP to children who did not speak English or thelanguage of instruction was a common problem identified by many. Based on this issue aresearch investigation with the aim of raising teacher awareness of the strategies andtechniques that could be used to support the language development of young learners wasconducted.The Research InvestigationIn 2010, a research project funded by a grant from the Jeff Thompson Award, wasconducted to identify ways in which language support could be provided when teaching aUnit of Inquiry in the Primary Years Programme to children who did not speak English or thelanguage of instruction. The objectives of this research investigation were as follows:1. To observe, record and analyse the strategies and techniques PYP teachers use toimplement their unit of inquiry to children learning English as a foreign language oradditional language.2. To create a resource bank of language teaching strategies, ideas and techniques forteachers to use when implementing units of inquiry.3. To help raise teacher awareness of language learning through the programme ofinquiry.3

Overview of Participants and Class InformationTen teachers, nine working in the European region and one in the Pacific region volunteeredto participate as case studies for this research investigation. All participants worked inschools which were implementing the Primary Years Programme and the language ofinstruction at each school was English.TeacherGenderAgeRangeNumberof YearsTeachingLanguageTeacherTrainingEnglishas a FirstLanguageNumberofStudentsin htTeacherNineTeacherTenNumberof GirlsinClass7Number ofNationalitiesin classNumber ofLanguagesSpoken byStudents13Numberof 7512831-408NoYes151141010Male61 sYes191181211Data Collection Methods and ProceduresFor this research investigation the term strategies was defined as, “ the approaches thatcan be used across curricular areas to support the learning of students” (Herrell and Jordan2004:5) which “ may be used only on occasion” (Ritchhart, Church and Morrison 2011:48).While techniques was defined as “The body of specialized procedures and methods used inany specific field” ( However, due to the difficulty in establishing anddistinguishing between the two during one lesson observation the researcher decided tomake the two terms interchangeable.The tools used to collect information were lesson observations, teacher interviews, PYP Coordinator interviews and field notes.Observations of Unit of Inquiry lessons were selected as a tool for data collection in order togain insights and practical ideas of how teachers were providing language support anddeveloping student’s language skills in the classroom when teaching. An audio recording of4

the lesson was made during the observation and used to make a transcription. Thistranscription enabled the researcher to tally the strategies and techniques that eachparticipant used during the lesson observation.The following three questions were designed to provide a focus for lesson observations andhelp with the development of lesson observation tools.-What types of language are teachers using to help students negotiate meaning andunderstand their environment?-How are teachers modeling language and helping young learners to acquire thetarget language?-How are teachers making learning experiences meaningful and comprehensible forchildren in the classroom?Teacher interviews were used to encourage teachers to reflect on their beliefs and languageteaching practices. Participant’s perceptions of how language should be taught and howlanguages are learned were also of interest to the researcher. It was hoped that these mightprovide the researcher with a possible understanding of the reasons for different languageand activity choices made by a teacher (Wallace 1998).Field notes pertaining to the classroom and school environments were used to recordtechniques, strategies and ideas that schools were using to support English languagelearners in the PYP programme.The PYP Co-ordinator interview was designed to enable the researcher to build a profile ofthe school and to facilitate a discussion on the strategies and policies the school was usingto support English language learners. Stake (2006:23) comments, “An important reason fordoing the multicase study is to examine how the programme or phenomenon performs indifferent environments”.The researcher felt it was important to use a variety of means to collect information about theteacher and school to help create a more in-depth view of each school’s programme.Although all participants worked in schools which were implementing the Primary YearsProgramme and the language of instruction at each school was English, variables of thiswere examined to see if they impacted on the types of language used by a teacher or thestrategies and that they employed.The variables considered included the language learning and training experiences of eachparticipant, participant’s language teaching and learning beliefs, the types of interaction thatoccurred during the observation between the teacher and students and finally the languagelevels of learners in the classes participants taught.5

The FindingsThe following graph illustrates the overall way in which language was used during the lessonobservation by all participants.Fig 3.1: Overall Types of Language Used During LessonObservationsUnclassifiable0%Error correction0%Response to andrepetition of studentanswers20%Instructions18%Closed questions15%Think alouds2%Praise5%Eliciting3%Pause3%Prompt and probe4%Discipline andcontrol4%Asking guage11%During lesson observations all ten participants were seen to be using the following types oflanguage asking open and closed questions, responding to and repeating student answers,giving instructions, using activity related language and directing specific questions toindividuals.Asking Open and Closed QuestionsClosed questions accounted for 15% of language use during the observed lessons and openquestions 8%. These results appear to be in line with research which has shown that closedquestions tend to be used more frequently than open questions (Nunan 2000). Closedquestions appeared to be used during lessons to identify what students knew and wereusually asked in a quick and successive manner. It would also seem that these questionswere used when the teacher had a particular idea or answer that they wanted the students tocome up with.Open questions were often displayed in the classroom and related to the unit of inquiry. Indiscussion they were often used to discuss the unit of inquiry students were working on. Theuse of open and closed questions during a lesson may have provided participants with aninsight into what individuals in their class knew and could have helped to activate individual’sprior understanding and knowledge of a particular concept. Cameron (2001:4) comments“ the child is an active learner and thinker, constructing his or her own knowledge from6

working with objects or ideas.” This knowledge may be organized into a schema (Fisher2005) a conceptual framework that continually modifies and grows according to the ways inwhich a learner construes and personalizes information based on previous experiences(Bennett and Dune 1994). Determining what an individual knows may therefore have helpedparticipants to develop the schemas of their learners which can be partially formed,incomplete, unclear or inaccurate (Bennett and Dunne 1994).Participants also used questions to check if students knew what they were expected to doand asked students to re-tell instructions to a partner to help reinforce their instructions andwhat learners had been asked to do. Language learners “ actively try to make sense, i.e. tofind and construct a meaning and purpose for what adults say to them and ask them to do”(Cameron 2001:19). Checking the comprehension of instructions would appear to be animportant strategy to use in the classroom and may provide the teacher with an indication ofhow much learners have recalled from discussion, instruction or previous lessons.Asking a Specific StudentAsking individual students specific questions accounted for 7% of language use. Usingquestions to encourage a more in-depth response from a student may be “ a way ofextending dialogue with children” (Fisher 2005:26). Rather than accepting short answers, wesupport learning if more extended answers are sought. Therefore, directly asking anindividual a question may be a useful technique to employ when wishing to help develop anindividual student’s language skills. It might also be useful in teacher-fronted interactions tohelp distribute response opportunities widely to ensure that all learners are kept alert andgiven an opportunity to respond (Nunan 2000).Response To and Repetition of Student AnswersThe category of Response to and Repetition of Student Answers amounted to a total of 20%of participants language use during lesson observations. The types of responses to studentanswers that participants used varied from one word responses such as yes, yeah and okay,to instances where the participant would repeat a student’s answer to reinforce a keyconcept or point. On occasion a student would provide a teacher with a one or two wordanswer. A teacher would respond to this by providing a full sentence with the student’sanswer incorporated.Giving InstructionsGiving instructions accounted for 18% of language use during lesson observations.Instructions were observed to be given for a variety of purposes such as for a teacher tostate their intentions, to prepare students for an activity, to organize students into groups orpairs and as part of the management of the class.Activity Related Language11% of teachers language use was activity related language. This type of language use wasfelt to be of great importance by several participants as they believed it helped students tomake meaningful connections and enabled them to learn about the language through thelanguage. Nunan (2000:189) adds, “Teacher talk is of crucial importance for the processesof acquisition because it is probably the major source of comprehensible target language7

input a learner is likely to receive”. Using this type of language may provide students with atype of scaffolding, which is essentially a way to nudge a student toward higher levelperformance and may help them reach the goal of being an autonomous learner. As everyindividual interprets a learning experience in a way that is meaningful to them (Williams andBurden 1997), students may need support in finding ways of constructing links andcommunicating their understanding and experiences to others (Bennett and Dunne 1994).“Learning to do things and learning to think are both helped by interacting with an adult”(Cameron 2002:7). “With language development, this can be done by modeling correctgrammar or pronunciation, asking challenging questions, or providing direct instruction” (Hilland Flynn 2006:16).Language Teaching Strategies and TechniquesIn addition to identifying the types of language that participants used, the researcher wasalso interested in the specific language teaching strategies and techniques that were be

language of instruction was a common problem identified by many. Based on this issue a research investigation with the aim of raising teacher awareness of the strategies and techniques that could be used to support the language development of young learners was conducted. The Research Investigation . In 2010, a research project funded by a grant from the Jeff Thompson Award, was conducted to .

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