Friday, 27 November 2015

Does output practice make you a more proficient linguist?

In my previous blog I talked about the issue of the interface between conscious and unconscious learning. I stress that I am no academic scholar and look at this from the point of view of a teacher with an interest in and some knowledge of the field of second language acquisition research.

In the fascinating Nick Ellis chapter I referred to yesterday, he develops his views about explicit and implicit learning by referring to output practice. If you go along with the Krashen input hypothesis (we acquire language by no more than understanding messages), then listening and reading are far more important than speaking, the latter skill only being useful in as far as it provides the opportunity to get more input. Ellis challenges this as follows: firstly, output practice (structured speaking tasks such as pattern drills and rules) can be used to construct utterances in working memory. The principle of "practice makes perfect" applies. Next, he then refers to a model of learning (Anderson) which describes the move from declarative to procedural knowledge as "three broad stages: a cognitive stage, where a declarative description of the procedure is learnt; an associative stage, where the learner works on productions for performing the process; and an autonomous stage, where execution of the skill becomes rapid and automatic".

Ellis then mentions how McLaughlin (1987) described processes of L2 automatization, from slow, halting production through attentive control of construction in working memory to more fluent automatic processing with the relevant programs and routines being executed swiftly, without reflection.
He then goes on to quote studies by researchers such as Norris and Ortega, de Keyser and others, who found that explicit teaching seemed to produce more accurate language production, even in tests which did not test specific grammar items. His conclusion is:

The balance of experimental findings supports the effectiveness for SLA of encouraging learners to produce output.

Krashen would argue that if learners become more proficient doing structured drill practice, it is not because of the explicit attention to form, it is because in the process of doing drills learners are still getting comprehensible input, even though it is in an impoverished form.

My view on these matters, from a teacher's point of view, is that we can never be certain what works best, but that there seems to be evidence from experience and research that output practice is useful and makes you more proficient. It may seem odd to you that this is even in question! The trouble is, it is quite hard to demonstrate these things clearly from research. The fact is that we cannot be certain that "practice makes perfect" in language learning, but it seems a jolly good hunch.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The interface problem

No, it's not the name of a new movie. This is one of those things second language acquisition researchers worry about and which has a significant implications for the way we teach languages. What is it?

Back in 1981-ish Stephen Krashen reworked a very old idea about language learning, namely that there are two ways we learn, the first conscious, the second unconscious. This is sometimes called in psychology explicit and implicit learning. Krashen decided to rechristen them learning and acquisition. Since then, brain research has suggested that there is a lot in this and that the brain has two quite distinct ways of processing new information, the first when we pay conscious attention, the second when information is absorbed "beneath the radar", by osmosis (for want of a better word).

Krashen went further though. He hypothesised that consciously, explicitly learned knowledge could not become part of the unconscious, implicit system. In other words, he argued, there is absolutely no interface between learned knowledge and the acquired system. This is now known in the literature as the non interface position or strong non-interface position.

Most teachers might feel this goes against what we assume and that what we focus attention on and practise can gradually become internalised, implicit knowledge. We do pattern drills, questions, learn some rules, do practice communication and this gradually becomes automatic behaviour - that's what most of us would think. And yet we also know that, in immersion situations, when we pay little attention to rules, we do seem to pick up language effectively. Is our assumption about structured practice and rule learning wrong? Is Krashen right?

Well, we don't know for sure and Krashen was soon criticised by fellow researchers in the 1980s partly because, they said, it is hard to clearly distinguish between what is conscious and what is unconscious. More recent brain research has led some applied linguists to propose a weaker version of Krashen's interface hypothesis. It's called, er, the weak interface position.

According to an interesting chapter from a book I read yesterday by Nick Ellis, research (including brain scanning) suggests that, whilst first language learning only occurs via implicit, unconscious means, the same does not hold true for second language learning. One obvious reason is that we already have implicit and explicit knowledge of a first language system which colours how we learn the second language. If you want to read the detail about this, have a look at the Ellis chapter. His conclusions from the research are:

1 Implicit and explicit learning are distinct processes. 
2 Implicit and explicit memory are distinguished in their content, their form, and their brain localizations. 
3 There are different types of knowledge of and about language, stored in different areas of the brain, and engendered by different types of educational experience. 
4 A large part of acquisition involves the implicit learning of language from usage. 
5 L1 transfer, learnt attention, and automatization all contribute to the more limited achievements of exclusive implicit learning in SLA than in L1 acquisition. 
6 Pedagogical responses to these shortcomings involve explicit instruction, recruiting consciousness to overcome the implicit routines that are nonoptimal for L2. 
7 Evaluation research in language education demonstrates that such FoF (focus on form) instruction can be effective.

I highlighted that last one. Ellis then goes to explore what the nature of the interface between explicit and implict knowledge might be. In particular, he examines the nature of consciousness, as it is viewed in psychological research. It's not very easy stuff!

For the language teacher, I suppose the key thing to emerge from this is that the Krashen view of the strong interface with regard to learning and acquisition may, stress may, be too simple. There is a growing consensus in the research literature that teaching and practising some explicit grammar is worth doing in classroom contexts. This would accord with the view of many practising teachers, but it is also fair to say that many teachers probably still pay too much attention to grammatical analysis rather than providing high quality, interesting target language input.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Games for Teaching Primary French

This is a review of the book Games for Teaching Primary French by Danièle Bourdais and Sue Finnie, just published by Crown House at £18.99.

I should say at the outset that I have precisely zero experience of teaching primary French, but I did teach many Y7 classes over the years, so I might have some useful observations to make. I would expect games for primary children to involve a good deal of activity and these do.

This well-priced book of 250 pages is divided into sections with the titles Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Numbers, Grammar and Playing with Sounds. The authors describe the book as a practical toolkit ('in' word, that) containing a wide variety of fun and engaging games for all abilities, from beginners to more competent learners. The no-tech games are designed to support existing schemes of work and are claimed to be based on sound pedagogy and years of classroom experience. All good so far!

There then follows a large number of games, one per page or two pages, many with room for you to write in your own notes at the end. Each game is very clearly laid out in steps, with an indication of whether it is for the whole class, small groups, teams or pairs; the skill type being practised, the aim of the game and any resources you might need. The latter include, for example, soft toys, hand puppets, flashcards, drawing pins, adhesive tack, chairs, pens and dice.
After a step-by-step guide to each game, the authors add further tips in a comments section.

Let's have a look at three of the games.

From the speaking section they describe The Conductor/Le chef d'orchestre.
In this game you play the conductor and pupils are auditioning for an orchestra.

1. You say the word you want pupils to repeat in a specific style (e.g. like a robot or whispering). You ask them what the style is.
You say: (speaking like a robot) Bonjour! and the class respond "You're speaking like a robot"
You say: "Oui! Comme un robot!"
You do these for a number of styles.

2. You now play the audition game, pointing to individual pupils and modelling a style for them to copy, e.g:
T: (in a loud voice) Salut! Comment ça va?
P1: (in a loud voice) Salut! Comment ça va?
if the pupils does it well they come to the front and join the orchestra.

3. You ask the rest of the class to take part in the auditioning process by showing if they think the candidate did well (thumbs up). Pupils who don't repeat well get another chance later.

4. To round off the game you ask all the pupils to repeat the words after you, using different voices and styles.

That seems like a decent way of having fun with sounds and getting confident with repeating simple language. I suppose you would use that with beginners from Y4 or thereabouts.


From the grammar section Danièle and Sue describe a game called All Aboard!/Tous en bus!

The aim of this is to practise prepositions of place (devant, derrière, à côté de, à gauche de etc) and just requires chairs.

1. You set out chairs in rows to represent seats in a bus, with one seat for the driver at the front. You need the same number of chairs as players in the team or class.

2. The team or class is divided into two. They form a queue and listen to your instructions.

T: Emily, assied-toi devant, tu es le chauffeur. Kevin, mets-toi derrière Emily. They choose their seats accordingly. Team B have to watch and point out if anyone gets their seat wrong. If there is a correct challenge the pupil must get off the bus. When every pupil in Team A has had their turn you make a note of the number of correctly placed pupils.

You then repeat the process with team B and see which team wins.

I like this one. It reminds me of the principle of the TPR method (Total Physical Response), an approach strongly based on following instructions with physical actions. I could see this being used with a Y5 or Y6 class.


The third game I'll look at is from the reading section and is called What's the Word/A demi-mots.

This is for the whole class and the aim is to decipher words. You need A4 sheets of paper, scissors for the teacher and adhesive tack or drawing pins.

1. Before the lesson the teacher takes ten sheets of A4 and writes a word or short phrase in large letters on each one. You could do countries for example.

2. You cut each one horizontally and put to one side the bottom half of each word.

3. You pin up the top halves around the room.

4. When the pupils arrive they have to walk around the room and try to work out the words and write them down.

5. When they have finished you hand out the bottom halves to volunteers who pin them up in the right place with the top halves. The winner is the pupil with the most correct answers.

That seems like an OK activity for various levels, depending on which langauge you use. I can imagine doing that with Y7s too, perhaps as a starter or plenary.


In fact, Danièle and Sue make the point that all these games can fit in where you want them to: as fillers, starters, plenaries or to occupy the bulk of a lesson. In addition, many games do not neatly fit the categories of listening, reading, grammar and so on. The authors acknowledge this, but it is still useful to structure the book in that way. There are LOTS of games here, along with two useful appendices containing sounds and words for phonics practice an a set of rhymes and tongue-twisters.

I would thoroughly recommend this book. I can imagine primary French teachers using this as a bible with their own notes added. Some teachers will work out their own variations on the games. Spanish and German teachers will also be able to adapt these games for their own language. The lack of need for technology is a bonus - you can imagine many of these games being used in an emergency.

Well-thumbed copies of this toolkit may be discovered one day by aliens searching through dusty old cupboards.



Sunday, 22 November 2015

There is no best method

I've been reading the excellent concluding chapter of Diane Larsen-Freeman and Marti Anderson's book Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (2011). Having analysed a range of language teaching methods practised around the world, they consider the question which many teachers would ask: is there a best method? The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. But they examine the question in much more detail.

One of the arguments they make for learning about methods is that it helps keep your teaching practice alive. They quote from an article by N.S. Prabhu (1992):

...if the teacher engages in classroom activity with a sense of intellectual excitement, there is at least a fair probability that learners will begin to participate in the excitement and to perceive classroom lessons mainly as learning events - as experiences of growth for themselves.*

I like that. It chimes with something I have always thought, namely, that if you believe in your approach and can justify it in principle, it is more likely to succeed.

The authors go on to say that this is one reason why research into comparing methods is so fraught with difficulty. If you compare two methods over time with the same teacher, that teacher will not invest the same enthusiasm into each one, so any claim to scientific validity disappears. (Not to mention all the other variables involved in comparative studies: students, time of day, school culture and so on.)

Most teachers implicitly or explicitly accept there there is no one best method, so they choose a 'relativist' position. One version of this is called 'principled eclecticism'. Teachers pick and choose the best bits from the various methods (grammar-translation, direct method, communicative approach, natural approaches, audio-lingualism etc). By doing this they create their own principled, hybrid method which can be adapted to classes, depending on a range of factors, one key one being the nature of the assessment regime. But principled eclecticism has to be principled. It is not a random pick 'n mix. The teacher "should be able to give a reason for the particular reason for why they do what they do".

The authors go on to explain that choosing a method is a developmental process. If I may mention my own experience briefly, I was taught and trained in the adapted direct method approach (oral/situational question-answer). When I began teaching in 1980 my lessons were very teacher-led, I used little English and generally avoided doing much grammar explanation. I used audio-lingual style pattern practice and tried to get students to avoid error (marking is easier that way too!). I did a little pair work, but not much. As my career progressed I became more influenced by the communicative approach (which had a good deal in common with my version of direct method). I was also influenced by my study of Krashen's natural acquisition, comprehensible input hypothesis.

In my later career I stuck to similar principles, added much more pair work, but included a bit more explicit grammar teaching and translation. I worked on an assumption I formulated: with younger students you needed more skill-building and structured, grammatical work, taught orally and in writing. With high intermediate and advanced students it seemed to me that the 'natural', comprehensible input approach came into its own - bombard students with good input and let them communicate. In another school I may have adapted that approach, perhaps significantly.

I did always think about the why of each activity and would often share my reasoning with classes so the would buy into it a bit more. In my particular context (above average ability high school students), I am confident my approach was successful, but often questioned it with colleagues who had marginally different emphases and from whom I pinched other good ideas.

To conclude, one of the aims of the handbook Gianfranco and I are writing is to encourage teachers to think about their principles in this way, to analyse the effectiveness, at every stage, of each activity. We shall not naively recommend a best method (remember? there isn't one!), but we are happy to try and help establish, from research and own experience, what tends to work well and, by implication, what does not!

* N.S. Prabhu (1992). 'The dynamics of the language lesson.' TESOL Quarterly 24/2.



Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book review: Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (2011)

As part of our research for the handbook project I have been reading a range of books from the field of second language learning and teaching. The latest one I've been reading is by Diane Larsen-Freeman and Marti Anderson, two leading researchers and writers in the field. It's called Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. It is aimed at trainee teachers and teachers in general, rather than academics.

The approach of this book is to go through a good number of language teaching methods and to analyse, quite closely, the principles and practice associated with them. It's not particularly easy to divide methodologies up in this way; different writers classify them in various ways. For example, the whole area of "direct method" gets complicated and overlaps with aspects of audio-lingualism and the communicative approach.

Anyway, Diane and Marti, after a preface looking at why teachers might be interested in methods, examine in turn grammar-translation, the Direct Method, audio-lingualism, the Silent Way, Desuggestopedia, community language Llarning, Total Physical Response,  communicative language teaching, content-based instruction, task-based teaching, political aspects of methods, learning strategies and the use of technology. Each chapter has an accompanying list of references and additional resources to follow up.

The format of chapters is similar: firstly, an introduction, then a look at the actual classroom experience of the method, a review of the experience, an analysis of the principles behind the method, then a review of the principles and techniques, and finally a conclusion. The chapters end with activities (questions to consider) for the teacher. The coverage is clear, fair and quite comprehensive.

Readers will find, as is is often the case with books written by academics, that there is a dearth of very specific classroom ideas, activities and lesson plans, the emphasis being rather on principles and general descriptions of interaction types. That is not a complaint, by the way. Readers may also find it interesting to consider one or two of the more outlandish approaches such total physical response, the Silent Way and Desuggestopedia. How many teachers actually use these?

Desuggestopedia, for the record, was invented by Georgi Lozanov, who reckoned that language learning can be greatly accelerated by breaking down some of the psychological barriers which impede it.  Lessons might involve background music, playing musical instruments, singing, looking at artworks and role playing as a different persona. Classrooms are bright and colourful, with posters being a subtle stimulus to learning ("peripheral learning"), students adopt new identities for fun and to lower anxiety, songs are used to "free speech muscles", dramatisation features significantly and routine tasks are avoided. You might detect the faint whiff of snake oil here, but actually what I have read about Desuggestopedia suggests it is not crazy; it just places a greater emphasis on role playing, varied, fun activity and, essentially, making students feel relaxed and comfortable. In some contexts it may be fine, and there are bits and pieces you could incorporate into lessons, but you may not want to swallow the method whole.

This is another of those books I would put in a departmental library of methodology handbooks and makes very useful reading for teachers learning the craft. As the writers point out, two of several uses for studying methodology are to broaden your range of tools and question the way you were taught yourself. this book helps with that task.




Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Modern Language Teacher's Handbook by Gill Ramage



Gill Ramage's book The Modern Language Teacher's Handbook was published in 2012. It's a concise, admirably clear summary of most of the key issues of interest to language teachers learning their trade. It would be of most relevance to teachers in the UK.

The contents are familiar for this type of book: the aims of modern language learning, lesson planning, teaching listening, speaking, reading, writing, target language use, grammar teaching, assessment and authenticity. There is also a chapter on using technology, links with native speakers, trips and exchanges and work experience.

Gill takes a very pragmatic approach to language teaching, recognising, for example, the practical limits of working in the target language and the realities of working with lower-attaining students. She hardly refers at all to theory and research, which may appeal to teachers who are wary of (or uninterested in) such things.

The main thrust of the book is practical advice and classroom ideas, the majority of which are familiar to experienced teachers. Her classroom experience comes through strongly and it is hard to disagree with almost everything she writes. I would probably quibble with her views on classroom seating; Gill seems to favour group seating and horseshoes over rows. Her preferred approach probably leans more towards group work than I would favour, but that is a matter of personal taste as well as methodology.

Young teachers will find very useful the practical advice on report writing, planning, working with language assistants, feedback and assessment. There are practical tips on differentiation too, for example how to differentiate during pair work by giving partners cards with different information on.

The book is definitely of its time, with one chapter entitled Planning outstanding modern languages lessons, as if the word outstanding were being used in its usual sense, rather than Ofsted's! However, it should age pretty well, as much of the advice is fairly timeless. Effective classroom oral techniques, which Gill deals with, will probably change little.

All in all, Gill's book is practical, not particularly detailed, but very lucid and readable, with a personal tone. Published by Continuum, it seems overpriced at £21.99, but used copies are available from Amazon.co.uk which is where I purchased my copy.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Target Language Toolkit

Allison Chase published, earlier this year, a handy little book which would make a useful addition to a departmental library. It is called Target Language Toolkit (90 ideas to get your language learners using more target language).

The chapter titles are;

What does Ofsted say about the target language?
Identifying key language.
Implementing target language routines.
Monitoring and assessing learners' progress in using the target language.
Games and activities to encourage TL use.
Using ICT.
Target language beyond the classroom.
Cracking the toughest nuts.
Homework and independent learning.
Implementing a whole department TL initiative.

This is very much a practical book, with instantly usable ideas for the classroom. It reports Ofsted observations and guidelines (thereby ticking one teacher box), but does not engage in any discussion of the theoretical basis form using TL, which should be pretty self-evident anyway.

Allison provides useful lists of TL phrases for French, German and Spanish under the headings cognates, language for confusion, giving opinions, making excuses, asking permission, agreeing and disagreeing, teacher instructions and rewards. These form a useful list for new teachers building their repertoire of routines.

There is a handy chapter on implementing TL routines which includes one or two which appealed to me in particular. "Expression of the day" is where students tries to use a particular TL expression as many times a day. The expression could be displayed and every time a student uses it, a responsible student rings a bell! Sounds like useful recycling to me! "Talk time" is where you allocate 5-10 minutes to the end (or maybe the start) of a lesson. You have a secret box or bag in which you keep items to stimulate a discussion (probably with intermediate students). Allison says she once used three bars of chocolate, one white, one dark, one milk, and used these as a basis for a chat about what they preferred and how much they ate. Then students were invited to come to the front, were blindfolded and had to taste one of the chocolate types and say what they thought it was.

The chapter on monitoring and assessing includes tables to show how you might go about this. (I would never have got into that level of tracking!)

The heart of the book for me is the chapter on games and activities, most of which are new to me. I would choose to use all of them since some may fall into that category of being fun, but a bit time-consuming for the language generated. But this is a matter of personal taste.  One activity which looked a lot of fun is "Bush tucker trail". You supply a range of strange food items (weird-flavoured crisps, chili flavoured chocolate, German 'black' bread, strong coffee, strong cheese and so on. (Colleagues could contribute and it need not be expensive.) Students can prepare TL for talking about food: I think it will taste..., It's going to be, I want to try..., i don't want to try.... Then: I thought it was... and X was nicer than Y. then maybe questions such as Did you like...? Which was your favourite food? Why?

The chapter entitles Cracking the Toughest Nuts is a realistic acknowledgement of the practical difficulties facing the implementation of TL, e.g. during exam season. Allison provides a number of ideas for tackling this including a rewards booklet, speaking frames and 'emergency flashcards'.

Overall, teachers may appreciate the very practical nature of this book which comes from a fellow teacher who has, as far as I can tell, considerable experience of working with students of all abilities. I would have liked just a little more on how you incorporate TL within familiar drilling style tasks, but that was not the main aim of the book.

It is a self-published book (using CreateSpace) costs £10 and is available from amazon.co.uk

Friday, 6 November 2015

The new A-level Individual Research project

As you maybe already know, one new aspect of the MFL A-levels, first teaching starting in September 2016, is the idea of the Individual Research Project. This will be done by students only at A-level, not AS-level, and will be assessed as part of the A-level speaking test. The chosen subject has to be firmly rooted in the culture of the target language country. It actually constitutes the majority of marks in the oral assessment and will be assessed by means of a presentation and discussion lasting about 10 minutes. (The rest of the oral will be topic discussion from a stimulus card.) Final details are still being hammered out between the exam boards and Ofqual.

In principle, it seems to be one of the better ideas to have emerged from the DfE/ALCAB. It resembles coursework which we used to do some years ago, where students had a free choice of subject, assessed, at that time, by an essay. Students get to develop their research skills and I recall students producing some really interesting and quite challenging work. In addition, the number of marks awarded in the oral test should encourage students to take the task very seriously and it should be a rewarding learning experience for both students and teachers.

There are, however, a few issues which the IRP raises.

The first is the reliability of the assessment. Oddly, as one teacher mentioned to me at a meeting, given that the new A-level is meant to be more rigorous and consistent across schools (notably owing to prescribed lists of films and books and the directive that topics all be based on the TL culture), the IRP does open up the distinct possibility, as with all coursework, that students may obtain unfair help from third parties, both with the research and the production of a presentation/discussion. This is bound to have some effect, even it be marginal, on the reliability of that part of the assessment.

Secondly, because most research will inevitably be done online, students will use a mixture of sources, both in English and the target language. Teachers will no doubt urge students to use TL sources, since these will further students' general language acquisition and provide a good source of recyclable language. But weaker students in particular will resort to some English language sources and do a degree of translation. This latter approach is not totally without merit, but it is clearly not advisable and goes against the spirit of the project.

Now, as part of the oral assessment, I believe students will have to make their sources clear (indeed, this may be something which is assessed in the mark scheme). This should encourage the use of appropriate TL sources. Even so, it is hard to imagine that students will not end up using some English websites and perhaps too many.

Thirdly, we have the well-worn issue of consistency across visiting examiners and between teacher-examiners. If teachers opt to do the tests themselves as many in small centres will have to, there will inevitably be varied practice. The exam boards will give detailed guidance on what is allowed, but it is a fact of life that some teachers will "over-prepare" their candidates which may work to their benefit or detriment (candidates who are allowed to parrot pre-learned information will lose marks).

Fourthly, giving a free choice of topic, within certain parameters, does invite a degree of inconsistency between centres and individual candidates. There is no way around that.
That's the problem with this type of assessment, which is, in other ways, very desirable. There will not be perfect consistency across students and schools. I do not see any way around this - it is part of the territory - but the issues are worth bearing in mind.

You can expect to see lots more information soon about the IRP on exam board websites.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Motivation

This was a draft extract from the MFL Handbook Gianfranco Conti and I wrote. Motivation is a huge topic, but see what you make of this:

See also: https://gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/self-efficacy-the-most-neglected-motivational-factor-in-the-foreign-language-classroom/

Zoltán Dörnyei and Kata Csizér (1998)* produced, from their studies, these ‘ten commandments for motivating language learners’. They are of a general nature, but make good sense.

1.            Set a personal example with your own behaviour.
2.            Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.
3.            Present the tasks properly.
4.            Develop a good relationship with the learners.
5.            Increase the learners’ linguistic self-confidence.
6.            Make the language classes interesting.
7.            Promote learner autonomy.
8.            Personalise the learning process.
9.            Increase the learners’ ‘goal-orientedness’.
10.          Familiarize learners with the target language culture.

Let’s dig down a bit and examine these ten prescriptions.

1. This might suggest, for example, that you will be organised, punctual, fair, consistent, caring, demanding and understanding of students’ needs.

2. Although this may not be achieved instantly, it would be an excellent goal. We know that students are more likely to learn when they are not anxious, when they can take risks without fear and when the classroom atmosphere is supportive. Some of the very best lessons we have observed over the years have not only been methodologically competent, but have taken place in a warm, extremely supportive environment.

3. ‘Presenting tasks properly’ is open to a wide variety of interpretations! At the very least, however, we might suggest a logical order of presentation and practice, clarity, recycling, and a range of presentational approaches. This constitutes much of the content of this book.

4. Many teachers would say this is the number one factor. How you do this cannot be easily prescribed, but is clearly tied up with all the other factors in the list. It is also a question of your own personality, self-belief, and confidence in your pedagogical approach, as well as cognitive and affective awareness of students’ needs at every moment. (We look at this in our chapter on behaviour management.) It can take time to evolve. It can also depend on your reputation preceding you, so that when students arrive in your classroom they are predisposed to behaving with you in a certain way. New and trainee teachers are at a disadvantage in this regard, since a reputation has to be established.

5.  Sound pedagogical practice including clear presentation, the opportunity to do scaffolded, structured and repeated practice, a clear, graded progression in the scheme of work or curriculum plan, and effective formative assessment techniques and feedback should all contribute to increasing the students’ linguistic self-confidence.

6. Stimulating language input and classroom activities are a must. By one hypothesis, all you need to do for students to progress is to provide ‘compelling’, meaningful input and acquisition will naturally occur. We would not say it is as simple as that, but quite clearly, the more interesting you can make your listening and reading resources and tasks, the better. This will mean not doing every task in the text book, performing a mental triage of possible activities to eliminate the ones which are likely to make classes switch off. 

This is not to say that every lesson need be ‘fun’. Far from it, but enjoyment and motivation can come from activities which are inherently interesting rather than fun. But, let’s say you wanted to practise verb conjugations: this might be better achieved by chanting memorable songs with beginners, doing quick mini whiteboard tasks, or playing a game of ‘battleships’ using a grid based on two axes of subject pronouns and infinitives, rather than just doing a traditional grammar worksheet.

7. It is all too easy to ‘spoon feed’ classes with the material they need for the next assessment, leaving them totally dependent on your input. We know that our most successful students are able to work on their own if they are given the opportunity. This requires controlled practice and careful scaffolding in the early stages, but will lead to greater skill and the capacity to work independently as time progresses. Setting pair work tasks, appropriately interesting homework, open-ended tasks which allow the fastest students to do more - all of these contribute to developing the autonomous learner.

8. ‘Personalising the learning process’ could mean a number of things. For us, it would involve effective, subtle differentiation during oral interactions in the classroom, individual feedback both orally and on paper, individual goal setting (either informally or through a school’s established tracking systems) as well as allowing an element of choice of task. Grouping by ability is also relevant in this context, as well as intervening where necessary where students are not meeting their expected goals.

9. Because language learning is a slow, accumulative process, it is useful to provide short term goals and reasons for doing tasks. Task-based activities can play a role, along with transactional tasks, activities involving native speakers and L2 country classes and, let's be frank, the assessment regime. Most students are motivated to work harder by the prospect  of an upcoming test. There is some evidence to suggest, as we discuss in our chapter on differentiation, that boys in particular respond well to goal-oriented tasks.

10. It is likely that students will be more motivated to acquire the second language if they understand its culture better and, ideally, have opportunities to interact with it. In addition, many younger students are inherently excited by learning about different cultures. We consider this in more detail in our chapter about culture.

Dörnyei, Z. and Csizér, K. (1998) Language Teaching Research 2,3,  p. 203–229