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    • #9330
      Beth Melia-Leigh
      Moderator
          @beth

          Consider your ideas to the questions below, as well as to the reflection tasks in Topics 1, 2 and 6.

          1. How evenly balanced are your lessons in terms of acquisition opportunities and noticing opportunities?
          2. Do you feel like you need to alter the balance? Why / why not?
          3. As well as noticing and input, do you think anything else is needed to ensure our learners are successful?
          4. Think about your own teaching. What aspects (tasks, activities) in your lessons provide your learners with:
            • acquisition opportunities?
            • conscious learning (i.e. noticing)?

          Make sure you comment on at least two other people’s posts.

        • #53476
          Peter Wilson
          Participant
              @peterw

              Hello,

              I like using noticing activates in class and often get learners to text mark a reading text for something useful e.g. verbs, tenses or punctuation or rhyming words. Sometimes I get them to use different colours to categorise things so they can reflect and demonstrate understanding e.g. nouns and verbs. I also frequently present language back to learners for them to notice mistakes and error correct. Sometimes I do this by giving them minimal pairs – 2 sentences 1 correct and 1 with a common error then pairs have to decide which is right and why. These activities usually work well for most learners.

              In honesty, I haven’t considered the idea of including acquisition opportunities in class very much before doing this unit, although I always encourage reading outside of class and have had class libraries for learners to borrow from to increase their leisure reading. Where I work at the moment, we also run conversation clubs staffed by native-speaker level volunteers so I guess they are focussed on acquisition. In terms of my lessons, with higher level classes I have used authentic texts or videos to expose them to real language and I have on occasion taken learners out on trips where they have to communicate with members of the public. I think I need to consider this issue more and see how I can bring more acquisition opportunities into lessons.

              As well as noticing and input I think interaction / communication is really important and also a willingness to participate. Sometimes lack of confidence or fear of making mistakes can be a barrier to communication. I’d also say that it’s important the second-language learners are encouraged to have learning strategies or study skills so they have agency in their own learning e.g. keeping a vocab notebook, doing homework, watching TV, listening to music etc in L2.

              In this unit I really enjoyed watching Scott Thornbury’s video on the History of SLA and hearing about all the case studies, which I found fascinating. I think it’s really important that language teachers reflect on these kind of experiences of language learning as well as their own experiences of learning L2s to see which approaches can be brought into the language classroom more. Finally, reflecting affective factors when noticing and retaining new language, I think it’s important that learners feel happy and engaged in class or they’ll be off to a bad start from the onset.

               

              :good:

               

               

              • #54931
                Nicholas Northall
                Moderator
                    @nick-northall

                    Hi Peter,

                    Thanks for sharing your ideas here. I agree that language acquisition is probably an area that a lot of teachers don’t think consciously about, but is definitely something they actually do something about in their lessons.

                    I like your idea about getting your learners to annotate a text using different colours; I also like your idea about giving learners conscious feedback on their output including your idea about using minimal pairs. Brilliant!

                    You mention reading, which is a great way to acquire language. There has been a lot of literature on Extensive Reading (ER) as a way of developing learners’ reading (and other skills and language) in an easy, stress-free manner – almost like a golden bullet. I would also say that Extensive Listen (EL) is an excellent way to help learners acquire language in a fun way. However, I do believe that a programme of ER or EL should be supplemented with some more formal language work (i.e. noticing) to help push the learners’ language further.

                    When you take your learners on field trips, where do you go? Here at the ELTC, students on our University English and Pre-sessional programmes take part in educational visits which we find is a great way for the students to improve their language skills and experience the UK.

                    I’m glad you liked the ST video. That guy is prolific and usually has something interesting (and very accessible) to say. There are more of his videos on Youtube on a range of topics  although I can’t vouch for the quality of any of them.

                    Finally, I like your ideas about learners needing to take responsibility for their learning. I guess by creating a safe, err0r-friendly, supportive environment in our classrooms (i.e. to build confidence), we can hopefully encourage our learners to become more autonomous.

                    Cheers,

                    Nick

                • #53477
                  Robert Dailey
                  Participant
                      @robertd

                      1.     How evenly balanced are your lessons in terms of acquisition opportunities and noticing opportunities?

                      Like Peter, I also use a lot of noticing activities in my classes and I also, like Peter, present language back to my learners in error correction. A lot of what I do in class is about noticing and as Thornbury says in his A-Z, “teachers obviously play an important role in helping learner to notice features of a language.” Like Peter, I hadn´t thought much about language acquisition opportunities before starting this unit and I think the main activity that I promote is extensive reading. If the following can also be called language acquisition opportunities (can they ? Any thoughts anyone?) – I also do TBL activities like role plays and take dogme opportunities when they arise. I think my classes are weighted about 70/30 in favour of noticing.

                      2.     Do you feel like you need to alter the balance? Why / why not?

                      I understand that acquisition refers, at least in part, to informal exposure to language rather than formal teaching and so this could be a tricky issue in terms of what learners expect from a language class.

                      On a slightly different note, I don´t know much about the success or failure of content-based language teaching, when students have their history class in English, for example, but I have heard one parent complain that her taught daughter was learning about the names of bones and body parts in English when she didn´t know them in Spanish.

                      My short answer to this question is that I need to think about it some more, and find out more about language acquisition!

                      3.     As well as noticing and input, do you think anything else is needed to ensure our learners are successful?

                      One thing I found really interesting from the Lightbrown & Spada readings was how learners sometimes avoid features of language that they perceive to be difficult for them and how, as is stated in the second chapter, avoidance may itself be part of the learner´s systematic L2 performance. I imagine that the avoidance comes from a fear of failure in some form and so as teachers it is up to us to encourage students and make sure that the students know that it is ok -in some cases very good – to make mistakes. In this way, by providing a type of emotional scaffolding the teacher can surely help the student when s/he needs the help of others or, to use Vygotsky´s term – which I have come to like very much – when the learner is in the Zone of Proximal Development.

                      4.     Think about your own teaching. What aspects (tasks, activities) in your lessons provide your learners with:

                      a.     acquisition opportunities? Extensive reading, impromptu discussions/ “dogme” type situations, role plays (?)

                      b.     conscious learning (i.e. noticing)? Error correction, dictation, teaching of schwa, elements of connected speech, minimal pair grammar exercises, revision exercises (e.g. vocabulary bag), working with “chunks” etc.

                      • #54932
                        Nicholas Northall
                        Moderator
                            @nick-northall

                            Hi Robert,

                            Thanks for sharing your ideas here. It’s great to read that you are including ER in your teaching. As I mentioned in my response to Peter, have you also considered including Extension Listening? I think as many learners (people in general) do not read very much and certainly don’t read novels, swamping them with listening including videos can be a very effective way for learners to acquire aspects of language. I remember reading (I cannot remember the source – Jennifer Jenkins??) who made some very convincing arguments for listening taking precedence over reading in terms of language acquisition. Certainly many of learners would be highly engaged if there homework were to watch as much television in English as possible… obviously I think EL can be more structured than this though. Here‘s a paper at gave in Glasgow a few years ago.

                            I’ve not really done that much Dogme – at least not consciously – but I think along with TBL, it can be a great way for learners to acquire language as they focus on the message and perhaps less so on the language they are using.

                            You make a great point about learner expectations – i.e. most learners, I assume, will expect lessons to focus on noticing and working with grammar rather than just watching films. I found your comment about knowing the names of bones amusing. I can imagine many students studying in English (i.e. EMI) are likely to have specialist knowledge in English (i.e. of bones!) that they might not know the terms for in their L1.

                            Finally, you make a solid point about scaffolding emotions. Certainly, as I commented in Peter’s post above, we need to create safe spaces in our classrooms to give learners the opportunity to experiment with ‘difficult’ features of language. I wonder what a typical learner would consider to be difficult vs what actually is difficult to use (acquire) in English. I would personally say that using articles correctly is one of the most difficult aspects of learning English, yet I’m not sure many learners would regard them as being that important/difficult.

                            Cheers,

                            Nick

                             

                        • #53653
                          Erica
                          Participant
                              @erica

                              How evenly balanced are your lessons in terms of acquisition opportunities and noticing opportunities?
                              Like Peter and Robert, I hadn’t thought about acquisition opportunities before doing this unit, so I probably tend to favour noticing opportunities. However, like Robert, I may not be sure about what (classroom) activities can be considered acquisition opportunities. I agree that extensive reading, speaking clubs, school trips are good examples of acquisition opportunities outside the classroom. Like Peter, I have also used authentic material, either texts or videos/audios, to expose the learners to “how we speak” and I also think that TBL and or doing research can also be considered valid acquisition opportunities. For example, to help my L1 students to prepare a presentation for their speaking exam, I asked them to research specific topics (how to pack a suitcase, etc.), takes notes and then discuss the findings in small groups in class. Since they all had the same topic it was interesting to see what vocabulary and information they would select. In a way, they learned from each other through the discussion and then selected the most relevant information to use in a 1-minute presentation.
                              I also believe that the teacher themselves may represent a genuine acquisition opportunity. I remember when I was teaching in Poland, some adult students were adamant about having a native-speaker teacher as they believe it would give them better/ more genuine input. Robert also said that “teachers obviously play an important role in helping learner to notice features of a language.” but it is also true that they constantly provide input, regardless of the TL. In fact, in Lightbown & Spada reading is mentioned that in monolingual class when instructions and/or reprimands aren’t done in English, the teacher deprives the students of acquisition opportunities.

                              Do you feel like you need to alter the balance? Why / why not?
                              Perhaps, I need to learn more on acquisition opportunities in the classroom before answering the question. I may unconsciously create more acquisition opportunities than I imagine.

                              As well as noticing and input, do you think anything else is needed to ensure our learners are successful?
                              I pretty much share Peter’s opinion. WTC, study skills, a safe learning environment in the classroom (to reduce the “fear of speaking / making mistakes”), regular revision sessions, agency, communicative activities (freer practice or task based, role play, etc. to achieve fluency and boost confidence) and keeping the learner motivated.

                              Think about your own teaching. What aspects (tasks, activities) in your lessons provide your learners with:
                              acquisition opportunities? Extensive reading, opportunistic teaching, task based/research activities, freer speaking activities….
                              conscious learning (i.e. noticing)? Error correction, flipped learning, analysed a text using a colour code, categorise lexis, correct own piece of writing using a marking code, minimal pairs approach to teach grammar and pronunciation, product approach to writing, …

                              • #54934
                                Nicholas Northall
                                Moderator
                                    @nick-northall

                                    Hi Erica,

                                    Thanks for sharing your ideas here. I’m sure you give your learners more acquisition opportunities than you admit! Consider freer speaking tasks when your learners are so engaged in what they are doing that they perhaps don’t focus too much on monitoring their own language!

                                    I wonder if using authentic materials are always a good idea for getting learners to acquire language: I mean if texts we use are too difficult for learners then they are likely to focus on trying to decipher each word rather than actually focusing on the message or understanding the text.

                                    I  like your idea of getting learners to research something especially as they are using the same, similar or different language. I think this is a great way to focus on acquiring language, especially as they listen to others talking about a topic they know quite well. Giving learners a lot of input on the same topic gives them the opportunity to both notice and acquire language, I would say, as language is recycled and repeated.

                                    Yes, the point about NS vs NNS is a contentious one which still causes a lot of problems in the ELT world. I often see adverts that want a ‘native speaker’ with no experience as opposed to a NNS with a Delta – seems utterly ridiculous to me… but I feel that the issue is one of economics: the learners, wrongly, believe that only a NS will give them a ‘genuine’ version of the language – although which version?! You also make a good point about classroom language (e.g. instructions) being delivered in English. I have attended a number of different language classes as a learner and have felt that having instructions in English and not in the TL has deprived me from full exposure to the TL.

                                    Cheers,

                                    Nick

                                • #54935
                                  Nicholas Northall
                                  Moderator
                                      @nick-northall

                                      Hi everyone,

                                      Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this forum. There have been some very interesting answers. It is clear that you have engaged with this topic. It seems that second language acquisition is very relevant to our classroom practices.

                                      Here is a summary of your ideas:

                                      • It seems that for most of you noticing opportunities are more prevalent than acquisition ones. This might be due to the requirements of the institution in which you work. Or due to the coursebook you are using having few opportunities. Or perhaps even due to what the learners expect!
                                      • Although you have all mentioned the need to include more work on implicit learning: that is, create more of a balance between the two.
                                      • Ways to alter this balance involve including as much exposure to the target language via such tasks as (extensive) reading, so learners are focusing on the topic rather than on the language.
                                      • It seems that a solid way to learn a language is a mixture of both acquisition opportunities and conscious learning.
                                      • You have also suggested different ways of consciously noticing language such as focused error correction, highlighting language in a text and using dictations.

                                      Please do continue to post in this forum including commenting on each other’s posts.

                                      Cheers,
                                      Nick

                                    • #56783
                                      Andrew Burke
                                      Participant
                                          @andrew

                                          How evenly balanced are your lessons in terms of acquisition opportunities and noticing opportunities?
                                          Do you feel like you need to alter the balance? Why / why not?
                                          As well as noticing and input, do you think anything else is needed to ensure our learners are successful?
                                          Think about your own teaching. What aspects (tasks, activities) in your lessons provide your learners with: acquisition opportunities?
                                          conscious learning (i.e. noticing)?

                                          I think I focus too much on learning (explicit learning) and trust acquisition less. I think this comes from my own experience of ‘learning’ English as a child, where learning was implicit. My English was terrible at university, as I hadn’t been explicitly taught grammar. My English improved substantially when I started teaching it, as I had to learn structures and suddenly everything fell into place; like a complex mathematical puzzle where you suddenly understand the formula to solve it.

                                          I am a big fan of repetition and noticing. I think practice through repetition is important, but also coming at language from different angles; hopefully one of these angles will suit each of the students. I like to repeat the study of structures several times and then get students to notice structures or learnt vocabulary in readings, listenings and incidental language that arises in class.

                                          I encourage extensive reading and incidental learning but, as discussed earlier, don’t do enough task based learning.

                                          • #56797
                                            Nicholas Northall
                                            Moderator
                                                @nick-northall

                                                Hi Andrew,

                                                Thanks for being brave and sharing your own less-than-great use of English at university and how you overcame this when you started teaching. I can relate to this to a very large extent! I often wonder whether more explicit focus on forms (i.e. structures – click here for more info) should be taught to all UK children – indeed EAP doesn’t really exist for ‘native’ English speakers and I think would benefit a lot of home students. I do know that today in UK schools, there is a more explicit focus on language structures.

                                                Cheers,

                                                Nick

                                              • #58255
                                                Gajinder Kaur
                                                Participant
                                                    @gk

                                                    Hello Andrew!

                                                    I tend to identify your focus on explicit learning over acquisition…

                                                    Frankly speaking, had I not read the literature on SLA, the distinctions in teaching approach would be so blurred as to be negligible!

                                                    I realize more than ever now that what we learnt in CELTA was not even the tip of the iceberg, so I am in a way quite happy that my ignorance has come to the forefront.

                                                    I also identify with the noticing and repetition… Language needs to be recycled and reused in order to be learnt or acquired.

                                                    I am personally inspired to use Mr. Northall’s suggestion of Extensive listening in class as soon as the opportunity arises.

                                                    Whilst I have paid attention to noticing literary devices, collocations, grammar structures, past forms of irregular words and the like, I have not paid any conscious attention to acquisition opportunities at all, and I shall bear and exercise that more mindfully hereon. I feel the balance has always tipped towards conscious learning with whatever arose with regard to context and content.

                                                    Sadly, the lessons are preplanned by experts, so we are compelled to follow someone else’s view of what should be going on in class. I do veer personally to create an atmosphere of emergent potentials as the class progresses.

                                                    As well as noticing and input, do you think anything else is needed to ensure our learners are successful?
                                                    I feel it should be left to the teacher’s discretion to exercise variegated instructional activities every module to ensure higher/deeper/more natural SLA.

                                                  • #58309
                                                    Nicholas Northall
                                                    Moderator
                                                        @nick-northall

                                                        Hi Gajinder,

                                                        Thanks for posting. And I’m glad that you are inspired to try Extensive Listening – although you could use it to supplement what goes on in the class (i.e. ask your learners to do as much listening – or watching! – outside the classroom and use classroom time to focus on language in a ‘traditional’ sense). These resources might inspire you (here, herehere and here).

                                                        In terms of ensuring our learners are successful I would add practice. Give them as much practice (controlled and free) as possible, as without using the language, they are unlikely to acquire it successfully.

                                                        Cheers,

                                                        Nick

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