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Continuing language learning: the role of L1 literacy in secondary L2 language and literacy development

Frustrated student at work in classroomMany secondary second language learners face numerous challenges as they develop language and literacy in a second language at the same time they are learning subject area content in that second language. Fortunately, L1 academic literacy is not separate from L2 academic literacy. They are both manifestations of a common underlying proficiency. In this post Dr. Marylou M. Matoush, introduces her forthcoming webinar highlighting the ways that academic language and literacy proficiency can be developed through active reading, writing, speaking and listening in either or both languages.

Secondary schools are commonly structured as if all students need the same type of instruction, for the same amount of time, across the same curriculum. While this is far from ideal, it may not seem too problematic in some second language and literacy instructional settings, such as foreign language classrooms, where second language (L2) learners share somewhat similar first language (L1) language and literacy knowledge.  However, the structure of secondary most schools can be very problematic in where diversity reigns.

Many teachers of second languages are painfully aware of the fact that the emphasis on “sameness” built into most secondary schools is at odds with the needs of L2 language and literacy learners, who are remarkably diverse. They know that it is not uncommon to find secondary school settings where L2 learners who have never been to school may be sitting, in at least some classes, among L2 learners who are partially literate in one or more languages, L2 learners who are fully literate in L1 but not in L2, bilingual students who are also fully biliterate, and native English speakers who also display a wide range of literacy development.

These teachers of second language learners also know that there are often notable differences between individual learners who happen to fall in each of those categories. Learners may begin second language instruction with very different first languages. Then, first language and literacy use is gradually mixed with second language and literacy use, in ways that are necessarily unique to each individual.  As learners develop their abilities to use their languages and literacies, the varied effects of cultural backgrounds, life experiences, personal interests, academic background, linguistic understandings, and literacy skills accumulate with each passing school year.

Fortunately, becoming biliterate involves developing an interlanguage that is flexible enough to be useful in various L1 or L2 language and literacy contexts and the process underlying that development takes place in a generalized fashion, although not in the synchronized or linear fashion suggested by school structures.  Therefore, despite considerable diversity among students, academic language and literacy learning that must occur alongside content learning can be grounded in single set fundamental principles:

  • Languages and literacies and the strategies associated with meaning making are interdependent, not separate. Reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing are all meaning based ways to communicate and compliment one another. Integrating them enables students to make flexible use of them as they make meaning of academic content.
  • Academic learning in one’s first language and academic learning in one’s second language are also interdependent, not separate or isolated from each other. Instead, they are manifestations of a common underlying proficiency that can be developed and applied to reading, writing, speaking and listening about content in either language. Further, since the use of L1, mixed language, or a student’s developing interlanguage represent varying manifestations of a common underlying proficiency, affording students opportunities to choose among them as they learn academic content enhances L2 academic language and literacy learning.
  • Active participation in actual language and literacy activity serves the needs of all students as they acquire language and literacy, but is particularly valuable for L2 students who may need the active support available from both teacher and peers that collaboration affords. Further, active languaging drives thinking just as thinking drives languaging and literacy. Therefore, carefully designed collaboration among flexibly grouped students can work to create an age-appropriate, cognitively compelling setting and exposure to diverse ideas and perspectives for diverse learners.

The forthcoming webinar will briefly discuss that interdependence among languages and literacies and the transferability of L1 literacy strategies to L2 learning. It will also present specific strategies and techniques that are effective for supporting academic second language learning during active languaging while reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing.

register-for-webinar


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Teaching a lesson with e-books

Asian woman sitting using laptopHave you ever used e-books in your English classroom? Stacey Hughes, our Professional Development Services teacher trainer, tried out a lesson with adult learners using an e-book on the Oxford Learner’s Bookshelf. Watch the video below to see how she got on

I was really excited about trying out the American English File e-book and also a little bit apprehensive. My excitement came from knowing students would be able to watch the video at their own pace – pausing if needed to take a note or jumping back to catch something said. I was also interested in seeing how often students used the repeat function for the audio. This ability to focus bottom-up on a phrase or word was a real bonus since my students came from different countries.

At first, I was slightly nervous about using the Oxford Learner’s Bookshelf tools so experimented with the different tools and functionality. I wanted to find out what was possible and also get comfortable with using the tools. I did some of the exercises as a student would. To my surprise, I enjoyed using the audio notes the best and I wondered if fast finishers might be encouraged to create some audio notes about vocabulary that would help them study later.

During the lesson, I found I could do the same activities that I’d always done, but with some that I wasn’t able to do before. I really liked that the students could watch the video and listen to audio and their own pace and I was also pleased that students could check their own work automatically. One thing I did miss was having something to write on, so next time I’ll bring in a flip chart or shrink the e-book when I need to write on the Interactive Whiteboard.

See how my lesson went here:

Are you interested in using e-books with your students? Visit www.oup.com/elt/fingertips to see our wide selection of coursebooks and Graded Readers available via the Oxford Learner’s Bookshelf. We have e-books for all ages, levels, and interests.


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Integrating video content into the EFL classroom – Part 3

MercedesBenzmuseumFancy livening up your classroom with some ready-made video activities? This is the third in a series of four articles in which Keith Harding and Rachel Appleby share ideas for using the stunning new International Express video material. Each unit of the course features a video directly related to the unit topic. Here, Keith offers some ideas for using the clip from Intermediate Unit 4 – Mercedes-Benz Museum, which focuses on making comparisons.

Watch the video

Before you watch

As with any listening or reading text it is important to prepare and predict, in order to maximise the learning potential from the video. Here are some ideas to get your students started before they watch the video.

1. Museums

Students in pairs/groups describe museums in their city/country, and talk about their favourite museum. Questions to ask include:

a. What do they like about their favourite museum?

b. Why is it better than other museums? (This will help to elicit practice of comparatives)

c. Do they know any unusual museums, e.g. for particular products and brands?

Plan a ‘Museum of Brands’

Elicit some top-of-the-range brands from the students, for example, Rolex, Apple, Nike, Mercedes Benz (prompt to elicit this one if necessary)

In groups, students decide what they would exhibit in a ‘Museum of Brands’ and what they would call each of the galleries.

2. Pre-teach vocabulary

This exercise is taken from the video worksheet that comes with the International Express Teacher’s Resource Book DVD. All the worksheets are also available for free here. You just need your Oxford Teacher’s Club log-in details to view them.

Vocabulary:

What do the words in bold mean?

  1. The story is based on a local legend.
  2. The prototype of the vehicle used a piston engine.
  3. He is a real football enthusiast. He goes to every game.
  4. My father collects a lot of Beatles memorabilia, like albums, posters, and concert tickets.
  5. Phone companies need to have cutting-edge technology to be successful.
  6. The documentary on deep-sea diving gave us a glimpse into life in the ocean.
  7. The book gives us an insight into life in South America.

While you watch

To maximise the learning opportunities, you need to set tasks for the students to focus on. Remember tasks can be graded to the level of the learners, even if the content is not. This will involve the teacher in using pause, rewind, and sound-off facilities.

3. Silent play on fast-forward

Play the whole video on fast-forward with the sound down. Students write down what they see, then compare in groups and then watch again on normal speed.

4. Recognising difficult or technical vocabulary

As you would expect, the video contains several terms relating to vehicle transport. Understanding lexical sets of technically-related vocabulary and the differences in meaning between the different items is an important skill for the professional adult learner. Play the video in sections and ask students to write down the names of any vehicle types they hear. They should identify the following:

motor car

horse-drawn carriage

automobile

limousine

convertible

roadster

sports car

rally car (‘rallying’ on the video)

Formula 1

racing car

lorry (lorries)

police car

ambulance

fire engine

Check students’ answers, and ask them to give a definition of each type.

5. Numbers and names ‘bingo’

Design a bingo card for each student with numbers and names, including ones from the video, but other distracters as well. Students tick off the numbers/names when they hear them. When they have completed a line of three (horizontal, vertical or diagonal) they shout bingo, stop the video and check.

Here are two examples:

Example 1:

nine 60,500 Rolls Royce
Karl Benz Daimler AG one million euros
Formula 1 Ferrari300 SL

Example 2:

a million 16,500 Porshe
1954 seven Mercedes Simplex
13 300 SL convertible

After you watch

Follow-up tasks and activities will help to reinforce the language and will also provide the opportunity for more communicative and interactive language practice.

6. Practice vocabulary work on different forms of transport, and different brands and products

7. Conduct a survey of class members or any other accessible group (e.g. work colleagues, teachers and staff in school). Example questions could be:

a) Which museums have you visited?

b) Which is your favourite – or least favourite – and why?

c) What factors are important for you in a museum? Examples could include admission cost, interesting displays, interactive exhibits, a good cafe.

d) Use the results to plan a group outing.

8. Plan and present an idea for your own museum

a) Use the results from the survey (task 8) if available.

b) Decide the theme for your museum. For example, it could be a museum of your own life, with photographs, objects from your past and from your present working life.

c) Design the plan of the museum.

d) Present to the rest of the group.

I hope you enjoy trying out some of these activities in class!


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#IATEFL – Pronunciation to Go: learning to learn from the dictionary

Teacher helping dyslexic studentMark Hancock, co-author of the English Result series introduces his forthcoming IATEFL talk on the keys to developing students’ use of dictionaries and important features that can support independent learning.

Proverbial wisdom tells us that if you give someone a fish, they can eat for a day, but if you teach someone to fish, they can eat for a lifetime. It’s a message about the long-term value of learning new skills and becoming independent. A similar thing could be said about pronunciation and dictionaries. Each time you teach a learner to pronounce a word, their English benefits a little, but they remain dependent on you. If, however, you can show your learners how to teach themselves the pronunciation of a word using the dictionary, they can improve their own English independently for ever more.

The dictionary is an immense resource, containing information about all the English words a learner is ever likely to need. In learners’ dictionaries, pronunciation information has traditionally been provided using phonemic symbols based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Nowadays, however, with the advent of online dictionaries, there are also recordings of all the headwords, accessible at the click of an icon – a wonderful resource.

It is well worth helping your learners get familiar with the IPA symbols, even though there is now an audio option. It’s a great learning investment for the following reasons:

– A knowledge of the phonemic symbols enables you to ‘see inside’ the pronunciation of the word, like an x-ray. You can see exactly what sounds are in there – and what sounds are not. Furthermore, these x-rays help you to see similarities and differences between words. For instance, your student may not be able to hear the difference between hit and heat, but they will definitely be able to see that the transcription is different.

– The ear is not always a reliable source of information. You can hear the word calm, for instance, and believe that you are hearing an L because it’s there in the spelling. When you see in the phonetic transcription that there’s no /l/, it makes it official somehow.

– The audio recording is only the voice of one person at one time. You don’t know which features of their pronunciation are essential and which are just one-off idiosyncrasies. For example, if the speaker places a glottal stop after the /k/ in document, the learner doesn’t know if this is a feature that they need to copy, or just a feature of that individual’s speech. The transcription shows it not to be essential.

If you can help your learners to be comfortable in the company of phonemic symbols, you are doing them a lasting service, because it will give them a more complete access to the information in the dictionary. It’s not that they have to memorize all the symbols – many dictionaries have a running footer across all the pages with a key to them. So it’s just a case of them getting to know the symbols little by little, as they use them.

Stress information is also provided in the transcription, by a vertical dash like an apostrophe. This is superscript for primary stress and subscript for secondary stress. If a dictionary entry does not have a transcription of its own, then these stress marks are shown in the headword itself. It’s very important for learners to become familiar with this method of marking stress.

The dictionary also provides stress information beyond single word level, for compound words, phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions. Compare, for example, the different stress patterns in the following pairs:

compound nouns:               ‘roller blind – ve”netian ‘blind

phrasal verbs:                       “look ‘on (observe) – ‘look on (regard as)

idiomatic expressions:        ‘one of these days –  one of those ‘days.

Due to the limitations of the WordPress editor, we cannot display the stress markings correctly. The single mark should be subscript (secondary stress) and the double one should be superscript, but single (primary stress).

Encourage your learners to look out for these stress markings, and try reading out loud the example sentences in the dictionary using the stress as indicated.

We do of course need to recognize the limitations of dictionaries for pronunciation work at the level of connected speech. Dictionaries, by their nature, are more focused at word-level features. However, the 9th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (OALD9) does take a step towards remedying this situation by providing pronunciation guidance for common spoken functional exponents. For instance, under the headword invite, there’s a box of exponents for inviting and responding to invitations, along with recordings of these, and even a short video of an interaction. The OALD9 also includes videos of students giving model answers in some typical speaking exam scenarios, and these exemplify some of the prosodic features of longer stretches of speech.


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#IATEFL – “The difference is academic”

Using L1 in the ELT ClassroomAhead of his talk at IATEFL 2015 about developing elementary English for Academic Purposes (EAP) students’ academic language, Edward de Chazal, co-author of Oxford EAP, considers the increasing relevance of EAP teaching for elementary students and younger learners.

Have you ever used the saying “The difference is academic”? The fact that it means “There is no meaningful difference”, says something about the negative historical attitude of the British towards academics! But for the purposes of EAP I’d like to propose using the saying literally. In other words, EAP is different to other English language teaching contexts and the main difference, of course, is that it’s academic in focus.

At IATEFL Glasgow I was one of the conference reviewers and I used this saying as the title of my review – what I argued was that over the years IATEFL itself has become increasingly academic. Sure, there’s still a lot of fun to be had, but an increasing number of the sessions are academically-inspired, covering research, serious ideas and theories, and EAP. Ideally, sessions should be both academic and fun!

If one discernible trend in English language teaching is towards more specificity including EAP, there’s another important trend too: towards teaching ever-younger learners and lower levels. And in EAP the two trends come together. Going back, many would argue that you can’t teach EAP at lower levels, like elementary / A2. Looking forward, that’s exactly what’s happening, around the world and on an increasingly massive scale. I argue that as EAP teachers we should engage with this process and shape it.

Let’s start by looking at EAP. What is the essence of EAP, and can it happen at A2? Big questions, short answers: at its heart EAP is about using academic language in a meaningful way; and yes, A2 is a great place to be doing this. For the first question, remember that the ‘E’ in ‘EAP’ stands for ‘English’, and the ‘A’ is for ‘Academic’.

EAP students may be at an elementary level in terms of their English language, but they’re not elementary in cognitive terms. When we start teaching them they will already have had many years of schooling, usually have chosen a subject to study, and are planning to do so in English. We do them no favours by dumbing down the content and skills, provided these are achievable.

So, what language can A2 EAP students learn? Time is limited, and we need to spend much less time on verbs, and more on nouns. Verbs are useful and necessary, but it’s inefficient to work through all the tenses; instead let’s stick to the present and past tenses, plus the passive as it’s widely used in academic texts.

Nouns are far more frequent in academic texts, and a particular feature of such texts is the large proportion of noun phrases. The latter are all but absent from general English coursebooks, but should form a major part of EAP materials at this level. There are other key language areas too, including working with different sentence patterns, linking language, and specific areas like the language of evaluation. Above all, language learning needs to be contextualized and meaning-driven.

In my IATEFL Manchester presentation I’ll be investigating what academic language we can focus on with our A2 EAP students. In doing so, we’ll see how language, context, and meaning are crucial for successful learning. Participants will identify and analyse the target language in different graded authentic academic texts, and will be empowered to follow these principles with new texts with their own students.

In short, as I wrote in the IATEFL 2012 Glasgow Conference Selections, English language teachers are working towards educating our students for their own education. The difference is academic.

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