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A (Mostly) Complete Glossary for ESL EFL Teaching

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Don't know a term? Need a quick reference on techniques and methods?  Take a look at this (mostly) complete glossary of EFL ESL terms.

accuracy: Some students have little trouble speaking English. The words just pour out. For some ESL EFL learners, although they produce a steady stream of English, the sentences contain numerous mistakes with grammar, vocabulary, and other aspects of the language. In other words, their speaking isn't very accurate, which could hinder another's comprehension. Activities which encourage accuracy, or activities which use group correction and student-to-student correction, help reduce mistakes. Compare fluency.

affective strategies: Emotions, moods, and stress affect the success of students in the classroom. Affective strategies take into consideration these dynamics. They limit the negative and encourage the positive.

analytical learners: Analytical learners prefer to plan and organize their work. They focus on details and logic, and prefer sequential steps and clear progression. They are often unwilling to take a guess except when they're confident of their response. Their notebooks and work may be quite detailed.

Audiolingual Method: The Audiolingual Method came onto the scene after World War II. With America involved in international affairs, institutions focused on oral communication. They took aspects of the Direct Method, experimented and adapted the methodology, and created ALM.

Although the Audiolingual Method has fallen out of favor over the past fifty years, adaptations are currently used in many countries and curricula around the world. ALM focuses on the repetition of set phrases, particularly structural patterns. Students learn new grammar and vocabulary in context, as opposed to explanations. As such, and combined with the fact that teachers refrain from using L1 in the classroom, heavy emphasis is placed on visual and auditory aids. Dialogues often present the new material, as they show the language in context. Perfect pronunciation and a somewhat too-heavy focus on accuracy are also emphasized, so the lessons tend to be heavy on drills and short on meaning. See Direct Method, Grammar Translation Method, and Suggestopedia, and Silent Way.

Auditory Learners: Students with this learning style prefer oral instructions and activities. They learn best be listening and speaking, and so may enjoy oral reading, choral reading, and listening activities. Auditory learners may struggle with reading in that they won't fully glean the key information. Yet they may easily be capable of understanding important elements of a lecture or set of instructions.

automaticity: The more students practice a language point, the more established the pattern becomes. Students don't need to dwell on work order or grammatical rules, for example, which frees them to think about other forms of the language.

Take a lesson on the future tense "going to" as an example.  Students practice the following pattern: "(Subject) is going to (verb)." In the initial stages of the lesson, students produce the language quite slowly, because they need to think about the sentence pattern and vocabulary. With each activity, though, the language comes out more quickly, as the pattern gets established. When the teacher later instructs the students to provide a reason for each activity with "because," the students can pay more attention to linking a logical reason with the action. The language has become automatic.

bottom-up processing: Bottom-up processing focuses on the specifics of the language, such as vocabulary, sentence structures, grammar, intonation, and even individual sounds or letters. Bottom-up deals with the specifics, then, and what goes on while reading or listening to English. It's important for students to recognize and understand the details, because they can then apply the patterns or rules to other aspects of the language. Top-down is the opposite process, and works in tandem with bottom-up processing. Compare top-down processing.

CALL: With technology advancing at an ever increasing rate, it's natural to want to use it in the language-learning process, particularly computers. Hence computer-assisted language learning, or CALL. Any use of podcasts off the Internet, e-mails, or blogs, just to name a few examples, as well as lessons fully online, fall into the CALL category.

CELTA: The Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults is a professional credential recognized worldwide for ESL EFL teachers. At the time of this writing, courses are available on the ground only, and are validated through the University of Cambridge. Many jobs don't require a CELTA certificate, but positions with better working conditions and opportunities for advancement often do. The course runs for four weeks, and is very intensive. Practice in the classroom with real English learners, as well as evaluations, are course requirements too. See CELTYL and DELTA.

CELTYL: Similar to CELTA, the Certificate in Language Teaching to Young Learners focuses on the teaching of children and teenagers. Also like CELTA, the four week intensive course is vetted by the University of Cambridge. It offers hands-on practice and observations of experienced teachers. Participants who already hold a CELTA certificate may opt for a shorter, two-week program that bestows an extension to the CELTA certificate. See CELTA and DELTA.

choral drills: Choral drills offer students the chance to listen to and practice accent, intonation, and the lesson's target language. The teacher reads a word or sentence, and everyone repeats the same word or sentence. Because choral drills focus on accuracy, it's important to aim for a high standard. Poor pronunciation, for example, or incorrect use of the target language limit the drill's effectiveness and purpose.

Too much listen-and-repeat activities can prove boring, repetitive, and require little thought on the students' part. But choral drills remain an important part of language acquisition, especially in the early stages of a lesson, with limited use, and when made meaningful. See interactive drills, meaningful drills, and substitution drills.

cognitive strategies: This learning strategy focuses on summarization, repetition, organizing the language, and memorization. Students who opt for this strategy manipulate the language to foster retention and recall. Some examples include mind mapping, mnemonics, and underlining key words or phrases.

compensatory strategies: With this strategy, students use a strength or a skill to work around a weakness. In other words, they compensate for the weakness when speaking, listening, reading, or writing. Circumlocution is one example, as is repeating information to confirm key ideas. the former would work around any weakness with vocabulary, while the latter might be used if the student struggles with listening or reading.

content-based instruction: Content-based teaching differs from traditional language classes because language comes second to the content. In other words, the teacher runs a course on current affairs, or American history, or fiction writing, through which students also learn English. It's important to note that English ends up as subordinate to the material, although the teacher must recognize and be prepared to help students with language skills. Immersion programs for children, or English for Specific Purposes are also examples of content-based instruction. Because of the nature of the content, all four skills get integrated. It's important to note that the content continues through the whole course, not just a handful of lessons. A class on shopping one day, using the bank on another day, and making hotel reservations in English at a different class session is more aptly considered task-based instruction. See task-based instruction and theme-based instruction.

controlled activities: These activities serve as an introduction to the fundamentals of the lesson's target structure. Students are prompted for the language, for which there is only one correct response. For example:

  Teacher: I like apples.
  Students: I like apples.
  Teacher: I like oranges.
  Students: I like oranges.
  Teacher: pears.
  Students: I like pears.
  Teacher: grapes.
  Students: I like grapes.

Similar examples of controlled activities include: dialogue; dictation; a word or sentence prompted with a flashcard; and a word or sentence scrambled.

In the initial stages of the lesson, this type of activity proves very important because students are laying down the pattern of the language. In other words, they are trying to make the language automatic. The more students practice a phrase or grammar point, the more likely they will remember it and apply it correctly elsewhere during the session. Compare semi-controlled activities and free activities, which often appear later in the lesson.

correction: There are four types of correction in the ESL EFL classroom: group correction, self-correction, student-to-student correction, and teacher-to-student correction.

DELTA: The Diploma of Language Teaching to Adults is similar to CELTA, although it requires more study and general knowledge in the ESL EFL field. It's often viewed as a follow up to the CELTA course.

Cambridge Assessment awards the diploma after completing about three months of full time study. On completion, graduates have received supervised teaching practice, the chance to observe other teachers, written assignments, and a course exam. DELTA may also be completed on a part-time basis over a year or longer. See CELTA and CELTYL.

dialogue: Dialogues take the grammar and vocabulary just presented and drilled, and place it in context through a scripted conversation. For example, students just studied "I'd like..." to make requests, then practiced it with every day situations (e.g., "I'd like an apple."). A dialogue would then take this target language and place it the context of booking a hotel. Students see what sort of language comes before a request, what sort of language comes after, and how several requests and responses affect the conversation. Dialogues may also be referred to as scripted role plays. See role play for a comparison.

Direct Method: The Direct Method came about in the late 1800s, and then mostly disappeared by the early 1900s. It had students learn a language in the target language. In other words, to study English, all new words and grammar were given in English. What's more, patterns rather than rules were highlighted, so the teacher never directly explained grammar rules. Vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures. Difficult, abstract words were given through an association of ideas. The students deduced the meaning and then applied the language. The Direct Method dealt in small classes with a lot of attention given to each student for intensive study of a language. See also Audiolingual Method, Grammar Translation Method, and Suggestopedia, and Silent Way.

drills: Drills allow students to practice the lesson's target language in controlled, predictable exercises. This is perfect when the teacher initially presents and practices new material. Drills help make the language automatic, laying down a set path or habit early in the lesson. The more times students use a set pattern, the more likely they will then be able to correctly use the new language later in the lesson, and beyond.  See choral drills, interactive drills, meaningful drills, and substitution drills.

EAP: Lessons for English for Academic Purposes deals with language related to academia. These classes are most often geared towards students expecting to enter a foreign university or course at the college level. Because it's assumed that the students either possess general language skills, or are in the process of acquiring them, EAP classes work towards supplying the students with skills needed to succeed in an academic environment.

effective talk time: Although the balance between teacher talk time and student talk time is important, the effectiveness of their respective speaking time proves equally important. A teacher who speaks only 30% of the time, but fills it with off-topic personal stories and anecdotes, or gives unclear instructions, obviously has ineffective talk time. The same holds true for when a teacher doesn't maximize his students' chance to speak in pairs and groups. He instead has one student talk, perhaps to answer a question or present information, while the others just wait for their turn. Ineffective talk time can limit how much students practice English, just as much as a class with high teacher talk time and low student talk time. See student talk time (STT), and teacher talk time (TTT).

EFL: Acronym for English as a Foreign Language. This type of English instruction proves more challenging for both the students and the teacher. The country in which the students live doesn't use English, so the classroom may be the only place to acquire and use the language. The focus of the lesson needs to be narrower than in an ESL setting because a lot of time must be spent presenting and practicing the language. Final activities should allow the students to use the target language and/or topic naturally, free of mistakes, and with free reign to incorporate material from past lessons.

EIL: Because English has become the lingua franca of the world, more and more nonnative speakers use the language to communicate with one another. Traditional EFL and ESL classes incorporate culture, cultural values, and specific phrases and words into the classroom, unique to America or Britain or New Zealand, for example. EIL looks at technical, survival, social, occupational, or academic English in an international setting, without the need of imitating Americans, Brits, or New Zealanders.

errors: An error occurs when a student uses the language incorrectly, but it's a word, sentence structure, or phrase which he hasn't learned yet. For example, a beginner tries to express his experience of visiting New York last year and says, "I have went to New York." The language is above his level. If this structure falls outside the scope of the lesson and/or level, it doesn't necessarily require correction. Idioms used incorrectly, or language appropriacy can also fall under errors. Compare mistakes.

ESL: Acronym for English as a Second Language. English learners are living and studying in an English-speaking country, such as Canada or Britain. They have numerous chances to experience and practice the language outside the classroom, and can use the target language in real-life situations as soon as the class finishes.

ESP: English for Special Purposes classes focus on professionals in specific fields. Specialized materials for engineers teach grammar, sentence patterns, and grammar needed for engineering, for example. Doctors and nurses work towards producing language needed in the healthcare industry. Business professionals learn how to conduct meetings, send emails, and negotiate with clients. In other words, the material used in lessons ends up as highly specialized for a specific industry.

extensive reading: At its most simple, extensive reading asks students to read and read and read. Then they should read some more! The more material students look at, the better their overall competence with the language, especially with vocabulary, spelling, sentence structure, and writing. The work shouldn't be done in the classroom, because of the amount of reading expected. Students should instead read voluntarily outside the class. In addition, they don't need to check every unknown word, but should read for pleasure.

extrinsic motivation: Rewards rather than enjoyment (primarily) motivate students to study English. The rewards may come in the form of prizes, for example, when students do well on a test or complete an activity quickly and correctly. But students may also study English in order to get a raise or a promotion. In the short term, extrinsic motivation works, although it ultimately may hinder motivation and retention in the long term. After all, points and prizes only work as long as they are deemed valuable. In the context of EFL, where daily application and need for the language may not exist or seem readily applicable, extrinsic motivation may unfortunately play a larger role in motivating the class. See also intrinsic motivation.

extroverted learners: Extroverted students tend to enjoy interaction in the classroom. They flourish and put language together in group activities that require information to be exchanged. Variety and change are very important too.

feedback: All students require feedback, whether during the class, at the end of the lesson, or outside the classroom. Although correction appears similar to feedback, correction focuses on specific mistakes or errors. Feedback instead looks at weaknesses and strengths overall. For example, Kenji speaks very well, and actually dominates the conversation. He speaks and speaks and speaks because he has poor listening skills, though, which makes him unable to participate in a conversation well. It's important to note that feedback also refers to praise.

Feedback can be given to the class as a whole, as well as to individual students. This not only offers direction, but also the chance to reiterate class and personal goals. Students can also gauge their improvement over the course or term. Compare correction and praise.

feeling learners: These students prefer lessons which personalize the information, especially through cooperative activities. They may befriend the teacher, which could lead to superior effort with praise and attention. However, feeling learners may become discouraged if the ignored or insufficiently praised.

fillers: Fillers refer to the "ums," "ahs," and "errs" of native English speakers between thoughts. Part of speaking well for learners of the language means using fillers correctly. See also speaking strategies.

fluency: Fluency defines how quickly and how smoothly students produce the language. Some students with poor fluency take several seconds to assemble questions and responses in their heads. They check grammar and vocabulary before speaking, making conversational exchange a slow and unnatural process. English learners such as these need speaking activities that focus on just getting the language out, such as timed activities (such as five minutes to talk to as many people as possible about their weekend) or activities that require students to reach a goal as quickly as possible (such as be the first group to discuss weekends, then determine who had the best weekend and why). Compare accuracy.

four skills: English can be broken into four main skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Although there are other important aspects of the language, such as pronunciation, we can classify these as one of the four main skills.

Although some classes claim to focus on one skill, many skills work in tandem. Classes which focus on speaking in a conversational context favor listening too. This perhaps reflects the weight listening and speaking receive in the real world. Many universities also offer reading and writing classes, especially for academic purposes. See listening, reading, speaking, and writing.

free activities: These activities allow students the greatest amount of freedom in the classroom. Free activities create an open atmosphere for students to manipulate the target language, experiment with it, and tie it to other language previously studied. Some example activities include debates, discussions, presentations, and role plays. In order to successfully debate a topic, for example, or role play a situation, the day's language, as well as other language, must be used.

It should be noted that free activities don't imply free conversation, though! Instead the outcome is open, and the teacher has little control over the language produced.

Let's look at an example. A class of ten students gets divided into pairs to discuss the pros and cons of living abroad. Although everyone begins with the same question, five very different conversations ensue. The outcome is open, and students may use any language along with the target structures of the day.

Also note that in most lessons, the teacher progresses from controlled activities, to semi-controlled activities, to free activities, with each step allowing greater and greater chances to play with the language. Compare controlled activities and semi-controlled activities.

goal: This term refers to the large, umbrella-like target of the lesson. For example, a teacher wants to cover "going to" as a means to express plans already decided upon. The focus of the lesson could be travel plans, plans during the upcoming summer break, or even usual activities for the weekend. As long as the teacher introduces and practices "going to," these three ideas all have the same goal. See also objective and steps.

global learners: These students don't like to be bored, and require information presenting in an interesting manner. They often learn in large leaps, suddenly connecting several chunks together. For global learners, the big picture is often important. Global learners are also called "holistic learners."

Grammar Translation Method: For years and years, the Grammar Translation Method served as the primary means to teach a foreign language. Students memorized vocabulary in isolated lists and grammar rules in order to translate sentences, passages, and even larger amounts of text from the foreign language into their mother tongue. Exactly as the title implies, translation served as the focus, and so students only had to accurately reproduce the text. Little attention was given to content, context, or application of the material.

Few classes use this method of language learning nowadays. Because there is no interaction or communication with the language, it doesn't produce speakers of the language. It just produces students who can pick apart sentences, mull over their meanings, and then provide translations. See also Audiolingual Method, Direct Method, and Suggestopedia, and Silent Way.

group correction: When activities require group work instead of pair or individual work, then group correction allows students to help one another. It fosters teamwork and a supportive classroom environment, as well as encourages students to notice the language. Any role-play, presentation, interview, debate, or other type of group activity can incorporate a correction session at the end. Students then point out mistakes others made during the activity. This technique also increases student talk time. See correction, self-correction, student-to-student correction, and teacher-to-student correction.

integrated skills approach: An integrated skills approach to teaching makes use of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a lesson or course. It realistically demonstrates real-life usage of the language, as opposed to focusing only one or two skills.  For example:

•    The lesson begins with students discussing two questions. This activates pre-held information on the topic and gets everyone ready for the main idea.
•    The teacher then distributes an article, which students have to read within two minutes.
•    In pairs, the students talk about what they remember from the article.
•    Students read the article again, answer comprehension questions, and seek clarification on any unfamiliar vocabulary or grammar.
•    The teacher reads a brief opinion aloud on the topic. This allows students to practice listening, but also gather additional information on the topic.
•    Students write some notes for discussion questions, discuss in pairs, and make note of their partners' answers. They then switch partners and repeat the questions.

Interest, motivation, and retention are all closely linked. By planned a lesson that integrates all four skills, the interest of students remains high. Interested students are motivated students, and motivated students remember the material better.

interactive drills: Interactive drills use the target language, with students asking and answering questions interacting to reach a goal. These drills are also referred to as Q&A drills. An activity in which students ask a pre-determined set of questions about a recent vacation is an example of this drill type.

Interactive drills are semi-controlled activities, which suggest a mostly predictable range of answers. In other words, although there's more than one possible answer, the question and target language limits the number of possible responses. In the below example, all answers deal with usual weekend activities.

  Q: What did you do this weekend?
  A (student 1): I went shopping for clothes.
  A (student 2): I saw a movie and went to dinner with a friend.
  A (student 3): I stayed home and slept.

Compare choral drills, meaningful drills, and substitution drills.

intrinsic motivation: Students study the language because they enjoy the sense of accomplishment. There is no other real reward that comes with success, apart from an ability to communicate in English. Think of an hobby which a person does out of enjoyment rather than tangible reward. This is intrinsic motivation, and the external incentive may not be so obvious.

Many educators believe that intrinsic motivation provides greater, more lasting momentum to learn, remember, and use the material studied. The teacher should strive to encourage students to learn for the sake of learning. However, it should also be recognized that students often react positively to some combination of intrinsic motivation and rewards. See also extrinsic motivation.

introverted learners: Reserved and reflective students tend to be introverted learners. They enjoy solitary activities, such as worksheets or writing activities. They equally enjoy activities that allow thought and preparation before speaking or interaction, which may be done with worksheets or writing activities. Too much interaction can be overwhelming for these students.

L1: This refers to the student's native language, or "language one."

L2: In ESL EFL teaching, this refers to the English language. It's the second language of the student.

learning strategies: Learning strategies refer to the specific thoughts and actions students take for successful learning. The strategy is often dictated by the learning style of the student. An extroverted student, for example, will seek out conversation partners while an introverted student will first analyze the target language and engage in other solitary activities. No one strategy is better overall. See also learning style.

learning style: Learning style refers to the general approach that a student takes to acquire new language. This is how he best acquires new information, such as grammar or vocabulary in the language classroom. So a kinesthetic or tactile learner, for example would prefer to participate in activities that involve movement around the classroom. With such activities, these students best remember and reinforce the language. Compare learning strategies, which are closely related.

listening: This is one of the four main skills, and is closely linked with speaking. In oral communication, both speaking and listening must be used cooperatively.

When the teacher opts to focus on listening skills, he may do so with top-down activities or bottom-up activities. Top-down looks general comprehension. Bottom-up looks at sounds to works to grammatical relationships, so may focus on intonation, specific words, grammar structures, etc. See also four skills and speaking.

kinesthetic/tactile learners: Learners with this style of learning do well when they stand up and move around. They use their whole body to learn language. Oftentimes, when they remember the language, they go back in their minds to what their body was doing. Flashcards and other realia that assist learning are helpful here. These students don't like to sit in the classroom for long periods, and will simply tune out if forced to do so.

meaningful drills: Drills practice newly introduced target language. It goes without saying that a drill must provide challenge and an opportunity to actively think about the material. It must further provide opportunities to gain a level of automaticity and accuracy. When a drill hits all of these points, then it may be considered meaningful.

Compare a drill which is too difficult for the students, or too easy. If too difficult, then students can't use the activity to effectively practice the target language. If too easy, then students simply switch off. See choral drills, interactive drills, and substitution drills.

memory-related strategies: These strategies help students remember new information and language. It doesn't necessarily stress full understanding or usage, however. Flashcards, memorization, or activities which link movement with language are all examples of this strategy.

metacognitive strategies: This strategy links learning preferences and awareness. Students assess what they like, what they don't like, what works effectively, what works ineffectively, and so on for them as individuals. They then realize that they learn best under these specific conditions.

mistakes: A mistake can best be compared to a slip of the tongue. The student produces the language incorrectly, but it's a previously studied grammar structure, phrase, idiom, or word. If pointed out, he'll likely be able to correct the mistake. Compare errors.

objective: The objective of the lesson deals with a somewhat narrow task or activity the students should accomplish at the end of the lesson. For example, a lesson on the simple past tense is too broad to be considered an objective, as it doesn't give the teacher enough focus. An ideal example has the students focus on a specific aspect of the usage, such as past vacations. This ensures that all subsequent activities and language points taught have a tight and specific focus. See goal and steps.

praise: Praise plays an important role in student motivation, as it creates a positive learning environment. It also gives students the chance to understand that they correctly produced the language, met class expectations, and/or improved their language skills. Criticism, an equally important tool, rests on the other side of the spectrum.

Note that the teacher can praise effectively and ineffectively. Effective praise meets the following criteria:

•    It's specific and genuine. Compare: "Good job!" and "You've really improved with your /r/ and /l/ sounds!"
•    It doesn't disrupt the flow of the lesson, or the activity. There are few things worse than interrupting a conversation to give some praise, as students then lose their momentum. The teacher should instead make note of the positive points, and provide a quick feedback session after the activity.
•    It attributes success to hard work and improvement as opposed to luck. This implies that students will be able to recreate the success in the future.

See correction and feedback.

reading: One of the four language skills, reading is an essential component to ultimate fluency. We live in a literate society, and the written word surrounds everywhere.

For reading to best develop, teachers should incorporate writing, speaking, and listening activities. See also four skills, listening, speaking, and writing.

role play: A role play is an extremely useful free activity that allows students to apply the target language with other, previously learned material. It has the further benefit of placing that language in a real context, which each individual student can fine tune to his personal life. This makes the language more realistic, and thereby more memorable.

Don't confuse a role play with a dialogue, though. A dialogue has a set script for students to read from, the purpose of which is to see language in context. A role play doesn't have a script. It instead assigns clear roles, a realistic setting, and an achievable goal for the students.

Let's look at an example. Student A plays the role of a hotel receptionist, and student B wants to make a reservation. The hotel serves as the setting, and the obvious goal has student B make a reservation. You can also work difficulties into the activity, such as a mostly booked hotel, rooms that are too expensive, or a hotel that lost the reservation. See dialogue.

scanning: Scanning involves finding specific information during reading, such as names, dates, figures, key vocabulary, or key details. When scanning a document, students don't look to gather the general meaning, and so shouldn't read through the whole test. This technique proves useful when students have to gather or confirm information, either from articles, schedules, or forms. They can then use this information to complete a task or support opinions in a conversation. Compare skimming.

self-correction: When a student makes a mistake, he should notice it and rephrase the sentence correctly. For example, he begins with, "I swimmed..." and then after a pause, says, "I swam at the beach last weekend." Self-correction builds confidence. It also encourages students to take responsibility for the language they produce. In addition, if they can catch their mistakes, retention of the language improves. See correction, group correction, student-to-student correction, and teacher-to-student correction.

semi-controlled activities: These activities allow less restriction than controlled activities, but still more restriction than free activities. Think of semi-controlled activities as appearing in the middle of the lesson. The teacher has introduced and drilled the target language, yet the students remain unable able to use the new structure and vocabulary in an open-ended discussion or role play.

The term "semi-controlled" comes from the outcome, which remains mostly predictable. For example, students who brainstorm words on favorite foods will produce a list of dishes, even if the answers vary from person to person. In addition to brainstorming, telling a story based on a picture, or asking follow-up questions after a conversation prompt are all semi-controlled activities. See controlled activities and free activities.

Silent Way: This method focuses on student discovery, with the teacher taking an almost wholly "hands off" approach. What's more, the teacher remains silent through much of the lesson. He uses colored rods and charts to prompt language production, hence the method's name.

In the Silent Way, students in the classroom work to together to discover the language, while the teacher strictly acts as a guide. The method capitalizes on the principle that students retain information better when they discover it for themselves rather than when simply told. Critics, however, point out that teachers need to be somewhat more involved in the lesson, and aspects of the language can, and should, be told to aid learning.

See also Audiolingual Method, Direct Method, Grammar Translation Method, and Suggestopedia for other methods of language learning.

skimming: When skimming a document, students want to understand the broad brush strokes, so to speak. They should note the main idea and purpose of the article or essay, and maybe even some of the supporting ideas. At this stage, detailed information is less important than being able to roughly summarize the material. Compare scanning.

social strategies: Students who employ social strategies use social interaction to best understand new language. They will ask questions, confirm information, and use others to bounce ideas off of to gain accuracy/fluency and comprehension skills.

speaking: One of the four main skills of English, speaking is closely intertwined with listening. Both are essential for oral communication, and get used more than reading and writing.

When the teacher focuses on communication ability, several factors must be considered in the speaking process. These namely include the ability to begin a conversation, maintain a conversation, take turns speaking, and end a conversation. The ability to interrupt and request clarification also proves important, as does the balance between accuracy and fluency. At higher ability levels, the teacher must also consider the ability to elaborate ideas, explain around unknown vocabulary, link sentences and ideas together into paragraph-long discourse, and adjust the formality of the language to suit the situation. See four skills, listening, reading, and writing.

speaking strategies: Speaking strategies aid in accomplishing the goals of oral communication. Strategies include, but aren't limited to:

•    Adjusting the rate of speech, intonation, or formality when speaking.
•    Asking for clarification, or confirming information.
•    Paraphrasing around unknown vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structures.
•    Providing conversation cues, such as "Uh huh," "Yeah," or "I see."
•    Using fillers to pause between thoughts or ideas.
•    Using set phrases and idioms.

SQ3R: This reading technique asks the reader to survey the material, question it, then read, recite and review it. When surveying an article, the student should skim the text for the main idea. This may mean looking at the title, bulleted headings or subheadings, and charts, graphs, or illustrations. He then asks questions about the information noticed, such as "What will be covered in each section?" or "How does this graph tie into the material at hand?" Next he conducts a more thorough reading. He should answer the questions previously generated, as well as formulate any new questions, if necessary. The student then recites, or repeats, the important information from memory, either as a written or oral activity that makes use of the material. Last comes review. The students should look over the material, try once again to answer the questions generated earlier in the technique, and tie it to other ideas and concepts.

steps: Steps are the structure used to teach the language. For example, in a lesson past vacations, the teacher might introduce and practice:

  Step One: Vacation-related verbs, plus past tense conjugations.
  Step Two: Vocabulary in context
  Step Three: Question sentences to talk about past vacations
  Step Four: Dialogue to show the language in a conversation
  Step Five: Interview/discussion about past vacations

Working through steps ensures that each step builds on previous steps. Time doesn't get wasted with target language that the students don't subsequently use. The teacher still remains free to add or take away drills or additional activities too. A class of weaker students can still get extra time to practice the language, while a class of stronger students can move on. See also goal and objective.

student talk time (STT): How much do students talk in the class? Apart from listening activities, or when the teacher is presenting the target language, students should spend 70% of a conversation-based class speaking. Activities that promote pair work and group work help achieve this 70% figure. Teachers should also consider effective talk time, in which as many students as possible are talking in pairs or groups at the same time. Compare twenty students having a discussion in pairs versus twenty students speaking one at a time, which results in ineffective talk time. See effective talk time and TTT (teacher talk time).

student-to-student correction: Students work in pairs, note one another's mistakes during a conversation, and provide one-to-one correction. This type of correction encourages student talk time, and also fosters a supportive classroom atmosphere. There is always the chance, though, that some mistakes will go unnoticed, and uncorrected. Students may also mistakenly point out a phrase, grammar point, or word they believe to be wrong, but which is actually fine. See correction, group correction, and teacher-to-student correction.

substitution drills: Substitution drills require the students to plug a vocabulary word or phrase into a sentence, conjugate a verb tense, or otherwise substitute one language part with another. For example:

  Teacher: (holds up a flashcard of a pizza)
  Students: I eat pizza every day.
  Teacher: (holds up a flashcard of a coffee)
  Students: I drink coffee every day.

See also choral drills, interactive drills, and meaning drills.

Suggestopedia: Suggestopedia focuses on music and relaxation as a means for students to memorize new material. During the lesson, in which students sit in comfortable chairs, Baroque music plays in the background. The teacher, who is in control, introduces the grammar and vocabulary, reads passages of dialogue or text, and then finish with role plays, songs, or games.

Suggestopedia didn't quite live up to the claims its founder, Georgi Lozanov, made in the 1970s. However, the method should be noted for revealing how a positive, relaxed atmosphere proves conducive to learning. See Audiolingual Method, Direct Method, and Grammar Translation Method, and Silent Way.

task-based instruction: Task-based instruction focuses on how the language will ultimately be used. This shouldn't be confused with a task in a lesson, such as one teacher sets for an activity. Instead, a lesson might be structured around the task of giving personal information for a job interview, or requesting information from a travel agent. In other words, the teacher structures lessons around real world application. Compare content-based instruction and theme-based instruction.

teacher-to-student correction: The teacher directly corrects any mistakes or errors produced by the students. On the positive side, explanations will almost always be clear, supported by examples, and correct. This type of correction is also needed when first presenting new material because the students don't yet have the ability to notice mistakes.

On the negative side, especially when overly used, teacher-to-student correction creates a teacher-centered classroom, prevents the students from noticing their own mistakes, negatively affects confidence, and lowers retention of the target language. See correction, group correction, and student-to-student correction.

teacher talk time (TTT): With the exception of presenting the target language, reading a text for listening, or offering correction and feedback, a teacher should strive to speak only 30% of a conversation-based class. This ensures that the greater bulk of the lesson allows students to acquire and practice new material. See effective talk time and student talk time (STT).

theme-based instruction: Theme-based instruction appears very similar to content-based instruction. Both classes get structured around themes or topics, such as current events. Both may use video, radio broadcasts, or newspaper articles, and may have students watch, listen, discuss, or write about the topic. But theme-based lessons give equal consideration to language skills and the material. Students take the course or class with the primary purpose of improving their English ability, conducted through topics. See content-based instruction and task-based instruction.

thinking learners: Thinking learners prefer facts. They also prefer to be seen as competent, so poor performance or embarrassment can lead to problems in the classroom. Thinking learners attach self-esteem to achievement, so will often have the self-discipline for study and self-direction.

top-down processing: This term involves the knowledge and information students bring to a text, which they either listen to or read. Top-down processing looks to activate this information, so students will work towards understanding the big picture. Activities that focus on top-down processing may ask students to identify the speaker (or writer), the purpose and theme of the piece, and main or supporting ideas. Compare bottom-up processing.

visual learners: This is a learning style in which the students prefer written instructions, diagrams on the board, and pictures. They often learn by observing. They benefit a great deal by reading, video, and other forms of visual stimulation.

warm up: The first ten minutes sets the tone of the lesson. A fun activity gets everyone relaxed and participating. Compare a difficult, writing-based activity, which may discourage students, as well as lower their confidence, resulting in a less participatory class later in the lesson.

But a warm up also gets students thinking in English. In EFL classes, the lesson may be their only contact with the language. They haven't spoken English in a few days or longer, so they need the first ten minutes to get into "English mode." Even in an ESL setting, though, it helps get students focused on the topic of the lesson.

Lastly, the first ten minutes allows the teacher to observe everyone in class and note the general mood of the students. Are they tired? Or distracted? Or unbelievably energetic? The teacher can also see who is and who isn't working well together, which will later play a role in who gets paired up with whom.

writing: This is one of the four skills. There are many forms of writing, such as academic, informative, writing to meet business needs, just to name a few. As such, it should be viewed as more than the ability to write sentences, as ideas must be connected into a larger framework. See also four skills and reading.

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