Teaching Modern Languages: How Lessons Develop
Author(s): James McGonigal, Brian C Templeton
Copyright holder(s): University of Glasgow: re-use of Crown Copyright material
When planning a lesson or a series of lessons on a topic, it is common in Modern Languages to plan in terms of three broad stages:
• Open-ended Communication.
Teachers also consider how the four language skills will be developed and the logical sequence in which the different language activities will be presented. As a general rule, it is advised that the activities are sequenced in the same order as young learners have acquired the language skills in their native language: Listening>Speaking>Reading>Writing. Obviously, at the early stage in a lesson or in the early lessons at the start of a topic, it is likely that the emphasis will be on the presentation and practice stages as the students become familiar with the new language of the topic, while towards the end of a lesson or series of lessons, there is likely to be more emphasis on open-ended communication.
A typical lesson at the start of a series on a particular topic would have the main emphasis on the presentation stage and might consist of some of the following activities. The teacher would attempt to locate the learning in a realistic and relevant context. The purpose of this phase is to motivate and engage the interest of the pupils, by encouraging them to identify similarities and differences in the cultural context in which the topic is situated, e.g. the school system in France. The discussion is likely to be in English at this stage and would then be developed into a more focused definition of the language objectives to be undertaken in the course of the topic.
By involving the students in identifying and discussing the language objectives necessary if they are to communicate successfully in the context of the topic, the teacher is able to highlight the language functions, vocabulary and tasks required for successful completion of the topic. Such discussion can be used to develop the students’ language awareness, by showing that:
• the language system is made up of many parts: vocabulary, grammar rules, functions, intonation patterns, social usages
• the same language function can be expressed in several different ways
• a language function or a grammar point learned in one context can be transferred and re-used in other contexts.
By the end of this brainstorming session the teacher will have identified previously learned language which can be recycled in this topic, as well as new language to be mastered, and is now in a position to present to the students a logical sequence in which to structure the learning in the foreign language.
This sequence would begin with the teacher presenting some of the new language by means of a visual stimulus such as flashcards/realia/OHP. It is important at this stage that the students are given time to listen to the new foreign language in order to match the correct sound to the corresponding visual and to become accustomed to the correct form of the pronunciation. This stage would soon merge into the practice stage, where the students begin to practise pronunciation of the new language in response to the visuals and to questions from the teacher.
After sustained practice and repetition of the new language, it is common to round off this stage by setting up a short paired speaking activity in which the students undertake with a partner a short controlled practice of the language presented and practised in the whole class format. The main purpose of this activity is to allow the teacher to assess informally and to provide feedback to the pupils as to how effective the learning and teaching has been up to this point.
Depending on the time remaining, the lesson might proceed to practise and extend the language of the topic, through a listening and/or reading activity, and the lesson might end with the copying of the new language as homework. The subsequent lesson would begin by checking how effectively this had been done and by revising quickly the previously taught material, in order to be sure of the basis on which the next lesson is building.
English and Modern Languages teachers might usefully consider the similarities and differences in their typical approaches to lesson planning. What are the correspondences between the three stages of teaching and learning in the different subjects? More importantly, which stage of a lesson offers the best opportunity for explicit teaching of techniques or terminology, and when should this be revisited or rehearsed by the learners?
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Teaching Modern Languages: How Lessons Develop. 2021. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved January 2021, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=500.
"Teaching Modern Languages: How Lessons Develop." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2021. Web. January 2021. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=500.
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