Building Language Awareness
The focus in Module 1 was on the importance of contextualizing language. In Module 2, the focus is on the need to be aware of the specific language within that context. That is, the awareness, the attention, and the noticing of the particular features of language that add to learning. This means that it is important to pay attention to language form, for example, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. However, teaching these formal aspects of language through rules, exercises, memorization, and drills does not appear to be entirely effective. Research shows that selectively focusing on aspects of language use within a given context can be even more effective. Language awareness is the name for this kind of focus. And, because language awareness is a focus on the pragmatic uses of language, the language input must be in context. Two additional requirements of language awareness are that:
- The context should reflect language that learners are most likely to use.
- And, language practice in context should be accompanied by conscious effort and reflection on that practice.
Module Focus: Introduction
Some characteristics of language awareness include….
- The use of meta-language to talk about language and language forms.
- Training of learners to become better, more conscious participants in their own learning. They do the work.
- A balance of inductive and deductive techniques to focus on specific aspects of language.
- Focus on appropriateness of language used, both situational and cultural.
- And, the use of comprehensible input, in the form of materials from authentic sources, from the local environment, and from the Internet, for example.
#1 Viewing Points: Classroom Techniques
Video segment #1. Look for examples of:
- Learners using previous information to understand and make use of new information.
- Pair and group work for collaborative “discoveries” about language and content.
- And, information from authentic sources for language practice, with attention to form, content, and pragmatics.
MISS ROSS’ THIRD-GRADE CLASS WILL ROLE-PLAY
ACROSS THE WIDE, DARK SEA: MAYFLOWER JOURNEY.
THE CLASS WILL ACT OUT HOW THE PILGRIMS TRAVEL
AND STRUGGLE THROUGH A LONG JOURNEY FOR A NEW LAND.
FATHER, FATHER, PLEASE WAKE UP.
I AM SO FRIGHTENED.
DON’T BE AFRAID, SON. IT’S JUST ANOTHER STORM.
WE HAVE HAD SEVERAL SINCE WE SAILED FROM ENGLAND.
I’M AFRAID THAT IT WILL HIT THE SHIP
OR THE WAVES WILL PULL US UNDER.
I’M TIRED OF BEING COLD AND WET.
I UNDERSTAND, BUT WE MUST BE BRAVE.
WE ARE ON A LONG, HARD JOURNEY TO A NEW HOME.
WE MUST TRUST THAT WE WILL GET THERE SAFELY,
WHERE WE CAN WORSHIP IN OUR OWN WAY.
IT IS THIS FREEDOM WE SEEK
IN A NEW LAND…
COLD AND SHIVERING!
COLD AND SHIVERING!
ALL RIGHT, FATHER AND SON, LET’S PICK UP HERE.
THIS IS WHAT WE CALL…
LAND! WE’RE HERE AT LAST!
LAND! LAND! LAND!
OKAY, NOW WE HAVE EXPERIENCED THE JOURNEY OF THE PILGRIMS
GOING THROUGH THE WIDE, DARK SEA.
AND NOW WE’LL HAVE MISS WOODS DO SOME QUESTIONS
REGARDING THE JOURNEY.
Woods: BOYS AND GIRLS,
HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO LEAVE YOUR HOME OR COUNTRY?
YES, I HAVE WHEN I WENT FROM — WENT FROM —
I WENT FROM ETHIOPIA TO AMERICA,
AND I WAS EXCITED TO GO THERE —
TO GO TO A NEW PLACE,
AND I’M STILL MAD BECAUSE I HAD TO LEAVE MY COUNTRY THAT I WAS BORN IN AND HAD A LOT OF MY FRIENDS.
WHAT WERE YOUR REASONS FOR LEAVING?
REASONS FOR LEAVING YOUR HOME COUNTRY AND GOING TO ANOTHER?
SO WE COULD HAVE FREEDOM.
SO YOU COULD HAVE FREEDOM.
TO START A NEW LIFE.
TO START A NEW LIFE. VERY GOOD.
OKAY, LET’S GO ON TO THE NEXT QUESTION.
HOW DID THE CREW FEEL ABOUT LEAVING THEIR FRIENDS IN THE STORY?
HAS ANYONE EVER LIVED IN ONE PLACE
AND HAD TO MOVE TO ANOTHER?
HOW DID YOU FEEL? EXPLAIN YOUR FEELINGS.
HOW’D YOU FEEL?
I FELT SAD BECAUSE I LEFT —
I LOVE MY GRANDMOTHER, AND SHE — SHE DIDN’T WANT —
SHE DIDN’T WANT TO MOVE.
YOU LOVED YOUR GRANDMOTHER, AND SHE DIDN’T WANT TO MOVE.
OKAY, VERY GOOD.
WHEN I LEFT MY UNCLE, I WAS SAD BECAUSE I WASN’T GOING TO SEE HIM ANYMORE.
OKAY, LET’S GO ONTO THE NEXT QUESTION.
WHEN THE PILGRIMS ARRIVED ON LAND,
WHAT ACTIVITIES, CHORES, OR JOBS DO YOU THINK THEY HAD TO ORGANIZE TO GET EVERYTHING DONE?
FIND A PLACE TO SETTLE.
THEY HAD TO FIND A PLACE TO SETTLE, VERY GOOD.
THEY HAD TO FIND MATERIALS TO BUILD NEW HOMES.
THEY HAD TO FIND MATERIALS TO BUILD THEIR NEW HOME.
THEY HAD TO GROW FOOD FOR THE WINTER OR THEY WOULD BE STARVING.
THEY HAD TO GROW FOOD.
THEY HAD TO WASH THEIR CLOTHES.
MY LAST QUESTION:
WHAT SIMILARITIES OR DIFFERENCES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE PILGRIMS IN THE STORY?
WE GROW FOOD — WE BOTH GROW FOOD
IN — IN PLACES,
AND IN DIFFERENT PLACES, WE PLANT FOOD,
AND PEOPLE GO TO
DIFFERENT PLACES TO TRAVEL
TO MAKE THEIR OWN LIFE — TO HAVE THEIR OWN LIFE.
VERY GOOD. VERY GOOD.
NOW MS. ROSS IS GOING TO TALK SOME MORE
ABOUT JOURNEYS AND TAKING TRIPS.
OKAY, YOU DID A GREAT JOB.
PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK. EXCELLENT JOB!
VERY GOOD. VERY GOOD.
NOW WE’RE GOING TO MOVE INTO SMALL GROUPS,
AND NOW WE’RE GOING TO EXPERIENCE BY DOING A PLAN —
BY PLANNING A TRIP.
OKAY, NOW WE HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED
HOW THE PILGRIMS WENT ON THEIR JOURNEY,
AND WE KNOW WE ALL HAVE EXPERIENCED
SOME SIMILAR JOURNEYS, TOO.
SO NOW WE’RE GOING TO PLAN A TRIP, OKAY?
WHAT I NEED YOU TO DO BY TABLES
IS TO GO TO THE SOCIAL-STUDIES CENTER
AND PICK UP ANY BROCHURES THAT YOU NEED TO WORK
BY CALLING BY TABLE.
LET’S START WITH TABLE THREE FIRST.
PICK UP YOUR BROCHURES.
START WRITING OUT YOUR PLAN: A TRIP.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO, CLASS, IS WRITE “PLACE,”
WHERE YOU’RE GOING, PACKING A LIST, THE TRIP ACTIVITIES, AND YOUR LENGTH OF TIME AND TRANSPORTATION.
LET’S DO THAT FIRST ON THE GREEN SHEET, AND IF YOU NEED ANY HELP, RAISE YOUR HAND.
OKAY, LEAVE A LITTLE SPACE.
NOW LET’S WRITE THE NEXT WORD: “LIST.”
GOOD JOB, EDWIN. PLEASE DRAW THE LINE.
WE HAVE TO USE AIRPLANE.
OKAY, HE’S GOING TO THE AIRPLANE.
[ indistinct conversations ]
Woman: MAKE IT EXCITING.
MAKE IT A WAY THAT PEOPLE —
“WHOO, I WANT TO GO TO THAT PLACE.”
OKAY, WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED?
WE’RE GOING TO NEED CLOTHES.
OKAY, BUT WHAT TYPE OF CLOTHES?
SWIMSUITS…SHOES…AND SHIRTS AND PANTS.
THREE SUITCASES — NO, TWO SUITCASES.
NO, TWO SUITCASES. PUT YOUR NAME ON IT.
THEN WE’RE FINISHED.
MAKE IT A CAPITAL “V,” RIGHT?
I SEE SOME NICE POSTERS!
In this class we saw examples of an all-class skit about the pilgrims who first came to the US many years ago. This was followed by a guided discussion in which students related their own travel experiences and how they felt about them. And, finally, students worked in groups—using real travel brochures—to create a travel plan of their own. The teacher, her aides, and various materials posted around the room provided the necessary language support or “awareness” for vocabulary, organization, and writing. Note that this approach and this sequence of activities would also work just as well with teens or adults.
Module Focus: Summary
The focus in Module 02 has been on developing language awareness. We can ask ourselves, “What does it mean to “know” a language feature?” It is not enough to know basic form and a simple meaning for a language item; the successful learner must also understand the multiple meanings and uses of that item in a variety of contexts.
We can also give consideration to the global nature of English and to the reasons why our learners are studying English. Who will our learners be talking to, writing to? What will they be listening to, reading? What English should be taught? We can reflect on ideas and examples from this and other modules in this video, and then apply them to our classes in ways that work best for each of our unique educational settings.
See the manual for readings and more information on this and other topics related to building language awareness.