The goal of teaching strategies is to create autonomous learners, learners who can learn by themselves inside and outside the classroom. Research and classroom practices are evolving in many directions to try to better understand and facilitate learning for students of all ages. In general, successful language learners tend to select strategies that work well together, according to the requirements of the language task. These learners can easily explain the strategies they use and why they use them.
Module Focus: Introduction
In this module, we will focus on some key features of two classes of learning strategies:
- Language learning and communication strategies.
- Cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
If we accept that cognition is “knowing” or “learning,” then we can say that metacognition is developing an awareness of and an ability to monitor that learning process. We will see that there is, in fact, a lot of overlap between all of these strategies.
Teachers can help students develop effective strategies by:
- Identifying students’ current learning strategies through surveys, interviews, or other means.
- Helping individual students understand which strategies work best for them.
- Assisting students in developing a set of strategies that work well together, rather than using a scattered approach.
#1 Viewing Points: Language Learning and Communication Strategies
Some characteristics of successful self-directed language learners are that they:
- Have a strong drive, or motivation, to communicate.
- They are willing to take risks, and make mistakes.
- They recognize language and communication patterns.
- They use guessing and prediction strategies.
- They pay attention to meaning.
- They monitor and self-correct their own speech.
- They practice with the language at every opportunity.
- And, over time, they learn to think—and perhaps even dream–in the target language, English.
Video Segment #1: Watch, Analyze, Infer
First review the list of strategies in the manual. Use it as a guide while you listen to this teacher describe some of the underlying organizational principles of her classroom, and the kinds of learning strategies she supports.
What kinds of learning strategies do you think are built into this class? And, how are they evidenced in the things that she describes, and that you see?
OKAY, THEY HAVE MANY CHALLENGES, LIKE ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE, YOU KNOW, THIS COUNTRY, AND SOME OF THESE KIDS ARE FROM WAR-TORN COUNTRIES.
SO THESE KIDS COOK, KEEP THE HOUSE. SOME OF THEM WORK PART-TIME OR MANY HOURS IN ORDER TO HELP SUPPLEMENT THE INCOME OF THE FAMILY. SO THEY HAVE THAT CHALLENGE, TOO, YOU KNOW?
THEN ACADEMICALLY — THE CHALLENGES THEY FACE ACADEMICALLY ARE SEVERAL. THEIR LANGUAGE IN THEIR COUNTRY IS THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGE FIRST, AND THEN ENGLISH IS THE SECOND LANGUAGE, AND WHEN WE SAY THAT ENGLISH IS THE SECOND LANGUAGE, ENGLISH IS SPOKEN OFFICIALLY IN OFFICES, OKAY? SO THEY ARE USED TO SPEAKING THE PIDGIN ENGLISH, AND THEIR PROBLEMS ARE KIND OF PECULIAR TO THEM.
WRITING IS ANOTHER PROBLEM THEY HAVE BECAUSE THEY, FIRST OF ALL, THINK IN THEIR LANGUAGE, AND THEN THEY TRY TO TRANSLATE IT TO ENGLISH, AND THEN SOMETIMES ALONG THE LINE, THEY LOSE PART OF THE MEANING, OR SOMETIMES, THEY FIND THEMSELVES REPEATING — REPETITIOUS, BECAUSE BACK HOME, PEOPLE USE LOTS OF PROVERBS, AND PEOPLE REPEAT THEMSELVES FOR EMPHASIS, AND WHEN THEY DO MUCH OF THAT IN ENGLISH, THEY SAY, “OKAY, YOU KEEP REPEATING WHAT YOU’VE SAID BEFORE, YOU’RE SAYING AGAIN, AGAIN.” AND THEY KEEP WANDERING,
AND AGAIN, SOME OF THEIR SPELLING, TOO. SO THAT’S — THAT’S BASICALLY, YOU KNOW, THE PROBLEM. YOU KNOW, WRITING, THEY HAVE LOTS OF PROBLEMS IN THAT. SPEAKING, TOO, NOT AS MUCH AS WRITING, BECAUSE AT LEAST THEY HAVE SOME KNOWLEDGE OF, YOU KNOW, SPOKEN ENGLISH FROM THEIR COUNTRY.
YEAH, WHAT GOES THROUGH MY MIND IS THAT THESE KIDS HAVE GONE THROUGH INTERRUPTED SCHOOLING BECAUSE MANY OF THEM ARE FROM SIERRA LEONE AND LIBERIA. SO MANY –YOU KNOW, THAT GAP –THEY’VE LOST OUT A LOT.
SO WHEN I’M TEACHING, I DRAW FROM, YOU KNOW, LOTS OF SOURCES IN ORDER TO –YOU KNOW, TO HELP THEM, AND MOST OF THE TIME, I START OUT FROM WHAT THEY KNOW ALREADY.
OKAY, LIKE THIS FOLK TALE WE ARE READING — AND, YOU KNOW, I TRY TO TELL THEM A FOLK TALE, YOU KNOW, JUST TO JOG THEIR MEMORY. THEY’VE HEARD, IF NOT THE STORY, PROBABLY SIMILAR STORIES FROM THEIR HOME BASE, AND FOLK TALE IS LITERATURE. SO WE START OUT FROM THE KNOWN. THEN I NOW MOVE OVER TO THE UNKNOWN SO THEY CAN TRANSFER THAT, YOU KNOW. SO I TRY TO DO THAT, YOU KNOW, WITH THE — WITH THE STUDENTS.
SO LET’S GOTO THE NEXT THING, WHICH IS SMALL-GROUP PRE-LISTENING DISCUSSION, AND AS YOU CAN SEE — IF YOU LOOK UP THERE, YOU WILL SEE THAT I PUT DOWN THE DIFFERENT TOPICS YOU NEED TO DISCUSS IN YOUR GROUP. WITHIN TWO MINUTES, SEE WHETHER YOU CAN LIST A FEW ITEMS.
GROUP ONE, WHICH IS ASHTON AND ABBIE, YOU WANT TO COPY DOWN WHAT YOUR QUESTION IS? TIMES WE ARE TRICKED…OR BETRAYED: HOW YOU FELT…YOU NEED TO TALK, DISCUSS IT, AND COME UP WITH A FEW POINTS, OKAY?
WE GO TO GROUP THREE, EDWARD AND ELIZA GYESI: WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT CROCODILES. YEAH, WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT CROCODILES.
OKAY, WE SHOULD WIND UP NOW SO WE CAN DISCUSS — SO WE CAN SHARE. WE SHARE IT BEFORE WE CONTINUE.
OUR QUESTION WAS A TIME YOU WAS TRICKED OR BETRAYED: HOW YOU FELT. OKAY.
I THINK, LIKE, WHEN SOMEONE GOT BETRAYED OR TRICKED, IT WILL NOT BE — YOU’LL FEEL SAD BECAUSE, LIKE — YOU PUT YOUR — YOUR TRUST, AND THEN YOU — BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE IN THE PERSON, AND THEN YOU GOT DISAPPOINTED.
I THINK THAT ONE IS NOT NICE.
WE NOW GO TO THE NEXT GROUP, GROUP THREE, EDWARD AND ELIZABETH. YOU WANT TO READ OUT YOUR QUESTION?
Young woman: OKAY, SAY WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT CROCODILES. AND WE WERE, LIKE, THEY LIVE IN THE WATER AND SWIM.
THEY ARE UGLY ANIMALS.
THEY ARE WHAT?
THEY ARE UGLY ANIMALS.
UGLY ANIMALS! [ laughs ]
UGLY ANIMALS, OKAY.
THEY HAVE MANY… LONG TAIL — I MEAN, LONG TOOTH.
WOW, YEAH, SURE.
AND SHARP, TOO.
THEY ALSO HAVE A ROUGH BODY.
A ROUGH BODY?
YEAH, YOU’RE VERY RIGHT.
HOW MANY —
UH-HUH, YOU’RE NOT DONE.
THEY HAVE BIG TAILS AT THE END OF THEIR BACK.
OH, OKAY. THAT’S VERY GOOD.
HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE SEEN CROCODILES BEFORE? OH, MANY OF YOU.
[speaks indistinctly ]
OH, YOU ARE RIGHT, BECAUSE THEY ARE CARNIVORES.
OKAY, THAT’S RIGHT.
THEY EAT MEAT, OKAY?
THEY EAT MEAT.
OKAY, VERY GOOD.
LET’S CLAP FOR THEM, TOO. THEY DID A GOOD JOB.
Young man: SOMETIMES SOME PEOPLE SAY, LIKE, CROCODILES’ TEARS OR SOMETHING.
OH, CROCODILE TEARS.
OKAY, YOU KNOW?
JUST LIKE WHERE SOMEBODY OUTSMARTS YOU. THEY SAID WHEN THE CROCODILE TEARS … [ laughs ]…
I DO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY.
HAVE PEOPLE EVER HEARD OF CROCODILE TEARS?
YES, IT’S SOMETHING ABOUT THEY ASK YOU, YOU TRY TO CRY — YOU’RE TRYING TO PRETEND!
PRETENDING LIKE YOU’RE CRYING —
PRETENDING LIKE YOU’RE CRYING… [ students talking at once ]
SHED YOUR CROCODILE TEARS.
TODAY, THE TITLE OF THE STORY WE ARE GOING TO READ IS HOW CHAMELEON BECAME A TEACHER, AND BOTH THE CROCODILE AND CHAMELEON, THEY BELONG TO A CLASS OF ANIMALS CALLED…REPTILES — THANK YOU SO MUCH.
WHY AM I EXPLAINING SOME OF THESE THINGS IS TO SUPPORT THE BIOLOGY CLASS YOU ARE TAKING. SO LET’S GET TO THE STORY. ARE YOU READY?
AND THE LESSON, AGAIN, I DRAW ON THINGS LIKE, YOU KNOW, BIOLOGY, WHICH IS A PROBLEM MANY OF — WHICH IS A SUBJECT THAT MANY STUDENTS HAVE PROBLEM. THIS IS AN ENGLISH CLASS, BUT YOU COULD SEE THAT I TRY TO INCORPORATE BIOLOGY IN WHAT I WAS TEACHING. THAT WAS WHY I TALKED ABOUT MAMMAL, YOU KNOW. THE CHARACTERS IN THE STORY WERE REPTILES. I INDIRECTLY TALKED ABOUT THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A REPTILE, HOW THEY DIFFER FROM MAMMALS. SO THAT’S AN ASPECT OF BIOLOGY THAT I’M PURPOSELY, YOU KNOW, INJECTING INTO WHAT I’M TEACHING.
ALL THAT, YOU KNOW — I PURSUE IT FROM ALL ANGLES, AND I TRY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, YOU KNOW, TO TEACH THEM THE VARIOUS SKILLS IN ENGLISH, YOU KNOW, THE ORAL — YOU SEE THE MORNING MESSAGE, YOU KNOW. I PUT UP THE ORAL — YOU KNOW, THE LISTENING.
YOU KNOW, THEN THE SPEAKING AND THE WRITING. LIKE WHAT WE DID TODAY, I TRIED TO INCORPORATE ALL OF THESE THINGS, YOU KNOW, INTO THAT.
IT’S ALL, TOO — IT’S ALL STUDENTS — YOU KNOW, STUDENTS TEACHING ENGLISH TO STUDENTS OF OTHER LANGUAGES.
WE USE LOTS OF PICTURES. SO PICTORIALS AND THINGS LIKE THAT HELP, AND I TRIED — I USED THE MOVIE BECAUSE THAT ONE WAS VERY EFFECTIVE, TOO, BECAUSE ONE, STUDENTS LOVE MOVIES. TWO, IT’S PERTINENT TO, YOU KNOW, WHAT THEY ARE LEARNING. YOU KNOW, AND THEY SAW THE CROCODILE IN ACTION. SO AT LEAST IT WOULD SET THE IMAGINATION GOING.
THAT TIME, I WAS TEACHING WHAT TYPE OF A FRIENDSHIP COULD A TINY, LITTLE ANIMAL LIKE A CHAMELEON AND A CROCODILE HAVE? I MEAN, WHAT TYPE OF A FRIENDSHIP? SO IT WILL SET THEM THINKING.
I DIDN’T WANT TO GIVE OUT ALL THE ANSWERS BECAUSE I GAVE THEM WORKSHEETS. I WANTED THEM TO THINK AT HOME, TO BE ABLE TO MAKE CONNECTIONS.
BUT I USED SOME OF THESE — YOU KNOW, THE OVERHEAD AND THE AUDIO, THE MOVIE. I USED THEM TO, YOU KNOW — TO BOOST UP, YOU KNOW, AS AN ADDITION TO HELP EXPLAIN TO THEM, YOU KNOW, SO THEY CAN SEE THESE THINGS IN VISUAL FORMS, YOU KNOW, AND HEAR THEM. IT WILL BE MORE MEANINGFUL TO THEM, YOU KNOW.
BEFORE THE CLASS IS OVER, I TRY TO MAKE STUDENTS, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM, TALK OR ASK QUESTIONS. I TRY TO ENCOURAGE THAT BECAUSE IF NOT, WE CAN EASILY LOSE SOME STUDENTS.
WHO KNOWS, WHEN I’M DONE TEACHING HERE, I WANT SOME OF THEM TO BE IN MY PLACE, PICK UP THAT MARKER, YOU KNOW, AND BE TEACHING…
This teacher works with young adults. She incorporates many learning and metacognitive strategies in her teacher. Clearly, she understands her students’ current strengths, needs, and challenges.
Some of the strategies that she supports in the classroom include:
- Those for language-specific skills (for example, speaking, listening, reading, and writing).
- Those for cognition and metacognition (for example, schema activation, transfer of knowledge, reflection, and so on).
- And, those that involve affective factors such as motivation, confidence, and a trusting atmosphere to encourage risk-taking and participation.
Module Focus: Summary
The focus in Module 07 has been on:
- Language learning and communication strategies.
- And, cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
- With strategy training, teachers should help students develop effective and social strategies, as well as intellectually related strategies, based on their individual learning styles, current strategy use, and specific goals.
- See the manual for readings and more information on this and other topics related to Learning Strategies.