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Proiect cofinanţat din Fondul Social European prin Programul Operaţional Sectorial Dezvoltarea Resurselor Umane 2007-2013

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Formarea profesională a cadrelor didactice

din învăţământul preuniversitar
pentru noi oportunităţi de dezvoltare în carieră

Dana - Anca CEHAN

Program de conversie profesională la nivel postuniversitar

pentru cadrele didactice din învăţământul preuniversitar

Specializarea ENGLEZĂ
Forma de învăţământ ID - semestrul III

EFL Methodology I

Dana - Anca CEHAN

© 2011 Acest manual a fost elaborat în cadrul "Proiectului pentru
Învăţământul Rural", proiect co-finanţat de către Banca Mondială,
Guvernul României şi comunităţile locale.

Nici o parte a acestei lucrări nu poate fi reprodusă fără acordul

scris al Ministerului Educaţiei, Cercetării, Tineretului şi Sportului.

ISBN 973-0-04103-2
Table of contents


Introduction 1

UNIT 1 The Pupils, the Teacher and the School

Unit Objectives 8
1.1 Learning English Inside and Outside the Classroom 8
1.2 The Complexities of the Classroom 9
1.3 Getting to Know Your Pupils 10
1.3.1 The Good Learners of English 14
1.4 Class Atmosphere 15
1.4.1 Discipline 15
1.4.2 Involving All the Pupils 16
1.4.3 Extra Curricular Activities 18
1.5 The Teacher 18
1.5.1 Essential Teaching Skills 18
1.5.2 Language Ability 22
1.5.3 Teacher Talents 24
1.5.4 Practical Classroom Skills 24
1.5.5 Opportunities for Self Development 25
1.5.6 The Good English Teacher 25
1.6 The School 26
1.6.1 Getting a New Job 27
1.6.2 The Classroom 28
1.6.3 School Routines 28
Summary 31
Key Concepts 31
SAA No. 1 32
Further Reading 32
Answers to SAQs 32

UNIT 2 Classroom Management

Unit Objectives 37
2.1 Classroom Management 37
2.1.1 Getting Organised 39
2.1.2 Getting Started 40
2.1.3 Moving From One Activity to Another 40
2.1.4 Transitions 41
2.1.5 Ending a Lesson 42
2.2 Patterns of Interaction 42
2.2.1 Whole Class Teacher-Led Activities 44
2.2.2 Pupils’ Independent Activities 45
2.3 Teacher-Led Activities 45
2.3.1 Whole Class Activities 45
2.3.2 Tutorials 46
2.3.3 Teacher Presentation 46
2.3.4 Class Dialogue 48
2.3.5 Class Discussion 52
2.4 Pupils’ Independent Activities 53
2.4.1 Supervised Learning 54
Table of contents
2.4.2 Supported Independent Learning 55
2.5 Pupil Groupings: Pair Work and Group Work 56
2.5.1 Pair Work Organisation 56
2.5.2 Group Work Organisation 57
2.5.3 Pair and Group Work in Progress 58
2.5.4 Feedback to Pair and Group Work 59
Summary 61
Key Concepts 61
SAA No. 2 61
Further Reading 62
Answers to SAQs 62

UNIT 3 Lesson Planning

Unit Objectives 66
3.1 Introduction to Lesson Planning 66
3.2 Pre-planning 67
3.3 Writing a Lesson Plan 68
3.3.1 Preliminary Information 69
3.3.2 Procedure 73
3.3.3 A Final Check of the Lesson Plan 77
3.4 Layout of Lesson Plans 77
3.5 You and the Lesson Plan 78
3.6 Timetabling 79
3.6.1 Timetabling in Practice 79
Summary 80
Key Concepts 81
Further Reading 81
Answers to SAQs 81

UNIT 4 Developing Speaking Skills

Unit Objectives 86
4.1 The Speaking Skill in Communication 86
4.1.1 Why and When We Speak 86
4.1.2 What Does Communicating Involve? 87
4.2 Developing Communicative Competence in the Classroom 89
4.2.1 Oral Practice Activities 89
4.2.2 Less Controlled Practice 94
4.2.3 Freer Practice 99
4.3 Speaking for Fluency 102
4.3.1 Feedback on Communication Activities 103
Summary 103
Key Concepts 104
Further Reading 104
Answers to SAQs 104

UNIT 5 Developing Listening Comprehension Skills

Unit Objectives 109
5.1 Listening Sub-skills 109
5.2 Real-Life Listening and Classroom Listening 110
5.2.1 Characteristics of Real-Life Listening Situations 110
5.2.2 Listening Styles in Real Life 112
5.3 Classroom Listening Activities 114
5.3.1 Spontaneous Speech in the Classroom 115

Table of contents
5.3.2 Choosing Listening Materials for the Classroom 115
5.3.3 Intensive and Extensive Listening 116
5.3.4 Listening Comprehension Activities Classified According to Learner 116
5.3.5 Guidelines for Designing Effective Listening Tasks 119
5.3.6 Procedures for the Systematic Development of Listening 122
5.3.7 A Basic Methodological Model of the Teaching of Listening 123
5.3.8 Problems with Classroom Listening 124
Summary 127
Key Concepts 127
SAA No. 3 128
Further Reading 128
Answers to SAQs

UNIT 6 Developing Reading Skills

Unit Objectives 132
6.1 The Text 132
6.1.1 Authenticity of Text and Task 133
6.1.2 Text Structure 135
6.2 Reading Styles 137
6.3 The Aims of a Reading Programme 140
6.4 Reader and Text: an Interactive Relation 143
6.4.1 Sub-Skills Involved in Reading 143
6.4.2 Models of Reading: The Top-Down and The Bottom-Up Processes 148
6.4.3 Reader Response 150
6.5 Reading in English vs. Reading in Romanian 152
6.6 The Three-Phase Approach to Reading Activities 152
Summary 156
Key Concepts 156
SAA No. 4 156
Further Reading 157
Answers to SAQs 157

UNIT 7 Developing Writing Skills

Unit Objectives 161
7.1 Writing to Learn and Learning to Write 162
7.2 Developing Writing Competence: Writing Sub-skills 163
7.3 Approaches to Writing 164
7.3.1 The Text-based Approach 166
7.3.2 The Communicative Approach 172
7.3.3 Purpose and Motivation 174
7.4 Feedback on Writing 175
7.4.1 Strategies for the Correction of Mistakes 178
Summary 182
Key Concepts 183
Further Reading 183
Answers to SAQs 183

General Bibliography 186

Glossary of EFL Methodology Terms 188



Dear Students,

We are pleased that you have chosen this distance-training

course in ELT methodology. This course addresses those of you who
feel the need for professional development but may work in remote
places, who cannot be taken off the job or leave their home place,
those who show interest and a positive attitude towards the
philosophy of education that lies behind a distance training project.
Using this course, you will be able to update your information about
ELT methodology and reflect on your own classroom practice while
With this course, we hope to achieve three objectives: to make
training available to teachers like you, to encourage you to exploit
your own teaching as a data source, to test new ideas, and to try to
improve the mode of delivery and your morale. We hope that this
course, written especially for distance students, will meet your needs
and interests and will contribute to your professional and personal
development. It is meant to help you understand and try out new
classroom ideas and techniques, and to invite you to reflect on old
and new experiences. It aims at improving the quality of your English
language teaching by increasing your confidence in your own abilities
as professionals.
Despite the fact that this course, and the whole project that this
course is a part of, puts the onus on you to fit your learning time in
with competing demands, we hope you will find home-study generally
convenient, as it can be done (to a certain extent) at your own pace*
and according to your study options.

Course Aims
We are aware of at least two inherent features of distance
education that we need to counteract: isolation and delay. In
response, we tried to positively exploit reflection and autonomy. We
know that, ideally, a training course should both promote steady
long-term change and provide reassurance and support for the
individual student. However, the former is characteristic to distance
projects and the latter to face-to-face learning. Our distance project
tries to have both, in a balanced proportion of distance and contact
learning. Not unlike other distance courses, this one also tried hard to
get the right balance between different theoretical and practical
elements, between educational theory and classroom practice. The
course aims at:
• initiating long-term changes in your teaching habits: developing
your critical understanding of the process of language learning
and teaching through encouraging you to reflect not just on your

teaching but also on your own learning and how best to
manage it;
• stimulating your acquisition of knowledge of the means through
which this process may be achieved:
 by encouraging you to focus first and foremost on what
actually happens in real classrooms – your own or those of
fellow teachers – and to start off developing your reflection on
teaching from observation and experience, and
 by encouraging you to value your own teaching and to learn
from it;
• developing your skills of effective organisation of learning.

Course Tasks
The course tasks are so devised as to avoid the danger of
setting up work that is too open-ended or demands resources you
may not have easily available. The course material has been broken
into manageable units which are interspersed (‘deconstructed’) with
revision and reflection tasks. There is plenty of in-built interactivity
between you and the course materials. You will use the course
materials in solving the as-you-go self-assessment tasks (“SAQs”),
and will also draw on resources available in the classroom and on
your own experience to solve the “Think first!” tasks.
The self-assessment tasks are signalled by this icon...

... and the “Think first!” tasks are signalled by this icon:

At the end of units 1, 2, 5 and 6, you are asked to write a send-

away assignment (“SAA”), which asks you to review the main points
of the unit. The answers to SAAs will be sent to your tutor. SAAs are
signalled by this icon:


Course Coverage
The course covers the equivalent of 56 hours of face-to-face
teaching: 28 hours of lecturing and 28 seminar hours. As
professional competence is built up from received knowledge and
experiential knowledge and as both components inform professional
practice, you will be encouraged by both tasks and tutors to practise
reflection on your own teaching as this practice allows for the
development and extension of professional competence.

Course Outline
We hope that your relative isolation may help to foster a
discipline of learning awareness. Distance can be made to work for
you in an almost metaphorical way: distance learning can help to
create a distancing between you and what is learnt and a more self-
reflective* attitude. Moreover, as speakers of English - a foreign
language - which you may feel to be both familiar and distant, you
can become more focussed on the process of learning than the
average teacher of other subjects can be expected.
Unit 1 The Pupils, The Teacher And The School 8 hours
Unit 2 Lesson Management 8 hours
Unit 3 Lesson Planning 8 hours
Unit 4 Developing Speaking Skills 8 hours
Unit 5 Developing Listening Comprehension Skills 8 hours
Unit 6 Developing Reading Skills 8 hours
Unit 7 Developing Writing Skills 8 hours
The seven units are accompanied by a Glossary of ELT Terms.
The words marked by an asterisk (*) in the text are explained in the

Tutorials: Face-to-face Meetings with Your Tutors

Two face-to-face tutorials will be organised, which are meant to

provide you with support, reassurance, and feedback on send-away
assignments. The SAAs encourage interaction between you and your
tutor. First you must ‘deconstruct’ the text of each unit, assimilate
new information into your existing schemata, ‘reconstruct’ it and
produce your own output.
The tasks and send-away assignments (SAAs) encourage you
to look analytically at your own teaching context, asking you to reflect
on and refer constantly to it, including your pupils and your own
teaching in your analyses. The tasks implicitly encourage self-
evaluation and they will enable you to set your own agenda for
change: you are asked to search for alternatives in your teaching,
through reading and reflecting, to integrate theory and practice but
also to generate your own theories out of practice. They promote
steadier long-term changes in your teaching than tasks with
comparable content which are delivered face-to-face, where the
participants are cut off from their classrooms, and where often the
trainees feel overwhelmed by the diet of instruction.

The Portfolio
A requirement of this course is for you to compile a portfolio*.
Your portfolio will include:
• answers to tasks. Some "Think First!" tasks instruct you to
include your answers in the portfolio and take them to the
tutorials to discuss them with your classmates and your tutor.
Keep your answers in your portfolio, together with the
alternative answers given by your classmates during the
• two lesson plans accompanied by self-evaluative post-lesson
• supplementary materials used during these three lessons.
• tests designed and administered to your classes during the
current term, together with the pupils' scores and your
comments on the tests' reliability, validity, scorability and
• your reading notes for two or three materials recommended in
the Further Reading sections.
• a project (of about 1000 words). In this project you examine
how a textbook you use covers criteria such as the following:

• How does the textbook handle writing and speaking

(controlled*, guided*, free*)?
• Is there appropriate progression and variety of task?
• Are there conventions of different sorts of speaking and writing
taught? Which ones are taught and how are they presented?
• Is there emphasis on the style of spoken and written English?
• Is there attention to different styles according to text type? (only
for advanced level activities)
• Is attention given to the language resources specific to the
written form, such as punctuation, spelling, layout, etc.?
• How much emphasis is there on accuracy?
• Is a readership identified for writing activities?
• Do your pupils find the activities in the textbook motivating,
stimulating and interesting to do?
• Are the activities of an appropriate level for the pupils or do
they find them too easy/difficult/childish/sophisticated?
• Are the activities relevant to your pupils’ needs?
• Do you like the activities in the textbook?

You will present this project to you classmates and your tutor as
part of the final examination.
You will be allowed about 15 minutes to present the materials in
your portfolio and your project. You could think of any means of
presenting them, from OHP* transparencies, charts, video and audio
cassettes, to PowerPoint presentations. The quality of your

presentation will count for your final grade. The evaluation of the
project will take into account the authenticity of the materials used
and the extent to which the project reflects your class activity.

Assessment and Evaluation

Your class activity and contributions will be assessed
throughout the semester. The cumulated weight of your activity,
contributions and SAAs in your final grade is 50%. The project that
you will present at the end of the semester will add the other 50%.
In the assessment of each SAA, the tutor will take into account:
• the extent to which your answers take into account the task
requirements (30%). Always make sure you understand what is
being asked of you in an assignment. Pay special attention to
the instructions for each task.
• the coherence, clarity, and consistence of your ideas (40%).
• the accuracy of your grammar (20%).
• the accuracy of your spelling (10%).
Each assignment must be completed and sent to the tutor
before the deadline (deadlines are specified in the study plans that
you are given at the beginning of each semester). Note that a
typewritten paper will to make your tutor’s work easier. If you have no
possibility to type your assignment, at least take care that your
handwriting should be fully legible.

Pre-reading Anxieties
You may feel now anxious because of the amount of reading
you are supposed to do and by the written work you have to produce.
Some of you may also have problems with the ‘new language’ you
have to learn, but this problem is partially solved by the existence of
a course glossary.
You may also find it difficult to connect received knowledge to
experiential knowledge and practice as you may have a history of
undervaluing personal expertise and searching in the literature for
prescriptions. You may be accustomed to producing work that has
had little reference to your personal practice. Your anxieties can be
exacerbated by your work in isolation and by an apparent emphasis
on learning from print. This anxiety should not lead you to focus
particularly strongly on the ‘received knowledge’ part of the course,
even when you may find the tasks requiring personal judgement
harder. Try to refrain from downplaying the exploration of your own
experience. Value it and trust yourselves. Avoid an over-critical
attitude to your own teaching.


To conclude, here are a few advantages of distance learning,

which we hope, you will fully benefit of:
• Autonomy
Your autonomy is very high in a distance learning course,
perhaps even higher than in self-study. Autonomy is encouraged by
the basic philosophy of the project and by the support materials.
• Self-esteem
Your self-respect can be a precursor to your (new) respect for
your pupils and your desire to foster their self-directed learning. We
hope that at the end of the course you will be more confident
teachers and more confident people.
• Quality of learning materials
Distance learning materials have to comply with a number of
requirements which can be copied to other types of pedagogical
materials such as: minimal number of words on the page, plenty of
white space, bulleted lists, clear hierarchy of headings, simple
introduction and clearly formulated objectives. The distance materials
are self-explanatory, couched in an accessible language.
The qualities of distance materials can inspire your own
teaching, your developing of materials in terms of layout, use of
headings, clarity of instructions, contextualisation*, referral back to
previous learning, clear objectives, summarisation and review,
consistency of style and presentation.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 8
1.1 Learning English Inside and Outside the Classroom 8

1.2 The Complexities of the Classroom 9

1.3 Getting to Know Your Pupils 10

1.3.1 The Good Learners of English 14

1.4 Class Atmosphere 15

1.4.1 Discipline 15
1.4.2 Involving All the Pupils 16
1.4.3 Extra Curricular Activities 18

1.5 The Teacher 18

1.5.1 Essential Teaching Skills 18
1.5.2 Language Ability 22
1.5.3 Teacher Talents 24
1.5.4 Practical Classroom Skills 24
1.5.5 Opportunities for Self Development 25
1.5.6 The Good English Teacher 25

1.6 The School 26

1.6.1 Getting a New Job 27
1.6.2 The Classroom 28
1.6.3 School Routines 28

Summary 31

Key Concepts 31

SAA No. 1 32

Further Reading 32

Answers to SAQs 32

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Establishing a productive learning environment is a big

challenge for teachers. For beginning teachers, it may be the
primary concern. Studies show that nearly half of the teachers who
leave the profession during the first three years do so because of
problems with managing pupils.
This unit and the next will help you establish and maintain a
productive and orderly learning environment, i.e. a classroom that is
safe, orderly and focussed on learning. Such an environment will
enable your pupils to feel safe and learn as much as possible. Their
shared classroom routines, values, expectations, learning
experiences, rules and procedures will increase their engagement,
their sense of autonomy and will enhance the use of instructional
time. All this will result in their improved achievement and motivation
and in your job satisfaction.
After you have completed the study of this unit, you should be
able to:
• explain how you can enable your pupils to learn English more
happily and effectively;
• describe how the class atmosphere can assist language
unit objectives
• identify the qualities of a good learner of English;
• identify essential teaching skills that help promote learning;
• identify the talents and skills of a good teacher of English;
• explain how creating and teaching rules can eliminate
management* problems.

1.1 Learning English Inside and Outside the Classroom

Throughout the world, the majority of English language learning
takes place outside the classroom. Learners are exposed to English
in the course of their everyday life: they interact with other English
speakers, listen to the radio and TV, read newspapers, write letters,
socialize, etc. In a word, they do things with English.
organised class However, formal classroom learning may suit better some kinds
learning can of learners. These prefer that the responsibility of learning be taken
accelerate the away from them. In the classroom, frequency, pace and order of
process of learning exposure to English is determined by a syllabus* and/or a
English coursebook, and the teacher determines the learning activities. The
control by the teacher of the organization of the classroom provides
support to the learners lacking in motivation or confidence.
Nevertheless, the same control may be a source of frustration to
other learners, who know both what and how they want to learn.
As an English teacher, you must bear in mind that you are
responsible for the learning of all pupils within the classroom. You
must also train them in using good strategies, to enable them to
continue learning outside the classroom. You must develop in the
pupils habits* of independence and autonomy, preparing them to
organise their own learning and to exploit other sources of language
outside the classroom.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.2 The Complexities of the Classroom

Classroom activities have characteristics that make them
complex and demanding:
Several activities and tasks occur at the same time. When you
teach a classroom, you need to maintain order, attract and keep
your pupils’ attention and keep them involved in a learning activity*
(individual, whole class, small groups, pairs). You may also have to
deal with discipline problems.
The events occur rapidly. Things happen quickly, and you need
to make many of the decisions right now. This need to make quick
decisions can be almost overwhelming, particularly for beginning
Events often take unexpected turns. You must always plan
your classroom activity, and try to anticipate as much as you can of
what will happen. And yet it is impossible to plan for all of your
pupils’ responses. Pupils and classroom activity are often
unpredictable, but experienced teachers get used to expecting the
unexpected. The unpredictable nature of classrooms increases their
complexity and challenge.
You teach in front of people. In a sense, you are on a stage,
and your successes and mistakes occur in the public space. The
pupils’ (and possibly other observers’) perceptions of your actions
can have unintended consequences.
Think first!
Can you remember a personal teaching experience that
illustrates clearly one or several of the characteristics presented
In about 100 words, describe it in the space provided below.

Take your answer to the next tutorial to discuss it with your

classmates and tutor.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.3 Getting to Know Your Pupils

To be able to predict as much of the unpredictable as possible,
you need to know your pupils and to build up a wide repertoire of
skills and techniques*. All these will enable you to develop useful
predicting the structures and a personal style of teaching. You will then maximize
unpredictable both your pupils’ potential and your own in the limited time and with
the limited resources of the school.
In an ideal classroom, management is invisible. The
atmosphere is calm, movement and interaction* are comfortable,
and pupils work quietly. The teacher gives few directions and
reprimands pupils infrequently. In the real world, some classes are
tough to manage. In most instances, however, a teacher can create
an orderly classroom. Doing so requires good knowledge of the
pupils and careful planning. It also requires the existence of a clearly
understood and consistently monitored* set of rules and procedures
that prevents management problems before they occur.
Before planning rules and procedures, you must consider both
the characteristics of your pupils and the physical environment of
your classrooms. The relationship among these factors is illustrated
Planning for
Pupil effective The physical
characteristics management environment

and rules

(after Eggen and Don Kauchak (2004) Educational Psychology, Pearson)

The complexity of a teacher’s activity is especially apparent in

the large classes of the primary and secondary schools, where the
number of pupils and their immaturity combine to put the teacher’s
classroom managerial skills to constant test. In such a context,
knowing your pupils and knowing how to approach them is crucial.

The pupils, the teacher and the school


You know that your pupils think, act and feel differently at
different stages of development. What are the general
characteristics affecting classroom management of the primary
school pupils (grades 2 to 4) compared to those of the lower
secondary school pupils (grades 5 to 8)?
Write your answers in the space provided below and then
compare them with those given at the end of the chapter.
Grades 2 to 4

Grades 5 to 8

Before you start teaching a new group, you will want to find out
both who your pupils are and what they have already learnt.
the pupils
Whether you teach younger or older children, your way of
approaching them, especially in the early stages of the classroom
activity, will be a major factor that affects your pupils’ confidence.
Learners of all ages should be treated with care and respect.
Knowing your pupils by name, knowing their backgrounds and
interests, knowing about their previous language-learning
experiences and their attitudes to English will enable you to help
them learn more effectively.
Being able to address your pupils by name has considerable
advantages both for you and for them. It avoids confusion, which
might arise in identifying which pupil should be responding. In
addition, it is the natural way to attract somebody’s attention; it
speeds up the organising of pair and group work; it generates a
friendly relationship between teacher and pupils and among the
pupils of a class, and it produces a secure atmosphere.

The pupils, the teacher and the school


What can you do if you have large classes and you are not
good at remembering pupils’ names? Spend some time jotting one
or two ideas.
You will find a couple of ideas in the “Answers” section, at the
end of the unit.

A language class gives you more opportunities to discover

details about your pupils’ lives than most other classes. Very often,
you may find yourself wondering what you can ask and what is
better to be left unasked. A good principle is to never ask your pupils
anything that you yourself would not wish to be asked.
Your pupils will find their English lessons more stimulating if
some of their work is concerned with things that interest them. You
will want then to find out what these things are. Almost any hobby,
which a pupil has, can be incorporated into an English lesson.
Think First!

Before continuing to read this unit, think where you can find
information about your pupils’ previous experience of learning
English. Write your ideas in the space provided below.

There is always an official syllabus (”programa”) of what needs

to be taught at each level, which you can consult. You can also ask
your pupils to bring you the coursebook(s) and notebook(s) they
used. Sometimes, you can talk to the previous teacher(s). This kind

The pupils, the teacher and the school
of discussion is very important as you may be able to find out what
your pupils’ strengths and weaknesses are. Both the pupils and the
previous teacher may also tell you what kinds of learning experience
they had.
Sometimes, however, you will find that the class is different
from what you would have expected. This may simply mean that the
class or individual pupils within it, have changed.

Think First!

Before continuing to read this unit, think of what you can do to

find out what your pupils really know. Note down a few ideas in the
space below. Check them as you read on.

The best way to establish what your pupils already know is to

start with a diagnostic test to discover what they can and cannot do.
However, when you give them such a test, you must make sure that
your pupils understand that the test is given only to help you decide
what gaps they have in their knowledge, so that you can help them
to fill these gaps.
In most cases, the young pupils’ attitude to English is more
influenced by you than by their wants or needs. Your enthusiasm
pupils’ attitudes to
English and skills have an enormous effect on the attitude of your pupils.
However, positive attitudes to learning English need to be fostered
constantly, as pupils almost always reach a stage when they feel
that they are not making any progress. At this point you need to find
new ways of motivating them and making their study seem
worthwhile by seizing every opportunity to make their learning
Remember that no matter what facilities the school offers, it is
the lively, purposeful class atmosphere that you create, with plenty
to do, which will maintain your pupils’ positive attitudes. The most
important factor in keeping your pupils motivated is your own skill
and enthusiasm.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.3.1 The Good Learners of English

Drawing on your experience as both learners and teachers of
English, you could draw the profile of the good learners of English.
Consider these features:
• Perceptual skills: they can perceive new sounds.
• Analytical skills: they can formulate hypotheses, memorise
language items, monitor their own speech and that of others.
• Motivation: they have a high motivation.
• Strategy: they concentrate on meaning rather than on form
when practising; they look for cues in the context.
• Study: they can organise their studies and study independently
(e.g., they make vocabulary lists and use them).
• Experiment: they try out their language knowledge and are
uninhibited about making mistakes*.
• Sociability: they mix well and work well in groups. They can
transfer from Romanian to English communication strategies
such as paraphrasing, circumlocution, checking that listeners
have understood, etc.
• Exposure: they seek out every opportunity to come into contact
with English, (watching films and TV programmes, reading
books and newspapers, etc.)
• Cultural openess: they are open-minded and open hearted
with regard to foreign cultures and individuals.
• Age: young children do not make good learners of grammar.
• Adaptability: they learn well despite the method*, the teacher
and the school.
Think First!

What fundamental skill is hidden behind most of the features

listed above?

It would be difficult to imagine that all your pupils show all the
above-mentioned features and are all good learners of English.
However, you should be able to show your pupils how to be ‘good’,
which clearly involves helping them to become independent.
Independence is a quality that seems to cut across most of the
features listed above.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.4 Class Atmosphere

The general atmosphere in the class can assist learning. Both
your behaviour and language and the behaviour and language of
your pupils can contribute to this atmosphere.
Think First!
What factors are the most important, in your opinion, for
building a good atmosphere in your classes? Put in order the
following suggestions according to how important they are for you
and the pupils you are teaching.

 addressing pupils by name

 encouraging the whole class to use first names
 always being polite to your pupils
 expecting your pupils to be polite to each other as well as to you
 always being punctual to classes
 encouraging your pupils to arrive to classes on time
 encouraging pupils to apologise for coming late
 making sure you do not show favouritism towards any particular
 planning clearly what you are going to do in each lesson
 allowing valid questions and interruptions
 telling your pupils from the beginning what you want to achieve in
the lesson
 saying, at the end of the lesson, how successful you think it has
 including, if possible, every pupil in some way during each lesson
 not letting one or two pupils monopolise the class
 providing opportunities for the pupils to talk and listen to each
 reducing communication between you and your pupils to an
optimum amount
 saying what you mean and meaning what you say: being firm in
approving or disapproving
 doing the things which you have told your pupils you will do
 treating all your pupils alike

1.4.1 Discipline
Discipline is an important matter. As a teacher, you should be
able to solve a number of questions, referring to maintaining order,
the amount of noise you can tolerate, what you consider
unacceptable behaviour and how you can punish misbehavers.

The pupils, the teacher and the school


How much freedom do you think you have in dealing with

discipline problems? Use the space below to write down your
answer (about 70 words).

Check your answer against the one given at the end of the

It is important to try to be fair and not to punish misbehaviour

severely on one occasion while ignoring it on another. It is always
better to avoid situations that may lead to misbehaviour. If you keep
your pupils busy and if they believe that what they are doing is
worthwhile, they will be less likely to become disruptive. Also, if you
are well organized, you are less likely to have problems with

1.4.2 Involving All the Pupils

You should seize every opportunity to give encouragement to
those pupils who are making a real effort and not just to those who
are being successful. This can be done briefly and frequently,
without interrupting the flow of the lesson, by the use of “Yes”,
“Good”, “That’s right” and even by a simple nod of the head.
Avoid comparing one pupil’s performance* with that of other
pupils. It is always more constructive to compare a pupil’s work with
his/her own previous performance as this gives the pupil a sense of
one’s own progress.
Ensure that all the pupils are included in the class activity. In
large classes, in particular, it is very easy to leave some pupils out.
Often teachers tend to focus on one particular section of the class –
the area where the very good pupils sit, the front of the class or the
area by the window –, without realising it.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Think First!
Before you read the rest of this section, write down the means
you have already used for including all your pupils in class

Compare the means you have already used to those

presented below.
Here are some ways of making sure that you involve all the
• Use the class register list. Your pupils will know if you are
calling on them in the order of the class register list. To avoid
this, use every second or third name, or some other pattern, so
that they may not realise what order you are using. Avoid
looking down at the list (by putting it where you can see it
easily). Also, to prevent the ‘switching off’ of pupils who have
just responded, ask one or two for a second response.
• Think of your class as a set of lines or rows of pupils and
address a question to a pupil from each line or row in turn.

strategies for
• Set rules. If your pupils tend to shout out the answers before
involving all the others have time to try, make a rule that the pupil who has
pupils responded once must miss the next three questions before s/he
can answer again. This keeps the pupils busy counting, while
waiting to join in again.
• Invite the pupil who answers to name the one who will
answer next. If the pupils get used to this system, it can move
quite briskly and be successful. However, it can become
unpleasant if the pupils see it as a way of victimising their
slower classmates
• Repeat the question and/or prompt. If the pupil you
nominated is unable to respond, help him/her by repeating or
prompting, while insisting that the rest of the class remains
quiet. Sometimes, however, you may wish to pass a factual
question to another pupil or the class in general.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.4.3 Extra-Curricular Activities

Activities conducted outside lesson times can make an
important contribution to maintaining a good atmosphere in the
classroom. If their knowledge of English opens the way to other
interesting activities, the pupils will take a more positive attitude to
their studies.
By organising a class library or an English club, you can provide
your pupils with the possibility of extending their knowledge and
interests outside the classroom as well as giving them an opportunity
for genuine communication. Try to help your pupils set these up and
then give them assistance in running them.

What advantages or disadvantages can you see in your pupils’

attending the activity of an English club?
Write your answer in the space provided below (about 80

Compare your answer to that given in the Answers section.

1.5 The Teacher

1.5.1 Essential Teaching Skills

What kind of knowledge do you need to help your pupils learn
as much as possible?
• Knowledge of content. You should know not only English but
also be familiar with the concepts used in the lessons.
• Pedagogical content knowledge. You should be able to
illustrate the concepts used (with examples, drawings, charts,

The pupils, the teacher and the school

• General pedagogical knowledge. You should know how to

organise orderly classrooms and use questioning skills that
involve your pupils and lead to thorough understanding.
• Knowledge of learners and learning. You should be able to
understand when your pupils need concrete examples and what
kind of tasks* increase motivation and learning.
Positive teacher attitudes are also fundamental to effective
teaching as personal teaching efficacy, energy, enthusiasm, caring
and high expectations promote pupil motivation. For instance, if you
are an elementary school teacher, you can communicate your
personal efficacy and caring by calling a pupil’s parents and soliciting
their help as soon as the pupil fails to turn in an assignment or
receives an unsatisfactory grade.
Besides all the types of knowledge and attitudes, there are
basic abilities that all teachers should have to promote order and
learning in the classroom.
Think first!

Before reading the following section, make a list of the skills

that are essential, in your opinion, for any teacher.

Check your answer as you read on.

You should know how to increase learning by using time

efficiently. Different types of classroom time influence learning in
different ways:

Type of classroom time Description

The amount of time a teacher uses for a content
Allocated time
area or topic.
The amount of time left for teaching after routine
Instructional time management and administrative tasks are
The amount of time pupils are actively involved in
Engaged time
learning activities.
The amount of time pupils are actively involved in
Academic learning time
successful learning activities.
The pupils, the teacher and the school

As you move from allocated time to academic learning time, the

correlation with learning becomes stronger. Unfortunately, teachers
do not always use time effectively. Some teachers seem unaware of
the importance of time, viewing it as something to be filled or even
‘killed’. In order to increase learning, you should increase
instructional, engaged and academic learning time to make as much
use of the allocated time as possible. How effectively time is used
depends on your organisation skills. Organisation includes starting
on time, preparing materials in advance, establishing routines, etc.
Routines reduce the load of your working effort and memory, save
your energy and create a sense of order and equilibrium in your
There is a strong link between effective communication, pupil
achievement and pupil satisfaction. The way you interact with pupils
influences their motivation and attitudes toward school in general and
English in particular. Four aspects of effective communication are
especially important: precise terminology, connected discourse*,
transition signals and emphasis.
• Precise terminology is language without vague terms; such
terms would leave the pupils with a sense of uncertainty and
detract them from learning.
• Connected discourse is talk that leads to a point. If the point of
a lesson is not clear, if your talk is sequenced inappropriately, if
incidental information is included, discourse becomes
disconnected. Keep your lessons on track, minimising time
spent on matters unrelated to the topic.
• Transition signals indicate that one idea or activity is ending and
another is beginning (e.g., "All right, now we’ll turn to…"). They
alert the pupils that the lesson is making a shift and allow them
to adjust and get prepared.
• Emphasis consists of verbal (e.g., "Listen carefully now…") and
vocal cues (such as raising the voice) and repetition, which alert
pupils to important information in a lesson.

In about 100 words, say what practical implications may have

for teachers terminology, connected discourse, transition signals and

Check your answer against the one given at the end of the unit.

The pupils, the teacher and the school
To check on your organisation and communication skills, you
can ask another teacher to visit your class and observe your
language and nonverbal communication or to see how many minutes
you spend before actually beginning instruction. You can also ask
your colleague to see whether you clearly emphasise the important
points in the lesson, sequence the presentation logically,
communicate changes in topics or the way you give feedback.
Introductory focus attracts pupils’ attention and provides a
framework for the lesson. In addition, it can increase motivation by
arousing curiosity. In an English lesson, you can use concrete
objects, pictures, models, materials displayed around the room and
information written on the board – all meant to maintain pupils’
attention during learning activities. Use objects, photos, maps,
charts, etc. to provide introductory and sensory focus during your
The information pupils receive about the accuracy* or
appropriateness of their responses and work is crucial in promoting
learning. Feedback gives pupils information about the validity of their
knowledge or skills. It also helps them to elaborate on their existing
understanding. Feedback is also important for motivation because it
provides pupils with information about their increasing competence.
Effective feedback has four essential characteristics:
• it is immediate or given soon after a pupil response;
• it is specific;
• it provides corrective information for the learner;
• it has a positive emotional tone.
That is why, it is necessary to provide feedback throughout all
learning experiences.


Look at the following teacher – pupil dialogue. Which of the

characteristics of feedback listed above is not illustrated by this
Mr. B: What kind of an animal is shown in the picture, Jill?
Jill: A panther.
Mr. B: Not quite. Help her out, … Betty?
After you jot down your answer, check it against the one given
in the Answers section.

Using questions, you can guide learning rather than simply

deliver information. By questioning, you can assess pupil
background knowledge, cause pupils to rethink their ideas and help
them form relationships. You can also involve shy pupils, recapture
pupils’ wandering attention, promote success, and enhance self-
esteem. Questioning can also maintain the pace and momentum of
a lesson.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Effective questioning...
• is frequent;
• is equitably distributed;
• uses prompting;
• allows adequate wait-time.

Lessons are more coherent when review and closure are used
to summarise and pull ideas together. Review is a summary that
helps pupils link what they have already learned to what will follow in
the next activity. It emphasizes important points and encourages
elaboration. It can occur at any point in a lesson, although it is
common at the beginning and end. Closure is a form of review that
occurs at the end of a lesson. It pulls content together and signals
the end of the lesson.
Begin and end each class with a short review. Guide the review
with questioning. For instance, say “We studied present perfect
yesterday. Give me an example that illustrates this, and explain why
your example is correct.”
These skills are interdependent as none is effective alone but
only in combination with the others. Their interaction and integration
are crucial.
Besides knowledge, attitudes and essential teaching skills that
are common to teachers of all subjects, the teachers of English can
use successfully a variety of other abilities, skills and talents.

1.5.2 Language Ability

Fluency and accuracy in English do not turn anyone

automatically into a successful teacher of English. Many good
teachers of English have a limited command of English. However,
these teachers may have the advantage of understanding better their
pupils’ difficulties. The secret lies in being confident about your
English without being embarrassed about your lack of greater
When your pupils will ask you What’s the English for….? and
you do not know the answer, it is better to say I don’t know, but I’ll
find out for you rather than to try to avoid answering the question. Do
not feel embarrassed that you don’t know every word of English.
Think how many words of Romanian you don’t know! We all continue
to learn throughout our lives. What is important is to work on
improving the quality of the English you use and have desire to teach
your pupils. And there are lots of ways in which you can develop your
language skills.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Think First!
Before reading the following section, write down in the space
provided the answer to this question: “What ways of improving your
classroom English can you think of now?”

Now compare your solutions with those given below.

Here are a few solutions:

Make sure that you are familiar with the language in the lesson.
The day before the class, prepare the lesson by speaking out the
words, phrases and sentences so that you can hear how they sound.
See if there are words that you have difficulty in pronouncing and try
to get them right. If there is a cassette to be used with the book,
listen to the recording too, as this can help with pronunciation.
If you can, have regular meetings with other teachers of English
to help each other with the preparation of classes and share with
them your difficulties and your successes. You may soon discover
that each of you can gain something from the experience of the
others. There are also teachers’ clubs (“cercuri”) or teachers’ centres
(“CCDs”) where you may check up on anything you are unsure of by
asking colleagues or experts.

How big an advantage is, in your opinion, the knowledge of
an English-speaking country? Explain (in about 100 words) why
you think this is so.

Compare your answer to the one given at the end of the


The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.5.3 Teacher Talents

A clear voice, good presentation skills, self-confidence are all
big advantages. Or, perhaps, you are good at singing or playing an
instrument. If you cannot play or sing well, you can still have a song
in your class by playing a tape or a record and singing along with the
recording. If you cannot lead the singing yourself, just join in and
encourage the pupils to sing.
Drawings are often used as a way of presenting new language
and explaining new vocabulary. You do not have to be an artist: just
make sure that you keep the drawing simple and draw it big enough
to be seen by every pupil in the classroom. Always try it out or
prepare it in advance.
Use your acting skills if you decide to read out a dialogue or
organise a role play activity. You will sound more convincing if you
use different voices to indicate changes of speaker. Even if you only
change the loudness or speed or pitch of your voice, you will still
make the contrast between speakers clear. This will show your pupils
what you expect of them and will encourage them to take part in the
activity. Otherwise, it is unreasonable to expect your pupils to do
things that you are not willing to do yourself. It is always acceptable
to say I’m not very good at this, but I’ll try.

1.5.4 Practical Classroom Skills

Your good performance in the classroom will have a significant
effect on the way in which the pupils see you and, consequently, on
their behaviour.

Think First!

Before reading the next section, think of the practical skills that
a good teacher needs and write them down in the space provided

Check your answers as you read on.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Here are some necessary practical skills:

In the classroom, you should read clearly and loudly, without
stumbling over difficult words, with a good intonation and sounding
as if you care about what you are reading. Always practise any piece
you want to use in the next lesson.
Organise your board work well; write legibly and quickly on the
board. Write your lines right, and your letters clear and big, so that
they can be read easily from the sides and back of the class). Clean
the board before you start writing on it.
It is important for you to master the equipment. You need to
know how to use an overhead projector or a video player. The best
way to learn is by ‘hands on’ experience: have someone explain and
demonstrate it, and then go through the various steps a number of
times yourself. Read carefully the instructions manual, if it is
available. If you cannot handle the equipment, you will get angry and
frustrated, and you may lose the respect of your pupils.

1.5.5 Opportunities for Self Development

By thinking critically about yourself, you may have identified
aspects of your professional performance which you want to improve.
Opportunities for self-development may be offered by attending
refresher courses, classes in art, music or drama, joining a local
library, arranging to work with teacher colleagues, finding out what
local organisations exist and asking what they can do to help,
reading books about teaching, etc.

1.5.6 The Good Teacher of English

As a teacher, you should be aware of the factors affecting
learning. This awareness will help you to enhance your pupils’
learning. In addition, you should be aware of what makes a good
learner in order to try to make your pupils good learners. Moreover,
you should be aware of what motivates your pupils to learn English
and try to bring about factors that will increase your pupils’
However, some of the factors that affect your pupils’ learning
either cannot be changed or are difficult to change.

The pupils, the teacher and the school


What factors cannot be changed and what factors can you

influence or change in making your pupils good learners of English?
Write your suggestions in the space provided below.
Factors that cannot be changed:

Factors you can influence:

Compare your answers with the suggestions given at the end

of this unit.

1.6 The School

Think First!
Try to describe (in about 100 words) your current teaching
context or another one that you have experienced. Highlight both
the most interesting and the most frustrating aspects of the job.

Take your description to the next tutorial, and discuss it with

your classmates and tutor.
The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.6.1 Getting a New Job

No two schools are alike. Schools may range from very formal,
with strict discipline to very casual, where discipline is not considered
important. School principals also range from authoritarian to
permissive. It is important for you to realise what type of school you
are in and to adjust your own behaviour accordingly. While you are
new, keep your teaching style rather formal until you learn more
about how the other teachers work. It is always easier to become
more relaxed with your pupils as time goes on rather than to become
more formal with them.
respecting old It is important to respect the norms of the school in which you
norms and are working and not to impose your own system from the beginning.
suggesting new Once you have become accepted by the other members of the staff,
ideas you may perhaps suggest ideas that they can consider and might
possibly adopt.
In the beginning, you need to be careful about how much noise
your classes make. You may need to try to convince the other
teachers and the school principal that in order to learn to speak
English and understand the spoken language, your pupils will need
to make some noise, that group and pair work* (collaborative
learning) cause some noise.

Before going on, try to remember what questions you were

asking yourself before you entered a school as a teacher for the first
time. Make an inventory of all these questions.

Check your questions against the list given at the end of the
unit. Did you mention more or fewer questions?

School responsibilities are relevant for teachers of all subjects.

They are important aspects of school life and affect the status of
English in the school. This in turn, affects what you can achieve.
Understanding the system can save you a lot of time and trouble and
leave you to devote more energy to the actual teaching / learning

The pupils, the teacher and the school

1.6.2 The Classroom

Few classrooms are ideal. They may be too small or too large,
too dim or too bright, storage space may be limited, maps may cover
the board, etc. Rearranging desks is sometimes impossible, but if it
is possible, try to experiment with different arrangements to see what
works best for you. Do not forget to consider the room arrangement
in your planning.
making the most of In most cases, you have to accept the room(s) you are
the environment allocated for your work. In the schools where there are fixed rooms
for English or language labs, you will have the opportunity to create
an appropriate environment (with wall-charts, posters photos, pupils’
work, and the like) so that everyone coming in knows immediately
that English is the focus of attention there. In case you must move
from class to class, you can still do quite a lot to ensure that the
environment in which your classes are held is as encouraging as
SAQ 10

How would you describe (in less than 100 words) the ideal
room in which you would love to teach?

Compare your description to mine, given at the end of the unit.

1.6.3 School Routines

The first few days of the school year are crucial to classroom
first impressions management, because they create lasting impressions and patterns
are always of behaviour for the year. Spend a little time at the beginning of the
important year explaining how you intend the class to operate, making it clear
what you consider to be acceptable behaviour. This should be done
in a friendly but firm manner, without sounding threatening.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Here are a few guidelines for beginning the school year:

• Explain requirements and grading systems

(particularly with older pupils)
Establish expectations
• Emphasize that learning and classroom order are
• Plan with great care during this period
• Conduct eye-catching and motivating activities
Plan structured instruction • Assess pupils’ skills and background knowledge
• Use large- rather than small-group instruction
• Minimize transitions from one activity to another
• Begin teaching rules and procedures the first day
• Discuss and practise rules and procedures during the
Teach rules and procedures
first few days
• Intervene and discuss every infraction of rules
• Meet the parents or send them a letter and state your
Begin communication with positive statements for the year
parents • Call or visit parents after the first or second week to
nip potential problems in the bud
Your life will be made easier and your class more successful if
you establish rules for your lessons which everybody understands
and accepts. Here are a few examples of teacher’s rules:
Primary school Lower secondary Upper secondary
• We raise our hands • Be in your seat and quiet • Be in your seat before the
before speaking. when the bell rings. bell rings.
• We leave our seats only • Raise your hand for • Give your full attention to
when given permission by permission to speak or to others in discussion, and
the teacher. leave your seat. wait your turn to speak.

SAQ 11

What other rules, which you have already used with your
pupils, would you like to add to the lists in the table above?
Write them in the space provided below.

There are a few more suggestions at the end of this unit.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

Such rules can be worked out together with the pupils. Although
involving pupils in rule making does not solve all management
problems, it is an important step in gaining their cooperation. Once
established, rules create a sense of ownership, and can contribute to
the development of responsibility and self-regulation in your pupils.
Try to find out what the norms are in your school, and comply
with them. For instance, the pupils may be expected to stand (or not)
when you come into the room. Homework may be collected by a
pupil rather than by you. The board may be always cleaned by the
pupil sitting nearest to it or by a pupil on duty. If there are no norms,
it is wise for you to establish some of your own.
Asking your pupils to put up hands is not always appropriate in
a class where everybody must speak. Sometimes you need
responses from pupils who do not know them, or who do, but do not
put up their hands. Make sure you first ask the question and then
name a pupil to answer. Ask a second or a third pupil if the first pupil
is unable to answer.
Get your pupils to put up their hands before they want to ask a
question. This helps to prevent noisy interruptions. However, do not
insist on your pupils’ always raising their hand before asking, as one
of the skills they must acquire is that of being able to interrupt and
seek clarification.
SAQ 12

When would you insist on your pupils’ raising their hands?

Answer this question in about 50 words in the space provided below.

Compare your answer to the one given at the end of the unit.

Your pupils need to know in advance of the lesson what they

will need to bring to class. You have to plan this and ask them to
bring only what they will use. Then you should be firm in
reprimanding those who fail to bring what is needed to the first few
lessons, so that it becomes second nature for your pupils to bring the
right things. On the other hand, if you ask them to bring something
and never ask them to use it, don’t be cross if someone fails to bring
that thing to the lesson when you finally decide to refer to it.
With younger pupils, insist that they do not keep on the desk
things which are not to be used during the lesson.
Help your pupils establish an organised way of keeping their
notes by using the lesson/unit titles of the coursebook and perhaps
the exercise/section/activity number as headings. The pupils can
then write under these headings, and the notebook can be referred
The pupils, the teacher and the school
to alongside the coursebook. If your pupils buy their own
coursebooks, do not forbid them to write in them or mark things they
want to remember or even colour the pictures. If, however, books
belong to the school, the notebook must become an essential tool for
the pupil.
There is almost always an established way in which young
pupils will address you and you them. With older pupils you may
establish the form of address together. However, this will depend
largely on school custom and pupils’ expectations. Make it clear from
the outset what your name is and how you like to be addressed.


This unit presents the complexity of the job of being an English

teacher and the many requirements that you need to comply with:
you must have a deep understanding of the topics you teach, be
able to represent the topics in ways that are understandable to
pupils, organize and maintain productive learning environments, and
understand the learning and the characteristics of your pupils.
As a teacher, you are responsible for classroom learning and
should be able to increase it. You should be caring, enthusiastic, a
good role model, and have high expectations for your pupils. You
should be well organized, know what is going on in your classrooms,
use your class time well and communicate clearly. You should
present content in attractive ways, provide clear and informative
feedback and review important ideas. You should use effective
questioning strategies, prompt pupils who do not answer
successfully and give pupils time to think about their answers. You
should be able to draw, write legibly and speak convincingly and
maybe have other talents, too.
You should be able to create a classroom atmosphere
conducive to learning and establish rules and routines which
enhance the use of classroom learning time.

Key Concepts

• productive and orderly learning environment

• formal classroom learning
• multidimensional activities
• characteristics of classroom activities
• good English learner profile
• building a good atmosphere
• means for including all pupils in the activities
• types of knowledge needed by the teacher
• types of classroom time
• essential teaching skills
• language ability
• practical classroom skills
• factors affecting learning
• guidelines for beginning the school year
• establishing classroom rules
The pupils, the teacher and the school

SAA No. 1
What kind of an English teacher are you? What are your strong
points and your weak points? How good are your essential teaching
skills? How good is your English? What talents do you have? How
good are your practical classroom skills?
What resources does your school offer you, and what else do
you need?

Send the answers to these questions to your tutor.

Further Reading
1. Harmer, Jeremy (2001) The Practice of English
Language Teaching, Longman, Chapter 11
2. Underwood, Mary (1987) Effective Class management.
A Practical Approach, Longman
3. Ur, Penny (1996) A Course in Language Teaching.
Practice and Theory, Cambridge University Press, Part VI

Answers to SAQs

Should your answers to SAQs 1 and 2 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 1.3 of the unit.

Grades 2 – 4:
• Pupils are generally compliant and eager to please you;
• They like attention and affection from you;
• They have a short attention span and tire easily;
• They may be restless and require close supervision;
• They break rules because they forget;
• They need rules and procedures to be explicitly taught,
practised and reinforced;
• They respond well to concrete incentives, praise and
Grades 5 – 8:
• Pupils are increasingly independent;
• They understand the need for rules and accept consequences;
• They enjoy participating in the rule-making process;
• They know how far they can push;
• They need rules to be reviewed, and consistently and
impartially enforced;
• They attempt to test independence;
• They are sometimes rebellious and capricious.
(adapted after Brophy, J. and Evertson C. (1976) Learning From Teaching: A
Developmental Perspective, Boston, Allyn & Bacon)

The pupils, the teacher and the school

If you are not very good at remembering names, you can ask
your pupils to write their names on pieces of folded paper/card and
keep these on the front of their desks until you know everyone’s
name. Another idea is to give them English names. This works well
especially with smaller children.

Should your answers to SAQs 3 and 4 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 1.4 of the unit.

The school may have some agreed policies on discipline, and
you will be expected to follow these. However, inside the classroom,
you have a lot of freedom as far as discipline is concerned. Nobody
can tell you exactly what to do on every occasion. You need to
consider your own attitudes and decide what is acceptable and what
is not. You need to form an idea of how you will react to various
kinds of misbehaviour.

If the school runs an English club, your pupils can mix with and
talk to pupils at other levels. They may be able to either assist
younger pupils or learn from older ones. Here, it is important to
provide situations where English can be the natural language for
what is being done. Such things as film or video shows, play-
readings, food preparation and holiday planning can form the basis of
activities which pupils at all levels and stages of learning can enjoy.

Should your answers to SAQs 5, 6, 7 and 8 not be

comparable to those given below, please revise section 1.5 of
the unit.

First, you should monitor your own speech to ensure that your
presentations are clear and logical. Developing lessons with many
questions are simple and effective ways to improve clarity.
Second, you must understand the content you teach. If the
content is unfamiliar, or if your grasp is uncertain, you should spend
extra time studying and preparing. When your understanding of
topics is thorough, your language will be clearer. Your discourse will
be more connected, and you will provide better explanations. Also,
keep your objectives constantly in mind. Keep your pupils involved,
and ask appropriate questions at the right times.

Mr. B gives Jill no information about her answer other than it
was incorrect. His feedback was not specific and provided no
corrective information.

The pupils, the teacher and the school

If you have not visited an English-speaking country, you can still
use objects brought by other people. The enjoyment of learning a
foreing language can be increased by using in the classroom objects
which you may have collected or received. When you bring such
objects to class, useful comparisons with similar things in the pupils’
own environment can be made. For instance, your pupils might
consider the differences between advertisements in the respective
English-speaking country and in Romania; they might look at photos
and compare or examine the differences in clothes, the scenery, the
houses, the public buildings and so on.

Factors you cannot change:
• pupils’ age and needs;
• some elements of the context, such as number of pupils in the
class, the classroom itself;
• pupils’ learning experience;
• pupils’ language aptitude;
• time available;
• resources available;
• the prescribed syllabus.
Factors that you can influence and even change:
• your personal qualities;
• your approach to classroom management;
• your teaching ideas, the materials you use, the learning
activities you choose and how you use them;
• your teaching techniques.

Should your answers to SAQs 9, 10, 11 and 12 not be

comparable to those given below, please revise section 1.6 of
the unit.

Here are some questions a new teacher always asks:
• what kind of dress is suitable for teachers (especially for
• who cleans the board during and at the end of the lesson;
• what kind of lesson plans are (new) teachers required to
prepare and who are they required to hand them to;
• are my lesson plans kept for other people (inspectors?) to look
• who keeps my lesson plans;
• how often is homework given;
• how much homework should I give;
• how is collecting and returning of homework arranged;
• what system is used for recording marks;
• what should I do if I am unable to go to school;
• what is my responsibility if another teacher (of English) is
The pupils, the teacher and the school
• what punishments am I allowed to give;
• how are school reports organised;
• how often are reports required;
• what information is expected on school reports, etc.

SAQ 10
My ideal teaching room would be something like this:
• with comfortable temperature and fresh air;
• light and bright;
• everyone can hear me easily in it;
• all my pupils can see me and the board (or screen) easily;
• its desks and seats are not bolted to the floor;
• I am allowed to change the layout of the classroom;
• I can stick pictures, notices, etc. on the walls, or there is a
notice board available for use.

SAQ 11
Primary school Lower secondary Upper secondary
• We keep our hands • Bring textbook, notebook, • Treat everyone with respect
to ourselves. pen and pencils to class and dignity.
• We listen when every day. • Stay in your seat at all times.
someone else is • Follow directions the first • Bring all necessary materials
talking. time they are given. to class (book, notebook, pen
• Leave class only when and pencil, paper, etc.).
dismissed by the teacher. • Leave when I dismiss you and
• Keep hands, feet and not when the bell rings.
objects to yourself.

SAQ 12
It is useful to get your pupils to raise their hands to attract your
attention when they are working quietly, at a written task, for
instance, and they need individual help.
It is also a good idea, when your pupils are carrying out group
activities, because the level of noise tends to get higher when
individuals raise their voices to make themselves heard.

Classroom management

Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 37
2.1 Classroom Management 37
2.1.1 Getting Organised 39
2.1.2 Getting Started 40
2.1.3 Moving From One Activity to Another 40
2.1.4 Transitions 41
2.1.5 Ending a Lesson 42

2.2 Patterns of Interaction 42

2.2.1 Whole Class Teacher-Led Activities 44
2.2.2 Pupils’ Independent Activities 45

2.3 Teacher-Led Activities 45

2.3.1 Whole Class Activities 45
2.3.2 Tutorials 46
2.3.3 Teacher Presentation 46
2.3.4 Class Dialogue 48
2.3.5 Class Discussion 52

2.4 Pupils’ Independent Activities 53

2.4.1 Supervised Learning 54
2.4.2 Supported Independent Learning 55

2.5 Pupil Groupings: Pair Work and Group Work 56

2.5.1 Pair Work Organisation 56
2.5.2 Group Work Organisation 57
2.5.3 Pair and Group Work in Progress 58
2.5.4 Feedback to Pair and Group Work 59

Summary 61

Key Concepts 61

SAA No. 2 61

Further Reading 62

Answers to SAQs 62

Classroom management

Any average person in this country can tell you what teaching is
about: a teacher speaks in front of a large number of pupils who sit in
rows at their desks. The pupils listen or not. If the teacher knew how
to make her/his pupils listen, education would be better.
In reality, you know that what happens in the classroom is not
so simple. You, the teacher, are trying to achieve several objectives
at the same time. First of all, you need to provide a range of learning
experiences to the pupils. Then, you need to cater for individual
differences by organising activities that make use of various learning
resources and different tasks. You need to provide opportunities for
the pupils to take responsibility for their own learning, while you are
still managing the classroom activities. In one word, you manage
classroom learning.
Classroom management emphasises the complexity of
classroom life and focuses on the managerial skills that you need to
have and on the systematic way in which you coordinate the
classroom variety and complexity. You are the coordinator of a varied
and complex environment; you set objectives, plan activities, attend
to communication and motivation and evaluate performance. The aim
of this unit is to help you improve your lesson management skills.
After you have completed the study of this unit on classroom
management, you should be able to:

unit objectives • explain what makes a lesson effective;

• classify patterns of interaction;
• explain the advantages and disadvantages of various patterns
of classroom interaction;
• use various patterns of classroom interaction to involve all the
pupils in your lessons.

2.1 Management: Classroom Strategies and Tactics

What is it that makes a teacher successful and respected? Why
do such a teacher’s pupils work with positive and constructive
Both teachers and pupils have their own characteristics and
habits. These influence the effectiveness of the lesson. Like a taxi
driver who knows every city street, you need to develop a good
understanding of your pupils and of yourself.
Your physical presence, the way you move, sit or stand, the
way you are dressed, all have an effect on your pupils’ perception.
To some extent, these may also affect the effectiveness of your
lesson. You need to be aware of all these details, adapt your
language and your voice, your gestures, your expressions, your
mime, your movements and the frequency of eye contact with
individual pupils, for all these carry a message for your pupils.
Prepare your lessons thoroughly: materials, activities and
assessments*. When the pupils feel that you are filling time, or when
you have to change activities because you cannot find the materials,
or if you are unprepared for the problems that may emerge, you may
lose your pupils’ respect and confidence.

Classroom management

Each lesson has to be carefully prepared, and a good idea is to

prepare more than you need. It is always good to have a reserve
activity ready in case of extra time. As you are planning a lesson,
note in advance which component(s) of the lesson you will sacrifice if
you find yourself with too little time for everything.
During the lesson, keep a watch or clock easily visible and
make sure you are aware throughout how time is going, relative to
your plan. It is difficult to judge intuitively how time is going when you
are busy, and the smooth running of the lesson depends to some
extent on proper timing.
Try to create a serious impression of purpose by your
contributions and by the demands made on your pupils. This means
attention to detail, and an assumption that your pupils will take their
work seriously and with a sense of responsibility.
Long-term strategies can help you build up good standards of
personal relationships that result in good classroom atmosphere.
Nevertheless, pupils are not always capable of coping with all the
stresses of their lives, and they may react through laziness,
insubordination, defiance, aggression or destructiveness. Such pupil
behaviour will undermine the building up of good classroom practice
and the effectiveness of your classes. What can you do?
Unfortunately, advice about classroom tactics is less reliable
than advice about general strategies.
Think first!

Before reading on, think of a difficult situation you had to face in

the classroom. What made the situation difficult? What helped you

Take your answer to the next tutorial and discuss it with your
classmates and tutor.
Classroom management

The complexity of classroom life is responsible for many difficult

situations. Classroom life is multidimensional, with many different
kinds of activities, many different objectives and many people having
different needs and different styles. At any one time you need to
consider what to do next, thinking ahead of the development of the
lesson, watching the pupils’ progress and looking out for what might
disrupt the flow of the lesson. There may be numerous
unpredictables, interruptions, unforeseen difficulties or minor
incidents. In such a context, your action and reaction are driven by
intuition more than by deliberate thinking. Advice from other teachers
may not be reliable, as different teachers use different tactics with an
equally (un)successful outcome.

2.1.1 Getting Organised

You need to develop clear routines for monitoring and
controlling, for regular organisational tasks such as taking the roll,
distributing materials, clearing away at the end of the lesson, forming
pairs and groups and using equipment.
Think first!

How can you control your pupils’ actions as unobtrusively as

possible? Compare your ideas with those given in the next

Adopt a supervisory role at regular intervals throughout the

lesson. All gestures and signals can be effective: a finger to the lips,
a hand signal to sit down, a finger to beckon, a nod to approve
something to happen, a head shake to signal disapproval, etc. If it is
really necessary to speak, approach the pupil and say it quietly, not
to disturb the rest of the class.
adopting an Anticipate discipline problems and act quickly and decisively. If
efficient system of you are uncertain of the cause of a disruption (which is very
management and common), approach the disruptive pupil in a non-critical way, asking
control her/him to report what progress has been made or what problems
have been encountered. Where the misbehaviour is overt, remove
the pupil from any possible audience. Set the pupil to work in a
different part of the room, making it clear that s/he may return when
s/he has finished the task. This helps the pupil to accept the
arrangement. Avoid confrontation, which is public and emotionally
charged and can result in conflict escalation.

Classroom management

2.1.2 Getting Started

A first impression is always important. Pupils tune in to the
image that you present to them from the first appearance. Make sure
you arrive in time and with everything you need for the class. Your
leaving the classroom or sending pupils to fetch forgotten items,
breaks the continuity and gives an opportunity for the pupils’ minds to
Glance around to make sure that the classroom and resources
are in a state of readiness, with windows open or shut (as they suit
you and your pupils) and that the board is clean. If not, ask the pupils
to help. Then look around to see where the pupils are sitting and if
their seating arrangement suits you. You may also need to ask pupils
to put away things from their desks.
Make sure you are ready before beginning the actual lesson.
Arrange your books, papers, etc. so that you can pick them up easily
as you need them. Keep calm and do not rush to start. The time you
take to get organised may seem shorter to the pupils than you may
think. Allow your pupils to continue to talk quietly, while remaining in
their seats, until you announce that you are ready to begin the lesson.
This prevents you from being under pressure, and this also makes it
clear that when you require silence the lesson will begin.
Make a clear and definite start. You can declare yourself ready
by saying clearly and quite loudly "Good morning / afternoon,
everybody" and wait for silence before going on. Then, say briefly,
what the plan for the lesson is, so that your pupils can be aware of
the way they are progressing through the work, e.g., "Today we’re
going to learn…. We’ll be using Unit… in our books. I’ve brought…
for you to… We’ll do some pair work, too… But first of all, I want to
ask you…"
When your way of beginning will become familiar to your pupils,
they may even get prepared for the lesson without you having to ask.
The routine nature of this part of the lesson establishes a secure
environment. It sets up an atmosphere that is friendly but purposeful
and conducive to serious and organised work.

2.1.3 Moving From One Activity to Another

During a lesson, the class moves from one activity to another.
You may also want to change the pattern of interaction from time to
time, so that for some part of the lesson, pupils are working with each
other, in pairs or in groups. The activities you choose must suit the
objectives you have for the lesson, and many of them will be based
on material in the textbook. There is a wide range of activities which
you can use:
• all pupils listening to recorded material;
• pupils repeating individually or chorally*;
• individual pupils responding to you;
• pupils reading silently (e.g., sections of the textbook);

Classroom management
• pupils completing written exercises individually;
• pupils working in pairs to complete written exercises;
• pupils doing oral practice in pairs;
• pupils solving problems in groups;
• pupils preparing material (stories, questions, etc.) in groups;
• group discussion of a topic;
• pupils completing tests individually, etc.
For all pupils, but especially for the weaker ones, a change of
activity is motivating as it gives a new chance to those who have not
enjoyed or not done well in the last activity.

2.1.4 Transitions
It is a good idea to mark transition moments, using transition
maintaining a signals such as "Right. We’ve finished…, so we’ll leave our books for
smooth flow of today and go on to…" or "I want you to listen to… and decide…
activities "There is little point in beginning a new activity while some pupils are
still trying to work out what they must do. For this reason, it is well
worth checking and confirming that everyone has understood.
Always try to move from one part of the lesson to another
without allowing a gap to occur. It is quite difficult to regain the
attention of a class, particularly a large one.
Think first!

How can you avoid a gap if in your next activity you are going to
use a picture or handouts?

Check your answer as you read on.

Sometimes you can prepare for the next activity while the pupils
are busy finishing the previous one (e.g., you can write something on
the board). It is important not to reveal all the ideas for a lesson at
the beginning of the period. For instance, if you intend to use a
picture, do not put it on show from the beginning of the class: pin it
up and cover it with a large sheet of paper that can be removed
easily. When you show it to the class, the pupils will have something
fresh to focus on, and their motivation will be helped. In the same
way, if you are going to use handouts, keep them until the time they
are to be used, arrives. Overhead projectors are especially useful in
this respect because you can prepare the material in advance and
reveal it to the class bit by bit.
Pictures and handouts should be made visible or available to all
the pupils as quickly as possible. When you have handouts or other
papers to distribute to a large class, do not try to give every paper
yourself to each pupil. A number of handouts can be given to pupils
Classroom management
at different points in the class, asking them to take one and pass the
rest on. Then wait quietly for a few moments so that the pupils have
time to look at what they have received. If you begin speaking at
once, many pupils will simply not listen, as they will be preoccupied
with what they are looking at. Do not forget that for most people, the
eyes usually take precedence over the ears.

2.1.5 Ending a Lesson

Keep an eye on the time so that you are not in the middle of an
activity when the lesson should be ending. Give the homework
towards the end but not in the last few seconds of the lesson. If
homework is given too early, some pupils may try to do it during the
lesson. If it is given too late, there may be no time to sort out any
planning time for
difficulties. It is often a good idea to tell the class what the homework
homework is and then finish the lesson with an activity that helps with the tasks
assignment you have set. This gives an opportunity for any problems to be raised
and helps to make the pupils feel confident that they will be able to
do the homework.
It is better to finish a little early rather than late, even if you have
to say, "We’ll have to leave this exercise until another day. It’s almost
time for the end of the lesson." The pupils will appreciate your
courtesy in finishing on time. Conclude the lesson, rather than just
stop by saying something that indicates that you have finished. For
instance, refer to what has been done and to what you plan to do
When you are not in a hurry to your next lesson, take time
gathering up your materials and books. Then, individual pupils have
an opportunity to speak to you informally, and you may have time to
say a few friendly words (in English) to some of the pupils. Of course,
you must not delay pupils and make them late for their next lesson.
Leave the classroom in good order – as you would expect to
find it. You can ask the pupils to help you. Even if it is normal in your
school for a pupil to be asked to clean the board, you should ensure
that it is clean before you leave the classroom and, if necessary,
clean it yourself.

2.2 Patterns of Interaction

Classroom interaction is central to effective instruction.
However, your pupils work better in some circumstances than in
others: some pupils may prefer a collaborative and conversational
style, with interruptions and more than one pupil talking at a time.
Others tend to be less active and yet others more independent.
The most common type of classroom interaction is that known
as ‘IRF’: Initiation → Response → Feedback*. The teacher initiates
an exchange, usually in the form of a question. One of the pupils
answers. The teacher gives feedback (in the form of assessment,
correction, or comment), then initiates the next question, and so on.
There are, however, alternative patterns: the initiative does not
always have to be in your hands. Interaction* may be between pupils
or between a pupil and the material.
Classroom management

Think first!

Along a continuum between activities led by the teacher and

pupils’ independent activities, try to arrange the following: pair work,
teacher exposition, pupil initiates – teacher answers, choral
response, teacher questioning, whole-class interaction, collaboration,
individual work, group work, self-access*.

teacher-led activities pupils’ independent activities

Take your answer to the next tutorial and discuss it with your
classmates and tutor.

Here are some interaction patterns ordered from the most

teacher-dominated to the most pupil-active:
• Teacher talk*: the teacher is talking or reading aloud with all
pupils listening. There may be some kind of silent pupil
response, such as writing from dictation or taking notes in
notebooks. There is no initiative on the part of the pupils.
• Choral response: the teacher gives a model that is repeated
by all the class in chorus or gives a cue that is responded to in
• Closed-ended teacher questioning: the teacher asks a
question that can get only one ‘right’ response.
• Open-ended teacher questioning: the teacher asks a
question to which there are a number of possible ‘right’ answers
so that more pupils answer each cue.
• Pupil initiates, teacher answers: the pupils think of questions,
and the teacher responds. Such an interaction pattern can be
found in guessing games. The teacher decides who asks the
• Whole-class interaction: the pupils debate a topic or do a
language task as a class. The teacher may intervene
occasionally, to stimulate participation or to monitor.
• Individual work: the teacher gives a task or set of tasks, and
the pupils work on them independently. The teacher walks
around monitoring and assisting where necessary.
• Collaboration: the pupils do the same sort of tasks as in
‘individual work’, but work together, usually in pairs. The
teacher may or may not intervene. This is different from group
work where the task itself necessitates interaction.
• Group work: the pupils work in small groups on tasks that
entail interaction, conveying information or making decisions.
The teacher walks around listening and intervenes little if at all.

Classroom management

• Self-access: the pupils choose their own learning tasks and

work autonomously
The range of activity patterns is infinite, but we can group them
into two main categories:
1. whole class teacher-led activities
2. pupils’ independent activities
teacher presentation
Whole class class dialogue
pupil activities
Teacher-led activities
Tutorial reviewing

individual work library work

course work
project work
Independent activities pair work private study
collaborative projects
private reading
small group work use of audio/video/IT technology

Fig. 2.1 The components of classroom management

(after Philip Waterhouse (1990) Classroom Management, Network Educational
Press, Stafford, p.13)

2.2.1 Whole Class Teacher-Led Activities

Whole class teacher-led activities are the best known teaching
arrangements, and they are often referred to as 'traditional teaching'.
If they are well done, whole class teacher-led activities (also called
‘lockstep’ teaching*) can be very powerful. These activities include
teacher presentation, class dialogue and student activities.

What are, in your opinion, the advantages of whole class

teacher-led activities? Write your answer in the space provided below
and compare it with that given at the end of the unit.

Classroom management

2.2.2 Pupils’ Independent Activities

Independent activities can be done individually, in pairs or in
Independent activities can range from pupils doing exercises on
their own, to activities where pupils take charge of their own learning
in self-access centres or out-of-class activities. Such independent
activities are a vital preparation for the development of the pupils’
learning autonomy.
When you wish for your pupils to work on their own in class,
you can, for instance, ask them to read a text privately and then
answer questions individually, or you can ask them to complete
worksheets with different tasks or to write tasks by themselves. You
can give them worksheets with several different tasks and allow them
to choose which tasks to do. Alternatively, you can hand out different
worksheets to different pupils depending on their skills, needs or
tastes. You can allow your pupils to do some research on their own
or choose what they want to read or listen to.
Pupils enjoy to be given some degree of independence. While
they need your guidance and help, they also need their own time and
space and some freedom in making decisions of their own. However,
simply getting the pupils to work on their own is no guarantee of a
high level of motivation.
• Individual work is a good opportunity for the pupils to work
entirely alone. Such an opportunity should be given frequently
to all pupils. Good prior instructions are essential, as is the
need to give additional support (if required).

• Paired work is very popular, and usually the classroom seating

decides the pairing. It is easy to use the pair as the normal unit
for independent work and to break for individual work
occasionally, or combine with other pairs, for small group work.
• Small group work can be very productive, but it is not easy to
manage. Many young pupils may run into difficulties when they
are left on their own. Working well as a member of a small
group is an advanced activity which even adults may find hard
to handle. That is why you need to offer constant care and
monitoring of the group's progress.

2.3 Teacher-Led Activities

2.3.1 Whole Class Activities

Whole class activities play an important part in classroom
management. They can be very attractive and powerful, and they can
be an opportunity for you to show your charisma.
• A teacher’s presentation can be very effective if it is done for
short periods and with sparkle. The pupils can be inspired and

Classroom management
stimulated by the charisma of a teacher with good presentation
• Class dialogue (also known as the “Socratic method”) is a very
useful method. By skilful questioning, you can lead the thinking
of the class. Class dialogue is best when it is lively and
motivating for the pupils. However, it needs firm and careful
handling, as it can lose its vitality and become mechanical and
• Pupil activities, that is giving the pupils something to do, help
to bring variety into whole class teaching. The pupils may all
repeat something in chorus or respond to a cue, take notes or
write after dictation. The teacher remains in control of what is
happening, but the pupils are given opportunities to be active.

2.3.2 Tutorials
Not as common as whole class teaching, mostly used in private
schools, tutorials (extra-class small group work) are also teacher led.
Tutorials can make a real difference to the quality of the pupils’
learning. During tutorials, you can help the pupils prepare for their
next assignment, give them guidance, and indicate resources,
possible problems or standards. Reviews can also be organised
during tutorials to look back at the work that has been completed and
to assess it. Tutorials can be organised to encourage the pupils to
talk about their work, explore issues and ideas together or to allow
you to help them overcome their difficulties. Working in a small
group, during tutorials is easier to identify problems and to offer
pupils more personal and individualised support.

2.3.3 Teacher Presentation

Whole class teaching is especially favoured when making a
presentation meant to inform, to describe or to explain. Such a
presentation should not resemble a higher education lecture. It
should be informal and spontaneous and as short as possible (no
longer than 10 minutes with younger pupils). Such an exposition can
be interrupted by other short activities, such as a dialogue or
individual tasks.
If you want the presentation to achieve its objectives, it needs to
have a clear structure that the pupils can grasp. It is always helpful to
present at the very beginning, the structure of the exposition. Tell
your pupils first what you are going to say, then say it, and then tell
them what you have said! A way of involving the pupils is to ask them
to take down notes. Alternatively, you can give them a handout with a
gapped structure of your presentation and ask them to complete it as
you are presenting.
A thorough, high quality presentation can motivate and inspire
your pupils. However, during the presentation the pupils may want
help, especially if a new topic is introduced. They need to have a

Classroom management
vision of the new knowledge, to understand why it is important and
relevant, how it fits in with their previous work and knowledge and
how it will contribute to their mastery of English.
A good presentation will stimulate your pupils’ intellectual
curiosity; it may review, organise and consolidate their previous
knowledge of the topic, or it can make the new learning more
personal. Also, it can give guidance to the pupils about the styles and
techniques to be used in doing work on the new topic.
At a personal level, your pupils may need help in order to see
presenting to how they may personally identify with the new topic and how they
inform, review, can build clear ‘images’ of what the topic is about. They may feel the
organise and need to share the excitement of the discovery with their classmates.
Whole class presentations are particularly valuable at the
beginning or at the end, and at critical points in the lesson, such as
topic changes, or where the concepts that need to be taught are
difficult. Also, after a period of time of independent activities
(individual, in pairs or in small groups), your pupils will be prepared to
work again together as a class for the consolidation of their work. At
this stage, you should encourage pupil contributions, as they can
report back, discuss the issues raised during independent work,
revise and consolidate, assess the quality of the work done and
evaluate the topic.
Teacher roles. During presentations, you are the focus of
attention, playing a number of related roles: organiser, information
source or discussion leader. The pupils are relatively passive,
listening, following instructions, responding to questions, and making
contributions when you invite them to do so.
Think first!

What advice would you give your friend who will soon be
inspected? She is planning a lesson in which she will make a
presentation of some English customs. Write you advice in the space
provided and then compare your answers with the suggestions given

Here are a few suggestions:

tips for a good • Get the attention of your class before you start. Either insist on
presentation their paying attention to you or give them something to do (e.g.,
writing a title, an introductory example or statement). This will
bring the class into the work frame of mind.
• Your first sentences must be attention holding. Appeal to their
curiosity, surprise them, intrigue them or move them
Classroom management

• Keep your voice level to the minimum necessary. A low voice

creates a feeling of expectancy, gives a sense of importance to
the occasion and builds a sense of mutual confidence with a
serious and trusting atmosphere.
• Vary the volume and pace to give variety.
• Occasionally, make an appeal to feelings and use a more
theatrical language. Temper your projections of personality with
• Do not forget that there is virtue in silence. A pause in a
presentation can be effective. Offer silence to your pupils so
that they can reflect and consider their responses. Build in
pauses in which you invite the pupils to summarise what you
have said so far.
• Be simple, be brief and be human. Start with plenty of examples
and then gradually introduce new vocabulary or more complex
• Remember that much communication is non-verbal; how you
look, where and how you stand, how you move are all observed
and registered by the pupils.
Remember that no matter how good your presentation is, you
cannot use it for lengthy periods, as their span of attention is limited.
It is better to introduce variety and more pupil participation. The most
common way of doing this is by using class dialogue.

2.3.4 Class Dialogue

In class dialogue, you lead the thinking of the class by asking

questions and building on the responses received from the pupils.
Class dialogue should be carefully prepared. You might start with
familiar examples, with the presentation of a stimulus (a picture, a
drawing, a map, a piece of text, a recording, etc.) which has the aim
of rousing the pupils’ curiosity. Then your questioning can help the
pupils to build upon their existing knowledge and understanding.
Gradually you help them to recognise general principles or rules and
finally give them opportunities to demonstrate their understanding by
applying it.
Questioning. Questioning is a universally used activation
technique in teaching, mainly within the IRF pattern (see 2.2). A
question is a teacher’s utterance* which has the objective of eliciting
an oral response from the pupils. However, teacher questions are not
always realised by interrogatives, e.g., "We’ll describe what is going
on in this picture", "Tell me what you can see in this picture", etc. It is
often hard to prepare the exact wording of the questions in advance,
as the questions need to be adapted to the responses that are
Getting the best responses from the pupils calls for patience
and skill. In the role of discussion leader, you need to exercise a
democratic, rather than an authoritarian style. Pupil contributions
Classroom management
must be encouraged with reinforcement, prompting and occasional
summaries as to where the discussion has reached.
Think first!

Give short answers to the following two questions:

1. How often do you use questions in your lessons?

2. Why do you ask questions?

Check your answers against the suggestions given below.

Your motive in questioning is usually to get your pupils to

engage with the language material actively through speech.
However, there are other various reasons why you might ask a
question in the classroom:
• to provide a model for language or thinking;
• to find out something from the pupils (facts, ideas or opinions);
• to check or test understanding, knowledge or skill;
• to get the class to be active in their learning;
• to direct attention to the topic being learned;
• to inform the class via the answers of the stronger pupils rather
than through your input;
• to provide weaker pupils with an opportunity to participate;
• to stimulate their thinking (logical, reflective or imaginative) and
to make them probe more deeply into issues;
• to get pupils to review and practise previously learnt material;
• to encourage their self-expression;
• to communicate to them that you are genuinely interested in
what they think.

Classroom management

Questions can be classified according to various criteria:

• the kind of thinking they try to elicit (plain recall, analysis or
• whether they are ‘genuine’ or ‘display’ questions (does the
teacher really want to know the answer or is s/he simply
checking if the pupil knows it?);
• whether they are closed- or open-ended (do they have a single
right answer or several?).

Say to which of the category suggested above do the following

questions belong? Some questions may belong to more than one
category. Write your answer in the space provided below, and then
check your answer against the suggestions given at the end of the
1. How do most people travel to work in your city or town?
2. Is there a subway in your country?
3. What is the number of Richard’s house on Linden Street?
4. What topics do you usually talk about with someone you meet
for the first time?
5. Do you like staying in a hotel?

(questions from Beckerman, H. (1993) Family Album, U.S.A, Bucureşti, Editura Univers,

An effective questioning technique is one that elicits fairly

prompt, motivated, relevant and full responses. If your questions
ether result in long silences, are answered by only the strongest
pupils, bore the class, or elicit only very brief or unsuccessful
answers, then there is probably something wrong. Effective
questioning should follow a few criteria:
• Clarity. The pupils should grasp immediately what the question
means and what kind of answer is required. The language must
be simple, clear and unambiguous.
• Learning value. The questioning should start with an invitation
to observe or identify. The question should stimulate thinking
and responses that will contribute to further learning of the
target material. It should not be irrelevant, unhelpful or merely
time filling. The key word is What?
What are the people in the picture doing?
What is the difference between these two animals?
What surprised you in this anecdote?
What is this?

Classroom management

• Interest. The pupils should find the question interesting,

challenging and stimulating.
• Availability. Most of the pupils in the class should be able to
answer the question. However, allowing a few seconds’ wait-
time before accepting a response can make the question
available to a larger number of pupils.
• Extension. The question should invite and encourage extended
and/or varied answers. Try to eliminate questions which can be
answered simply by Yes or No or by any single word. Questions
likely to get fuller answers often start with "Why…?", "How…?"
and "What would happen if…?"
• Grading. The questions should build up to higher levels of

The way you respond to your pupils’ answers will affect the way
they perform at the time but also the way they will perform in the
future. You will need to respond to content, not only to the language
form. If there is no answer at all during questioning, if your pupils
cannot think of what to say, prompt them forwards. This kind of help
has to be offered gently, with tact and discretion.
Think first!

What would you advise your friend, who is preparing for her
inspection, to do in order to manage her pupils’ answers efficiently?
What does she need to keep in mind?
Write down your answers in the space provided below and then
compare them with the suggestions that follow.

Here are a few suggestions for managing your pupils’ answers:

• Be prepared to wait for an answer. Refrain from filling the gap
immediately if the question is met with initial silence. During the
silence, use non-verbal communication. Give encouraging nods
or raise your eyebrows. You may also try a short prompt. Signal
that you are actually enjoying the silence and are not in the
least embarrassed or annoyed.
• Encourage pupil answers. Praise the good answers and
preserve the self-esteem of those who give wrong answers.
The pupils should be sure that their responses will be treated

Classroom management
with respect, that they will not be put down or ridiculed if they
say something inappropriate. Give help if you see it is needed
during an answer.
• Try to get answers from as many pupils as possible.
Responding only to the bright and eager tends to focus
attention on them at the expense of the others. A reluctant pupil
can be helped by being nominated to answer an easy question.
• Encourage answers which express the pupils’ personal
thoughts or feelings or which are bold and imaginative. Even if it
is incorrect, such an answer deserves praise.
• Encourage respect for the contribution of others. Set a good
example of respect, courtesy and constructiveness and then
expect it of the pupils. Do not tolerate sarcasm, aggression or
destructive criticism.

2.3.5 Class Discussion

Effective questioning leads to class discussion. However, an
average class may be too big to operate as a successful discussion
group. That is why you have to be in firm control, and the rules for
discussion should be clearly established. In the role of discussion
leader, you need to be neutral and exercise a democratic style.
A class discussion must be brought to a satisfactory close by
summarising the main points made and the conclusions reached.
Discussion techniques are particularly useful for topics involving
personal attitudes and in problem solving*.

Can you now list a few disadvantages of whole class teacher-

led instructing?

Compare your answers with those given at the end of the unit.

Whole class teaching is an important part of a teacher’s

repertoire of methods, and has a lot of potential. It relies on teacher
talk, which may be more or less inspiring and motivating. That is why,
during class teaching the pupils may become passive as individual
differences are ignored and their motivation may decrease. However,
class teaching has its place in the repertoire of a teacher, provided it
is not the only method in use!

Classroom management

2.4 Pupils’ Independent Activities


Before reading the next section, try to think of the advantages

that the pupils’ independent activities may have. After you have
written your ideas in the space provided below, compare them to the
ones given at the end of the unit.

Independent learning is characterised by the pupils’ active and

responsible participation in the lesson:
• the pupils show study skills (personal organisation and learning
• they take active steps to prepare for work;
• they show initiative in finding the resources they need for the
work assigned;
• they show initiative in getting help form their classmates before
seeking help from the teacher;
• they offer help to classmates;
• they contribute to the task in a responsible way;
• they are often organised in teams;
• they often follow up* classroom work with further investigation;
• they are so involved or absorbed in their work, that the teacher
is able to step back.
Independent learning can take place in various groupings:
individual, pair or team / small group. The pupils need to be
thoroughly prepared and briefed for independent learning tasks, and
they should be constantly monitored and controlled.
Two modes of independent learning can be distinguished a)
supervised study (individual or paired work), and b) supported
independent work (individual, paired or small group).

Classroom management

Mode Pupil grouping Briefing for task Monitoring and control

Supervised learning individual or paired whole class teacher circulating

Supported independent individual paired or
work small group group teacher circulating

(adapted after Waterhouse, P. (1990) Classroom Management, Network Educational

Press, Stafford, p. 56)

2.4.1 Supervised Learning

In supervised learning, the teacher sets a task or a series of
tasks to be done individually or in pairs. After you give the
explanation of what to do and how to do it to the class as a whole,
the individual pupils or pairs then proceed with their tasks. Your role
is to monitor – to move around the class, checking that everyone is
on task, helping with problems, making suggestions, giving advice,
supervising work and behaviour. During such an activity, you can find
opportunity to talk to individuals or small groups. This system helps
the pupils to be more active, and this can be an important move
towards real pupil independence.
However, when working individually, the pupils may feel
deprived of the stimulus of working with other people, or they may
find out that they are unable to make decisions and are still
dependent on your directions.
Think first!

What can you do to minimise your pupils’ dependence on you

when you organise independent learning? Write down your ideas
and compare them with the suggestions given in the following

Here are a few suggestions for how you can reduce the pupils’
dependence on the teacher:
• brief thoroughly before the task;
• allocate enough time for the task;
• make sure the task is at the right level, and the pupils can cope
with it and the resources necessary for it;
Classroom management

• encourage the pupils to seek help from each other;

• spend time listening to individual pupils, encouraging them to
pupil expand on their difficulties and their problems;
• refrain from answering a pupil’s question directly; try to get the
same pupil to answer the question or get another pupil to join
• intervene by asking questions of your own to find out how well
they have understood the task;
• do not revert to class teaching, although this may seem an
economical way of solving problems;
• keep a low profile, monitoring quietly and unobtrusively.

2.4.2 Supported Independent Learning

The concept of supported independent learning or
individualised learning is sometimes identified with the provision of a
self-access centre, or a full self-access learning programme. These
offer various kinds of materials, and the pupils may participate in the
choice of materials, and then work on their own, in groups or in pairs.
Individualised learning may have a more modest sense, too: the
pupils are given a measure of freedom to choose how and what they
learn at a particular time. This implies less direct teacher supervision
and more learner autonomy and responsibility for learning. Tasks
and materials are adapted or selected to suit the individual.
Individualised learning is a serious attempt to provide for
different learner needs and to place a higher responsibility for
learning on the learners themselves. Individualised learning is the
opposite of ‘lockstep’ learning, where everyone in the class is
expected to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way.
Think first!

In your opinion, what criteria will determine the choice of tasks

and materials used in individualised learning?

Compare your criteria with those suggested in the following


Procedures that allow for individual choice include:

1. Speed: how fast or slowly each individual may work (everyone
being engaged in the same basic task);

Classroom management

2. Level: tasks may be presented in easier or more difficult

versions so that the pupil can choose the one that suits his/her
3. Topic: the pupil will be able to select tasks that vary in the
subject or topic, while all are based on the same language skill
or teaching point;
4. Language skill or teaching point: each pupil may choose to
work on a different aspect of language (e.g., listening, grammar,
reading, etc).

Try to summarise the disadvantages of pupils’ individualised

learning. Compare your ideas with those suggested at the end of the

2.5 Pupil Groupings: Pair Work and Group Work

In pair and group work, pupils perform a learning task through
interaction. Both pair and group work are forms of learner activation
that are of particular value in the practice of oral fluency*. They have
the added advantages of fostering learner responsibility and
independence, of improving motivation and contributing to a feeling
of cooperation and warmth in the class.
Pair and group work can mark a transition from one stage of the
lesson to the next.

2.5.1 Pair Work Organisation

The amount of practice each pupil gets is greatly increased by
the use of pair work. The pupils can sit, either facing each other for
conversation, or side by side, when looking at the same book or
paper. Pair work can be done simply by some pupils turning round or
moving along a bit to sit with a partner. Young learners tend to prefer
to make pairs with their special friends, and this is often perfectly
satisfactory. However, it is a good idea sometimes to vary who sits
with whom. It is sensible to be more selective about pairing if you are
planning an activity that is long and perhaps difficult for some pupils.
You may wish to try to pair a ‘good’ pupil with a less able one, if this
can be done without it being too obvious.
For quick snippets of oral practice, use random pairing which
occurs as a result of seating. This has the advantage of not
interrupting the flow of the lesson too much.
Classroom management

To organise pair work, you need to give a clear directive, e.g.,

"We can do this as pair work. Will the front row please turn round and
work with the people behind them." Pupils soon get used to the idea
of pairing, and a simple "We’ll do this in pairs" prompts them to sort
themselves out quite quickly and quietly.

2.5.2 Group Work Organisation

Group work tends to occur less frequently, but pupils who have
got used to pair work can easily be put into groups. One way is to
organise them as if for pair work, and then say We’re going to work in
bigger groups, so you three pairs make Group 1, you three Group 2,
and so on. With a class that is used to group work, you may say,
"We’re going to do the next activity in groups. So take your
notebooks and pens and get into groups of six, please." A few
moments of chaos may follow, but once group work has become a
normal part of the class routine, it will not be much trouble. Before
you fix the group size, say what resources (books, handouts, etc.)
the pupils will need.
Once the groups have been formed, give clear, precise
giving clear instructions* about what you want them to do. Also, give examples of
instructions what you expect and indicate how much time they will have to
complete the task. The instructions given at the beginning are
crucial: if the pupils do not understand exactly what they have to do,
there will be time wasting, confusion and a lack of effective practice.
A preliminary rehearsal or ‘dry run’ of a sample of the activity with the
full class can help to clarify things.
A group of 4 – 8 pupils is large enough to produce a variety of
opinions and responses but small enough to give each pupil a sense
of belonging. If each group consists of an even number of pupils, this
allows you to set activities for pairs or for the whole team. A common
approach* is to start an activity with paired work and to take the
results of pair work to the whole group.
Some teachers find that having group leaders (different ones on
each occasion) and/or giving each group a name (Group A, Group B,
etc. or the Wonder team, the Dream team, etc.) helps to make the
session run smoothly. At first, you will probably want to name the
leaders, but in time, each group can choose its own. Every group
member should have a job and be answerable to the group. The jobs
should be rotated frequently. In addition, every member of the group
should know that help for another member of the group is
Select tasks that are simple enough to describe easily.
Sometimes it may be cost-effective to explain some or all in
You should be able to foresee what language will be needed
and have a preliminary quick review of appropriate grammar or
vocabulary. Also, before giving the sign to start, you should tell the
class what the arrangements are for stopping: if there is a time limit
or a set signal for stopping. If the groups simply stop when they have
finished, then you should tell them what they will have to do next.

Classroom management

In the table below, tick the advantages that characterise pair
work, group work or both:
pair group both
work work
increases the amount of pupil speaking time
allows pupils to work and interact independently
promotes pupil independence
allows the teacher time to work with one or two
chosen pairs
helps the classroom to become a more relaxed and
friendly place
helps pupils to share responsibility
can be easily organised
personal relationships are less problematic
more opinions and more contributions are made
encourages cooperation and negotiation skills
more private than whole class work
promotes learner autonomy
pupils can choose their level of participation

Check your answers against those given at the end of the


2.5.3 Pair and Group Work in Progress

While the pupils are working in pairs or groups, you have two
options: either to go from group to group, ask and contribute, or keep
out of the way. You could stand at the front, at the back or anywhere
else in the classroom, and monitor what is happening, or go round
the class observing. You can be acting as monitor or as prompter,
resource or tutor.

What can your contribution be during pair and group work?

Write your answers in the space provided below and then
compare them with those suggested at the end of the unit.

Classroom management

During pair- and group-work you have an opportunity to work

with individual pupils whom you feel would benefit from your help. Do
not spend too long with one pair or group as this sometimes leads to
other pupils losing interest in the task as they feel you have lost
interest in them. Pair and group work which goes on for too long
causes problems, as the pupils get bored.
If you have set a time limit, this will help you to end the activity
at a certain point. In principle, you should try to finish the activity
while the pupils are still enjoying it and interested, or only just
beginning to flag.
A frequent problem is that some pairs or groups will finish
earlier than others, and will want or need to do something else. When
they are tired, some will be happy to just wait for the others to finish.
In other circumstances, you may ask them all to stop the activity after
the first pairs or groups have finished. This solution removes the
problem of boredom, but it may de-motivate those who have not yet
finished. It is wise to have a reserve task planned to occupy the
members of groups who finish earlier than expected.

2.5.4 Feedback to Pair and Group Work

When pairs and groups stop working together, a feedback*
session usually takes place. The pupils need to discuss what
occurred during the activity, and you need to provide assessment
and make corrections. Feedback on the task may take many forms:
• giving the right solution (if there is one);
• listening to and evaluating suggestions;
• pooling ideas on the board;
• displaying materials the groups have produced;
• having a few pairs or groups to demonstrate the language they
used, and so on.
Where the task had definite right or wrong answers, you need
to ensure that it was completed successfully. By comparing solutions,
ideas and problems, the pupils can reach a better understanding of
the task or topic.
Your main objective is to express appreciation of the effort that
has been invested and its results. Constructive feedback on pupils’
work will enhance their motivation. Feedback on language mistakes
is only one part of the process. Feedback on language may be
integrated into the discussion of the task or provide the focus of a
separate lesson later.
The achievements of the group members could be publicised
and recorded either individually or as sum totals for the group.
Rewards (and minor sanctions) should be given on a pair or group

Classroom management


Could you now summarise the disadvantages of group work?

Compare your answer with the one given at the end of the unit.

Some teachers may be hesitant about using pair work and

group work with very large classes. They fear that they will have
difficulty in controlling the pupils. There is no doubt that collaborative
work can lead to a lot of noise if it is not controlled carefully. For this
reason, you may find it useful to explain why you want to do pair
work and group work and to impress upon the class the need to
behave in a responsible way. On the first one or two occasions when
you organise pair or group work, you should be especially firm in
dealing with noisy or troublesome pupils.
Some thinking needs to be given to the life span of the group.
While permanent groups may not be the best solution, constant
changes are not advisable, either.
A group should start with a clearly defined task to be done
within a defined time. This helps the pupils build a sense of team
identity but also removes the fear of being locked into a grouping that
an individual may feel uncomfortable with. While the pupils are
working in pairs or groups, you need to observe how well they
interact together. You will need to change the pairs or groups in the
future if you notice that some pupils cannot concentrate on the task
and talk about something else (usually in Romanian), that one pupil
dominates the group or that some weaker pupils are lost.
The advantages of pair and group work soon become apparent.
Questions directed at the pairs or at the teams can anticipate longer,
more thoughtful answers, which are the result of group deliberation.
This overcomes the main disadvantage of the class dialogue that can
degenerate into a succession of short questions, with one-word
answers supplied by the bright and eager, and the teacher jumping
from one student to another in search of the right answer. In the
collaborative work approach, different solutions can be explored, and
pupils can learn to justify their arguments to their fellow group

Classroom management

Effective lesson management needs careful planning. The
cornerstone of effective management is a clearly understood and
consistently monitored set of rules and procedures that prevents
management problems in all stages of the lesson. These take into
account both the characteristics of the pupils and the physical
environment of the classroom. Lesson rules and procedures are the
basis for the routines the pupils follow in their learning activities.
While in whole class teacher-led activities opportunities for pupil
participation are limited, collaborative learning activities (pair work
and group work) rely on interaction to promote cooperative
knowledge construction, increased motivation and interest.

Key Concepts

• lesson management
• patterns of interaction
• whole class teacher-led activities
• pupils’ independent activities
• class dialogue
• questioning
• teacher feedback
• supervised learning
• supported independent learning
• pair work
• group work

SAA No. 2

Analyse a day’s lessons looking at your lesson management.

Note down how you dealt with the following aspects:
• the classroom (tidy? resources used? house rules?)
• lessons preparation (lesson plan? objectives? materials?)
• learning resources (variety? access to sources of information?)
• teacher (mood? self-confidence and self-control? instructions?
effective questioning? knowledge of subject matter?)
• pupils’ independence and sense of responsibility (initiative?
participation in discussions? personal organisation?)
• interaction patterns used (whole class activities? pair work? group
work? group composition?)
• inter-personal climate (respect and courtesy? humour? discipline
problems? how solved?)
• management and control of activities (clear directions? monitoring
procedures? transitions? feedback: praise, incentives?
• time management (effective use? supervisory, organisational and
teaching tasks? routines? planned time vs. used time?)
Send this analysis to your tutor.

Classroom management
Further Reading
1. Harmer, Jeremy (2001) The Practice of English
Language Teaching, Longman, Chapter 11
2. Underwood, Mary (1987) Effective Class management.
A Practical Approach, Longman
3. Ur, Penny (1996) A Course in Language Teaching.
Practice and Theory, Cambridge University Press, Part VI

Answers to SAQs

Should your answers to SAQ 1 not be comparable to those

given below, please revise section 2.2 of the unit.

Advantages of whole-class teacher-led activities:
• reinforce a sense of belonging among class members;
• offer points of common reference to talk about (These can
become reasons for the pupils to bond with each other);
• offer an environment where emotions can be shared;
• suitable for the teacher to act as controller;
• good for giving explanations and instructions;
• ideal for showing material such as pictures, texts or using
recorded material (audio or video taped);
• allow the teacher to gauge the mood of the class in general;
• allow the teacher to get a general understanding of pupil
• pupils may feel more secure working in lockstep under the
authority of the teacher.

Should your answers to SAQs 2 and 3 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 2.3 of the unit.

1. How do most people travel to work in analysis, open-
your city or town? ended
2. Is there a subway in your country? closed-ended
3. What is the number of Richard’s house plain recall, display
on Linden Street?
4. What topics do you usually talk about open-ended,
with someone you meet for the first time? genuine
5. Do you like staying in a hotel? evaluation

Disadvantages of whole class teacher-led instructing:
• Every pupil has to do the same thing at the same time and at
the same pace.
• Many individual pupils seldom get the chance to say anything
on their own.

Classroom management
• Individual pupils may be reluctant to participate for fear of losing
face (public failure).
• It does not encourage pupils to take responsibility for their own
• It is not the best way to organise communicative language

Should your answers to SAQs 4 and 5 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 2.4 of the unit.

Advantages of pupils’ independent activities:
• Allows the teacher to repond to individual pupil differences
(pace of learning, learning style, preferences).
• It is less stressful for pupils.
• It develops learner autonomy.
• It promotes the skill of self-reliance.
• It can restore a peaceful working climate in a noisy classroom.

Disadvantages of individualised learning:
• The pupils are not stimulated to develop a sense of group
• It does not encourage cooperation.
• It puts greater preparation demands on the teacher’s shoulders
(more planning and more materials preparation) than whole-
class teaching does.

Should your answers to SAQs 6, 7 and 8 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 2.5 of the unit.

pair group
work work both
increases the amount of pupil speaking time √
allows pupils to work and interact independently √
promotes pupil independence √
allows the teacher time to work with one or two √
chosen pairs
helps the classroom to become a more relaxed √
and friendly place
helps pupils to share responsibility √
can be easily organised √
personal relationships are less problematic √
more opinions and more contributions are made √
encourages cooperation and negotiation skills √
more private than whole class work √
promotes learner autonomy √
pupils can choose their level of participation √

Classroom management

Your contribution may take the form of:
• noting who is working and who seems disengaged;
• watching and listening to specific pairs or groups;
• intervening to provide general approval and support;
• correcting gently;
• helping pupils who are having difficulty; helping them with
planning or with ideas;
• keeping the pupils using English.

Disadvantages of group work:
• It can be noisy.
• The teacher may fell s/he loses control.
• Not all pupils enjoy group work since they cannot be the focus
of the teacher’s attention.
• Individual pupils may feel uncomfortable in some groups.
• Some pupils may show a tendency for self-effacement.
• Other pupils may become domineering.
• Groups take longer to organise than pairs.
• The beginning and the ending periods of group work (where
pupils move around the class) can take time and be chaotic.

Lesson planning

Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 66
3.1 Introduction to Lesson Planning 66

3.2 Pre-planning 67

3.3 Writing a Lesson Plan 68

3.3.1 Preliminary Information 69
3.3.2 Procedure 73
3.3.3 A Final Check of the Lesson Plan 77

3.4 Layout of Lesson Plans 77

3.5 You and the Lesson Plan 78

3.6 Timetabling 79
3.6.1 Timetabling in Practice 79

Summary 80

Key Concepts 81

Further Reading 81

Answers to SAQs 81

Lesson planning

Many of your decisions intended to promote learning in the

classroom will be based on your answer to the question: “How do I
plan my lessons to promote as much learning as possible?” Planning
includes all the decisions you make before working directly with the
Most teachers have in advance some idea of any lesson they
are about to teach, of what they will try to cover and how. Fewer
teachers prepare their lessons in detail. However, we encourage you
to write a wide range of lesson plans. Even though you may later on
choose to plan your lessons more skeletally, the exercise of thorough
and disciplined planning will provide you with an insight into your
teaching that will make your lessons more effective.
By the end of this unit, you should:
• have a good idea of what needs to be included in a lesson plan;
• be able to formulate main and subsidiary lesson aims for
unit objectives various types of lessons;
• distinguish aims from activities;
• use a suitable lesson plan layout.

3.1 Introduction to Lesson Planning

Although planning is sometimes seen as a chore, lesson

planning has enormous advantages for both pupils and teachers.
Here are a few of the advantages of planning. Planning...
• means anticipation, coherence, balance and clarity of purpose;
advantages of
lesson planning • makes lesson execution easier;
• allows for flexibility in lesson execution;
• saves time in the long run;
• looks professional ;
• makes you understand that some things are more important
than others;
• makes self-appraisal much easier.
A coherent, well-targeted and well-shaped lesson will be
appreciated by your pupils. There are further advantages in the
presentation of the lesson plan to anybody observing your teaching
or reading about your lessons:
• A lesson plan will help your observer or reader see how you
have prepared for your lesson and the factors you have taken
into consideration.
• A lesson plan makes the task of commenting upon lessons
much easier. It explains why you are doing something at a
particular point in a lesson, and it may locate and identify any

Lesson planning

• A lesson plan is something concrete that can be referred to.

This is useful either in feedback with your inspector, observer
and tutor or for your reader.

3.2 Pre-planning

Think first!

What elements do you need to plan for an English lesson?

Check your answers as you read on.

Plan for your pupils. If you do not know much about the class,
try to find out as much as possible about them before you decide
what to teach. Bear in mind their level of language, their background,
their motivation and their learning styles. Remember that, besides
knowledge of the pupils, you also need to have knowledge of the
In your lesson plan, you will need to include four main elements:
activities, skills, language and content (Harmer, 2001).
Decide what the pupils will be doing in the classroom and how
they will be grouped. Think what kind of activity would fit them at any
particular point in the lesson. Vary and balance the activities so that
each pupil gets a chance of finding the lesson engaging and
Decide which language skill(s) you need to develop in that
lesson. Your choice may be limited by the syllabus or the textbook.
However, you still need to plan how the pupils will work on the
respective skill(s) and what sub-skills you want to develop.
Decide what language (e.g., lexical items*, grammar structures)
you need to introduce and practise.
Starting from the textbook, select the content. Keep in mind that
the textbook is just a guide and that you are free to replace what is
given in the textbook with something else. You are, after all, the class
teacher who knows the pupils personally and can predict which
topics will be found interesting and which boring. Remember
however, that the most interesting topic will become boring if the task
set for the pupils is uninteresting. On the other hand, topics that are
not particularly interesting can become very successful if you assign
a task that your pupils find engaging.

Lesson planning

Teacher’s knowledge of the students

Teacher’s knowledge of the syllabus

Language Language Subject and

Activities skills type content

Practical realities

The plan

Fig. 3.1 Lesson Planning

(after Harmer, J. (2001) The Practice of English Language Teaching, p. 310)

Your lesson plan will reflect many of the important features of

your lesson:
• your understanding of aims (main and subsidiary);
• your awareness of the language;
• your ability to anticipate problems;
• the balance and variety of activities in the lesson;
• whether or not whole stages of the lesson are missing;
• the allocation of time to particular activities.
We therefore need to look at writing lesson plans and consider
what they should contain.

3.3 Writing a Lesson Plan

A lesson plan results from a number of thinking processes and
involves making decisions about what topics to study, what the pupils
should know or be able to do by the end of the lesson, what
examples are needed, what strategies can be used and how learning
will be assessed.
A lesson plan normally contains preliminary information under
several headings.

Lesson planning

Think first!

What preliminary information do you usually introduce at the

beginning of your lesson plans? Check your answers as you read on.

3.3.1 Preliminary Information

The preliminary information sheet is usually about one or two

pages. It includes:
1. Timetable fit;
2. Level;
3. Time;
4. Class profile;
5. Aims (main and subsidiary);
6. Assumed knowledge and anticipated problems;
7. Materials and aids.
Timetable fit. This shows how your lesson fits into a sequence
of lessons. Here you need to show how this lesson relates to other
lessons that have gone before and those that will follow. State briefly
what textbook you are using with the class, the work relevant to the
lesson that you have covered and give some indication of how the
lesson will be consolidated in future lessons.
Level. Here you state the level of the class: Beginner,
Elementary, Lower or Upper Intermediate, Advanced, or Proficient
and the year of study.
Time. The usual length of a lesson is about 50 minutes.
Class profile. Make some brief general comments about the
class as a whole (atmosphere, etc.) and mention any relevant points
about individual students (age, particular strengths or weaknesses,
etc.). This information is particularly useful if your reader, tutor or
inspector has not seen your lesson.
Aims. This is probably the most important part of your lesson
plan since your lesson will ultimately be judged in terms of your aims.
It is essential that the lesson aims are realistic, achievable, clearly
specified and directed towards an outcome that can be measured. If
you are unsure about the aims of your lesson, use this maxim: “What
is it that my pupils should be able to do by the end of the lesson that
they couldn’t do at the beginning?”

Lesson planning
You can deal with aims under two headings: ‘main/major’ and
‘subsidiary’. In a lesson of 50 minutes, you will normally have two or
three main aims. These should encapsulate what the lesson is
basically about. In an English class, the lesson aims will be mainly
cognitive and affective.
Generally speaking, the cognitive aims are statements that
describe the knowledge that the pupils are expected to acquire or
construct. Use in the formulation of these aims verbs like: remember,
understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create. Apply these verbs
to the four main dimensions of knowledge: factual, conceptual,
procedural and metacognitive, as you will most probably want your
pupils to do more than “remember” facts. In the 21st century, your
pupils will expect thinking, decision-making and problem solving to
be increasingly emphasised in the classroom.
A number of aims that fit into the affective domain, which focus
on attitudes, values and on the development of the pupils’ personal
and emotional growth, are also recommended. Although much of the
focus in the affective domain is implicit, sometimes we need to
concentrate on it deliberately. For example, in a lesson with
reference to multiculturalism, your aim may be to develop your pupils’
awareness of and appreciation of another culture’s values and
customs. Remember that attitudes, values and emotions strongly
affect learning, and when you plan and teach a lesson, you should
keep in mind factors like willingness to listen, open-mindedness,
commitment to values and involvement.
In an English lesson, the aims may be primarily language-
oriented (e.g., introduction and controlled oral practice of a certain
grammar structure) or skill-oriented (e.g., to increase the pupils’
confidence and ability to scan* a text). Subsidiary aims will be
derived from the main aims. Here is an example of how aims can be
Main aim: to improve the pupils’ listening skill.
Subsidiary aims: to give the pupils practice in selective listening,
in anticipating content and in using guessing strategies to overcome
lexical difficulties.
Note that the lesson has limited aims (2 – 3), and you should
not try to achieve too much.

Lesson planning


Is “teaching the present perfect” a realistic aim for a lesson?

Why (not)? Is “doing a listening exercise” a realistic one?

Compare your answers to the ones provided at the end of the


Try to formulate aims that are learner-centred, such as “to

enable the pupils to use the present perfect with a greater degree of
Distinguish between teaching aims and learning aims. You may
have aims for yourself in the lesson (teaching aims), such as “to
improve the clarity of my instructions”. These should be expressed in
a separate section.
It is also important not to confuse aims with activities. You
cannot say that your aim is “to do a role-play” since this is an activity,
not an aim. Specify what your aim for the activity is (e.g., “to
consolidate vocabulary related to previous work in class” or “to
recycle expressing polite refusals”, or “to develop fluency in…” etc.)

In the following list of headings, say which is an aim and which

is an activity.
a) Develop the scan reading skill;
b) Dialogue building;
c) Headway p. 36;
d) Grammar revision: conditional clauses;
e) Jigsaw reading;
f) Further practice of /s/ vs. /z/ and /iz/ in plural endings;
g) Introduction of the language of disagreeing;
h) Warmer;
i) Elicit use of Present Perfect.

The following headings can help you specify aims for a reading
or listening lesson: text type, style and register, reading or listening
style, specific language aim, specific skills aim, and so on. Here are
some examples of lesson aims:
• Text type, style and register:
lesson aims  to provide practice in reading magazine articles in informal
more specific style;
 to present an ESP (medical) journal article, with formal style
and marked register;
 to provide practice in listening to loudspeaker announcements;
Lesson planning
 to provide practice in listening to formal speeches.
• Reading or listening styles:
 to test pupils’ intensive reading abilities;
 to provide practice in skim* listening.
• Specific language aims:
 to provide receptive* practice of some discourse connectors
(e.g., however, although, though);
 to present ‘comment’ segments introduced by which (e.g., “I
got there early, which is why I had to wait so long”, etc.).
• Specific skills aims:
 to help pupils use their background knowledge to make
correct inferences;
 to present a way of dealing with unfamiliar words by breaking
them down into parts.
It is often desirable to kill two or more birds with one stone and
set aims, thus:
 to provide practice in reading magazine articles in informal
style and to help the pupils use background knowledge to
make correct inferences;
 to present discourse linkers such as however, although,

How could you formulate the two aims above in a more learner-
centred way? Compare your answer with the suggestion given at the
end of the unit.

Pupils’ assumed knowledge and anticipated problems.

Thinking about your pupils when you are planning is crucial. The
assumptions and anticipated problems are the specific things,
relevant to the aims of your lesson, which you anticipate your pupils
may either find easy or have problems with. This is an important part
of your lesson plan since it shows your ability to analyse language.
Specify briefly what relevant language you think your pupils
already know (vocabulary, structures, etc). If you intend to do some
skill work, state the level of ability your pupils have with that skill.
It is more difficult to make assumptions about levels of skill than
about levels of knowledge. If you have recently taken over a class,
then you may need to test out the pupils’ skills before you can make
Lesson planning
any safe assumptions.
Analyse anticipated problems under the following headings on
your lesson plan: a) meaning, b) form, c) phonology, and d) level of
skill (e.g., present level of your pupils’ ability in coping with listening
tasks). Occasionally, you may need to add a fifth heading, e) socio-
cultural problems.
Here are some example statements of assumptions and
anticipated problems:
• The pupils have good gist* listening skills but are not very used
to listening to loudspeaker announcements.
• The pupils have come across most of the vocabulary before,
but only in their reading.
• The pupils are familiar with the topic area; it was the subject of
a discussion in a previous lesson.
• The pupils have good higher processing skills but tend to make
mistakes in interpreting grammatical discourse markers.
Alternatively, you can analyse separately the pupils’ assumed
knowledge and the problems you anticipate when teaching that
Materials and aids. List any materials, references*, tapes,
pictures, board drawings, diagrams, handouts, realia*, etc. you intend
to use. State also if the material is your own or where you took it from
(as this will be very useful when you teach the same lesson again.)

3.3.2 Procedure

A good lesson plan should be clear and logical, and make the
lesson reconstructable (i.e. someone else should be able to teach it
following your lesson plan). You do not need to write a word-for-word
script, but you need more than brief notes that only you understand.
When teaching the lesson, you may wish to have a simpler
working document for yourself, which shows major stages, concept
questions, types of interaction, timing, etc. Some teachers like to use
a series of cards that carry instructions and contain the main points
of a particular stage, so that they can easily refer to them during the
The layout style you adopt for the “Procedure” part of the lesson
plan is a question of individual taste. Here are some tips:
Give a heading to each stage. This will help you to plan logically
staged lessons and make it clear how the stages of the lesson
develop, e.g.,:

Lesson planning

• presenting new language;

• getting across meaning;
• highlighting form and pronunciation;
• controlled practice;
• less controlled practice;
• freer practice/personalisation/creative stage.
The heading also helps to ensure that important stages of the
lesson are not left out and that appropriate materials are prepared for
the practice stages.
The stages of the lesson should be clearly indicated on the
plan. Being able to refer to stages numerically makes the plan easier
to read (e.g., 1.a, 3.b, etc.). The ending and beginning of stages
should be made clear to the pupils during the lesson.
Subsidiary aims will make clear why you are doing something at
a particular point in your lesson. They will also help your observer,
tutor, inspector or reader to assess the effectiveness of any part of
the lesson and help you to clarify the distinction between aims and
Aims refer to either language development or skills
In the list below, the left-hand column contains subsidiary
aims which were written by various teachers, but which may
deserve closer scrutiny. Analyse these aims and write your own
comments in the right-hand column. You will find more comments
at the end of the unit.
Aims Your Comments

To develop the
listening skill

To practise the
skill of listening for
detailed information.

To practise
gist listening.

To practise reading for


Lesson planning

To practise skimming a
long written text.

To practise scanning
for specific information

Showing the type of interaction for each stage and activity (e.g.,
T - S, S - S, in groups, in pairs, etc.), will help you to assess if there
is sufficient variety of focus in the lesson.
Show the approximate amount of time you expect to spend on
each stage or activity in the lesson. Be realistic about this. A lot will
depend on your experience and judgement. Sometimes the timing
can go wrong, so do not be afraid of being flexible during the lesson.
Think first!

Have you ever had problems with timing? What were, in your
opinion, the causes of these problems?

Include your answer in your portfolio, take it to the next tutorial,

discuss it with your classmates, and tutor.

The time you give to particular stages or activities is often a

reflection of what you perceive to be important in the lesson, so you
will need to make appropriate decisions about timing. Remember to
allow your pupils time for thinking and keep in mind that their
concentration span on any activity is only about 20 - 30 minutes.

Lesson planning

Giving an approximate timing can also help you to limit your

aims, and it can help you to learn from experience how long some
kinds of activities can take. If you have ‘timing problems’ with
lessons, this may be due to several causes:
• poor understanding of aims;
• confusion over what the main aims and the subsidiary aims are;
• unanticipated problems due to insufficient language analysis;
• different learning rates among pupils;
• the pupils’ unfamiliarity with the concepts used;
• poor language grading;
• insufficient or confusing instructions;
• slow pace of the lesson, etc.
One possible solution to timing problems is to build flexible slots
into the lesson plan, which can be used or dropped as necessary.
Show how you will convey meaning and check understanding.
Write concept questions on your lesson plan, with the answers you
expect. Remember that you may also need to ask questions about
style, register, connotation, etc. All this will demonstrate that you
have analysed the language you are teaching. On the lesson plan,
show the form clearly.
Where you anticipate pronunciation problems, show awareness
of sounds, stress and intonation. On the lesson plan, give the
phonetic transcription of problematic words or chunks of language
and mark stress and intonation patterns. When teaching vocabulary,
mark word stress on lexical items.
Include brief but clear class management instructions, e.g., for
organising pair work, group work, for the use of the textbook, etc.
Plan board work before the lesson so that it is clearly
organised and legible. Show on your lesson plan how you will make
use of the board during the lesson. Board work will include titles,
rules, diagrams, example sentences, phonological features, i.e.
anything that the pupils will write down as a record of the lesson.
Remember to go round the classroom and check whether the
pupils are copying down accurately. Alternatively, a well-designed
handout (e.g., a grammar reference handout) can be given to save
time in the lesson. Board work can also be prepared before the
lesson on OHP transparencies.
Show how you will prepare and interest the pupils in skills
work. For instance, say what questions you prepared to elicit
contributions. Include pre-set questions for reading or listening tasks
and their expected answers. For listening activities, indicate the
number of times you intend to play the tape.

Lesson planning

Make sure the homework task you set is meant to consolidate

what has been covered in the lesson and to check if learning has
taken place.
To sum up the features of a good lesson plan, this should have:
• clearly specified aims;
• evidence of language analysis;
• logical staging of the lesson;
• clear and easy to read procedure.

3.3.3 A Final Check of the Lesson Plan

Having done all the above, spend some time thinking:

• Is there sufficient variety? Look at the activities, focus, pace and
interaction patters.
• Could the pupils be more involved at each stage?
• What are the pupils asked to contribute at each stage? What
are the pupils required to do?
• What is your role at each stage (corrector, monitor, resource, or

3.4 Layout of Lesson Plans

Your lesson plan layout can be linear or tabular (arranged in the

form of a table). Linear plans are written as any normal text would be,
with headings and sub-headings.
If you choose to use a tabular layout, here is what it may look

Interaction Teacher Pupil

Aims Time Aids
Patterns activity Activity

The advantage of the tabular layout is that you have to think

about what needs to be written in each of the columns for each stage
of the lesson. It is also easy to see if the lesson is too teacher-
centred. However, some people may find this layout difficult to follow.

Lesson planning

A compromise layout can also work quite well:

Stage Procedure Aim

Practice1. Each pupil writes down three ways in • To give pupils written
which s/he thinks s/he is different and spoken practice
10 – 20 from her/his partner. S/he does not in expressing their
minutes show the partner what s/he has opinions, in agreeing
written. and disagreeing.
2. Both pupils tell each other about the • To encourage pupils
Pair differences and talk about where to get to know
work they were right or wrong, and then someone better.
they talk about the similarities.
(activity from Klippel F., Keep Talking, CUP, 1991)

This layout has several advantages. The name of the stage, the
time and type of interaction all fit into the Stage column, and there is
plenty of space left for detail in the Procedure column. In addition,
there is space in the Aim column to indicate the aim of particular
stages and activities in the lesson. The lesson plan is also easy to
follow for your tutor, reader, observer or inspector.

3.5 You and the Lesson Plan

After having spent so much time to produce the lesson plan,

you will feel inclined to follow it closely, for fear of failing to achieve
any of your stated aims. However, you should feel free to diverge
from it when you have to deal with any unanticipated learning
difficulties that your class may encounter. This will show your
feeling free to willingness to respond to the classroom situation as it develops, and
diverge from you will be given credit for doing this. It is not a good idea to stick to
the lesson plan your lesson plan, regardless of what happens in the classroom. Do
not be afraid to go back and clarify, reintroduce, and check concepts
again or stop the class and repeat your instructions.
The execution of a lesson involves a whole series of decisions
that you are called to make as the lesson progresses. You need to
show sensitivity to pupils and their difficulties and an ability to
respond appropriately.
If you do not follow your lesson plan, be prepared to explain
afterwards why you decided to diverge from it. Do not be afraid to
show flexibility, confidence and independence.

Lesson planning

3.6 Timetabling

Timetabling involves planning and sequencing a whole series of

lessons. You need to consider a few questions when you sequence a
series of lessons. Here are some:
1. How far ahead do you plan (in terms of lesson hours)?
2. What do you need to include in your timetable?
3. What factors do you need to consider when timetabling?
4. How do you see the role of the textbook in timetabling?
5. What problems can you anticipate and what solutions?

3.6.1 Timetabling in Practice

Here are some practical guidelines for timetabling:

1. Analyse the contents of the textbook unit and fill in an analysis
2. Review and note down separately:
a) links with previous unit’s work;
b) your perceptions of the pupils’ needs (in terms of language
needs, skills, recycling and remedial work).
3. Take a look at the next unit.
4. Using the information from 1 and 2 decide
a) what to teach and what to omit;
b) which material is useable for what (input and practice, skills
and freer practice, warmers and homework, etc.);
c) where you need to supplement with other material.
5. Fill in the immovable slots, e.g., tests, which may be given to
you by the school’s administration.
6. Allocate
a) input and skills, paying attention to the balance within and
between lessons;
b) relevant bits of textbook; and
c) homework (including balance and variety).
7. Review and make changes as appropriate. Think about when
you teach vocabulary and pronunciation, about what and how
often you recycle, about when you introduce new language
receptively for later activation, and about when you set
grammar preparation homework, etc.

Lesson planning


What kind of information would you include in a textbook

analysis sheet?

Compare your ideas to the ones suggested in the Answers



Planning lessons is an operation that needs to take place

before teaching can be effective, and it is entirely the teacher’s
responsibility. Here are some of the principles that a teacher should
• Take your pupils from dependence to independence.
• Build in your lesson plan backward and forward links (revision,
consolidation, skills work, presentation, practice, etc.).
• Formulate aims clearly.
• Be realistic: do not attempt to cover more than you can in the
time you have. Limit your aims.
• Provide balance of input, skills work, controlled/freer/free
practice activities.
• Provide variety of pace, focus, activity, intensity, interaction
• Ensure logical progression in the staging of activities.
• Make the plan layout clear and easily accessible.
• Provide enough detail to make the lesson reconstructable.
• Include in the lesson ways of checking that your pupils have
understood or can produce something of what you have
introduced or practised.

Lesson planning

Key Concepts

• pre-planning
• planning
• timetable fit
• assumed knowledge
• anticipated problems
• aims
• timing
• plan layout
• timetabling

Further Reading
1. Harmer, J. (2001) The Practice of English Language
Teaching, Longman, Chapter VI

Answers to SAQs
Should your answers to SAQs 1, 2, 3 and 4 not be
comparable to those given below, please revise section 3.3 of
the unit.

"Teaching the Present Perfect" is an unrealistic and
unachievable aim in one lesson. It is better to say that your aim is “to
introduce and give controlled practice in a certain use of the present
perfect”. Similarly, “to do a listening exercise” is a poorly expressed
aim, as you need to state which aspect of the listening skill is being

Aims Activities
Develop the scan reading skill Headway p. 36
Further practice of /s/ vs. /z/ and /iz/ in plural Dialogue building
endings Jigsaw reading
Grammar revision: conditional clauses Warmer
Introduction of the language of disagreeing Elicit use of Present Perfect

Here is how you can state your aims in a more learner-centred
• By the end of the lesson the pupils will have increased their
awareness and understanding of how language is used in
popular magazines and their ability to make correct inferences
using background knowledge.
• They will also have consolidated their understanding of the
function of ‘contrastive’ discourse linkers (e.g., however,
although, though) and of their place in the sentence.
Lesson planning

Aims Comments
Very vague. The particular sub-skills are not specified
To develop the listening skill
Pupils practise this skill in every lesson; they listen to their
To practise the skill of listening teacher for information or for instructions. The aim should
for detailed information. make clear what is different in this activity, e.g., listening to
recorded message information.
Make sure the class really needs more practice for gist
To practise gist listening. listening. They may already be expert at listening for gist
and do not require any further practice.
Can one practise reading for not understanding? The aim
To practise reading for does not say enough about what will really take place for
understanding. the pupils.
If the teacher has noticed that the pupils have particular
To practise skimming a long difficulty in skim reading and has presented ways of doing it
written text. effectively, then this lesson aim is correct. Make sure the
text is appropriate for such reading.
To practise scanning for Make sure the text chosen is not intended to be read for
specific information pleasure. Does it inform the reader of anything in particular?

Should your answers to SAQ 5 not be comparable to that

given below, please revise section 3.6 of the unit.

Suggestions for a unit analysis sheet:
Textbook: ... Comments:
(Useful? Relevant? Overloaded? Need to



Vocabulary areas:

Speaking activities:
(controlled and freer)

Listening activities:
(authentic* or not?)

Reading activities:
(authentic or not?)
Writing activities:
(for consolidation or as a

Lesson planning

Pronunciation, intonation
and stress work:

Revision activities:


Developing speaking skills

Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 86
4.1 The Speaking Skill in Communication 86
4.1.1 Why and When We Speak 86
4.1.2 What Does Communicating Involve? 87

4.2 Developing Communicative Competence in the Classroom 89

4.2.1 Oral Practice Activities 89
4.2.2 Less Controlled Practice 94
4.2.3 Freer Practice 99

4.3 Speaking for Fluency 102

4.3.1 Feedback on Communication Activities 103

Summary 103

Key Concepts 104

Further Reading 104

Answers to SAQs 104

Developing speaking skills

Literate people have a number of different language abilities:

speaking, listening, writing and reading. Speaking and writing involve
language production and are referred to as productive skills*.
Listening and reading involve receiving messages and are often
referred to as receptive skills. Very often, language users employ a
combination of skills at the same time. In conversation, for instance,
speaking and listening happen simultaneously.
In most cases, a language experience involves the use of
different skills. Classroom teaching will have to reflect this. Even
when our activities focus on one particular skill, the focus can later
shift to one or more of the other skills. The principle of integrating
skills – where focus on one skill leads to practice in another – should
constantly be followed, and although there are activities where
individual skills may be treated individually, the principle of
integration should be born in mind.
The four major language skills are summarised in the following
RECEPTIVE Listening and Reading and
understanding understanding
PRODUCTIVE Speaking Writing
This is a very general picture of language skills. It should not be
interpreted that skills are separate or that they should be treated
individually. Very often one skill cannot be performed without
another. Moreover, in order to use language skills, competent users
need a number of sub-skills for processing the language that they
use and are faced with. For instance, the way we listen for general
understanding will be different from the way we listen in order to
extract specific bits of information. The same is true for reading.
A great deal of what English teachers do in their classes can be
considered communicative*, and their objective is to develop their
pupils’ communicative competence. In fact, many teachers would
probably say that they follow the Communicative Approach. They
might however find it difficult to say precisely what they mean by this,
or to define communication, as definitions can vary.
One of the main components of communicative competence is
linguistic competence. Linguistic competence is the ability to
manipulate the system of the language. Sociolinguistic competence
is the awareness and ability to adapt all use of language to a
communicative context. In combination, these two competences can
be said to form communicative competence. Two other
competences, strategic competence and discourse competence, are
also involved. Discourse competence is an aspect of communicative
competence which describes the ability to produce unified discourse
(written or spoken) that shows coherence and cohesion, and which
conforms to the norms of different genres. Apart from the ability to
produce sentences which are grammatically correct and appropriate
to the situation in which they are being used, speakers must also be

Developing speaking skills
able to produce discourse in which the sentences are linked through
rules of discourse or discourse competence. Strategic competence
describes the ability of speakers to use verbal and non-verbal
communication strategies to compensate for breakdowns in
communication or to improve the effectiveness of communication.
For instance, a speaker may lack a certain word or structure and
have to use a paraphrase to compensate. Another speaker may use
a deliberately slow and soft manner of speaking to create a particular
effect on a listener.

sociolinguistic discourse
competence competence

strategic linguistic
competence competence

By the end of this unit, you should:

• have a clear idea of the nature of the speaking skill;
• be aware of the problems encountered by your pupils when
developing their speaking skill in English;
unit objectives
• explain the meaning of the term ‘communicative competence’;
• be aware of the ‘accuracy vs. fluency’ debate;
• know about a wide range of classroom activities used to develop
accuracy and fluency;
• have explored several options in the identification and correction
of mistakes in both accuracy and fluency activities.

4.1 The Speaking Skill in Communication

In considering the role of speaking as it relates to
communication and the relevance of speaking to language teaching,
you have to answer a few questions: a) why and when we speak, b)
what communicating involves, and c) what factors influence

4.1.1 Why and When We Speak

We speak in order to:
• get information about things or people;
• explain, instruct, direct;
• get something done;
• express judgement, opinions, feelings;
• promote warmth, friendship, etc.;
• relate events, anecdotes, descriptions, etc.

Developing speaking skills

Think First!

Can you think of other reasons for speaking? List them in the
space provided below.

Check your answers as you read on.

The list is endless! Bearing in mind the reasons for speaking,

we can identify six underlying functions of language (or ‘macro’
functions of language)*:
i) directive: influencing other people’s behaviour (e.g., request for
language macro permission, order, instructions);
functions ii) descriptive: talking about the world, the past, etc.;
iii) expressive: expressing emotions, imagination, opinions, etc.;
iv) phatic: promoting human warmth (e.g., "It’s cold today, isn’t
v) metalinguistic: talking about the language one is using (e.g.,
‘John’ is the subject of the sentence);
vi) poetic: using language creatively (especially in literature and
Each macro-function can be sub-divided into the functions we
can identify in our everyday interactions with people. The directive,
descriptive, expressive and phatic macro-functions and their many
sub-divisions, are the most likely to be relevant to the average
general English pupil.

4.1.2 What Does Communicating Involve?

Communicating involves two types of activity that take place

almost simultaneously: planning and execution. It is a combination of
linguistic and cognitive sub-skills, social and cultural awareness and
In their mother tongue, speakers have the ability to discriminate
linguistic and manipulate sounds and sound sequences in order to produce
sub-skills fluent, intelligible speech and to use accurate and meaningful stress
and intonation. They also have the ability to make linguistic choices
at the level of vocabulary and grammar and at the level of style and
register, to form natural and meaningful sentences, appropriate to
one’s communicative purpose in a given situation.
The factors that influence the speaker’s language choices are:
a) the interlocutors (speaker and listener);
b) the code (shared language of the interlocutors);
c) the message topic;
d) the message form;
Developing speaking skills
e) the setting / situation;
f) the function of each utterance. This relates to what has been
said before, to what each interlocutor assumes the other
already knows, and to the intended message of the speaker.
The interlocutors’ attitudes towards each other are also
The cognitive sub-skills involve formulating language in the
cognitive mind as a representation of the intended meaning. This involves
sub-skills planning on three levels: discourse, utterance and constituents.
Discourse takes account of the kind of communication the
speaker is participating in (e.g., joke telling; conversation; giving
instructions, etc.), the situational and linguistic context, the features
of conversation and the cohesion* of the utterances. Efficient
speakers make linguistic choices (grammatical, lexical, and
phonological) appropriate to context, follow the conventions of
spoken discourse and adopt a suitable communication strategy. They
know how to check whether the listener is interpreting the message
correctly and if necessary, can do repairing.
The meaning of the planned utterances is considered in terms
of what function they will have (e.g., requesting, checking, advising,
etc.); of the topic of the overall communication (e.g., politics, bringing
up children, etc.); of what information can be taken as known and
what needs to be considered as new; and of how the message will
be conveyed stylistically (e.g., straight, ironical, understated, etc.)
Speakers also need to make choices referring to specific
constituents: linguistic items (lexical units, structures, stress,
intonation) and to organising these in the right order.
For native speakers, planning and execution is generally a
spontaneous process, though speech errors*, repetitions, hesitations,
and false starts indicate that people often start speaking before a
constituent is completely planned.
Effective speakers are aware of social rules, show sensitivity to
social and
rules of behaviour (e.g., turn-taking and giving attention signals)
when participating in conversations and can select an appropriate
style and register for a given situation, purpose and listener. They are
aware of the value system of their interlocutors and show the ability
to accompany speech with appropriate meaningful non-verbal
communication such as facial expressions. They are also aware of
intonation and politeness formulae in promoting good relationships.

In no more than 30 words, explain what you understand by

confidence as a linguistic sub-skill.

Compare your answer to the one given at the end of the unit.

Developing speaking skills

4.2 Developing Communicative Competence in the Classroom

When organising a speaking activity, you need to bear in mind

questions like:
• Is the activity promoting real communication? How natural can
be communication in the classroom?
• What aspects of non-linguistic communication are my pupils
showing: facial expression, gesture, tone of voice?
• What different registers of language can be practised in this
activity? What range of styles and registers do they need?
• Do my pupils need to learn to communicate to the same degree
of complexity and subtlety?
• To what extent does effective communication depend on
linguistic accuracy?
There may be no certain answers to these questions. However,
they develop an awareness and an understanding of the issues that
currently circulate in language teaching.

4.2.1 Oral Practice Activities

The activities primarily designed for oral practice are grouped

according to the degree of control exerted by the teacher over the
pupils’ language choice. They show a gradual move from very
controlled to ‘freer’*. Many of the activities are flexible in this respect,
i.e. you may choose to exercise more or less control according to
their aims and the pupils’ needs. Teachers generally follow the
traditional model of language teaching, which attempts to realise the
principles of staging learning. This model is:
• presentation (including controlled oral practice);
• less controlled oral practice (also called ‘guided* creativity’ or
‘semi-controlled oral practice’);
• freer stage. In this stage, the focus may still be on the language
being practised. You will select activities that are likely to
produce the language that has recently been presented and
practised. In fluency activities, this is not the case.
As you can see, practice itself can be graded from controlled to
semi-controlled to freer. This progression gives your pupils the
chance to see when and how they need to use the target items in
real life and to become more independent language users. Some
classroom learning activities will be accuracy based, i.e. aimed at the
correct production of specific language, but as we move along the
continuum from controlled to free, there are increasing opportunities
for the pupils to practise and develop fluency. Fluency will occur
whenever they are more interested in the content of what they are
saying than in the forms they use, when they are engrossed in an
activity and concentrating on carrying out a task.
In general, the speaking practice activities that you organise will
offer your pupils the chance to both practise specific language items
Developing speaking skills
and develop the speaking skill itself, which will be useful to them in
communication. For example, if your pupils are involved in an activity
where they choose an appropriate apology for a variety of situations,
they will be practising both specific apologetic formulae and will be
making linguistic choices appropriate to context. In other words, you
aim at either accuracy or fluency or at some point along the
continuum that connects them (see the figure below):

accuracy vs.
fluency Accuracy Fluency

Accuracy activities are activities in which you aim for the pupils
to concentrate on the language they are using. These include
manipulating, practising and ‘freely’ using particular items of
language (e.g., a substitution drill* to practise the form of the present
perfect, an elicited dialogue to practise apologising, a ‘free stage’ to
practise conditional II; etc.)
Fluency activities are activities where you want the pupils to
concentrate on what they are using the language for. Language is
seen as a tool to be used to fulfil whatever the pupils are engaged in
doing (e.g., a pupil is explaining to a classmate how to do


What choices will you have to make when deciding for an

accuracy or a fluency activity? Write your answer in the space
provided below and then check it against the one in the Answers

All these choices have implications on how the activity

contributes to the pupils’ overall speaking skill in all its various
In the course of teaching, both accuracy and fluency must be
worked on and developed, and must both be a part of your teaching
at any level. In some activities, e.g., semi-controlled practice, it may
well be difficult to separate the two. It is however difficult to work
effectively on both at once. It will be helpful if you decide what the
deciding on the main priority is for any given activity. Both advanced classes, which
main priority are already relatively fluent, and early levels classes may need
emphasis on accuracy work. Fluency activities may be graded to the
Developing speaking skills
abilities of the pupils, both in terms of the level and amount of
language needed to complete the task and in terms of the amount of
autonomy your pupils are able to cope with. What is important is to
give pupils of all levels, opportunities to use language creatively and
for their own purposes.
Whether an activity is accuracy- or fluency-biased may not
depend on the activity itself but on the way in which you set it up; on
whether the pupils are told to use particular language or are free to
use any language at their disposal. Similarly, the kind of feedback
you give, may determine whether the pupils see the activities in
terms of accuracy or fluency.
The aim of controlled practice activities is to provide practice in
manipulating and discriminating sounds, stress, intonation, formal
components (e.g., word order) and in reinforcing and discriminating
a) Repetition practice. A variety of drills may be employed at
the controlled practice stage of a lesson, usually starting with choral
and individual repetition practice and then extending into substitution
drills, often followed by a question and answer drill.

What procedure would you use for a question and answer drill?
Compare your answer with the one suggested at the end of the unit.





Repetition and substitution practice is based on the model

provided by the teacher. The pupils repeat in chorus or individually
the model given. In the substitution drills, you also provide the new
b) Action chain/Chain drill. One way of ensuring a lot of
question practice is to do the drill as an ‘action chain’ or ‘chain drill’.
Pupils sit in a circle and P1 asks P2, P2 asks P3, and so on. It is
essential to set this up clearly, and it helps to keep all the prompt or
picture cards moving in the same direction.
c) Mingling activity. Another way of maximising practice is to
extend the drill into a mingling activity, where pupils walk around the
class asking their questions to as many other pupils as possible. This
can also be a question and answer drill in which the pupils may
respond to written or picture prompts or, depending on the nature of
the questions, may be given genuine (‘communicative’) answers
based on their own experience.

Developing speaking skills
d) The ‘Information Gap’ technique* can be applied to
question and answer practice. If you ask the pupils to give answers
based on their own experience (e.g., about their likes or dislikes)
there is a natural ‘information gap’ as the questioner probably does
not know the answer. For other types of material, the ‘information’
gap may be supplied by the teacher.
Pupils A and B have the same account of the life of Jim Walter,
but each account has different pieces of information blanked out. The
target structures are Past Tense Simple and wh- question forms. The
level of study is elementary.
Pupil A Pupil B
15th May 19…, Jim Walter 15th May 1970, Jim Walter
was born in …, Great Britain. was born in Brighton…
1977: He started school 19…: He started school.
1999: He married Ella Burns. 1999: He married………, etc.
Pupils A has to ask: Pupil B has to ask:
What year was Jim Walter born? When did he start school?
Where was he born?, etc. Who did he marry in 1999?, etc.
Existing materials can be easily adapted to make information
gap material, by typing out the material with gaps included.
e) Imposed dialogues. At a low level, an imposed dialogue
may be used as a way of giving very controlled practice. Here is a
basic procedure for such a dialogue:
I) Establish situation and characters, then use the listening
II) Organise repetition drill* sequence to establish: first line,
second line, first + second lines together, third line, first +
second + third lines together, etc., up to maximum six –
seven lines. The idea is for the pupils to learn the dialogue
by drilling it, so that they are able to say it to each other in
pairs by the end.
The aim of the activity is to practise "May I have…", "How
much?" and food vocabulary (countables and uncountables).

Customer: Good morning.

Shopkeeper: Good morning.
Customer: May I have five apples please?
Shopkeeper: Certainly, sir.
Customer: How much are they?
Shopkeeper: 10p each, sir. 50 pence please.
Customer: Thank you.
Once the dialogue is established, give each ‘customer’ three
other items to buy and each ‘shopkeeper’ three other prices.
How much drilling is advisable and when depends on the level
of your pupils and the nature of the language item (easy vs. difficult).

Developing speaking skills
In drilling, the language choice is kept to a minimum through the
linguistic and situational limits set up by you. In this way, the practice
of a particular rule can be focussed on. In controlled activities, the
primary aim is fluidity, i.e. the rapid and accurate production of
patterns or sentences. Within the limitations on choice, some
creativity and real communication are, however, possible.
Many drills provide merely mechanical practice of form, but this
mechanical, is not true of all drills. A drill is mechanical when the sentence(s)
meaningful and being practised have no context, and the prompts that generate the
communicative manipulations of form are provided at random either by the teacher
drills or the material (as in repetition, substitution and transformation
drills*). Such practice is useful in promoting fluidity.
Meaningful drills* provide both context and the mechanical
manipulation necessary for accurate fluidity. Although designed for
paired practice, they are not truly communicative

In less than 50 words, give an answer to the question "Why

meaningful drills cannot be considered communicative?"

Compare your answer to the one given at the end of the unit.

Communicative drills, combine the mechanical practice and

context principles, but also add the ‘information gap’ principle.
Meaningful and communicative drills and imposed dialogues
can promote reinforcement of meaning.
Though many controlled practice activities are usually done with
you as the focus, most can be extended into pairs practice to
increase the amount of practice each individual pupil gets. It may be
necessary to demonstrate the activity in open pairs (i.e. across the
class) before letting pupils practise in closed pairs. This is particularly
true of information gap activities.
Even at the controlled stage of the lesson, you may allow your
pupils some opportunity to experiment with the language more freely
and creatively. You may ask them, for instance, to add their own
examples at any stage in the controlled practice.
It is also common practice to include a ‘personalisation’ stage
towards the end of the initial presentation stage, where the pupils
relate the language they are learning to their own lives and
experience. For instance, if they have been working on “there is /
there are” in the context of rooms and furniture, they may describe
their own rooms at this stage. On the other hand, if the structure is
“used to do” they can talk about their childhood, education, former
habits, etc. Some structures, however, may be difficult to
personalise. At the personalisation stage, the activity is usually quite
short so as not to demand too much of the pupils.
Developing speaking skills
Controlled oral practice is essential. ‘Controlled’ refers to the
control and limitation on the range of language choice open to the
pupils while practising and not to the degree of authority you impose
on the class. It promotes fluidity with sounds and sound sequences,
with rhythm and intonation. It can also promote fluidity with stock
phrases (e.g., “How do you do?”, “Do you mind if I...”).
Controlled oral practice activities allow the pupils to experiment
with a language structure within a limited range of choice. At the
same time, they give you the chance to provide correction on
grammar and phonology.
As an alternative to you always giving the corrected model,
other pupils in the class can be called upon to give the correct
version as a model. However, correction during this stage has to be
mediated through you.

What advice would you give a friend of yours who wants to

organise correction during the language presentation stage of the
lesson? Compare your advice to that given in the Answers section.

Drills are lively and snappy if done with vitality, technical

precision and humour. They are good for varying pace and practising
practice and
quick pronunciation or form. Pupils like drills because they are ‘safe’,
language i.e. they have little chance of making mistakes. Drills, however, can
teaching be predictable, mechanical and unnatural.
The preoccupation with communicative teaching has made
some teachers believe that the communicative activities equip the
pupils with the chosen language item(s), which can be internalised
more efficiently in communicative activities. This assumption has led
to a rejection of controlled practice activities. However, the pupils
need opportunities for controlled practice, followed up with further
semi-controlled practice in later lessons.

4.2.2 Less Controlled Practice

The aim of less controlled practice activities is to offer either

more pronunciation practice or more practice of recently learned
language. They provide context to reinforce the meaning of recently
learned language or in making linguistic choices. Thus, the pupils
may become more linguistically independent.
Even if some parts of these activities will be teacher-centred
(e.g., setting it up, drilling for intonation, etc.), pair work is likely to
play a great part in this stage of the lesson.
Developing speaking skills
Correction will still be necessary for target items, but your pupils
may now be always able to correct each other. You will still be
adapting needed for some correction (e.g., intonation, pronunciation of lexical
controlled items not included in the controlled stages) and as a resource for the
practice language needed by individual pupils or groups.
activities for less
controlled A number of activities used for controlled practice may be
practice adapted for less controlled practice. For example, an information gap
may be based on a jigsaw reading. Thus, it will provide pupils with
the opportunity to use target items in new contexts.
Similarly, dialogues may be handled in a less controlled way.
Instead of using an imposed dialogue, you may use a) a cued
dialogue, b) a completion dialogue or c) an elicited dialogue. These
activities can be used to revise and consolidate structures,
vocabulary or functional exponents, to give pupils an opportunity to
practise making linguistic choices, to help them assimilate new
language into their existing ‘pool’ or to develop their use of rhythm
and intonation.
a) Cued dialogues will be acted out.
Pupil A Pupil B
You meet B in the street You meet A in the street
Greet B Greet A
Ask B where he is going Say you are going for a walk
Suggest somewhere to go Reject A’s suggestion. Make a
together different suggestion.
Accept B’s suggestion Express pleasure
(after Littlewood, W. (1981) Communicative Language Teaching, CUP)

b) In a completion dialogue activity, half the pupils get one part

of the dialogue. The other half get the other part. In pairs or groups*
the pupils work out possible responses. Then they re-form in new
pairs so that the two roles interlock, and they read out the utterances
they have devised. The original prompt dialogues are set aside
during this interlock session. The ensuing dialogue is usually
coherent, and the pupils are intrigued by their own ingenuity.
Pupil A Pupil B
Two sisters – one has just arrived Two sisters - one has just arrived
home and looks ill. home and looks ill.
Jenny: You look awful Sue! Jenny: ………………………....………..!
Sue: ………………………......…………. Sue: I feel awful.
Jenny: What on earth’s the matter? Jenny: …………….……………………?
Sue: ……………………….......………… Sue: I’ve got a dreadful stomach-ache.
Jenny: Have you eaten anything Jenny: ............………………….……….
unusual? ................................................?
Sue: ………………………......…………. Sue: No, nothing special, only that
..................................................... Chinese meal last night.
Jenny: That’s probably what caused it. Jenny: …………………………...………
You should go and lie down. ..................................................
Sue: ……………………………….......… Sue: Yes, I think you’re right, I will.
Developing speaking skills

c) An elicited dialogue is usually based on blackboard drawings,

pictures or mime. The length of the dialogue will depend on the
pupils’ level. Be prepared to allow for slight variations in each line if
your pupils offer appropriate alternatives during the eliciting phase.
Set scene and characters, pre-teach essential vocabulary, then give
first prompt (e.g., mime, picture, or drawing) and ask What does he
say? Select one of the pupils’ offers; elicit any necessary correction.
Have it repeated, and then standardise it yourself for pronunciation,
rhythm and intonation. Give the pupils individual practice and
correction. Move on and give prompt for the second line, asking And
what does she say? Elicit, correct, standardise, and practise. Now
there are two lines, so give the pupils open pair practice. Elicit the
third line, following the same procedure, leading again to open pair
practice of all three lines. Elicit the fourth and fifth lines, etc. and use
the same procedure, until the entire dialogue has been elicited and
practised. Finally, the pupils go into closed pairs to practise the
dialogue and finish by acting it out in front of the class.
A: Good afternoon. I’d like a double room please.
B: Yes sir. Would you like a bath and colour television?
A: Yes, please.
B: Would you like breakfast in your room tomorrow morning?
A: No, thank you. How much is it going to cost?
B: Er... £50 sir.
A: etc.
Use a drawing or a picture as a prompt: man and woman at
hotel counter. Say:" This is Mr. O’Connor. Where is he? And who’s
this?" Point to the pupils and gesture two fingers. Ask: "What does
Mr. O’Connor say to the hotel receptionist?" Possible elicitations*
from pupils:
*a. Hello, I can find here a room for two persons?
*b. Excuse me, have you in this hotel a double room?
*c. Good evening. I want a room for two people.
(Note: The sentences preceded by an asterisk are incorrect.)
Choose one elicitation and mould it by prompts or gestures until
it is linguistically and sociolinguistically correct. This is then used as
the model and it is drilled. The other lines are prompted and elicited
in a similar way.

Elicited narratives can be used to revise and consolidate

narrative structures or vocabulary. They give the pupils an opportunity to
building practise making choices, to practise continuous speaking or to help
them assimilate new language into their existing pool of language.
There are two types of elicited narratives: i) blackboard drawings,
pictures or sounds, and ii) mime stories.
i) Blackboard drawings, pictures or sounds. Select or
draw a series of pictures and find a story or monologue to fit,
containing natural use of structure or vocabulary. Set the scene,
characters, time and context. Pre-teach necessary vocabulary.

Developing speaking skills
Display the first picture on blackboard, prompt, select elicitations,
standardise, practise, recap and move on. Display the second picture
on blackboard and repeat the same procedure. Be careful that link-
words are practised too. Finally recap the whole story, ensuring the
linking of sentences.
To exploit group work: a) mix up pictures and ask the pupils to
sort them out themselves; b) leave out the key picture and ask the
pupils to supply the missing element; c) give the pupils random flash
cards which they have to sequence; d) give a written story or joke
chopped up and ask them to reconstruct it.
ii) Mime stories. Develop a set of clear instruction gestures.
Use a story that can be mimed, containing the natural use of
structure or vocabulary. Establish instructions and check if the pupils
have understood. Pre-teach vocabulary if necessary. Set the scene,
characters and time context clearly. Mime each stage clearly - elicit,
select, standardise, practise, recap, move on to the next mime.
Follow the same procedure. Make sure sentences are linked
naturally. Recap whole story, ensuring sentence linking where
necessary and involving as many pupils as possible.

What activities would you use as follow-up for narratives? Use

the space below for making a few suggestions. Then compare your
ideas with those given at the end of the unit.

Pupils need practice in other aspects of monologues and in

particular in discourse linking and in different discourse types, e.g.,
joke telling, explanations, instructions, directions, relating events or
telling anecdotes.
Narrative building of this type is a pre-communicative activity. It
helps the pupils to cope with problems of tackling monologues, but it
is not a natural or authentic activity, as we seldom tell stories or
relate events from pictures.

Developing speaking skills
Think of a situation where the pupils may recount an event
naturally, e.g., going to a police station to report something, reporting
something to a newspaperman or giving reasons for being late for
school. Feed in narrative devices, such as “You’ll never guess what
happened next!” or “Do you know what happened next?” plus
responses: “No, what?” or “Really?” Leave the story open-ended for
the pupils to carry on in groups or for homework.

What advice would you give a friend who is going to use a

narrative in the lesson? Compare your suggestions to those given at
the end of the unit.

Language games are an ideal activity for providing semi-

games controlled practice, as the nature of the game tends to restrict the
actual language used. Some games are so limited in the language
that they require that they can be used for controlled practice e.g.,
“Spot the invisible fly”, where you choose the location of the fly and
the pupils guess, asking “Is it on my nose / in your bag / under the
table?” etc. The winning pupil chooses the next location.
Most games, however, allow for some choice in the language
used. Playing the game may lead naturally to the use of language
items the pupils have not come across in other classroom activities
but which may be useful to them in other circumstances. These
phrases may be pre-taught or taught as they crop up in the game.
(Pupils often, for example, want to know the verb to cheat or the
phrase “It’s your turn”, etc.)
Depending on the way you set up the activity, some games may
be adapted to provide freer practice.
Example “Alibi”

Developing speaking skills
Two pupils are accused of a crime that took place within a fixed
period of several hours the day before. They go out of the room and
plot their joint alibi, while the ‘police’, who remain in the classroom
prepare questions to ask them. The suspects are then questioned
one at a time and the police try to break their alibi. If you prompt, help
or correct in the preparation stage, the activity is semi-controlled. If,
however, the class are left to their own devices, the game allows for
freer practice, as they can ask any questions they want.

4.2.3 Freer Practice

The aims of these activities can be to increase the pupils’ ability

to deal with the unpredictable, to give them maximum opportunity for
self-expression, for the exploitation of their language resources and
for the practice of their communicative skills. They encourage pupils’
independence and risk-taking rather than risk-avoiding strategies.
They give them more practice in making linguistically and socially
appropriate choices. Your role in such activities is of advisor,
facilitator, monitor or guide.
At the ‘freer stage’, the pupils’ choice of language is not directly
prompted by you. The activities are likely to lead naturally to the
production of the target language*. However, some teachers like to
preface the activity with instructions like “Try to use the language we
have been practising” or “Try to use the Past Perfect”, etc. In general,
the success or otherwise of a free practice activity depends on how
far the pupils ‘get into’ the activity, and this depends on a few factors.

What are, in your opinion, the factors that will determine the
success of a freer practice activity?




Compare your answers to the ones given in the Answers


While many of the practice activities can be adapted for freer

practice, certain activities are particularly suited to this stage of the
a) Information gaps. If, for example, you are working on
reported speech, you might base your work on a ‘jigsaw’ reading or
listening. The pupils, in groups, could listen to a number of
‘candidates’ (no more than three) are interviewed for the same job.

Developing speaking skills
Then, they would re-group to choose the successful applicant. At this
stage, it would be natural for them to use reported speech to pool
their information. Similarly, the groups could read statements made
by witnesses of an accident (or suspects for a crime, etc.) and after
re-grouping, they would decide who was responsible.
b) Problem solving. Information-gap activities involve the
pupils in making a decision. Thus their ‘free speaking’ has a definite
aim, and they have a task to complete. This motivating principle can
also be exploited in specific problem-solving activities.
i) Tell the class “There’s a dead man in the middle of a road
with a pack on his back”. The class must find out what happened
from you, but you can only answer “Yes” or “No”. Thus the class will
get a lot of practice in asking past simple questions. [Answer: his
parachute did not open].
ii) Survival problems. From a list of 20 items, the pupils
choose six that would help ensure their survival on a desert island or
on the moon. If treated as hypothetical questions, these will lead
naturally to practising the Conditional II. If on the other hand, the
pupils are on a sinking ship, the Conditional I or will for spontaneous
decisions is more likely to occur.
c) Games. Though most games, by their very nature, imply
some measure of control, they may well allow the pupils a wide
choice of language and may be very appropriate as free stage
activities. ‘Alibi’, for example, can easily be set up as a freer practice
of past tenses.
d) Discussions. A discussion will offer your pupils free
practice in the language of agreeing or disagreeing, but discussion
topics can be chosen to lead naturally to a variety of other language
areas. Thus, a discussion of the future of the world ecological
problems is likely to involve future tenses and Conditionals I and II. A
discussion of the merits and importance of past discoveries and
inventions will lead to the use of the Conditional III.
These examples are more suitable for higher-level pupils. For
lower levels, discussion topics need to be carefully chosen to ensure
that the pupils have sufficient language at their disposal to express
their views. Discussion is possible however with quite early levels if
the topic is geared to pupils’ personal knowledge and the vocabulary
required is not too complex. Discussions on different cultural
customs, celebrations and common superstitions can prove fruitful at
quite early levels.
Some discussions may involve an element of role-play. The
classic example is the ‘balloon debate’ where the members of the
class represent famous people (or jobs / professions) trapped in a
balloon (or rocket or nuclear shelter) where resources will only allow
one to survive, so each must justify their own existence and talk the
class round to choosing them.

Developing speaking skills

Think First!

Before reading on, explain what the difference between a role-

play and a simulation is*. Check your answer against the
information given in the following paragraphs.

e) Role plays*. A role-play is a drama-like classroom activity

in which pupils take on the role of different participants in a situation
and act it out. For instance, they may play a waiter or shop assistant
and may be involved in developing an actual character or attitude.
f) Simulations are classroom activities that reproduce or
simulate real situations in which the pupils have various tasks or
problems to solve. This often involves group discussion and some
dramatisation. They can extend over a period of several days and
may incorporate reading, listening and writing skills as well as
speaking. As with role-plays, the pupils may or may not be required
to take on a new persona.
Both role-plays and simulations may be chosen to promote the
use of particular language points, of differences in style and register.
setting up Setting up the activity carefully is crucial to the success of any
discussions, role- freer activity. In role-play and discussions, it is unlikely that all stages
plays and would be accomplished in one lesson. Here are some tips:
1. Input: give input, informational or linguistic, checking use and
2. Materials*: choose them carefully to ensure relevance, interest
and motivation;
3. Instructions: make them clear and simple;
4. Roles: give appropriate roles to the pupils, taking care not to
give dominant roles to either quiet or dominant pupils;
5. Preparation time: allow your pupils the time to think, prepare,
formulate language and ideas (in groups or individually, in class
or at home);
6. Class management: plan the use of props and the seating. Your
role will be in the background (monitoring, advising or
participating as a peer*);
7. Learner’s language: make notes of mistakes and use them as a
basis of future remedial work;
8. Feedback: organise remedial work, use written consolidation, a
summary of topic points and a summary of language points.

Developing speaking skills


What kinds of questions do you need to ask yourself when

using discussions, role-plays and simulations?

Compare your answers to those suggested at the end of the


The aim at this stage is for the pupils to produce language

naturally and fluently. Once the activity is under way, you will
intervene as little as possible, generally only if communication breaks
down entirely. Feedback on language performance will be given after
the activity has been completed and is based on your notes, made
while monitoring. Unobtrusive correction or help with language may
sometimes be supplied during the activity, perhaps by passing the
pupil concerned a note.

4.3 Speaking for Fluency

We have looked at speaking mainly as a way of providing
practice in producing specific language items. We also need to
consider how speaking practice in class can help prepare the pupils
for communicating naturally in real life.
One may speak fluently and easily and yet not necessarily be
able to communicate effectively in all situations. It is important
therefore to choose the activities very carefully, so that you give your
pupils sufficient practice in all kinds of conversations.
Many kinds of speaking activities involve patterns your pupils
will need outside the classroom. You will need to make the selection
and ensure the balance. Such patterns are in operation in both
monologues and dialogues. Therefore, it will be helpful for you to
highlight these patterns, possibly via a listening text. In addition, you

Developing speaking skills
will need to highlight the reactions of the listener (noises, questions,
etc.). For instance, you need to teach the language used to give
helpful feedback to someone telling a story. At low levels, the
reactions taught, might be simply “Mm” (with appropriate intonation)
or “Really”, while at higher levels a greater range could be included.
Tell a story and pause at intervals to encourage your pupils to
respond appropriately. Another option is to give them possible
reactions accompanying the script of story: the pupils in groups will
decide which reactions can fit where. Offer such reactions as “Ah”,
“Oh, I see”, “Hum!” “Typical!”, “Really!”, “What happened?”, “Good
idea”, “Oh!”, “Very wise”, “Yes, of course”, “What?”, “No, of course
not”, “I know what you mean!”, “How awful / terrible / dreadful!”, “Oh
dear, I see!” etc.
For freer practice, your pupils can tell their own stories
(prepared as homework) and others respond or encourage them.

4.3.1 Feedback on Communication Activities

Is the correction of mistakes in structure or functional exponents

an appropriate follow-up to a fluency activity? You will decide this
question in relation to the needs of your pupils. However, a few
points are worth considering here:
1. Pupils may expect this type of feedback.
2. The focus has been on communication, so mistakes may not
have interfered with the pupils’ successful completion of the
task and may therefore be irrelevant.
3. You can give feedback on how successful the communication
4. Where the pupils have struggled to communicate, some help or
repair* work will be needed. You could do this in a later lesson
rather than as instant feedback.


Here is a simple framework for integrating practice in

communication, offered by William Littlewood in Communicative
Language Teaching:
Structural activities (1)
Pre-communicative activities
Quasi-communicative activities (2)
Functional communication activities (3)
Communicative activities
Social interaction activities (4)
(after Littlewood, W. (1981) Communicative Language Teaching, CUP)

Developing speaking skills

Your pupils will need preparation for communication. The

activities geared to the easy manipulation of structures (e.g.,
substitution drills) and the practice activities which do not necessarily
involve real communication (e.g., info gaps activities) are ‘bridging’
activities. The pupils will then be ready to practice in communicative
activities (functional communication activities and social interaction
In functional communication activities, the pupils are using
language for the purpose of carrying out a task (e.g., solving a
problem, reaching a consensus, etc). This type of communication
practice will be complemented by social interaction activities where
the pupils simulate the kind of conversations they may be involved in
outside the class. For these, they may need to choose appropriate
styles, intonation patterns, etc. Role-plays and simulations are
examples of this category of activities.
Littlewood points out that there is no clear dividing line between
these different categories; they represent differences of emphasis
rather than distinct divisions. At any level, all four types of activities
may be employed but graded in scope and difficulty to the needs and
abilities of the pupils.

Key Concepts

• communicative competence
• linguistic competence
• controlled practice
• less controlled practice
• freer practice
• accuracy
• fluency

Further Reading

1. Harmer J. (2001) The Practice of English Language

Teaching, Longman, Chapters 5, 7 and 8
2. Littlewood W. (1981) Communicative Language Teaching,

Answers to SAQs

Should your answer to SAQ 1 not be comparable to that

given below, please revise section 4.1 of the unit.

Confident speakers have the power to communicate their ideas
and intentions effectively, appropriately and to ‘repair’ when
communication breaks down. They are able and willing to cope with
unpredictability in communication, allow themselves to take risks with

Developing speaking skills
language in order to get their meaning across and without worrying
about errors. They can exploit their own communication strategies
(e.g., simplification, translation, mime and gesture, sensitivity to voice
tone etc.) and show independence in initiating oral discourse.

Should your answers to SAQs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 not be

comparable to those given below, please revise section 4.2 of
the unit.

Deciding for an accuracy or a fluency activity will mean making
choices about:
• whether the pupils are to concentrate on the language they use
or on communicating effectively;
• your role in the activity: controller, guide, monitor, leader;
• fabricated reasons to speak vs. real and relevant reasons to
speak (i.e. ‘language-like’ behaviour vs. genuine
• the status of error (focus on linguistic correction or focus on
• the mode of interaction: teacher to class, teacher to individual
pupils, individual pupils to teacher, pupil to pupil;
• amount of thinking and preparation time allowed to the pupils,
i.e. prepared speaking vs. spontaneous speaking.

For a question and answer drill, follow this procedure:
i) Establish a model question and answer (Have you ever…? Yes,
I have / No, I haven’t);
ii) Ask P1, P2, P3 … using different prompts (e.g., Have ever been
to London? Have you ever eaten octopus? Have you ever seen
a lion? etc.);
iii) Direct Ps to ask and answer questions in open pairs;
iv) Pupils ask and answer questions in closed pairs.

Meaningful drills cannot be considered communicative because
both pupils have access to all the information in the situation. For
example, both pupils have a map of London and are practising
asking for and giving directions using present simple.

When you do corrections during a language presentation:
(i) focus on specific mistakes relating to the target item only, not
on every mistake made by every pupil;
(ii) encourage the pupils to think about their mistake and correct
(iii) if another person (you or a fellow pupil) is giving the correct
version, the ‘pupil-in-error’ must be listening;
(iv) after the correct version is given, the pupil-in-error should
practise it several times for fluidity.

Developing speaking skills

Follow-up activities for narratives:
• Pupils complete gap-fill text of story;
• Pupils use a skeleton outline to write the story;
• Pupils act out a dialogue between the protagonists or one
protagonist and somebody else;
• Pupils write the dialogue themselves and act it out;
• The narrative is told from somebody else’s point of view;
• Pupils could play the roles of the people in the story;
• Discussion - using the story as springboard;
• Pupils write the story themselves;
• Pupils write letters - following naturally from some aspect of the

• Use blackboard drawings, pictures, sounds or mime separately
or in combination.
• Do not plan stories that are too long or complicated.
• Grade them to the level of the class.
• Pre-teach unknown vocabulary.
• Be flexible.
• Exploit it in follow-up language activities in other skills.
• Relate stories to the textbook if you think it is appropriate.
• Check clarity of instructions.
• Try out ‘mime’ stories to see what you can do without saying a
• Do not mix tenses - establish a time context and stick to it.
• Pop structure, vocabulary and function in if/when appropriate,
natural and possible.

i) Whether the topic appeals to the pupils.
ii) Whether they can produce the language, they need to carry out
the task - e.g., you may need to pre-teach vocabulary essential
for the activity you have chosen.
iii) The way you set up the activity: Is it clear? Is it a motivating way
to lead into the task?

Points to consider:
• Does my perception of the pupils’ communicative needs meet
their own perception?
• How will I motivate the pupils to involve themselves in the
• How can I ensure they have the information and the language
needed to carry out the task?
• How can I ensure that all pupils are provided with something to
• Will they need time to think/prepare their ideas?

Developing speaking skills
• When can pair or group work be particularly helpful? (Pairs
discussion may help pupils to think out their ideas initially; some
pupils may find it easier to talk to a small group than to the
whole class).
• Remember also that role-play/discussion may be a good follow-
up to writing, reading, listening activities or may usefully lead
into these activities.
• How can I avoid the situation of pupils antagonising each other?
• How can I see whether pupils use only English?
• How can I prevent noise?

Developing listening comprehension skills

Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 109
5.1 Listening Sub-skills 109

5.2 Real-Life Listening and Classroom Listening 110

5.2.1 Characteristics of Real-Life Listening Situations 110
5.2.2 Listening Styles in Real Life 112

5.3 Classroom Listening Activities 114

5.3.1 Spontaneous Speech in the Classroom 115
5.3.2 Choosing Listening Materials for the Classroom 115
5.3.3 Intensive and Extensive Listening 116
5.3.4 Listening Comprehension Activities Classified According to 116
Learner Response
5.3.5 Guidelines for Designing Effective Listening Tasks 119
5.3.6 Procedures for the Systematic Development of Listening 122
5.3.7 A Basic Methodological Model of the Teaching of Listening 123
5.3.8 Problems with Classroom Listening 124

Summary 127

Key Concepts 127

SAA No. 3 128

Further Reading 128

Answers to SAQs 128

Developing listening comprehension skills

Without being taught to listen, people may be able to express

themselves orally. However, they will never be able to communicate
successfully if they are unable to understand what is said to them.
We cannot develop speaking skills unless we develop listening skills.
A recent change of emphasis in the way listening is viewed has
come from a realisation that speaking is not a separate skill in itself
but part of a broader skill - that of participating in oral/aural
interaction - that is, in speaking and listening. Even extended
speaking activities like joke telling, recounting an incident or giving a
lecture, usually require the active participation of listeners.
Your pupils are likely to need a higher degree of aural (i.e.
receptive) ability than of oral (i.e. productive) ability. In other words,
they will need to listen to and understand a much wider range of
language spoken to them (in terms of function, topic, grammar,
vocabulary, accent, style, etc.) than they will need to be able to
speak. This means that you must ensure at least as much listening
practice as speaking practice, if not more. The amount of emphasis
will depend ultimately on what level of accuracy and what level of
communicative sophistication your pupils are aiming at.
Moreover, listening to spoken language is also an important
way of acquiring the language – structures and vocabulary.

By the end of this unit, you should be able to:

• identify the various sub-skills involved in the listening process;
• select and apply appropriate classroom activities to develop
unit objectives
these sub-skills;
• set up, apply and monitor a variety of interactive classroom
listening activities;
• offer a theoretical justification for each of these activities;
• integrate listening activities with the development of one or
more of the other skills;
• assess the learning outcomes of the listening activities.

5.1 Listening Sub-skills

What sort of skills do your pupils need to develop, and how can
you help them to do this? In order to answer these questions we first
need to look at what the listening process consists of:
• sound discrimination and recognition;
• identifying different intonation patterns;
• recognising words and understanding their information content;
• identifying grammatical grouping of words;
• understanding redundancy*;
• recognising non-linguistic cues such as gestures;
• using background knowledge to predict and confirm the

Developing listening comprehension skills

5.2 Real-Life Listening and Classroom Listening

If you want to prepare your pupils for real-life listening, you
need to be aware of the differences between real-life listening and
classroom listening. Classroom listening is usually controlled and
contrived, that is, listening situations are set up in advance, well
prepared and are frequently scripted. Furthermore, the reason for
listening is often a linguistic one. The material listened to may be
read aloud from a written text, and as such it is likely to consist of full,
grammmatically accurate sentences, clearly articulated and delivered
at a deliberately slow pace.

Think First!
In your opinion, what are, by contrast, the characteristics of
real-life language?

Check your answers as you read on.

5.2.1 Characteristics of Real-Life Listening Situations

Different listening texts have different vocabulary, grammar and
even different phonology. For instance, there will be different
phonological features in a chat and a supermarket staff
announcement. A chat will generally go fast. It will make use of more
contractions and there may also be a lot of fall - rise intonation. A
supermarket staff announcement is generally issued in a monotone
voice. Styles can vary from very formal, to formal, casual or intimate,
with no hard and fast dividing lines between them.
If you wish to make your classroom listening tasks authentic,
you need to consider which of the characteristics of real-life listening
you can realistically bring into the classroom. In real life, the
language we listen to is quick, informal and improvised, with the
Developing listening comprehension skills
speakers putting it together as they go along. Speakers and listeners
often know one another and can anticipate what they are likely to talk
about. Informal and spontaneous speech has the following features:
• A conversation is usually broken into short chunks as people
take short turns to speak, usually of a few seconds each.
• The pronunciation of words is often slurred and different from
the phonological representation given in a dictionary.
features of natural • The vocabulary is often colloquial (e.g., guy for man, kid for
speech child, etc.)
• Informal speech tends to be ungrammatical: utterances do not
usually divide neatly into sentences; a grammatical structure
may change in mid-utterance; unfinished clauses are common.
• There will be bits of the discourse that are unintelligible to the
hearer, perceived by the latter as being noise. This may be
because the words are not said clearly, not known to the
hearer, or because the hearer is not attending. We usually
comprehend less than 100 per cent of what is said to us,
making up for the deficit by guessing the missing items or
simply ignoring them and gathering what we can from the rest.
• The speaker is normally redundant, that is, says a good deal
more than is strictly necessary for the conveying of the
message. Redundancy includes repetition, paraphrasing,
glossing with utterances in parenthesis, self-correction, the use
of ‘fillers’ such as I mean, well, er.
To some extent, redundancy* compensates for the gaps
created by the ‘noise’. Imagine someone asking you: “What did
you do yesterday?” The question meaning is expressed by the
word what, by the grammar (inversion and the auxiliary verb)
and by the phonology (high start on What, fall - rise intonation
on do). There is an abundance of information so that, if we
happen to miss one of the items, we will still have four more
chances at interpreting the utterance correctly.
• The discourse will not be repeated exactly; normally it is heard
only once. This may be compensated for by redundancy and by
the hearer’s possibility of requesting repetition or explanation.
To these language features, we may add a few characteristics
of the real-life context:
• Real-life listeners know what to expect. The listener almost
always knows in advance something about what is going to be
said, about who is speaking or about the basic topic. Linked to
this is the purpose a listener normally has (e.g., to find out
something). A listener always expects to hear something
relevant to this purpose.
• Looking as well as listening. Only a very small proportion of
listening is done ‘blind’ (e.g., listening to the radio or telephone).
Normally, a listener has something to look at that is linked to
Developing listening comprehension skills
what is being said; usually the speaker him-/herself but often
other visual stimuli as well (e.g., a map, scene, or object, or the
environment in general).
• In real-life, the speaker expects listener feedback. The
listener is usually responding at intervals as the interaction is
going on. It is relatively rare for us to listen to extended speech
and respond only at the end. The responses are normally
related to the listening purpose and are only occasionally a
simple demonstration of comprehension.
The speaker usually directs the speech at the listener, takes the
listener’s character and intentions into account when speaking
and often responds directly to his/her reactions, whether verbal
or non-verbal, by changing or adapting the discourse.

5.2.2 Listening Styles in Real Life

In real life, generally speaking, there is casual and focused
listening, if we take into account the amount of concentration shown
by the listener.
Sometimes we listen with no particular purpose in mind and
often without much concentration. Examples of casual listening are
casual listening listening to the radio while doing housework or chatting to a friend.
Usually we do not listen very closely, unless we hear something that
particularly interests us.
At other times, we listen for a particular purpose, to find out
information we need to know. Examples of focussed listening are
focused listening listening to a piece of important news on the radio or listening to
someone explaining how to operate a machine. In these situations,
we listen much more closely but we do not listen to everything we
hear with equal concentration – we listen for the most important
points or for particular information. Usually, we know beforehand
what we are listening for, and this helps us to listen.
However, the way we listen changes according to what we are
listening to, who we are listening to, where we are, etc. These factors
determine the amount of involvement and participation of the listener.
Thefeore, we can distinguish three types of listening styles:
a) Interactive and non-interactive listening. Typically,
interactive listening is listening during conversations, where the
listener is also a speaker. Non-interactive listening is the kind of
listening where the listener has no possibility of contributing.

Developing listening comprehension skills


Arrange the following listening situations along the continuum

“interactive º non-interactive”: instructions, traditional lectures,
conversation, sermons, guided tours, loudspeaker announcements.
Check your answer against that given at the end of the unit.


b) Transactional and interactional listening. Transactional

listening takes place when we need to know what our interlocutor is
talking about, because we have to act upon it somehow. A
transactional discourse has a purpose – to solicit goods or services
or a favour. Buying a pair of shoes in a shoe shop, ordering food in a
restaurant and inviting someone to come to a party, are all examples
of transactional discourse. Transactional listening requires
attentiveness and selectiveness: we have to attend carefully in order
to carry out (or refuse to carry out) what our interlocutor requires. For
instance, a waiter has to listen and note the food and drink required,
and so on.
Interactional listening has to do with building and maintaining
social relations. It covers all those conversations where we tell each
other what we did yesterday and what we are going to do tomorrow.
It also covers those short interchanges with strangers or distant
acquaintances where we swap platitudes about the weather,
comments about sport, etc. Whereas in transactional listening we
need to listen attentively and selectively, in interactional listening, we
do not need to do so. However, we may decide to do so when an
interactional conversation takes on a transactional flavour.
c) Submissive and assertive listening. In submissive
listening, the listener submits her/himself to the authority of the
speaker. The aim of the listener is to find out what the speaker
means, what his/her opinion is, or to apprehend his/her vision of
things. We might listen to a film or play, to a lecture or a sermon in
this way.
Assertive listening is to do with listening for the message of a
text. We may not care about the speaker, his/her point of view or
style. All we want to do is get out some facts which are of use to us.
We might listen to a loudspeaker announcement in this way, or to the
weather forecast.

Developing listening comprehension skills

5.3 Classroom Listening Activities

The traditional aims for listening lessons were the presentation
or practice of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Even now the
principal rationale behind the selection of listening material in
textbooks seems to be either a grammatical or a lexical one.
However, it is often necessary to create lessons or lesson sequences
that specifically address the listening comprehension problems your
pupils have. The following could be aims for listening activities:
• to increase the pupils’ awareness of how listening with a
purpose can make listening more effective;
• to increase the pupils’ awareness of different styles;
• to present various aspects of culture, enabling the pupils to
make useful predictions;
• to present strategies for dealing with individual unfamiliar
More specific aims could be:
• increasing the pupils’ awareness of the extent and frequency of
contractions / short forms in normal, rapid speech;
• introducing and provide practice in common collocations;
• providing practice in various grammar structures, focussing
attention on their meaning;
• providing exposure to a variety of dialects, etc.
Some of these aims may still remind you of the traditional use
of listening activities to present or practise language items. The big
difference is that the texts used now are mostly authentic.
Think first!

How authentic does the following conversation seem to be?

What features of authenticity does it show? Check the appropriate
boxes below.
“A: Where are you going?”
“B: I’m going home.”
“A: Are you walking or going by bus?”
“B: I’m walking. I’m not going by bus.”
“A: What are your plans for the weekend?”
“B: I’m going to give a party”.
“A: See you tomorrow.”
“B: See you.”

 incomplete sentences
 repetition of certain structures
 contractions
 hesitations and fillers
 changes of topic
 redundancy
 ungrammatical utterances
Developing listening comprehension skills

5.3.1 Spontaneous Speech in the Classroom

Most listening texts you use in the classroom should be based
on either genuinely improvised, spontaneous speech, or on a fair
imitation of it. These texts have the advantages of speaker visibility
(your pupils will see you talking to them) and of being a kind of direct
interaction, which the pupils may interrupt. A written text that is read
aloud as a basis for classroom listening activity is unlikely to
incorporate the characteristics of informal speech and will provide
your pupils with no practice in understanding spoken discourse. You
should improvise at least some of the listening texts yourself in the
classroom. Video also makes a positive contribution to the
effectiveness of listening practice, as it supplies the aspect of
speaker visibility and the general visual environment of the text.
When using spontaneous speech, encourage your pupils to
develop the ability to extract the information they need from a single
hearing. Help them by using texts that are redundant enough to
provide this information more than once. Whenever possible, they
should be able to stop you to request a repeat or an explanation.
However, even if the pupils can do the task after one listening,
you may wish to let them hear the text again, for the sake of further
exposure and practice and better chances of successful

In two brief sentences, answer these questions:

a) Can you think of any advantages of teacher spontaneous
speech over recorded speech?
b) Do you feel confident when using spontaneous speech?



Compare your answers to those given at the end of the unit.

5.3.2 Choosing Listening Materials for the Classroom

Your choice of listening materials can be affected by
considerations that have to do with presenting and practising
grammar or vocabulary items. Apart from that, it is also possible to
select texts and listening material on a skills development basis. In
this situation, you will consider the skills that the pupils will use
outside the classroom and not the areas of phonology, grammar or
vocabulary that are creating difficulties. Apart from these, several
other factors need to be taken into account, like: text type, style and
register and listening style.
Developing listening comprehension skills

5.3.3 Intensive and Extensive Listening

According to focus, listening activities can be classified as
intensive or extensive.
Intensive listening is done either for detailed comprehension of
the meaning of a text or for language. During the activities which
focus on the detailed comprehension of meaning, the pupils are
reinforcing a structure or practising a grammar point that is linked to
the rest of the lesson. This can be done through:
• Comprehension questions:
(i) factual, where the answer is clearly stated somewhere
in the passage.
(ii) inferential, where the pupils have to make some sort of
connection themselves, such as a connection between two
parts of the passage or between something in the passage and
the pupils’ knowledge of the outside world.
(iii) personal, where the question is related to the pupils’
own experience or opinion.
• Summary questions. The pupils listen to a passage and then
summarise what they have heard. They may take notes as they
listen. The summary can be written up in the form of a letter or a
newspaper report.
• Logical problems can be used to encourage very careful
intensive listening.
Intensive listening for language provides detailed work on
language once the pupils can understand what they are listening to.
This work is effective if the linguistic exercises are related to each
other and to the listening passage. In extensive listening, on the
other hand, pupils are primarily concerned with following a story or
finding something out from the passage they are listening to. You
should prepare the pupils for the listening by telling them something
about the topic of the listening text or by giving them key words. To a
large extent, however, the division between intensive and extensive
listening is somewhat artificial. It is easy to use the same listening
text for both extensive listening and more detailed work.

5.3.4 Listening Comprehension Activities Classified According

to Learner Response
Listening activities can be classified according to how the pupils
respond to the listening material. Responses give the pupils an
immediate motivation, structure their listening and make it

Developing listening comprehension skills

Think first!

How can you know whether your pupils are following or not,
when they are not supposed to give any response? Write down your
answers in the space provided below and then check them as you
read on.

The pupils may not have to do anything in response to the

no overt listening text, when they are engaged in such activities as:
• Stories. You tell a joke or real-life anecdote, retell a well-known
story, read a story from a book or play a recording of a story. If
the story is well chosen, your pupils are likely to be motivated to
attend and understand in order to enjoy it.
• Songs. You sing a song yourself, or play a recording of one. If
no response is required, the pupils may simply enjoy the music
without understanding the words.
• Entertainment: films, theatre and video. As with stories, if the
content is really entertaining (interesting, stimulating, humorous,
or dramatic) your pupils will be motivated to make the effort to
understand without the need for any further task.
Even if the pupils are not asked to give a response during such
listening activities, you can still watch their facial expression and
body language* to see if they are following or not.
The class may be expected to give short responses when they
are engaged in activities like the following:
• Obeying instructions. The pupils perform actions or draw
shapes or pictures, in response to your instructions.
• Ticking off items. You provide a list, a text or a picture; the
short responses pupils mark or tick off words as they hear them within a spoken
description, story or simple list of items.
• True/false. The listening passage consists of a number of
statements, some of which are true and some false. The pupils
write ticks or crosses to indicate whether the statements are
right or wrong or make brief responses ("True!" or "False!"); or
they may stay silent if the statements are right and say "No!" if
they are wrong.
• Detecting mistakes. You tell a story or describe something the
class knows, but with a number of deliberate mistakes or
inconsistencies. The pupils raise their hands or call out when
they hear something wrong.

Developing listening comprehension skills

• Cloze*. The listening text has occasional, widely spaced brief

gaps, represented by silence or some kind of buzz. The pupils
write down what they think might be the missing word. If you
say the text yourself, then you can more easily adapt the pace
of your speech to the speed of your pupils’ responses.
• Guessing definitions. You provide brief oral definitions of a
person, place, thing, action, etc., and the pupils write down
what they think it is.
• Skim and scan listening. A listening text is given, in which the
pupils are asked to identify some general topic or information
(skimming), or certain limited information (scanning) and note
the answer(s). Written questions inviting brief answers may be
provided in advance, or a grid with certain entries missing or a
picture or diagram could be altered or completed.
When you organise such activities as the following, you will
expect longer responses:
• Answering questions. One or more questions demanding
longer fairly full responses are given in advance, to which the listening
responses text provides the answer(s). Because of the relative length of
the answers demanded, they are most conveniently given in
• Note-taking. The pupils take brief notes from a short lecture or
• Paraphrasing and translating. The pupils rewrite the listening
text in different words, either in English (paraphrase) or in
Romanian (translation).

• Summarising. The pupils write a brief summary of the content

of the listening passage.
• Long gap-filling. A long gap is left at the beginning, middle or
end of a text; the pupils guess and write down, or say, what
they think might be missing.
In such activities, the listening is only a ‘jump-off point’ for
extended extended reading, writing or speaking (these are ‘combined skills’
responses activities).
• Problem solving. A problem is described orally; the pupils
discuss how to deal with it and/or write down a suggested
• Interpretation. An extract from a piece of dialogue or
monologue is provided with no previous information; the pupils
try to guess from the words, kinds of voices, tone and other
evidence what is going on. At a more sophisticated level, a
piece of literature that is suitable for reading aloud (some
poetry, for example) can be discussed and analysed.

Developing listening comprehension skills

A number of procedures can be used for encouraging response

to a listening piece:
1. Ask pupils to interrupt/stop the tape and ask for clarification
where necessary. Teach them appropriate language for doing
2. Give pupils a set of comments ("What rubbish!", "That's
interesting", "I didn’t know that", etc.) Ask them to stop the tape
and make the comments in appropriate places.
3. With dialogue material, stop the tape after each line and ask
pupils to say what they think the other person is going to say.
4. Ask pupils to fill in charts, forms, etc. where appropriate.
5. Ask pupils to take notes, especially from lectures, news, current
affairs, etc.
6. Provide pupils with the 'task' that would be carried out if they
were listening outside the classroom. For example, after
listening to recorded messages on an answering machine,
pupils note down the relevant information to pass on to their

In your opinion, which of the six procedures above can be

adapted for reading, too?

Compare your answer to that given at the end of the unit.

5.3.5 Guidelines for Designing Effective Listening Tasks

Keep in mind that nothing works all the time, for everybody, in
every situation. If an activity is useful, add it to your repertoire. If it is
not, abandon or adjust it. Here are a few basic points to remember:
• Warm up before each activity, by introducing the topic and
relating it where possible to your pupils’ own lives and interests.
• Give clear instructions and then check that the pupils have
understood them. It is not sufficient to ask if they understand.
Those who do not, may remain silent for fear of exposing their
ignorance. Ask one of the weaker pupils to tell you what they
are going to do.
• When using a text, give the title and ask the pupils to predict the
kind of language they are going to hear. Write any key
vocabulary that they suggest on the board.
Developing listening comprehension skills

• Give them something to listen for, so that they have a purpose

in listening. Tell them you want to know when the incident
occurred, where, or what person, animal or object was
Give your pupils in advance some idea about the kind of text
that they are going to hear. The mere instruction "Listen to the
passage…" is less useful than something like: "You are going to
hear a husband and wife discussing their plans for the
summer….". The latter instruction activates their previous
knowledge and enables them to use it to build anticipations that
will help them understand the text.
• Provide a listening purpose by setting a task. Thus, rather than
say simply: "Listen and understand…." give a specific
instruction such as: "Listen and find out where the family is
going for the summer holidays. Mark the places on your map."
The definition of a purpose enables the pupils to listen
selectively for significant information. The task you set for your
pupils will usually involve intermittent responses during the
listening. You should encourage the pupils to respond to the
information they are looking for as they hear it, not to wait to the

Materials and tasks used in the classroom should stimulate

real, purposeful listening. Look at the following tasks and tick those
which you think are examples of purposeful listening. Check your
answers against those given at the end of the unit.

 a) Pupils listen to someone giving directions and trace the

route on a map.
 b) Pupils listen to a weather forecast and decide where they
will spend the weekend if they want to have good weather.
 c) Pupils look at photographs of the teacher’s family and,
while the teacher talks about the people, they have to identify them
by name.
 d) Before listening to a description of the town in which they
are studying, pupils make a list of points they would expect to be
made. As they listen to the description, they tick the points which are,
in fact, mentioned.
 e) Pupils listen to a story and subsequently answer
questions about the events.
(after Parrott, M. (1993) Tasks for Language Teachers, CUP)

The fact that the pupils are active during the listening rather
than waiting to the end keeps them busy and helps to prevent
Although they are the most naturally occurring responses,
verbal responses are impractical in the listening classroom. Here the
answers will have to be in the form of physical movements or written
responses which can be checked later.

Developing listening comprehension skills

Providing the pupils with some idea of what they are going to
hear and what they are asked to do with it helps them to succeed in
the task, and it raises their motivation and interest. This is often
provided by a visual focus: marking a picture, diagram, or map or
even a written text.
If there is no pre-set task, you must make sure that the text
itself is stimulating enough, and of an appropriate level. Occasionally,
for the sake of the fun and challenge, or to encourage your pupils to
use real-world knowledge to help interpretation, you may wish to ask
them to find out what the passage is about without any previous hint.
There are also listening activities, such as listening to stories or
watching exciting films, which need no clear task beyond the
comprehension itself.
One real problem may be that material writers often overload
the task: too many responses are demanded of the pupils,
information is coming too fast, there is not enough redundancy and
there is not enough time to respond during the listening. The result is
pupil frustration and irritation, even if the listening text is repeated.

Look at the following list of personal factors and indicate which

is characteristic of effective and which of ineffective listening. Write
either E (for effective) or I (for ineffective) in the space provided.
The pupil
 tries to understand everything
 tries to listen word by word
 tries to activate general knowledge of the topic to help him
understand the discourse
 guesses in order to help him understand when he misses
 ‘thinks ahead’ generally while listening (guesses how the
discourse will develop/what is going to be talked about)
 uses his knowledge of the language to narrow down the
range of possibilities with regards to what the next key word or
phrase may be
 varies his attention during the listening process,
concentrating on particular words which are stressed and on
stretches of speech which are pitched relatively high in the voice
Check your answers against those given at the end of the
(after Parrott, M. (1993) Tasks for Language Teachers, CUP)

Developing listening comprehension skills

5.3.6 Procedures for the Systematic Development of Listening

If you follow a systematic approach to teaching listening skills,
then you might want to include phonology-teaching procedures in
your listening lessons. You could go beyond the phonological level,
and provide lexis and discourse recognition tasks, too.
• Developing recognition and discrimination of phonological
1. In order to develop these skills, model, drill, show on
board phonemes, consonant clusters at word boundaries,
provide practice of weak forms, main stress, and intonation.
2. Elicit pupils to show recognition (by raising: a left/right
hand; a red/blue rod; a card with ‘1’ or a card with ‘2’ written on
it; etc.) of:
• word boundary phenomena (e.g., "Did you hear /p/ or
• minimal pairs;
• stress (e.g., "Which word was stressed, ‘flower’ or
• intonation (e.g., "Did the intonation on the stressed
syllable go  or ?");
3. Ask the pupils to listen and mark stress on a transcript;
4. Ask the pupils to listen and mark pause, change in pitch,
etc. by drawing a line.
• Skim listening
Skim listening (or gist listening) is listening to get an overall idea
of what is going on. This is not to be confused with a ‘first listening’
procedure, where you allow pupils to listen to a tape once through to
get a general idea, before going on to more detailed comprehension
questions. The point of this is simply to help learners over the
difficulties of alienation from the tape recorder.
The most obvious way of doing this is to expose pupils to
different non-interactive listening pieces and to point out, by
comparison, what sort of overall message is going on.
• Building confidence with listening pieces and texts
1. If you are planning to make extensive use of a tape or video
recorder for listening, then you can help them to feel confident
by using the equipment in the first instance to play music or to
show a film with no dialogue.
2. Use a short extract at first, building up to longer pieces.
3. Confidence can be built up by providing very easy tasks initially,
and then moving on to more difficult ones.
4. Pupils can increase their confidence in reading by underlining
everything they understand (this encourages a positive attitude,
focuses attention on meaning rather than on difficulties and
provides a vocabulary avoidance strategy).

Developing listening comprehension skills

• Authentic listening in the classroom

There are many thoroughly authentic instances of listening in
the classroom that present themselves in the normal run of things.
The following procedures provide, in themselves, authentic listening:
giving instructions, checking registers, answering questions,
instructions, encouraging students, correcting, explaining, checking,
answering questions, solving students’ problems.
Authentic listening activities in class which do not necessarily
occur normally but which can easily be made to occur are, among
others, student presentations and pre-lesson chitchat.

5.3.7 A Basic Methodological Model for the Teaching of

Listening Comprehension
The model has five basic stages:
1. Lead-in. Prepare the class or have the pupils to prepare
themselves for the task and get familiar with the topic of the
listening activity. One of the major reasons for this is to create
expectations and arouse their interest in the subject matter of
the text.
2. Directing comprehension task: Make sure that your pupils
know what they are going to do (to answer questions, fill in a
chart, complete a message or try and re-tell what they heard).
Explain and direct the pupils’ purpose for listening.
3. Pupils listening for the task. Speak or play the record while
the pupils listen to the text to perform the task you have set.
4. Directing feedback. When the pupils have performed the task,
help them to see if they have completed the task successfully
and find out how well they have done. This may follow a stage
in which pupils check their answers with each other first.
5. Directing a text-related task. Organise follow-up tasks related
to the text. For instance, ask them to do more analytical work.
Thus if the first task involved getting the general picture, return
to the text for such a task as inferring attitude or deducing
meaning. However, if the pupils perform unsuccessfully in their
first comprehension task, redirect them to the same task to try

Developing listening comprehension skills

5.3.8 Problems with Classroom Listening

Think First!

Can you name some of the reasons why your pupils may not
understand a spoken text? What aspects of listening to English are
particularly difficult for your pupils to cope with?

Check your answers as you read on.

Listening to a voice coming from a machine is neither easy nor

common; it can be alienating. Most pupils listen to the radio mainly
for music. The only parallels with life outside the classroom are
listening to announcements in airports, stations or supermarkets, or
listening to commentaries in museums and on tourist buses.
Trying to understand the spoken word through a similar medium
presents particular difficulties. Besides the obvious difficulty
presented by divorcing the spoken word from its normal visual
circumstances, pupils may be alienated by the quality of the
recording and their inability to have any control over what they are
listening to and, in particular, over the rate at which it is delivered.
The topic can be interesting, familiar, boring, strange or
unknown; when it is uncommon, the pupils may feel it is offensive on
their normal capacities. Their ability to listen extensively is
determined largely by their awareness or knowledge of the topic. If
they know what they are going to listen to, they can relate to it more
easily, they have expectations, and they make predictions about
what the speaker(s) will say. These expectations and predictions
channel their attention to specific parts of the utterance. By knowing
what to expect, and what they are listening for, they can more easily
‘home in’ on what needs the most attention or concentration.
The pupils may not have enough background information.
They need a network of general background information to help them
comprehend the things they hear. Even extremely competent
language users can have difficulty in listening when they are unable
to use or perceive the background information.
Background information is an important factor in the expecting,
predicting, recognising and inferring chain of skills. This information
can be in the shape of the general situation (e.g., where the listening
takes place) or the way speakers look (e.g., how they are dressed or

Developing listening comprehension skills
the expressions on their faces), or the scenario that is called up as
the monologue or conversation gets under way. We refer to our
experience to get ready and interpret what we hear correctly.
The classroom may have a strange effect on some pupils’
normal capacities.
Under normal circumstances, we always listen or read for a
reason: enjoyment, curiosity, interest, the need for a train time, an
address, etc. There is always a purpose to our listening. This reason
helps us set up expectations about the content of the message and
helps us to interpret it or to decode it. Similarly, under normal
the classroom circumstances, we tend to ‘get our bearings’ before listening. We do
this in a number of ways: we may hear the title of a programme on
the radio; we may ask a couple of questions to our interlocutor to
check that we are both talking about the same thing; we may
summon our existing knowledge (schemata*) about the subject to the
fore of our minds; we may look at the object our companion is
pointing to, and so on. Finally, under normal circumstances, we may
choose to listen in different ways: we may decide, for instance, not to
listen to a loudspeaker announcement that is intended for someone
The pupils in the classroom, however, have these normal
mechanisms suspended. To most pupils, the purpose of listening in
the classroom is an instructional one. This is one reason why pupils
can normally listen to your instructions with less difficulty than when
they are given a listening activity.
Additionally, the classroom provides distractions that may
hinder normal attention and create tensions, like being asked
questions in front of others.
Lack of linguistic knowledge will hinder the pupils’ attempts at
understanding what they listen to. They may have difficulty
understanding non-standard variants, or they may be unfamiliar with
many of the words in what they are listening to. In such situations,
they will give up trying to understand the text. If their grasp of
grammar is shaky, then they will misinterpret the message of the text.


In about 150 words, explain why the presence of individual

unfamiliar words hinders the understanding of a spoken text.

Developing listening comprehension skills

Compare your explanation to that given in the Answers section.

exploiting Anything we listen to is overflowing with information and

redundancy competent listeners are given a large number of chances to decode
the message of a text. Competent language users are familiar with
the patterns of sounds, stress, intonation, spelling, lexis, grammar,
discourse and style. They are able to eliminate unlikely alternatives
spontaneously and unconsciously at every step of the unfolding of
the discourse. Exploiting redundancy means that when we are
listening and we miss a word or a grammar marker, such as a past-
tense morpheme, we can usually guess what that word or marker
was by hearing the rest of the utterance. In other words, it is
knowledge of patterns that makes the task of listening easier. The
expectations of which sounds follow which, which words commonly
go together, and how words combine syntactically, along with
background knowledge, reduce the amount of sounds, sound-
groups, letters and words they actually need to hear.

Can you understand what this speaker, with a slight speech

defect, is saying: “Top talking, tand till and tay there until I tell you to
move.” Why (not)?

Compare your answer to the one given at the end of the unit.

A good knowledge of how English discourse works helps the

pupils predict what they are about to listen to and to make correct
inferences* about what they have just heard - to make backwards
and forwards connections to other parts of the discourse they are
engaged in. This enables them to build a picture of the meaning of
the discourse and of the relationships within it.
The pupils’ lack of familiarity with the linguistic patterns of
English, reduces both their predictive and their guessing ability. In
addition, if your pupils’ level of language is not good enough, they
cannot understand fast, natural speech. They will often ask you to
slow down and speak clearly (by which they mean to pronounce
each word the way it would sound in isolation). If you do so, you will
Developing listening comprehension skills
help them to learn to cope with everyday informal speech. Your
pupils should be exposed to as much spontaneous informal talk as
they can successfully understand.
Your pupils may find it difficult to keep up with the listening task.
They may feel overloaded with incoming information. The solution is
not so much to slow down the discourse but rather to encourage
them to stop trying to understand everything, learn to pick out what is
essential and allow themselves to ignore the rest.
Your pupils may often need to hear things more than once.
There may also be good pedagogical reasons for exposing them to
texts more than once. In real life, however, they will have to cope
with ‘one-off’ listening. You can try to use texts that include
‘redundant’ passages and within which the essential information is
presented more than once and not too intensively. You can also give
them the opportunity to request clarification or repetition during the
Your pupils get tired. This is one reason why listening passages
should not be very long, and why you should break them into short
‘chunks’ through pause, listener response or change of speaker.

Listening is seen as a complementary skill to speaking in
communication. Pupils may find listening difficult because some
teachers consider it a passive skill, which does not need teaching.
However, as listening is a medium over which the pupils have no
control, it should be taught along with speaking. The pupils should be
exposed to as many different types of listening as possible, as the
objective of listening comprehension practice in the classroom is that
pupils should learn to function successfully in real-life listening

Key Concepts
• oral and aural skills
• listening styles
• redundancy
• intensive and extensive listening in the classroom
• pupil response to listening
• methodological model for listening activities
• background information
• alienation

Developing listening comprehension skills

SAA No. 3
The following are some of the possible stages in a lesson in
which your objective is to develop your pupils’ listening skills. The
order of the stages is jumbled.
1. Number them to reflect an order which you feel would be
satisfactory. Note that individual stages may appear more than once
in the sequence and that in any lesson some of these stages may be
omitted and/or additional stages included.
2. Explain your ordering:
a) You pick out ten seconds of a tape and ask the pupils to identify
the main stress.
b) The pupils listen to the tape and fill in a grid to record the main
c) The pupils discuss in pairs.
d) The pupils speculate about the content of the tape on the basis
of the title or a short excerpt.
e) You answer any questions about language on the tape.
f) You teach one or two key items of vocabulary.
g) The pupils listen to confirm their predictions.
h) You play the tape in sections while the pupils try to answer
questions relating to detail.
i) The pupils read the tape script.
j) The pupils discuss a topic related to the content of the tape.
Send your answers to your tutor.
(after Parrott, M. (1993) Tasks for Language Teachers, CUP)

Further Reading
1. Harmer, Jeremy 1991 The Practice of English Language
Teaching, Longman, Chapter 10
2. Hubbard Peter et al. 1983, A Training Course for TEFL,
3. Ur, Penny 1996, A Course in Language Teaching. Practice
and Theory, CUP, Part III, Module 8

Answers to SAQs
Should your answers to SAQs 1 and 2 not be comparable
to those given below, please revise section 5.2 of the unit.

interactive conversation
traditional lectures
guided tours
non-interactive loudspeaker announcements

Developing listening comprehension skills

Less recorded material means less of the expense,
inconvenience and occasional breakdown. You can adapt the level
and speed of the text to specific pupils and respond directly to their
Some teachers lack confidence in their own ability to improvise
fluently in English, or are worried that their spoken language is not a
good enough model for their pupils to listen to. Others think that if
their pupils hear only them, they will not have the opportunity to
practise listening to different voices and accents.

Should your answers to SAQs 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 not be

comparable to those given below, please revise section 5.3 of
the unit.

All of them can be adapted for reading.

The order of the examples (a – e) reflects descending degrees
of ‘purposefulness’, where (a) is the most purposeful and (e) the least.
Example (d) is an activity whose purpose is only pedagogic, and does
not stimulate ‘real’ listening. Nonetheless, the skills practised are real
skills and the pupils may be motivated by the task. The activity may be
as valuable as the more genuinely ‘purposeful’ activities.

The pupil
[I] tries to understand everything ;
[I] tries to listen word by word;
[E] tries to activate general knowledge of the topic to help
him understand the discourse;
[E] guesses in order to help him understand when he
misses information;
[E] ‘thinks ahead’ generally while listening (guesses how the
discourse will develop/what is going to be talked about);
[E] uses his knowledge of the language to narrow down the
range of possibilities with regards to what the next key word or
phrase may be;
[E] varies his attention during the listening process,
concentrating on particular words which are stressed, and on
stretches of speech which are pitched relatively high in the voice

This is a classic reason why pupils do not understand a text. No
matter how good the pupils’ language level is, there is always the
possibility that they will find a few individual words that are unfamiliar.
The presence of unfamiliar words will have an overall negative effect
on comprehension. In any piece of listening, there are likely to be
enough new words to de-motivate, block or distract the pupils from
the message.

Developing listening comprehension skills

The pupils often believe they have to understand every word.

The teacher often unconsciously fosters this very common problem
together with the listening comprehension materials that encourage
the pupils to believe that everything that is said bears equally
important information. Their efforts to understand everything often
result in ineffective comprehension, feelings of fatigue and failure. You
may need to give your pupils practice in selective ignoring of heard
information – something they do naturally in Romanian. You should
explain this point to your pupils, and set them occasional tasks that
ask them to scan a relatively long text for one or two limited items of

Probably you can easily understand the utterance because,
although some phonological data is corrupted, there is still enough
information to give you the message: “Stop talking, stand still and
stay there until I tell you to move”.

Developing reading skills


Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 132
6.1 The Text 132
6.1.1 Authenticity of Text and Task 133
6.1.2 Text Structure 135

6.2 Reading Styles 137

6.3 The Aims of a Reading Programme 140

6.4 Reader and Text: an Interactive Relation 143

6.4.1 Sub-Skills Involved in Reading 143
6.4.2 Models of Reading: The Top-Down and The Bottom-Up Processes 148
6.4.3 Reader Response 150

6.5 Reading in English vs. Reading in Romanian 152

6.6 The Three-Phase Approach to Reading Activities 152

Summary 156

Key Concepts 156

SAA No. 4 156

Further Reading 157

Answers to SAQs 157

Developing reading skills

In general, we read for two main reasons: pleasure and the

need for information. We read because we want to get something
from the text – a message – facts, enjoyment, ideas or feelings. For
our pupils, reading in English is also a means of improving language
itself. Some of the language read will stick in their mind as part of the
process of language acquisition. Reading also provides models for
writing, opportunities to practise and develop the reading skill and to
gain cultural insights and understanding. Reading is also essential in
the teaching of literature.
In what follows, we will consider the text, the reasons people
may have for reading, the reading styles and what the reader brings
to the process of reading.
The aim of this unit is to help you build awareness and
understanding of current theories of reading and an ability to
translate these theories into practical applications for the classroom.
By the end of the unit, you will be able to:
unit objectives
• use recent information about reading that relates to classroom
• set up a variety of classroom reading tasks;
• integrate reading activities with the development of one or more
other skills;
• identify the various sub-skills involved in the reading process;
• select and apply appropriate classroom activities to develop the
reading sub-skills;
• apply in your classroom ideas, suggestions and examples of
reading techniques that are consistent with theoretical
• assess reading techniques, comparing and contrasting them
with other activities that have been found to be successful,
practical and relevant.

6.1 The Text

There is a variety of text types. These can be grouped into
categories, known as genres*, such as:
• functional or immediate reference information texts;
• enjoyment and correspondence;
• literary texts;
• journalistic literature and topical information texts;
• leisurely and incidental information texts;
• professional, specialised or technical texts;
• miscellaneous, etc.

Developing reading skills

Could you group the following text types according to the
genres mentioned above? Use the table provided below:
personal letter, literary studies, magazine articles, reports, editorials,
recipes, car repair manual, operating instructions, brochures,
newspaper cartoons, picture captions, textbooks, novels, tales,
essays, diaries, biographies, rhymes, postcards, notes, telegrams,
stop press, advertisements, headlines, television listings, comic
strips, cartoons, guidebooks; dictionaries, catalogues, telephone
directories, directions, puzzles, timetables, maps, legends (of maps,
pictures), posters, signs (e.g., road signs), business letters.
Genre Text Types
Functional or
immediate reference
information texts
Literary texts

specialised or
technical texts
Enjoyment and

Leisurely or
information texts
literature and topical
information texts

Compare your answers to those given at the end of the unit.

Although you should encourage your pupils to read and get
familiar with as many different types of texts as possible, not all of
them can be used in any classroom. Your decisions about what texts
to use will depend on who your pupils are and what they need
reading for. A balance has to be struck between the types of reading
texts and the pupils’ capabilities and interests.

6.1.1 Authenticity of Text and Task

There has been a lot of discussion about the texts that are
suitable in the classroom. The greatest controversy has centred on
the authenticity of texts. Authentic texts are written by and for fluent
native speakers, while inauthentic texts are specially designed for
learners. In an authentic text, nothing of the original is changed, in
Developing reading skills
terms of either structure and vocabulary or presentation and layout.
Recent textbook materials try to preserve as many of the initial
features of an authentic text as possible so that the pupils can
anticipate meaning by using non-linguistic clues.
Some teachers believe authentic texts cannot be used with
authentic texts
beginner pupils. Actually, there is some authentic material that even
for beginner beginners can understand to some degree, such as menus,
pupils timetables, signs and simple instructions. Getting your pupils
accustomed to reading authentic texts from the beginning does not
necessarily mean a more difficult task for them. However, the use of
authentic texts with beginner pupils may be frustrating, and that is
why more accessible, simplified texts are often used instead.
Simplifying a text may mean either replacing difficult words or
structures by those already familiar to the pupils, rewriting it in order
to make its organisation more explicit or giving a simplified version of
the contents.
The difficulty of a reading activity depends as much on the text
itself as on the task set for the pupils. That is why, your selection of
the activity is as important as the selection of the text.
The reading tasks must be realistic in terms of both language
use and pupils’ abilities. They should also be flexible and varied.
Some may consist in questions of various types. Other texts may
lend themselves to non-linguistic activities (e.g., tracing a route on a
map, or matching drawings and paragraphs). Anyway, you should
encourage your pupils to use different reading strategies (e.g., ‘Now
skim this text quickly and get the main idea’; ‘You’ll have to study this
text carefully to look for…’). However, it is also important to
remember that many texts are to be read for pleasure and some
activities might spoil this pleasure.

Here is a short paragraph made up of well-formed, temporally

accurate and meaningful sentences. Do you think this text is
authentic? In about 20 words, explain why you think (or do not think)
that the text is authentic.
I don’t know what to do for my holiday. It will start at the
beginning of October. I saved enough money for a really nice trip.
Last year I went to the Black Sea coast. It will be too late to go to the
mountains. I worked hard all year. I really need a break.

Compare your answer to that given at the end of the unit.

Developing reading skills

6.1.2 Text Structure

A text is not a random collection of sentences. A text that
communicates successfully has unity: the sentences and paragraphs
that make it up are related in a meaningful way to each other. In
order to comprehend the message of the text, the pupils have to be
aware of these relationships and of certain features of text structure.

• Cohesion
Cohesion refers to the way a text is held together by particular
linguistic means. These include pro-forms (e.g., pronouns, a few
characteristics verbs like have, will, do) connectors, reference, substitution, ellipsis*
of written texts and vocabulary. It is essential for the pupils to understand how a text
is made up and the web of relationships that is built among the ideas.
If the pupils fail to understand this, they may also fail to understand
the structure, the communicative value of the text and its function.
In the classroom, questions involving cohesion can serve as a
comprehension-checking device, for they enable you to see if the
correct interpretation has been made.

Could you identify some of the cohesion markers in the

following extract from Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods?
“Consider this: Half of all the offices and malls standing in
America today have been built since 1980. Half of them. Eighty
percent of all the housing stock in the country dates from 1945. Of all
the motel rooms in America, 230,000 have been built in the last
fifteen years. Just up the road from Gatlinburg is the town of Pigeon
Forge, which twenty years ago was a sleepy hamlet – nay, which
aspired to be a sleepy hamlet – famous only as the hometown of
Dolly Parton. Then the estimable Ms. Parton built an amusement
park called Dollywood. Now Pigeon Forge has 200 outlet shops
stretched along three miles of highway. It is bigger and uglier than
Gatlinburg and has better parking, and so of course gets more
• Connectors:

• Reference:

• Ellipsis:

• Vocabulary:

Compare your answers to those given in the Answers section.

Developing reading skills

• Coherence*
Coherence refers to the way in which sentences and groups of
sentences in a text make sense in relationship to each other.
Sometimes the writer indicates the relationship between sentences
by the use of connectors, such as but, moreover, and yet, in contrast,
etc. Some other times the pupils will have to infer the writer’s
purpose and the relationship between the sentences.
Some texts achieve coherence through other means, too. In
telling a story, for example, or giving a report, the writer usually
proceeds by telling what happened next. In descriptive passages,
coherence may be achieved by the writer describing different aspects
of the same object, person or scene.

The sentences below are both cohesive, but one has a problem
of coherence. Which is incoherent? How can you explain the
a. Yesterday I got up late and had to leave in a hurry.
b. Yesterday I got up late and it will have to fly away.

Check your answers against those given at the end of the unit.

• Sequences
The sequence of sentences and paragraphs indicates
relationships between ideas and information. For instance, “They
were watching television when we got home” suggests that "we got
home" is more important than "they were watching television". “When
we got home they were watching television,” suggests that "they
were watching television" is more important.
• Grammar
Grammar also has a text function. If someone says, “I was
driving very fast. I had overslept, you see”, we probably understand
that ‘I had overslept’ is an explanation for ‘I was driving very fast’.
This is partly because of the sequence, partly because of ‘you see’,
but also because we expect the past perfect to be used to provide

Developing reading skills

6.2 Reading Styles

A crucial factor in reading is purpose. This determines the way
we read. In real life, we may want to glance quickly through a sports
article to see who won or to go quickly through a telephone directory
to find someone’s telephone number. On the other hand, a legal
document requires much closer attention, perhaps several readings,
because we need to grasp the information in detail. We read different
texts with different purposes and at different speeds, very often
silently, and only seldom aloud.
• Silent reading and reading aloud
Reading is normally a silent activity, and it should be
encouraged as such in the classroom. You can sometimes read
aloud fragments, especially for beginners, but the pupils should be
asked to read aloud as rarely as possible. Reading aloud may have
some value as a means of testing pronunciation, but it does not help
comprehension. In addition, excessive practice in reading aloud
tends to prevent the pupils from developing efficient silent reading
strategies. Moreover, reading aloud is a highly specialised skill and
very few pupils will need this.
Other kinds of reading found in the classroom include silent
reading and following the text in the book while the teacher or
individual pupils read aloud. Silent reading should be encouraged in
most cases, though you may sometimes need to read parts of a text
• Intensive reading
Intensive reading is reading (relatively) short texts to extract
specific information. For instance, we read poetry or legal documents
intensively, focusing on the words used.
In the classroom, intensive reading is usually an accuracy
activity. It is a way of focusing the pupils’ attention on language
rather than content. This kind of reading can contribute immensely to
improve the pupils’ language competence. However, intensive
reading does not always contribute to the development of reading
• Extensive reading
Extensive reading consists of reading (longer) texts, usually for
one’s own pleasure. The emphasis is on the information content of
the text. Extensive reading is a fluency activity involving global
understanding, in which the pupils do not check every unknown word
or structure.
There is one major condition for the success of an extensive
reading activity: the text must be enjoyable. The main criteria for
choosing extensive reading materials are length, appeal, variety and
The length of the text must not be intimidating. Beginners,
especially, need short texts that they can finish quickly, to avoid
boredom or discouragement. The texts must be appealing: they must
look attractive, be well-printed (bigger print for elementary pupils) and
have (coloured) illustrations.
Developing reading skills

There must be a variety of texts to suit the pupils’ needs in

terms of content, language and intellectual development. The level of
the extensive reading material must be easier than that of the
textbook used in the classroom. Otherwise, the pupils will not read
fluently or for pleasure.

In about 50 words, explain which kinds of texts are suitable for

intensive reading, which for extensive reading and which for either
strategy. Refer to the text types discussed in section 6.1 and to SAQ

Compare your answer to the one given at the end of the unit.

The only way to become a good reader is by reading. If the

average educated native speaker can recognise about 50,000 words
of the mother tongue in print, this is not an objective that the foreign
English student can reach without a great deal of reading.
An extensive reading programme can be the most effective way
of improving both vocabulary and reading skills in general. The more
reading your pupils will do, the more skilful they become at reading.
• Skimming and scanning
Skimming and scanning are necessary for fast and efficient
Skimming involves reading for an overall understanding of the
text. The reader is quickly running one’s eyes through a text to get its
essence, its general idea or gist. Reading a few sentences,
recognising a few words and expressions, a few main point(s) and
the function(s) may be enough. However, skimming involves some
interpretation. For instance, a reader may skim the review of a book
to see if the reviewer thinks it is good or bad.
Practice in skimming will show your pupils how much they can
find out simply by looking at the prominent elements of a text, by
catching a few words or by reading fragments. To train your pupils in
skimming, you can remove a few sentences from a text or even
whole paragraphs – making sure those parts contain only supporting
details – and ask the pupils to supply the missing parts.
Scanning is quickly going through a text to find particular
information. Readers look quickly through the text to find words that
answer their specific questions. For example, we may scan the TV
times in search of a certain film, to see on what channel it is on and
when it is scheduled.

Developing reading skills

Scanning is a visual skill more than an interpretive one. When

you practice scanning in the classroom, make sure that you give your
pupils clear instructions as to what they need to find out. For
example, if you ask them to scan advertisements for ideas on where
to spend a holiday, they would need to find out about
accommodation, prices, meals, contact names and addresses, etc.
Your pupils will need practice in both skimming and scanning,
as it is usual to make use of both when reading a text.

Each of the following descriptions refers to one kind of reading.

Write down the name of the kind of reading in the space provided:
a) You read a poem and enjoy paying close attention to the
poet’s use of language. You do …………………… reading.
b) You need bibliography for a research assignment and
you look quickly through the books and articles that you find in the
library to see whether they contain information you need. You do
…………………… reading.
c) You are on holiday, and you read an adventure story.
There is no pressure on you to finish the book quickly. You do
…………………… reading.
d) While waiting for an appointment with your dentist, you
pick up a magazine and discover an article that interests you. You do
not have time to read the article in detail, but you try to extract as
much information from it as you can. You do ………………... reading.
(after Parrott, M. (1993) Tasks for Language Teachers, OUP)

Check your answers against those given at the end of the unit.

Intensive, extensive, scan and skim reading do not exclude one

another. We often skim through a text to see what it is about before
practising various deciding whether it is worth scanning for specific information. In real
reading styles life, our reading purposes constantly vary, and we need various
approaches to cope with our needs. That is why your pupils need
practice in different ways of reading. Their choice of reading style will
depend on the nature of the text and the purpose they have in
reading it.
It is important to give your pupils practice in different reading
styles. This is achieved not by telling them to skim, scan or read
intensively but by setting tasks that encourage these styles. It is the
task that provides the pupils with a purpose and enables them to
practice and develop a style. Classroom activities should ensure
practice in all reading styles so that your pupils do not use the same
strategy for all texts.

Developing reading skills

6.3 The Aims of a Reading Programme

Do pupils read in the classroom for the same reasons as people
do in the real world? Away from the classroom, we may read...
• to obtain information for some purpose or because we are
curious about some topic;
• to obtain instructions on how to perform some task for our work
or daily life;
• to keep in touch with our friends by correspondence;
• to know where and when something will take place or what is
• to know what is happening or has happened (as reported in
newspapers, magazines, reports);
• for enjoyment or excitement.
Think first!

Before you continue reading, try to answer these questions:

Do any of the reasons above match your classroom reading
Do your pupils need to do all these things in English?

Compare your answers to the suggestions made in the next


In some reading classes, the only function the pupils can see
seems to be “English has to be learnt” or reading techniques have to
be learnt. In such cases, the pupils' motivation is low. If your pupils
see no other purpose in reading other than that you make them do it,
then reading lessons will be unsuccessful.
Some classes can focus primarily on the development of
reading skills, while others can include reading skills as part of
integrative practice. Classroom reading activities are suggested by:
• The needs, interests and abilities of the pupils. You will
need to emphasise the kind of activities your pupils will
encounter in English. You must ask your pupils and yourselves
what kinds of texts they read in Romanian and if the strategies
and skills that they already possess in Romanian can be
transferred to English reading tasks.
• The aims of the particular lesson. The reading activities
should be harmonised with the aims and the other work that is
practised during the lesson.
• The purpose for reading a certain text. Class activities should
help your pupils to become active decision makers and risk
Developing reading skills
takers. They should become independent readers who set their
own goals and strategies for reading.
• The specific characteristics of the reading text. You often
have to determine what kind of reading the text invites and
develop activities and contexts that parallel the most realistic
and appropriate approaches to a given text.
• Individual pupil needs. Individual pupils may require explicit
instruction in different aspects of reading: skimming, scanning,
understanding organisational clues, accessing prior knowledge,
making hypotheses, etc.
Think first!

Before reading on, make a list of the reading objectives you

have set for your pupils so far. Then compare them with the
objectives discussed below and think which of these you could use in
the future.

First you must decide what your pupils need to get out of their
reading, select motivating texts and set clear tasks. Sometimes the
pupils have no particular interest in reading a text because the text is
not motivating. Moreover, if the task is not very clear, it may distract
the pupils’ attention from the text or spoil their enjoyment.
Your purpose in teaching reading is to train your pupils to read
fluently, without help, and for their own enjoyment. Your role is to
facilitate this process by selecting texts suited to your pupils’ goals
and interests and practising appropriate techniques. Your aims for
the reading classes should include the promotion of such sub-skills
1. reading texts with comprehension;
2. using various reading styles;
3. learning (both content and language) through reading;
4. reading critically.
reading texts with Your aims will vary with the pupils’ age, interests, skills and
comprehension knowledge and the time allotted to reading in your syllabus.
Your pupils should be able to identify the purpose and the
function of a text, its main topic and the way the topic is developed
Developing reading skills
through different paragraphs. In spite of the language problems that
may arise from time to time, they should also be able to interpret
individual sentences, using techniques for dealing with unfamiliar
vocabulary. Remember, however, that not all texts need to be read
for full comprehension.

using various
Your pupils should be able to skim, scan, and read intensively
reading styles and extensively, according to their purpose. In order to develop
flexible individual reading styles, you should provide practice in a
variety of text types. Many recent textbooks offer such a variety of
text types, and further variety can be provided by using
supplementary materials.
A common reason for reading in the classroom is to learn
learning through
English. A reading text is often used as a vehicle for presenting and
practising grammatical structures and lexical items. This is perfectly
acceptable as long as both you and the pupils are aware that it is not
a reading lesson. Texts for this type of activity tend to be selected
because they provide many examples of a particular structure. The
problem is that texts are often artificially created round a structure,
resulting in unnatural language.

reading While reading, your pupils will meet a great deal of new
critically language and new content. The pupils should be able to pick out the
relevant information, evaluate arguments and evidence and
distinguish between main points and details.
Lessons should address specifically the problems your pupils
have. The following could reasonably be lesson aims for reading

setting reading • to increase pupils’ awareness of how a clear purpose can make
aims reading more effective;
• to present strategies for dealing with individual unfamiliar words;
• to increase pupils’ awareness of different reading styles;
• to provide practice in intensive reading or in scan reading;
• to present various aspects of British or American culture,
enabling them to make useful predictions.
The areas of language knowledge that have an effect on pupils’
ability to read effectively are usually addressed in separate lessons.
The following could well be such lesson aims:
• to introduce and provide practice in collocations (e.g., nice and
easy, out and about, peace and quiet);
• to provide practice in ‘mixed conditionals’ focusing attention on
the meaning of each clause;
• to present contrast conjunctions (e.g., though, however,
• to present a way of dealing with unfamiliar words by breaking
them down into parts;
• to provide practice in recognising foregrounded information by
looking at clause orders in sentences.

Developing reading skills

If you prefer, you can state your aims in a more learner-centred

way, such as:

• to help the pupils increase their understanding of how they can

make correct inferences using background knowledge;
• to help pupils use their extensive background knowledge to
make correct inferences, etc.;
• to enable them to consolidate their understanding of the
function of conjunctions (e.g., however, although, though) and
of their place in the sentence.

6.4 Reader and Text: an Interactive Relation

Traditionally, reading was seen as a ‘passive’ skill, and the
reader as the ‘recipient’ of information; the text was seen as an
object. This viewpoint has been replaced by a ‘text as process’ one,
by acknowledging the close interaction between the reader and the
Reading is now seen as a complex information-processing skill.
Recent approaches to reading emphasise the interactive relation of
reader and text in which meaning is created. In pedagogic terms,
reading means reading and understanding. Reading is seen as an
active, purposeful process, related to problem solving. It constantly
involves the reader in guessing, hypothesising, predicting, checking
and asking oneself questions. The reader is an active participant in
the reading process, co-ordinating a number of sub-skills and
strategies to facilitate comprehension.

6.4.1 Sub-Skills Involved in Reading

Due to its complexity, reading is often analysed into a set of
component sub-skills (both lower and higher level) and knowledge
• Recognition;
• Knowledge of the language;
• Knowledge of formal text structure;
• Content and background knowledge;
• Cognitive* processing;
• Metacognitive knowledge and skills monitoring.
The lower sub-skills involve rapid, precise and unconscious
processing, such as allowing readers to recognise words and
grammatical forms rapidly and automatically. The higher skills enable
them to comprehend, synthesise, interpret and evaluate the text.
• Recognition sub-skills
These consist of the abilities of recognising the sounds and the
script of a language, deducing the meaning and use of unfamiliar
words, understanding information both explicitly stated and implicit.

Developing reading skills

Your pupils must be able to recognise the English script, the

combinations of letters in the spelling of words and be able to
recognise words. They should not waste time working out each word
or group of words, even if they may not know all of the words in the
text they are reading.
• Knowledge of the language
This means understanding conceptual meaning, the relations
within the sentence, the communicative function of sentences, the
relations between the parts of a text and cohesion devices.
Your pupils will need strategies for dealing with unknown words.
Reaching for the dictionary is not always a good idea. Explain to your
pupils that they will meet three kinds of unknown words: key words,
words that can be ignored and words that can be guessed.
The words that are not significant for a general understanding
of the text can be ignored. Key words, however, need to be
understood; you either pre-teach them or recommend the use of a
dictionary. In the third category, there are words whose meanings
can be inferred from the context, and your pupils should be given
practice in doing this. They can be convinced of the value of
guessing from context if you provide simple texts in which nonsense
words are used. Consider the following sentences:
a. When their car broke down, the whole family had to strack
home – a distance of two hundred metres in the rain.
b. After their walk, the children were so zlopped that they
needed a hot bath and then they went straight to plenk.
c. The following gart they woke up feeling all right.

Think first!

Can you guess what English words were replaced by the above
nonsensical words?

Check your guesses against the answers given in the next


It is quite easy to guess the meanings of the nonsense words in

these sentences, and for general understanding it does not really
matter whether gart is “morning” or “day”. Discovering the meaning of
unfamiliar items, making use of contextual* clues (syntactic, logical
and cultural) is called inferring. When you use a new text, you do not
always need to explain the difficult words and structures beforehand.
You can encourage your pupils to guess the meaning of unknown
items, based on word-formation or context*. Efficient readers
generally read in groups of words, without looking at everything in a
given piece of writing and going for the overall meaning of a text.
• Knowledge of text structure
This involves knowledge of how a text is organised, of the
rhetorical structures and conventions and of specific logical patterns.

Developing reading skills

Your pupils must know the language of the text they are
reading: the content words and what they mean, though perhaps not
all of them. Also, they must know the syntax and the effect of
structural words, of word form and of word order. A competent reader
of English is aware that a sentence like “She shouldn’t have been
there at that time” cannot stand alone and must refer to a situation
already mentioned in an earlier part of the text. The identity of ‘she’
must already be known, and the place and time signalled by ‘there’
and ‘at that time’ must have been specified already. Exercises in
which pupils are asked to search for and underline or circle cohesive
pairs in a text are recommended.
It is also important to train your pupils to look first at the basic
sentence pattern (subject + verb) and then at the other elements and
their contribution to sentence meaning. To practise this, you can ask
them to divide passages into sense groups and analyse the
important elements.
Another important ability is that of recognising and interpreting
discourse markers, such as then, next, after this, which show the
sequence in which events occur. Other markers, such as for
example, all in all, as already noted, indicate that the writer is
exemplifying, summing up or referring to a point made previously.
However and moreover signal that the writer is making an adjustment
to a previous statement or adding further evidence. You need to
teach your pupils to recognise the various devices used to link
sentences and ideas. You may offer them exercises in recognising
the function of connectors*, finding equivalents, completing texts with
the missing link-words, transforming disconnected sentences into
text by joining sentences and adding connectors.
Understanding the meaning of individual sentences is important
but insufficient. Your pupils should be able to recognise the purpose
of the text as a whole, to see how it is organised and to understand
the relationship between sentences. They should be able to follow
the writer, see how the sentences and the paragraphs are related to
each other and make sense of the text.
• Content and background knowledge
This involves prior knowledge of content, background or culture.
All readers bring their ‘knowledge of the world’ to a text: life
experience, familiarity with a particular topic and with different text
types but also knowledge of a particular culture or way of life.
Whether knowledge of the world will help your pupils to
understand the text, will depend on the nature of the text and their
knowledge. The cultural background of your pupils, if different from
that of the writer, may cause additional difficulties in understanding a
text. If you want your pupils to be able to read a text effectively, you
have to provide such knowledge or enable them to access it in some
way before the reading. However, you do not need to prepare your
pupils for everything that they will encounter in the text. Very often
reading also means learning.

Developing reading skills


Look at this short newspaper note from The Observer, 25

March, 2001.
Blair rejects Marbles plea
Tony Blair yesterday rejected long-standing demands by
Greece for the return of the sculptures removed from the Parthenon
200 years ago. In an interview with the Athens daily ‘To Vima’ he
said the Elgin Marbles ‘belong to the British Museum … which does
not intend to return any part of the collection to its country of origin’.
Greece had hoped to have the pieces returned by 2004, when it will
host the Olympics.
In no more than 30 words, explain what the pupils need to
know in order to understand this text.

Compare your explanation to that given at the end of the unit.

You also need to encourage higher-level interpretation sub-

skills, as reading involves the formulation of constant guesses or
predictions that are either rejected or confirmed later. The reading
activities should cultivate the pupils’ ability to recognise the purpose
of the text as a whole, text organisation, and to think ahead,
hypothesise and predict text development.
• Cognitive processing sub-skills
The ability to interpret a text involves hypothesising, the
drawing of inferences and the resolution of ambiguities and
uncertainties; prediction, evaluation of information, and synthesis.
Predicting is guessing based on grammatical, structural, logical
and cultural clues. Predictions are crucial in anticipation and
skimming. You can train your pupils in predicting by giving them
unfinished passages to complete or by stopping after each sentence
and asking them to say what is likely to come next (e.g., ‘What do
you think will happen next?’, ‘What do you think the next words will
be?’ or ‘What do you think the next sentence will be about?’) To help
them, you can give three possible continuations and ask them to
choose the one they think is most likely to follow. Another idea is to
remove all punctuation from a text and ask the pupils to put it back.

Developing reading skills


Try your hand at devising prediction questions on this

paragraph taken from a textbook material. Ask one question after the
title and then one question per clause, if possible. Ask as many
questions as you can.
The Statue of Liberty
In the water around New York City is a very small island called
Liberty Island. On Liberty Island there is a very special statue called
the Statue of Liberty. It is one of the most famous sights in the world.
(from Folse, Keith (1993) Intermediate Reading Practices, Ann Arbor, p. 164)

Compare your questions to those suggested at the end of the


Anticipating is inherent in the process of reading, which is a

permanent ‘dialogue’ between the reader and the text. The readers
usually start reading a text prepared to find answers to their
expectations. These expectations are as important as what they
actually draw from the text.
To give your pupils an incentive for reading, before starting
reading a text, you can ask them to look for answers to specific
questions. You can also make them ask questions themselves. You
can use key words, the title and the accompanying pictures to talk
about various ways in which the text may develop, e.g., ‘Look at the
pictures and guess what the text is about’.
• Metacognitive knowledge and skills monitoring
Metacognitive knowledge is knowledge about cognition and
language. It includes awareness of the mental processes which are
involved in different kinds of learning. Pupils are capable of becoming
aware of and of monitoring their own mental processes and of
choosing the most efficient learning strategies. Metacognitive
knowledge includes abilities like recognising text structure and
organisation, using a dictionary, taking notes and so on. Previewing
and recognising problems with the information presented in the text,
are further examples of such learning strategies. Previewing involves
the use of the table of contents, the appendix, the preface and the
headings in order to find the information needed. It is used in
skimming, scanning and as a study skill.
Pupils need to be made aware that there is not just one way of
reading as they do not always recognise this. Their instincts are to
read every reading text thoroughly and try to understand every word.
This will not improve their reading ability, because this is not the way

Developing reading skills
people read in real life. Therefore, your first task is to persuade your
pupils that there are different ways of reading for different purposes
and that they need to practise different reading techniques.

What type of processing, lower (L) or higher (H) level, is

involved in the following reading tasks. Circle the appropriate letter.
Compare your answers to those given at the end of the unit.
1. Choose the most suitable heading from the list A - I for
each part 1 - 7 of the text. L H
2. What does it in line 12 refer to? L H
3. Seven sentences have been removed from the article.
Choose from the sentences (A - H) the one that fits each gap*.
4. Read the text and take down notes under the following
headings…. L H
5. Choose from the list (A - H) the sentence that best
summarises each part (1 - 6) of the article. L H
6. Choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which you think fits
best according to the text: L H
What did she eat?
A. an apple
B. a carrot
C. tomatoes
D. grapes

6.4.2 Models of Reading: Top-Down and Bottom-Up* Processes

The top-down model recommends that readers should start with

the top-down the global understanding and move towards details rather than the
model other way round. This means that you need to offer your pupils
relatively little practice in intensive reading and a lot of practice in
anticipating the content of texts, guessing, increasing reading speed
and practice in skimming.
Thus, when constructing or using comprehension exercises on
a given text, it is preferable to start with the overall meaning of a text,
its function(s) and aim, rather than working on specific details or
vocabulary. The activities that help the pupils in gaining or accessing
background knowledge also facilitate top-down processing. Among
these, there are pre-reading discussions, reading within a topic area,
extensive reading and sustained silent reading. All these involve the
pupils in reading large amounts of text for general comprehension.
• Procedures for developing top-down reading skills
If you want to apply a top-down reading approach, you can
choose from among several procedures:
 Present typical text patterns (e.g., a typical essay
paragraph pattern is “Topic - Restriction – Illustration”; a
typical advertisement pattern is “Problem – Solution –
 While the pupils read topic sentence or introduction, help
them to predict what might come next.
Developing reading skills

 Ask the pupils to use white correction fluid to cancel

unfamiliar words - this may help them work out the
approximate meaning from context.
 Help the pupils to predict next utterance, word or phrase
by referring them to discourse markers. For instance, not
only... helps predict; but also..., and another thing help
predict additional information, opinions, etc. Refer the
pupils to grammar markers; e.g., "When I got home I
discovered..." helps predict the past perfect.

However, the importance of lower-level processes should not

the bottom-up be underestimated, as fluency of reading is especially important.
model Less proficient readers often have difficulty in recognising the English
words rapidly and accurately and spend their time attending to the
graphic form. Knowledge of syntax and vocabulary is also critical.
It seems that below a certain language proficiency* threshold in
English, it is unrealistic to expect your pupils to be able to transfer
and use the reading comprehension processes they use effectively in
Romanian. Language plays a critical role in reading abilities, and
reading is fundamentally a balanced language and thinking process.

• Procedures for developing bottom-up reading skills

These procedures fall into two main categories: a) helping
pupils to cope with unfamiliar vocabulary and b) helping them
develop text analysis skills.
a) Developing vocabulary decoding skills.
 Teach suffixes and prefixes and ask your pupils to work out
the meanings of unfamiliar words with such suffixes and
 Help your pupils recognise words ‘families’ by getting them
to complete word grids like the following:
noun adjective verb
description descriptive describe
 Present compound words and ways of guessing their
meanings from components (e.g., bus ride, hairband,
lipstick, etc.).

b) Developing recognition of text features.

 Present grammatical ‘reference’ words and show how they
refer backwards and forwards to other words and phrases in
the text (e.g., personal pronouns, demonstratives).
 Do the same with typical lexical reference words. For
example, you can put a circle around a lexical reference
word and show, with an arrow, what it refers to.
 Present linking words (e.g., if, so, because, though, etc.)
 Ask your pupils to put together a text whose paragraphs
have been scrambled, discussing why they have made their

Developing reading skills

You should engage your pupils in activities that combine top-

down and bottom-up strategies in reading. In practice, this means
discussing the topic of a text before asking your pupils to read it,
arousing expectations and eliciting connections between references
in the text and situations known to the pupils.
Fluency in reading requires skill in both top-down and bottom-
up processing. Fluent readers employ lower and higher level reading
sub-skills simultaneously. They possess a large receptive vocabulary
and knowledge of syntactic and rhetorical structure. They interact
with the text to create meaning. They approach it with prior
knowledge (of what the text is, of what they expect it to mean, of how
it is to be read) and cognitive skills, combined in developing
predictions about its content and development. While reading, fluent
readers may re-read fragments of the text rapidly to confirm or reject
these predictions. If the predictions are confirmed, they continue
reading with an increasing store of information on the topic. If the
predictions are not confirmed, the readers return and re-read more

6.4.3 Reader Response

To make your pupils active in the reading process, you will have
to ask for a response from them. Their response can be either
linguistic or non-linguistic

• Linguistic responses
Linguistic responses can come in the form of answers to
comprehension questions. These can take a variety of forms: yes/no,
true or false, multiple choice, grids or charts to be completed and
open-ended questions. Answering comprehension questions orally
round the class is a very common technique used for developing
reading comprehension. A variety of different question forms will
enable your pupils to use their different skills in appropriate ways.
An alternative way of using questions is to ask the pupils to
think up and ask the questions themselves. Their questions will show
their current understanding of the text and their current perception of
what is difficult and important in it. This understanding will change
and develop as they continue reading.
Asking questions may not always be a very successful activity
for large classes. As (usually) only one pupil answers a question, the
rest of the class does not need to pay attention. Thus, it may be
difficult for you to see whether your pupils have really understood a
text. To maximise the pupils’ participation, you can divide the class
into groups and give each group a different fragment to read. In their
groups the pupils discuss their interpretations and then compose the
questions they want another group to answer. The questions do not
need to have only one answer. When they have completed their
discussion and agreed on the questions, the pupils pass the
fragment and their questions to another group to answer. Thus they
try out possible solutions to the problems they identify in the text.
They can call you in when they need you. Such an activity requires
Developing reading skills
repeated readings of the text and stresses the process of
understanding. Also, listening, speaking and writing are naturally
integrated in such class interaction.
• Non-linguistic responses
Many activities that do not involve verbal responses can also
prove your pupils’ understanding of the text:
 comparing text and image by matching passages of the
text and diagrams;
 rendering the information into the form of a diagram;
 performing an action, finding a solution, making a decision
using the information from the text.
SAQ 10

What other things can your pupils do with the information from a
text to prove their understanding of it? Suggest a few ideas and then
compare them to the ones given at the end of the unit.

• Procedures for encouraging response to a reading text

1. Give your pupils a set of comments ("What rubbish!",
"That's interesting", "I didn’t know that", etc.). The pupils
have to write the comments in the margin while they are
2. Give them a set of headings that they must apply to
appropriate paragraphs.
3. Give them a set of sentences, which they must fit into the
text at appropriate places.
4. Ask them to invent their own paragraph headings and their
own sentences for insertion.
5. Get them to role-play author and reader: give the ‘reader’
a set of questions; the ‘author’ has to re-read the text and
try to reply. (e.g., "When you wrote..., did you mean…

Developing reading skills

6.5 Reading in English vs. Reading in Romanian

There are both similarities and differences between reading in a
foreign language and reading in the mother tongue. The differences
concern the acquisition of the respective foreign language, the
training background, and language processing and social context.
For instance, most foreign pupils who study English, begin reading in
English with different knowledge from native readers. Before they
begin reading in school, English children already have a large
vocabulary store (5,000 to 7,000 words) and a good intuitive sense of
the grammar. The typical Romanian children who learn to read in
English have not yet learnt a lot of vocabulary, nor have they
acquired a complete sense of the grammar of English.
This explains why your pupils encounter many difficulties
caused by language processing differences. Transfer effects, as in
the case of ‘false friends’ (e.g., library, terrible, sensible, etc) can
influence vocabulary recognition. Orthographic differences, unfamiliar
syntactic structures, word order and other structural differences
between English and Romanian mislead your pupils, particularly
beginners. Your pupils’ incomplete knowledge of the language may
cause serious difficulty with some texts. In fact, a fundamental
difference between the native readers and the foreign readers is that
the former use the language to help them read, whereas the latter
use reading to learn the language.
SAQ 11

In about 50 words, give your opinion on the advantages of your

pupils over the native English children as far as learning reading in
English is concerned.

Compare your opinion to that given at the end of the unit.

6.6 The Three-Phase Approach to Reading Activities

R. White suggests three stages and a general procedure for a
reading lesson: he recommends the use of pre-, while- and post-
reading activities. The procedure relies on the pupils’ knowledge of
language and knowledge of the world and uses this as a basis for
involvement, motivation and progress. It also leads to the integration
of language skills.

Developing reading skills

Pre-reading activities are meant to introduce and arouse

activities interest in the topic, to motivate the pupils by giving them a reason
for reading and to provide some language preparation for the text. In
real life, we usually have a purpose in reading: something we want to
find out, to check or clarify. We also have a purpose in reading when
we read stories for pleasure: we want to find out how the story
develops, ‘what happens next’. Moreover, we always have some idea
of what we are going to read about, and as we read we address the
writer's questions in our mind. Based on these, we may be able to
make a number of predictions or guesses. Headlines, chapter
headings or book titles often make us think about the text before we
begin to read.
In the classroom, it is important to give the pupils some reason
for reading or problems to which they want to find the answer. These
may consist in questions for them to think about as they read. (The
answers will be discussed afterwards.) These questions are called
guiding/signpost questions: e.g., “What would you like to know
about…? Write down at least five questions, which you hope the text
will answer.” or “You are going to read a text about…. Here are some
words and phrases from the text. Can you guess how they are used
in the text?”
Another type of pre-reading activity may be true false questions:
the pupils are given sentences that refer to the text, and they guess
whether they are true or false. Alternatively, they are given a
summary of the text with gaps; their task is to guess what words
should go in the gaps. They may also be given the topic of the text
and may be asked to write a list of things they know and things they
do not know about the topic. If the text puts forward an opinion, the
pupils discuss the topic beforehand and give their own point of view.
Although you are not supposed to teach every word or structure
in the text that you think your pupils are not familiar with, you should
ensure that your pupils would be able to do the text tasks without
being hindered by language difficulties. On the other hand, language
preparation can be carried out by the pupils themselves.
The use of visuals, such as photographs, maps, diagrams, the
drawing up of lists and the setting or answering of questions (oral or
written) may all be part of pre-reading.
While-reading activities usually start from a general
understanding of the text and then move to smaller units:
paragraphs, sentences and words. The larger units provide a context
for the smaller ones. The activities aim at helping the pupils
understand the writer’s purpose, text structure and content.
The traditional comprehension questions placed either at the
end, at the beginning or inserted at various points within the text, are
a typical example of a while-reading activity. Completing diagrams or
maps, making lists and taking notes are other types of while-reading

Developing reading skills

Post-reading activities enable the pupils to consolidate and

post-reading reflect upon their reading and to relate it to their own knowledge,
activities interests or views. Post-reading activities may deal with reactions to
the text and to the while-reading work. The pupils may be asked to
say whether they liked the text and the activities or not, or whether
they found them useful or not. Other post-reading activities are:
• writing an outline of a paragraph or longer text;
• drawing a list of main ideas from the text and then working
individually or in pairs to locate supporting details;
• matching, in pair or group work, a column with main ideas from
a passage with a column of details;
• underlining generalisations and supporting details or creating
topic sentences for portions of the text;
• determining the function of each sentence in a paragraph or
longer text (stating a generalisation, supporting it, catching and
holding the reader’s attention, etc.);
• choosing a main idea (or best title) for a passage from among
several choices or creating one on their own;
• doing a jigsaw* reading in which the pupils are given different
parts of a text, and working together to create a logical
sequence. Each of the pupils is given a sentence or a passage
from a text and they have to look for significant details that will
give them clues to the development of the whole text. Using
these text indicators (referring either back to something
mentioned before or announcing something to come), each
pupil has to interact with the others until they find out where
their passage belongs in the text.
Exploring the relationship of ideas in a text can be carried out at
almost any proficiency level. Beginners can develop semantic maps
that are entirely schematic, containing basic words or no writing, with
pictures. Here is an example of such a semantic map, drawn around
the concept of house:

paper grass tree

work desk garden play


eat table chair flower



wall kitchen

roof room bathroom

door bedroom

chimney sitting-room

Developing reading skills
Tasks addressed to more advanced pupils are more
sophisticated. These are usually based on complex thinking and
engage the pupils with the language in different ways. Both texts and
tasks approximate more closely to the kind of texts and tasks that the
pupils tackle in Romanian. The tasks involve longer, multi-stage,
integrative activities, entailing extended speaking, listening and
writing. Some pieces of writing demand a personal response such as
interpretation, application to other contexts, criticism or evaluation.
SAQ 12

In which of the three phases, pre-, while- or post-reading, would

you use the following activities. Compare your answers to those
given at the end of the unit.

1. Do-it-yourself questions: the pupils compose and answer

their own questions.
2. Responding: the text is a letter or a provocative article; the
pupils discuss how they would respond or write an answer.
3. Signpost questions: a general question is given before
reading, asking the pupils to find out information central to the
understanding of the text.
4. Continue: if the text is a story, the pupils are asked to
suggest what might happen next.
5. Provide a title: the pupils suggest a title or an alternative
6. Summarise: the pupils summarise the content in a sentence
or two (in English or Romanian).
7. Preface: If the text is a story, the pupils are asked to
suggest what might have happened before.
8. Mistakes in the text: the text has, towards the end,
occasional mistakes (such as wrong words or omissions). The pupils
are told in advance how many mistakes to look for.
9. Comparison: there are two texts on a similar topic; the
pupils note points of similarity or difference of content.
10. Gapped text: towards the end of the text, 4-5 gaps are left
that can only be filled in if the text has been understood.
11. Re-presentation of content: the text gives information or
tells a story; the pupils re-present its content through a drawing that
illustrates the text, colouring, marking a map, lists of events or items
described in the text, a diagram – grid or flowchart – indicating
relationships between items, characters or events.
(after Ur Penny (1996) A Course in Language Teaching, CUP)

Developing reading skills

The three-phase approach should not be carried out

mechanically on every occasion. Sometimes you may wish to get
your pupils to work on the text directly. At other times, post-reading
activities may not be suitable.

Although apparently simple, reading involves both low level and
high level processes. It can be done either silently, with the
understanding that results being called 'reading comprehension' or
aloud. Reading aloud is done with or without an understanding of the
contents of the text. Different types of reading styles can be
distinguished, from intensive to extensive, and from scanning to
As a foreign language skill, reading is very important; in fact,
one may argue that it is the most important, especially for those
pupils who may never actually have to speak English. However, in
the regular classroom, reading should not be separated from the
other skills, since in real life there are few cases when reading is not
linked to these.

Key Concepts
• text authenticity
• cohesion
• coherence
• intensive reading
• extensive reading
• skim reading
• scan reading
• top-down processes
• bottom-up processes
• reader response

SAA No. 4
The general aim of the reading activities organised for the lower
secondary school may be formulated in the following general terms:
• to enable the pupils1/ to read without help2/ unfamiliar3/
authentic English texts4/, at an appropriate speed5/, silently6/ and with
adequate understanding7/; to enable the pupils to enjoy reading in
Starting from this general statement, could you formulate in
more specific terms, the aims of a reading programme for your pupils
and the specific implications for your classroom teaching that follow
from these aims? Try to comment on each of the marked elements (1
to 8) of the statement above.
Do not forget to send your answers to your tutor in due time.

Developing reading skills
Further Reading
1. Ur, Penny (1996) A Course in Language Teaching.
Practice and Theory, Cambridge University Press, Part III, Module 10
2. Harmer, J. (1998) Teach English, Longman, Chapter 7

Answers to SAQs

Should your answers to SAQs 1, 2, 3 and 4 not be

comparable to those given below, please revise section 6.1 of
the unit.

If your groupings are different, do not worry. The idea of this
activity is to remind you what a huge variety of texts could be used in
the classroom.
Genre Text Types
Functional or timetables, labels, menus, TV times, telephone directory,
immediate contents page, car repair manual, operating instructions,
reference picture captions, textbooks, guidebooks; dictionaries,
information texts catalogues, directions, maps, legends (of maps, pictures),
posters, signs (e.g., road signs), recipes
Literary texts novels, tales, essays, diaries, biographies, rhymes
Professional, reports, reviews, essays; literary studies, summaries,
specialised or précis, accounts; textbooks, guidebooks; statistics,
technical texts diagrams, flow charts,
Enjoyment and letters (personal and business), postcards, notes, telegram
Leisurely or brochures, adverts, newspaper cartoons, puzzles
information texts
Journalistic editorials, stop press, advertisements, headlines, television
literature and listings, comic strips, magazine articles
topical information
Miscellaneous notices, menus, price lists, tickets, forms, graffiti

The paragraph is an inauthentic, disjoined text. Several factors
contribute to its reduced cohesion and coherence, among which the
absence of connectors and the use of the verbal tenses. Due to the
tenses and the few deictic* markers (like here, now), the text lacks an
axis of orientation. It could be used as an (anti)-example when
discussing the use of the present perfect and future tenses.

Developing reading skills

• Connectors: and, then, and so
• Reference: this (cataphora*), them, which, it (anaphoras*),
bigger, uglier, better; deictics: this, today, the present perfect
and the present tense, since 1980, to date, from 1945, the last
fifteen years, twenty years ago, now.
• Ellipsis: Half of them (verbal), … gets more visitors (nominal).
• Vocabulary (reiterations): offices – malls – housing stock –
motel rooms – outlet shops, stand – build, road – highway, town
– hamlet – hometown; repetitions: America, build, of all, hamlet,
Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, years, Dolly Parton.

Sentence (b) has a problem of coherence. In sentence (a), it is
clear that the relationship between the two clauses is one of cause
and effect. In sentence (b), the two parts appear to be unrelated, and
it is difficult to see any connection.

Should your answers to SAQs 5 and 6 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 6.2 of the unit.

Your pupils will need to adopt intensive reading techniques for
the texts of the immediate reference information or functional
information types.
The texts of the leisurely, incidental, enjoyment and
correspondence kinds are more likely to be read extensively.
The texts in the other categories could normally be read either
intensively or extensively, depending on background factors.

a) intensive reading, b) scan reading, c) extensive reading,
d) skim reading

Should your answers to SAQs 7 and 8 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 6.3 of the unit.

The readers need to know who Tony Blair is, what Athens, the
Parthenon, the Elgin Marbles and the Olympics are, what and where
the British Museum is, etc.

The Statue of Liberty [“What do you think the first paragraph of
the text is about? The age of the statue? Its sculptor? Its location?”]
In the water around New York City is a very small island called
Liberty Island. [“What do you think the next sentence is about?”] On
Liberty Island, there is a very special statue… [“What are the next
words?”]… called the Statue of Liberty. It is one of the most famous
sights in the world. [“What do you think the next paragraph deals
with? The history of the statue? An explanation of its name? A
description of the statue?”], etc.
Developing reading skills

Should your answers to SAQs 9 and 10 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 6.4 of the unit.
Only tasks 2 and 6 involve lower level processing skills:
grammar, syntax and vocabulary identification skills, respectively.
SAQ 10
Here are other things that you can ask your pupils to do to
prove their understanding of a text:
• present the information of the text in a different way, for
example by completing a table;
• compare two or more texts with similar information about the
same event or situation;
• complete a document (e.g., a letter, an evaluation card, an
application form, a note, etc);
• do simulations or role-play;
• take notes or summarise, etc.

Should your answers to SAQs 11 and 12 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 6.5 of the unit.

SAQ 11
Most of your pupils will be older than the native learners of
English, when they start learning how to read in English. Thus, they
will have a better conceptual grasp of the world, more factual
knowledge about the world, and they will be able to make elaborate
logical inferences. For your pupils, learning English vocabulary often
means remembering a second name for a well-understood concept.
The older your pupils are, the sooner they will become efficient

SAQ 12
• Pre-reading activities: signpost questions
• While-reading: mistakes in the text, comparison, gapped text
• Post-reading activities: do-it-yourself questions, responding,
continue, provide a title, summarise, preface, re-presentation of

Developing writing skills

Unit Outline
Unit Objectives 161
7.1 Writing to Learn and Learning to Write 162

7.2 Developing Writing Competence: Writing Sub-skills 163

7.3 Approaches to Writing 164

7.3.1 The Text-based Approach 166
7.3.2 The Communicative Approach 172
7.3.3 Purpose and Motivation 174

7.4 Feedback on Writing 175

7.4.1 Strategies for the Correction of Mistakes 178

Summary 182

Key Concepts 183

Further Reading 183

Answers to SAQs 183

Developing writing skills

The traditional ordering of the four skills – speaking, listening,

reading, writing – reflects both a general belief about the natural
order of skill acquisition and one about instructional priorities. Of the
four skills, writing seems to be the odd one out. All children learn to
understand and speak their mother tongue, and school ensures that
most people grow up able to read. But writing is more difficult and
mastered by only a few. If we think only of the pupils’ long-term
needs, writing is probably the least important of the four skills. Only a
few might be expected to need any extensive writing in either
Romanian or English. However, through the mastery of writing, an
individual comes to be fully effective in intellectual organisation and
in the expression of ideas and arguments. Actually, the pupils’ need
for writing is most likely to be for study purposes and also as an
examination skill. At the purely practical level, good, clear writing
leads to school success.
Teaching writing involves guiding in analysing and developing
thinking, in shaping and organising it into central and subordinate
ideas and in developing a line of thought and carrying it to the reader.
At elementary and intermediate level, writing helps pupils to think and
to learn. Writing new words and structures helps pupils to remember
them as writing is done more slowly and carefully than speaking.
That is why written practice helps the pupils to focus their attention
on what they are learning.
Many English teachers feel that the development of writing
skills represents an unrealistic goal for their pupils as most of them
are still struggling to acquire this skill in Romanian. Writing, in
general, is a difficult skill to master, requiring long practice. Writing in
English will create even bigger problems. Yet, in the English
classroom, a writing exercise may help to reinforce oral work, to
confirm understanding of a reading text, to demonstrate awareness
of English, as well as to provide a change of pace in a lesson.

By the end of this unit, you should be able to:

• set up, apply and monitor a variety of interactive classroom
unit objectives writing tasks
• offer a theoretical justification for each of these tasks
• integrate writing activities with the development of one or more
of the other skills
• identify the various sub-skills involved in the writing process
• select and apply appropriate classroom activities to develop
these sub-skills
• assess the learning outcomes of specific writing activities.

Developing writing skills

7.1 Writing to Learn and Learning to Write

• Writing to learn
Writing is widely used in the English classes as a means of
engaging the pupils with other language skills. The pupils note down
new vocabulary, copy out grammar rules, write out answers to
reading or listening comprehension questions and do written tests. In
these activities, writing is mainly a means of getting the pupils to
practise a particular language point or as a convenient method of
testing it.

Which of the following kinds of text do you think your pupils

would need in Romanian and which in English?
advertisement, essay, filling in a form, letter to the manager,
letter to a newspaper, letter to mother/father, note about a telephone
message, newspaper article, poem, pop song lyric, postcard, report,
shopping list, story, Ph.D. thesis.

Check your answer against that given at the end of the unit.

• Learning to write
Other activities have as a main objective writing itself. These
practise written forms are either at the level of the word or sentence
or at the level of content and organization. The pupils have to
express themselves using their own words. They have to state a
purpose for writing and often to specify a readership. Examples of
such activities include narrating a story, writing a letter or a report.
Some activities combine purposeful and original writing with the
learning or practice of some other skill or content. For example, a
written response to the reading of a text will combine writing with
reading. A task which provides little or no practice for the pupils to
extend their knowledge of appropriate content or context or to raise
their awareness about the writing process is not really a writing task
but a general learning task using writing.
• Writing in Romanian and writing in English
You may have already noticed that pupils progress in language
complexity much faster in English than in Romanian. They
understand easily that some of the structural differences observed
between speech and writing in Romanian are similar in English and
consequently attempt the same kind of language adjustments when

Developing writing skills
they write in English. They realise quickly that the manner in which
sentences grow in complexity is similar in Romanian and English:
simple sentences are joined first through coordination, then
subordination and finally clause reduction.
However, there are some features of written language that may
cause major problems to your pupils as they may differ from those of
Romanian. These operate above the level of the sentence: layout
and physical organization on the page, text organization determined
by the social function the text fulfils and relationships between
clauses and clause complexes. That is why your pupils may benefit
from an explicit understanding of how these work.

In no more than 50 words, say which appears to create more

difficulties for you in writing English, cohesion or coherence.

Compare your answer to the one suggested at the end of the


7.2 Developing Writing Competence: Writing Sub-skills

Writing competence* refers to several sub-skills: putting words
on paper, making sentences and linking them in paragraphs, writing
a poem, developing an essay, and many others. Nunan (1989) notes
that writing involves:
• mastering the mechanics of letter formation;
• mastering and obeying conventions of spelling and punctuation;
• using the grammatical system to convey one’s intended
• organising content at the level of the paragraph and the
complete text to reflect new/given information and
topic/comment structures;
• polishing and revising one’s initial efforts;
• selecting an appropriate style for one’s audience.
The first three of these are sentence-level skills. Spelling,
punctuation and grammatical accuracy all receive regular attention
from teachers. However, sometimes it appears that these are the
only things considered worthy of attention. The pupils’ failure to
produce good creative writing suggests that paying attention to just
these three aspects of the writing process is not enough.

Developing writing skills
The last three items are text and discourse-level skills and
usually do not receive much attention. When they do, it is often in the
form of red-pen comments on returned essays, such as “badly
organised” or “essay lacks shape”. Refer to section 7.4 for
considerations on the effects of this kind of feedback.

content vs. form

Sometimes pupils lose their ideas in the process of writing,
because they have a simplistic view of their task, or they see their
writing as definitive from the beginning, except for minor alterations
of form. Actually, the ideas themselves should be seen as the most
important aspect of the writing. However, pupils also need to pay
attention to formal aspects such as handwriting, spelling,
punctuation, grammar and vocabulary, etc.
Writing is difficult as it involves the development and co-
ordination of cognitive and conceptual sub-skills, including:
• Knowledge of the language system
Pupils should have knowledge of those aspects of the language
system (vocabulary, grammar) necessary for the completion of the
• Knowledge of the genre
Pupils should also be able to organize texts appropriately in
order to do particular jobs. Therefore, teaching writing means
teaching pupils to recognize the genre in which they are writing and
the grammatical and lexical choices that need to be made in order to
match the text to the writing purpose. This includes knowledge of:
a) content: knowledge of the concepts involved in the subject
b) context: knowledge of the context in which the text will be
read, including the reader’s expectations.
• Knowledge of the writing process
Pupils also need knowledge of the effective way of preparing for
a writing task: planning, drafting, reviewing, editing, etc.
Writing requires more correctness of expression and higher
standards of language than speech. Luckily, the slow and reflective
nature of the process of writing enables the writer to devote more
time and attention to formal aspects during the process of writing.

7.3 Approaches to Writing

There are two main ways of approaching writing: focusing on
the product and focusing on the writer. These perspectives have
determined major approaches on the teaching of writing.
The focus on the product gave birth to the traditional text-
based approach. Traditionally, the teacher has been more
concerned with the finished product than with the way it has been
created. The text-based approach is based on the notion that pupils
need to produce accurate pieces of writing. The teachers using this
perspective often present model texts, usually given in textbooks, for
the pupils to imitate or adapt. They believe their role is to cultivate
Developing writing skills
conformity to models and accuracy rather than fluency. They see
mistakes as something they have to correct and eliminate. In this
approach, the pupils write variations first on sentences and
paragraphs, then on very controlled compositions, and finally, at an
advanced level, they work on free composition.
Think first!

Examine one of the textbooks you are using.

a) What writing activities suggested in these textbooks give
the pupils the opportunity to be creative and original?
b) Find examples of activities that begin with an example
text or samples of language that the pupils have to imitate or
incorporate into their own writing.

Take the textbook you examined and the examples you found
to the next tutorial, and discuss them with your classmates, and tutor.

The focus on the process gave birth to the more recent

process approach. Over the past few years, however, interest has
swung from the product of writing to the actual writing process itself.
It has become apparent that if the teacher’s first concern is that an
essay or story should be grammatically correct, then this will be
reflected in pupil attitude and behaviour. Firstly, pupils will regard
essay writing not as opportunity to express their views on a variety of
topics but as a long grammatical exercise. What they actually write
about will be a minor consideration. Secondly, pupils will play it safe.
They will choose simple things to say to avoid the risk of error. The
result will be reasonably correct essays that say nothing.
However, the whole purpose of creative writing is to say
something worth paying attention to. While not totally rejecting this
earlier system, the current trend is to place emphasis on the process
of writing and the writer. This approach lays stress on the activities
that move the pupil from the generation of ideas and collection of
data to the production and ‘publication’ of the text. It emphasises the
writing process over the product, with recognition of the
recursiveness of the process and the encouragement of exploration
of topics through writing.
Developing writing skills
It is now recognised that pupils not only need help throughout
the writing process, but that creative writing in the classroom is a
shared activity. This kind of thinking has resulted in much more
attention being paid to the pre-writing stage. Scrivener (1994)
proposes at least nine stages of preparation before the final draft of a
piece of creative writing is produced:

stages of • Introduction of topic; group discussion; clarification of main

preparation for writing task; consideration of audience for the final text;
creative writing consideration of specific requirements – style, information,
layout, etc.; consideration of likely difficulties and problems;
• Initial individual or group brainstorming*;
• Selection and rejection of ideas;
• Sorting and ordering of ideas – note-making;
• Focus on useful language models;
• Small group or class construct of a preliminary skeleton or
example text;
• Individual or group preparation of draft text;
• Discussion with others and with teacher;
• Individual or group preparation of final draft.
The first draft must then come under scrutiny, preferably after a
time interval or by someone other than the writer. Comments and
discussion follow before the second draft, and so on. The pupils need
to be assured that the final product is not the only thing to be judged.
Praise for the first draft, and praise, advice and suggestions
throughout the writing process are very important.
If you accept that the process of writing is more significant than
the final product, then it follows you need to give the pupils enough
time to produce their essay.
Much of the teaching of writing comes at the first draft stage.
Very little can be taught after the final version has been submitted.
That is why you need to sit with your pupils and discuss the first
drafts, be appreciative of good ideas and make suggestions for
general improvements in structure.

7.3.1 The Text-based Approach

This approach is also called the controlled-to-free approach, as
depending on the degree of freedom the pupils are allowed, the
writing activities used are characterized as controlled, guided and
There has been much argument about whether pupils should
be allowed to engage in free writing from the start, or whether they
should be led gradually into it. Some argue that, if writing is about
expressing one’s views, then pupils should be allowed a free rein.
Others feel that strict control should be maintained until the pupils
can produce error-free sentences.
There is little doubt that, unless the pupils can produce
syntactically acceptable sentences, their creative writing will not be
very coherent. It seems fair to assume that some kind of sentence-
level guidance will be necessary for many pupils at some stage.

Developing writing skills
However, you cannot assume that sentence-level skills will be
automatically transferred to creative writing. Further guidance, in the
form of models, may be needed. You may therefore wish to consider
several stages in preparing pupils for free writing. Raimes (1989)
proposes five types of controlled writing: controlled composition,
question and answer, guided composition, parallel writing and
sentence combining.
1. Controlled composition
Controlled writing activities provide both content and form. The
pupils are not asked to create anything. You give them a passage
and ask them to alter it. These alterations are normally grammatical.
For example, you may ask them to re-write a passage about a single
child so that it becomes a passage about several children, to re-write
a direct speech text in reported speech or to re-write a present tense
passage in the past simple.
Other activities include copying, gap filling, re-ordering words,
substitution (e.g., "If he stayed/left/spoke they would disagree with
him"), correct the facts (e.g., re-write the sentences so that they
match a picture) and dictation. They are typically used with
beginners, and the objective of this kind of activity is that pupils make
as few mistakes as possible. This explains why, in all these activities,
the pupils have to add little if anything of their own.
These activities can be made more meaningful and interesting,
remaining still very controlled, if the pupils are given a chance to
think what they are writing. For instance, copying is completely
mechanical when they are asked to copy a string of words: a
sentence that they do not understand. In this case, their attention is
focused only on spelling. However, copying may become more
meaningful if the pupils can contribute something to the text. Part(s)
of the sentence can be left out for the pupils to write themselves. The
teacher may write the sentence outline on the board, (e.g., they –
home – afternoon), say the whole sentence and ask the pupils to
write what they heard. You can also show or draw a picture to
replace part(s) of the sentence. Alternatively, you may write the
sentence on the board and ask your pupils to write a similar true
sentence about themselves.
Another extremely restrictive activity, gap-filling, can become
more involving and challenging if the pupils are given the opportunity
to choose between alternatives given in brackets.
Without real comprehension, dictation is also a mechanical
activity, restricted to practising spelling. If done traditionally, you read
a text once through and then dictate it phrase by phrase. Then the
text is read through once again. Even done this way, dictation cannot
be denied a number of advantages: it is an intensive activity that
helps to develop both listening and writing, requires concentration
and can be done with large classes.

Developing writing skills


In no more than 50 words, say what are, in your opinion, the

disadvantages of dictation.

Check your answer against that given at the end of the unit.

An alternative to traditional dictation is the dictocomp (a

combination of dictation and composition), which develops both
listening and writing skills and focuses on meaning. The dictocomp is
not exclusively controlled writing, as it requires not only careful
listening and accurate spelling but also thinking. The pupils listen to a
text, jot down notes and then try to reconstruct the original from notes
or from given prompts. They need to understand the text, think about
its content and about how to reproduce it, and to construct the
sentences. The dictocomp can be used with pupils at all levels,
provided the original text chosen is challenging enough.
2. Questions and answers
A question and answer procedure continues your control over
what is produced but allows the pupils a little more freedom. The text
emerges from the answers produced by the pupils to questions
asked by you. The questions may be based on a set of notes or a
picture. A picture sequence can be used to make the task a little
more interesting.
picture 1 Classroom. Children studying. One boy with thought cloud above
his head to show he is dreaming of playing football with his
picture 2 Same boy at teacher’s desk, holding head and looking sick.
picture 3 Same boy playing football with his friends on playing field.
picture 4 Footballers point at restaurant, suggesting cold drink.
picture 5 Boy with friends in restaurant having cold drinks.
picture 6 Teacher walks into restaurant.
You begin by asking what is happening in each picture in turn.
Individual pupils suggest answers, such as “The boy is asking the
teacher if he can go home because he is sick”. You write the best
answer for each picture on the board. When all the questions are
complete, you ask the pupils to use the six answers as the basis for
their text, reminding them that the story must be told in the past
tense. Before settling down to produce their texts in pairs or small
groups, the class may decide together what the wording of the first
sentence will be.

Developing writing skills

As confidence and skill grow, you can ask the pupils to create a
story directly from a sequence of pictures, without the question -
answer stage. In this activity, writing can be integrated with oral work.
Class discussion establishes what is happening in each of the
pictures, then pupils decide in pairs or small groups how they are
going to put the story together. Each pair writes a first draft of the
story then passes it to the next pair for comment and correction.
Second drafts are then written, and so on. In this way, all the class
are involved in the writing process.
In another version of this activity, the whole class share in the
writing of the same story (e.g., a fairy tale type in which the
characters and plot are predictable). After class discussion of
standard forms and sequences of events in fairy tales, one pupil is
asked to write the first sentence of a story on a piece of paper. The
paper is then passed on to the next pupil who writes the second
sentence, and so on. Once the class is accustomed to this kind of
combined writing, several stories can be circulating at the same time.
The completed stories are read out to the class by individual pupils
for comments and suggestions. As a follow-up task, the pupils may
be given copies of the story to check for grammatical accuracy and
3. Guided writing
In guided writing, you retain a certain amount of control over the
form and content of the pupils’ writing. The pupils are given
information that they must include in their writing. Sometimes you
also give the first and last sentences. The information may come in
the form of a picture. For example, you give a picture of a lake on a
summer day with people doing various things (e.g., swimming,
diving, having picnics and sunbathing). In the distance, a farmer is
seen with his sheep dog. The task is to write three paragraphs about
the scene.
You tell the pupils to begin by saying that the picture shows a
scene in the countryside. Then you ask them to say something about
the weather, the colour of the sky, the sun and the shade given by
the trees round the lake. They must describe the lake: is it big, small,
deep, shallow, clear or dark? In the second paragraph, the pupils are
asked to describe the people and say what each group is doing and
what the farmer uses his dog for. Finally, you tell them to end the
paragraph with the words “Other people can enjoy themselves in the
summer sun, but the farmer has to work.”
4. Parallel writing
Such activities are typically used with pre-intermediate and
intermediate pupils. In this type of writing activities, content is free but
form is given. You first give the pupils a piece of writing to see and
then they use it as a basis for their own work. The original piece, sets
a model and guides them in expressing themselves. This type of
activity is central to the teaching of connected discourse since it sets
models from which the pupils can work. It generally addresses the
paragraph level.
Parallel writing tasks come in various forms to allow for varying
degrees of control by the teacher.

Developing writing skills

John is an English boy who lives in Shipton, in the north of
England. Upton is a small village on the edge of the Irish Sea, near
Lanchester. The village has a church, a small shop and a post
office. There is no school in Shipton, so Peter goes to school in
Lanchester. To get into Lanchester he has to catch a bus outside
the post office. The bus leaves the post office each morning at eight
Your task is to:
1. Write a similar paragraph about Rita, using these notes:
Rita – Scottish girl – Heston – small town – River Benlow –
Edinburgh – supermarket –cinema – football club – small railway
station – no library – train – library in Edinburgh – railway station –
every two hours.
2. Write about your own village or town.
5. Sentence combining
Sentence combining tasks are rather more mechanical than
parallel writing tasks. They provide the pupils with the materials and
ask them to manipulate them. You give sets of simple sentences and
ask the pupils to combine them in grammatically acceptable ways to
produce complex sentences. This helps them to develop their style.
Combine each of the following pairs of sentences into one
complex sentence:
She overslept. She was late for school. ………………………
He was injured. He played football. ..………………………….
They were having a picnic. It started to rain. …………………
The singer arrived. Everyone was seated. ………………………

At a higher level of organisation, pupils need practice in

combining sentences to form cohesive and coherent paragraphs.
The main difficulty encountered by pupils working at paragraph
level is cohesion. Cohesion is difficult in writing because often we do
not get direct feedback on our writing from our readers, and we are
not in a position to clarify points that have not been understood.
Cohesion involves not only the ordering of sentences but also the
use of cohesive devices. Typical activities practising cohesion are
sentence combining, sentence reordering, sentence insertion and
noun and sentence substitution. Unfortunately, it seems that pupil
performance in improving the syntactic complexity of writings tends
to erode, once sentence-combining practice is discontinued.
Paragraph writing has to be practised as soon as the pupils
have mastered basic skills of sentence writing and need to progress
beyond very controlled writing exercises to sentence combining. This
transition is more easily done by offering a short text as a model or
Developing writing skills
by doing an oral preparation for the writing. The main problem is
finding a suitable model, as it is not always possible to use a text
from the textbook. The model text might be limiting or misleading,
especially if the pupils’ topic is somewhat different, and they are in
the habit of following models closely.
During the oral preparation, you can build an outline on the
board to which the pupils contribute suggestions and you key
expressions. Later on, the pupils use this material as a basis for their
writing. This technique is flexible and involving and it reveals the
interests and abilities of the class. In addition, it requires no specially
prepared materials. The ideas about what to write are generated by
the pupils themselves.

Before asking your pupils to write an example of a particular

text type, you might want to go with them through some stages. Put
the stages suggested below into an appropriate order and justify your
a) practising guided writing which follows prompts (e.g.,
pictures or sentences that summarise paragraphs)
b) doing exercises that practise characteristic features of text
type (e.g., passive voice)
c) reading examples of the text type
d) analysing a sample text to isolate typical features.

Compare your answers to those given at the end of the


Free writing. Free writing means giving the pupils free rain in
expressing their own views and thoughts. However, free writing tasks
can be assigned only after the study of the respective genre models.
You can ask pupils from intermediate to advanced, to write narratives
based on a picture or series of pictures. They may describe an
occasion when they felt disappointed or afraid, surprised or relieved.
They may describe someone they know very well or write
descriptions of people and places, based on photographs or some
information about them. They may write an answer to a (given) letter
of complaint, write application letters, etc.
You can ask more advanced pupils to describe the process
represented in a flowchart or any kind of diagram, write reports of
books they read, reviews of books they enjoyed (and would like to
recommend to other people in the class) or instruction sheets for
something they know how to do well (e.g., prepare some kind of
food) or essays on various topics.

Developing writing skills

Essay* format. Whatever kind of writing activities pupils

practise in the classroom, at some stage, you will probably require
them to produce an essay, and this will have to conform to an
acceptable format. A sample format is given below. This is by no
means the only acceptable one for essays, as many others are
possible. However, it may be useful as an indication to pupils that
each of the parts of an essay must be clearly related to the rest, to
form a coherent whole.
a) Introduction. Here they need to define the terms. If the
topic of the essay is, for instance, “Urban Pollution”, they may need
to show that they understand what “urban” and “pollution” mean. In
addition, here they need to state why the topic is of interest, where
their main focus on the topic will be and how many parts they will
break the topic up into. This will give the number of paragraphs they
will have in the body of the essay.
b) Body. Each paragraph of the essay refers back to the
introduction. For example, “the first/second/third type of urban
pollution is…” Each paragraph discusses a different aspect of the
topic and provides an example to illustrate the point(s).
c) Conclusion. This is a brief final paragraph. There is no
need to repeat what was said in the introduction or summarise the
contents of the body paragraphs, except perhaps in a brief sentence.
For example, “Thus there are a number of clear reasons why urban
pollution is a serious problem”. The remainder of the conclusion
looks briefly at any further implications of what has been said in the
body of the essay.

7.3.2 The Communicative Approach

The communicative approach emphasises task-oriented
activities that involve the exchange of information, with focus on
fluency. Although the approach practises a good deal of modelling
and controlled practice, a lot of attention is paid to motivation and to
self-expression. It stresses purpose and audience and encourages
interaction among the pupils, with less emphasis on form and
accuracy. Through the activities, many of them based on information
gaps, and done in pairs and groups, the pupils are exposed to a lot of
written language. Listening and reading materials of a factual nature
are also frequently used. Here are some popular ideas of written
communicative activities:
• Relaying instructions
One pupil or one group of pupils elaborate instructions for the
performance of a task. They have to tell another pupil or group to
perform the task by giving them written instructions.
• Writing reports, advertisements, brochures
The pupils write items for a school news broadcast or a school
magazine. They can join together to write a brochure about the place

Developing writing skills
they live in or are studying in. They can write and design their own
• Co-operative writing
The pupils may write joint stories, each pupil contributing a
sentence. They may start either at the first or the last sentence
(these may be or may not be supplied).
• The agony column*
The pupils invent some problem, write letters to the ‘columnist’
and then have them answered by other members of the class.
• Letters of complaint
The pupils write letters of complaint about faulty goods they
have purchased or bad service they received. The ‘company
representatives’ reply to these letters.
• Job applications
The applications can be later on judged and a decision taken
about who is successful.
• Journals
You can write a letter to the pupils in a (small) class, telling
them something about yourself and inviting them to write letters to
you, which you would reply to personally. The pupils may engage in
correspondence about learning, their experiences, how they feel
about school, etc. The pupils use writing for genuinely
communicative purposes and get individual attention from you. The
disadvantages of this procedure are firstly, that some pupils get ‘too
close’ to the teacher and secondly, that it takes a lot of your time.
Alternatively, you can ask the pupils to keep diaries. Here they
will write what they want about what interests them: their classes,
their personal experiences, politics, or they will write stories. You can
ask them to write in their journals for five minutes at the end of every
class, but also when they themselves want to. Such an activity
ensures frequent writing practice, and all pupils have a chance to use
English to reflect their own thoughts and feelings. You have the
advantage of interacting with your pupils as individuals. These diaries
are not primarily to be corrected, but rather to be reacted to. In this
activity, content feedback is far more important than form feedback.
• Projects*
Projects are longer pieces of work that involve the collection of
information and reporting. The quality of the end product is important.
The pupils can use tape-recorders and video cameras to record
interviews with native speakers they can find, or they can consult
libraries (including electronic ones) for source material.

Developing writing skills

7.3.3 Purpose and Motivation

The communicative approach has led us to pay more attention
to the purpose of language and to the content of the message the
pupils intend to get across. But it is sometimes difficult for both
teachers and pupils to think of writing as a motivating, purposeful
activity, especially if the goal of the activity is grammatical accuracy.
In order for the pupils’ writing to be more effective, and for reading to
be more enjoyable, it is important to create other purposes for
The class should approach their task in terms of two questions:
to whom they are writing, and for what purpose. When the pupils
have a better idea of whom their readers are and of how they can get
prepared to negotiate meaning, their writing is more purposeful. For
instance, instead of asking them to write a short autobiography, you
could tell them they are applying for a scholarship to spend a year in
Great Britain. The purpose of the pupils’ writing becomes thus more
goal oriented. They will have to select the relevant qualities to speak
about and present the information in such a way as to show that s/he
could benefit from such an experience and merits the scholarship
over the others.
The incorporation of an element of real communication, such as
‘publication’, is motivating for most pupils. Going public in newsletters
or class magazines and/or organizing the reception of a ‘real’
response (from either a classmate, pupils in another class, pen-
friends or the teacher) may determine the production of more
effective writing.

What purposes should you consider when setting a writing

task? Give a brief answer (no more than 30 words) in the space
provided below.

Check your answer against that given at the end of the unit.

Encouraging your pupils to help each other in preparing their

written tasks may also provide motivation and increase their
confidence. The pupils can brainstorm ideas on a topic, organise
points for, neutral and against a specified argument, negotiate a line
of thought, etc. Pictures, such as cartoons or drawings, may be used
to stimulate ideas. Written tasks can also be the result of other
classroom activities such as reading, debates, role play, etc.
In practice, most teachers and textbook writers draw on more
than one approach, and combine and adapt various elements to suit
their classes.

Developing writing skills

7.4 Feedback on Writing

Think first!

In your own experience of learner of English, what kinds of

feedback did you receive from your teachers? How useful was their

Keep your answer in your portfolio to discuss it with your

classmates and tutor at the next tutorial.

Many teachers feel a terrible temptation to take the pupils’ work,

indicate all the places that need fixing and return it to the pupils.
Undoubtedly, the papers would be better if the pupils handed them in
the second time. The question is whether the pupils care enough
about their papers to want to put them into acceptable form and
whether teachers know how to encourage them to do that.
C. Tribble (1996) identifies four basic roles that teachers may
assume when giving feedback: audience, evaluator, examiner and
As audience, we read the text and say how we find it and if the
author’s point is clearly formulated. We respond to the pupils’ ideas,
feelings and attitudes and indicate whether or not we enjoyed
reading the text. As teachers, we often avoid this role and assume
the ones of evaluators and examiners, who identify problems,
comment and grade.
Our purpose as evaluators is to give feedback on the present
strengths and weaknesses of a text, with a view to help our pupils to
improve their future performance. The text is assessed on all
dimensions: task fulfilment, content, organisation, vocabulary,
language and mechanics.
Each dimension is normally accompanied by descriptors*,
which are adapted to the class level and the purposes of the writing,
use of and made public. One main advantage of the descriptors is that the
descriptors pupils know the basis on which their work is assessed. Another is
that the teacher can recognise excellence in one aspect, while
indicating weaknesses in others. This will help the pupils to identify
the areas they have to work on. The scores are finally converted into
an overall grade. If they are not too vague (e.g., “Good work”, “Well
done”), evaluations can encourage the pupils and point them in the
right direction for future writing. Evaluations may be accompanied by
a short personal response to the message of the text. Thus, the
pupils get complete feedback on the impact their texts have had on
the teacher.
Developing writing skills

Evaluating is pointing out strengths and weaknesses, while

examining is assigning a grade. By giving a grade, you indicate the
degree of excellence that a task has achieved. Once a task has been
graded, the pupils will give it little further thought or work. You need
to assess the pupils’ skills based on explicit criteria. The use of
analytical assessment criteria helps the pupils to understand what is
expected from them and how a weak paper can be improved. By
giving separate scores, one for each area, you can also help the
pupils understand their strengths and weaknesses. Weighting
content and ideas twice as heavily as language or structure, for
instance, will underline the importance of content.
As assistants, you tell the pupils if you find their text effective
in relation to its purpose, pass advice on language, genre, structure
and subject matter. You devote time to their command of language,
trying to assist them at each stage in the writing process and
encourage collaboration among them. In this role, the most
significant contribution that you can make in the writing classroom is
to create a community of readers. However, your assistance cannot
help the pupils to improve a text if you also grade it.
As audience, evaluators and examiners, you give feedback on
the pupils’ text as an end product and your comments come too late
to influence the piece of writing. Your feedback is usually limited to
grading, commenting (superficially) and correcting errors. You give
the pupils no indication of what they are to do next or what they have
to work on. If their task has not been clearly specified and if they do
not really know what the purpose of the writing has been, this sort of
feedback can be time-consuming and demoralising for both you and
the pupils.

Consider the following comments made by various pupils. Try to

identify what role their English teacher assumed when giving
1. My teacher wrote at the bottom of the page that my grammar is
acceptable, but I still have some problems with the present perfect
and the definite article.
2. She told me to change the introduction, and make it more
interesting for the reader.
3. The teacher re-wrote my text, without changing its content and
arguments and brought both my draft and hers to class. We all
discussed and compared the text organisation, development of
ideas, sense of audience and style, but my classmates were not told
whose text the teacher used.
4. I got an 8 in my last assignment.
1. ………..
2. ………..
3. ………..
4. ………..
Compare your answers to those given at the end of the unit.
Developing writing skills

You need strategies to give constructive comments on drafts. If

feedback is done effectively, by the time the text is finished, most of
the problems have been solved. Moreover, the pupils will understand
the purpose of your feedback at each stage.
Writing involves content, organisation, style, syntax, mechanics,
grammar and spelling. When looking at any piece of writing, you
often feel you have to respond to all these. However, the most
important thing to consider, especially at post-beginner level, is
content, followed by organization and presentation. The quality and
balance between amount of pupil writing is very sensitive to constructive teacher
form and content feedback on content and relatively insensitive to teacher correction of
in feedback
form. Feedback on content, unlike feedback on grammar, can
determine the improvement of writing. If you limit your feedback to
pointing out and/or correcting errors, your pupils will concentrate on
producing error-free writing, neglecting the interest or even the
meaning of the content. The equation teaching writing = error
elimination is counter-productive and may result in a waste of time
and discouragement. Ideally, your pupils should be familiar with
various types of feedback.
One problem is how to maintain a fair balance between form
and content when assessing and giving feedback. This balance
depends to some extent on your own teaching situation, experience
and opinion.
The correction of written work can be done on much the same
basis as the correction of oral work. You should not always be
preoccupied with accuracy. There may be times when you are
concerned with accuracy and other times when your main concern is
the content of the writing. Some of us, although fully aware of the
importance of content and organisation, find ourselves dealing mainly
with language accuracy in our feedback, conveying the implicit
message that this is what matters. This happens because language
mistakes are difficult to ignore: they catch the eye and they are more
easily and quickly diagnosed and corrected than the ones of content
and organisation. Moreover, many pupils want their language
mistakes to be corrected.
In spite of all this, you should not convey the message that the
language mistakes are your main concern. To avoid this from
happening, you may note corrections within the body of the text, and
write comments on content and organisation at the end. Feedback in
the form of comments by the teacher, is extremely helpful. The most
important contribution you can make is that of being a careful reader,
willing to respond to what pupils write in terms of clarity, coherence
and effectiveness of content.

Developing writing skills


We have distinguished between learning to write activities,

meant to help the pupils learn to write and writing to learn activities,
meant to help them write to learn (see section 7.1). In about 50
words, say what essential difference will there be between the way
we respond to texts that have been written with these two different

Compare your answer to the one suggested at the end of the


7.4.1 Strategies for the Correction of Mistakes

Correction can be seen as an opportunity to make positive
responses to a pupil’s work. This is extremely difficult to do if your
concern is to mark every error in red pen. Of course, ultimately a
grade will have to be given to the piece of writing, but if it is based
entirely on grammatical accuracy, then the whole point of the writing
will have been lost.
This is not to say that mistakes in syntax or punctuation should
be ignored. It may be a good idea to read a piece of writing twice:
once for the content and the second time for the language. During
the first reading, try to ignore grammatical errors and concentrate
entirely on the content. Assign a mental grade to the content, then re-
read to assess syntax, punctuation, spelling and the way in which the
text hangs together. The final grade should reflect content, shape
and grammatical accuracy.
The problem of correction of mistakes is one of potential conflict
between two of the roles of the teachers: language instructors versus
assistants. If we accept that language should be corrected, then the
problem arises: should all language mistakes be noted? Sometimes
there are so many mistakes that the page will be covered with
corrections and too much correcting can be discouraging,
demoralising and distracting. Over-emphasis on language mistakes
can distract the pupils’ attention from content and organisation. How
can you judge which mistakes to relate to and which not?
Your approach should vary according to context and the pupils’
individual needs. In any situation, your comments should relate to the
task assigned. If the pupils are first asked to express their ideas in
English (free writing, composition) and then to read critically what
they have written in order to make changes, then you should also
Developing writing skills
give a two-stage response, by separating your response to content
and structure from your response to language accuracy.
One approach is to ignore the language mistakes that do not
hinder reading. You may correct only those mistakes that are very
basic and those which affect meaning, leading to misunderstanding
or confusion, such as sentence derailments or faulty subordination.
Other errors may go uncorrected, but while identifying them you can
make a list of error types as they occur and thus create an individual
grammar syllabus.
To help your pupils concentrate on particular aspects of
language, you can tell them that their work will be corrected for only
one thing, the use of tenses, for instance. By doing this, you ensure
that their work will not be covered by red marks, and you encourage
them to focus on particular aspects of written language. You can
individualise language work by identifying for each pupil a few kinds
of errors and assigning tasks that focus on these.
Where a piece of writing contains a number of common errors,
you may photocopy the work (erasing the writer’s name) and show it
to the whole class, asking them to identify problems. In this way, the
attention of the class can be drawn to common mistakes, and the
photocopied document can form the basis for remedial* work.
You will learn about your pupils’ errors if you give them the
pupils discussing opportunity to make them, fix them and discuss them. You can ask
their errors your pupils to discuss where they think their mistakes come from and
why they make them. This will help you to realise which mistakes the
pupils can recognise and which ones they cannot. Asking the pupils
to discuss their mistakes will provide you with information about their
transfers from Romanian or from another foreign language that they
learn. In this way, the mistakes will no longer be everybody’s enemy
but clear evidence of language learning.
Another strategy is to point out both strengths and weaknesses.
Thus, your pupils will have the chance to perceive a correct model in
their own use of language and will be likely to continue taking risks if
they see that their good qualities are noted and encouraged.

• Use of correction symbols

You can indicate mistakes in written work by putting a mark in
the margin to show what kind of mistake it is (e.g., "V" for vocabulary,
"WO" for word order, "WW" for wrong word, "/" for missing word, "SP"
for spelling, "P" for punctuation, "GR" for grammar, "VF" for verb
form, "VT" for verb tense, “?” for unclear meaning or handwriting,
etc.) Indication of mistakes is less time consuming for you than
correcting them, and more effective for the pupils. They have to re-
read the text and spend time in identifying and correcting themselves
the mistakes signalled in the margin.
You need symbols for spelling, wrong tense usage, agreement,
inappropriate language, punctuation, missing words, unclear
meaning, etc. Whatever symbols you use, your pupils should
understand clearly what they mean. When you first use the symbols,
underline the word in the text and put the symbol in the margin. Later
you will only use the symbol in the margin for the pupils to identify the

Developing writing skills

When you bring back to class the pupils’ writing with comments
on content and correction symbols in the margin, you should allow
them time to identify their mistakes and correct them. While they are
identifying their problems, you can help where they do not know what
is wrong. If this stage is not gone through, your pupils will not take
advantage of the system of correction symbols.
There is certainly no perfect approach to giving feedback on
writing. Yet it is essential that your pupils understand how you want
the feedback system to work. You should clarify both for them and for
yourself what your policy on mistakes correction is, what symbols
and abbreviations you use, what you want them to do with their drafts
and your comments when they receive them.

Use a correction code to signal the language mistakes in the

following piece of writing:
I am studying english because I want to work
for a big company when I will graduate.
Perhaps I may to continue my studis. So I must
to reach a good level of english because of
when I will go abroad sended by the company,
I’ll need to understand all. My father, who is
mecanic engineer, he says that english is an
interesting language for all kinds of reason.
Another reason why I am studying english is
that I like myself to listen to the music. I am
learning new expressions and improve my
listening, too. I can mix learning with the
pleasure of listening to the music. Something
else is we often have foreigners invited for
dinner at home who are invited by my parents
and usualy english is the language of
Compare your solution to the one given at the end of the unit.

• Rewriting
When you receive written tasks, you normally correct and
comment on them and give them back. The question is whether you
should insist on the pupils’ rewriting their tasks, incorporating your
suggestions. Your pupils do not like doing it, but, on the other hand,
frequent opportunities for writing and rewriting are an important tool
for improving language, content and structure. Irrespective of the
feedback the pupils receive from you, they improve their work when
they rewrite their texts. According to A. Raimes (1983), the number of
language mistakes decreases by about 20%, even when the
teacher’s response includes no explicit correction of mistakes.
Pupils’ rewriting should be followed by your re-reading. You can
motivate your pupils to rewrite by seeing the first version as
provisional, and assessing the revised version. In this way the pupils
will carefully read and incorporate your comments and new
assignments in their final version. Another reason to ask for rewriting

Developing writing skills
and not spending a long time on first draft correction is that you can
misread your pupils’ intentions. Successful communication also
means that pupils say in writing what they mean. To make sure that
their ideas are communicated accurately, you have to ask them to
rewrite and edit their own texts, assisting them with questions and
comments on the parts of the text that you find obscure.
• Peer correction
Correcting written work is very time-consuming, particularly if
you have large classes. One possible solution is to let the pupils
correct and edit each other’s writing. Even if they cannot discern all
the strengths and weaknesses of an assignment, they will detect at
least some of them. The problem is whether your pupils feel
comfortable correcting or being corrected by their classmates and
whether they accept criticism (positive or negative) form each other.
Their comfort will depend on the general classroom climate. The
attitudes that make peer correction helpful are: mutual trust; a real
listening to each other, a mutual recognition that whatever is said is a
subjective opinion and not necessarily the absolute, objective truth,
and a general desire to communicate effectively taking into account
the others’ reactions.
You could train your pupils in giving and asking for specific and
constructive feedback. For instance, a statement like “I think that this
sentence would be better if you added some colour words” is
constructive while “Your sentences are problematic” is destructive.
The pupils should be encouraged to ask for feedback on spelling,
punctuation, sentence variety, style, etc. In addition, they should
constantly check with their group members to make sure their
comments are clear. They can be taught to ask questions like:
• Is there any place in my text that is hard to follow?
• Is there any point that you do not really understand?
• Is there any place in which my examples, reasons or
explanations need developing?
• Is there any place where I should add more details?
• Is there any place where I seem to wander from my topic?
• Are there any unclear or missing transitions?
If peer correction works, it can be a substitute for your first-draft
reading. The pupils can work together, giving each other feedback on
language, organisation and content. They then rewrite and give in the
final version to you.

The following activity is intended to teach pupils how to

evaluate the content clarity and effectiveness of a classmate’s
composition. The order of the steps has been modified. Your task is
to try to put the steps in logical order:
1. Without looking at the text, tell the author what you think s/he is
saying, or, if it is a narrative, tell the story back to the author as
precisely as you can.
2. After each of you has given and received feedback, rewrite
your tasks.
Developing writing skills
3. Then your partner(s) should give you the same type of
feedback on your text.
4. Ask your partner(s) about anything which seems unclear or for
constructive suggestions.
5. Read each other’s paper carefully.

Compare the order you suggested to that given in the Answers


• Self-correction (critical reading)

V. Zamel (1991) suggests four self-correction techniques that
the pupils can use to correct their own work in class with a critical
1. The pupils read their papers aloud to other pupils. Reading
aloud will help them spot some of the mistakes. In most cases,
they will naturally hesitate when a sentence does not seem to
2. A classmate reads the paper aloud. The new reader may pause
when coming across a mistake or when a sentence is
3. The pupils take their text, cover up everything on the page
except the first sentence, put their pencil point to one word at a
time and say the sentence aloud, word by word. They try to pick
out the core (subject + verb) of the sentence.
4. The pupils read the whole text backwards, sentence by
sentence, starting with the last one. This is a way of focusing
attention on sentence-level accuracy and preventing the eye
from leaping ahead for the content.
The question of class climate, personal relationships, trust and
willingness to accept criticism and help from one another remains.
Because critical reading does not come naturally for many pupils,
you can help them with checklists and/or questions to answer. Thus
the pupils will learn what to look for in a text in order to offer useful
and constructive feedback.

Although recent ELT methodology considers the clarity and
effectiveness of the content of a piece of writing to be more important
than language correctness, writing is still regarded by some teachers
as transcribed speech. They tend to consider the quality of writing in
relation to the frequency and gravity of linguistic errors. They neglect
composition, assuming that once the language has been mastered,
the ability to use the same language for written communication will
follow naturally.
However, writing has a dual purpose: as a means (or a support
skill) and as an end (or a communicative skill). Generally speaking,
you will find two types of writing activities in the English textbooks:
those designed to develop the writing skills per se (writing as an
Developing writing skills
end/communicative skill) and those which provide opportunity of
practising English (writing as a means/support skill).
The kind of feedback that teachers give on writing is largely a
matter of experience. Generally speaking, the red pencil is
intimidating and discouraging, when teachers believe that form
(grammar and spelling) is everything. Alternative ways of determining
re-writing can be found, such as peer-correction and self-correction.

Key Concepts

• genre
• writing sub-skills
• cohesion
• coherence
• text-based approach
• process approach
• audience
• form
• content
• peer correction
• self-correction

Further Reading
1. Harmer, J. (1998) Teach English, Longman, Chapter 8
2. Nunan, D. (1991) Language Teaching Methodology. A
Textbook for Teachers., Prentice Hall, Chapter five

Answers to SAQs
Should your answers to SAQs 1 and 2 not be comparable
to those given below, please revise section 7.1 of the unit.

Most people can function effectively in a foreign country with
the ability to write simple things (e.g., shopping lists, letters,
postcards), and to fill in official forms. Only a few people need to
write reports, and even fewer need to write essays or newspaper
articles. Advanced English learners may need to write essays,
reports, business letters or even Ph.D. theses. The role of written
English in the life of foreign speakers of English is very different from
the one it occupies in the lives of native speakers.

Developing writing skills

Although conventions of text organisation may vary according
to culture, the pupils who write coherently in Romanian will transfer
this ability to English, as coherence is closely connected to logical
thinking. However, problems may arise caused by the inadequate
command of cohesion, complex structure constructions, deixis and
definiteness devices.

Should your answers to SAQs 3, 4 and 5 not be comparable

to those given below, please revise section 7.3 of the unit.

Dictation can be very time-consuming, especially if it is
corrected word by word afterwards. The main disadvantage is that it
does not really develop writing skills, as the pupils do not express
ideas in a written form or find ways of constructing sentences.
Moreover, it is unrealistic as the pupils listen to a text read word by
word and at an unnaturally slow speed.

Reading is an important key to good writing. All the stages
suggested are necessary to familiarise the pupils with text types.
Only after reading and analysing a text type, can we ask our pupils to
write examples of the respective text types themselves. The stages
can be covered over several lessons.
A possible sequence is c, d, b, a.

Some of the purposes that can be mentioned include diagnostic
purposes, developing linguistic competence, encouraging the
development of fluency, providing practice in writing skills.

Should your answers to SAQs 6, 7, 8 and 9 not be

comparable to those given below, please revise section 7.4 of
the unit.

1. evaluator, 2. audience, 3. assistant, 4. examiner.

In writing to learn activities, our pupils need clear, unambiguous
feedback on the language they used, as they need to learn from their
mistakes. The purpose of the writing task is to practise English in a
controlled way. In learning to write activities, we have to respond to
the learner’s needs, as we see them, and refrain from acting as a

Developing writing skills

Here is a possible code for the correction of mistakes:
SP I am studying english because I want to work for a big
VT, G company when I will graduate. Perhaps I may to continue my
SP, SP, G studis. So I must to reach a good level of english because of
VT, V when I will go abroad sended by the company, I’ll need to
G, Art, SP, understand all. My father,) who is mecanic engineer, he says
G, SP, Art that english is a interesting language for all kinds of reasons.
SP, V, Art, Another reason why I am studying english is that I like myself
VT, Art, V to listen to the music. I am learning new expressions and
VF improve my listening, too. I can mix learning with the pleasure
Art, G of listening to the music. Something else is we often have
SP, SP,SP foreigners invited for dinner at home who are invited by my
Etc. parents and usualy english is the language of comunication.

The recommended order of steps is 5, 1, 3, 4, and 2.

General bibliography

General Bibliography
1. Balan, Rada, Cehan A., et al. (2003) In-service Distance
Training Course for Teachers of English, British Council, Iaşi: Polirom
2. Cunningsworth, A. (1995) Choosing your Coursebook,
3. Doff, A. (1988) Teach English, Cambridge: CUP
4. Dvorak, Trisha (1986) “Writing in the Foreign Language”
in L. M. Calkins (ed.) Listening, Reading and Writing: Analysis and
Application, Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign
5. Eggen, P. and Kauchak D. (2004) Educational
Psychology, Pearson
6. Elbow, P. (1986) “Teaching Two Kids of Thinking by
Teaching Writing” in Embracing Contraries, Oxford University Press
7. Emig, J. (1981) “Non-magical thinking: Presenting
writing developmentally in schools” in C. Frederiksen & J. Dominic
(eds.) Writing: The nature, development and teaching of written
communication, (vol. 2), Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
8. Grabe, W. (1991) “Current Developments in Second
Language Reading Research”, TESOL Quarterly Vol.25, No.3,
pp.375 – 406
9. Grellet, Francoise (1981) Developing Reading Skills,
10. Harmer, J. (1991) The Practice of English Language
Teaching, Longman
11. Harmer, J. (1991) The Practice of English Language
Teaching, Longman
12. Harmer, J. (1998) Teach English, Longman
13. Harris, J. (1993) Introducing Writing, London: Penguin
14. Hedge, Tricia (1998) Writing, OUP
15. Hopkins A. and Tribble C. (1989) Outlines, Harlow:
16. Johnson, K. and K. Morrow (eds.) (1981)
Communication in the Classroom, Longman
17. Littlewood W. (1981) Communicative Language
Teaching, CUP
18. Lynch, T. (1996) Communication in the Language
Classroom, OUP
19. McDonough, J. and Shaw Christopher (1993) Materials
and Methods in ELT. A Teacher’s Guide, Blackwell
20. Nunan, D. (1989) Designing Tasks for the
Communicative Classroom, Cambridge: CUP
21. Nuttall, Christine (1982) Teaching Reading Skills in a
Foreign Language, Heinemann
22. Omaggio Hadley, Alice (1993) Teaching Language in
Context, Heinle & Heinle Publishers
23. Parrott, M. (1993) Tasks for Language Teachers,
Cambridge: CUP
24. Raimes, Ann (1983) Techniques in Teaching Writing,
Oxford: OUP

General bibliography
25. Raimes, Ann (1991) “Errors: Windows into the Mind” in
College ESL Journal, vol. 1, No. 2, December, pp. 55-64
26. Reid, J. M. (1982) The Process of Composition,
Eaglewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall
27. Richards, J.C., Platt, J., and Platt, H. (1992) Dictionary
of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, Longman
28. Rodriguez, R. (1983) Hunger of Memory, Bantam
29. Scrivener, J. (1994) Learning Teaching, Oxford:
30. Silberstein, Sandra (1993) Techniques and Resources in
Teaching Reading, Oxford: OUP
31. Tribble, C. (1996) Writing, Oxford: OUP
32. Ueland, Brenda (1987) “Everybody is Talented, Original
and has Something Important to Say” in If You Want to Write, St.
Paul, Graywolf Press
33. Ur, Penny (1996) A Course in Language teaching.
Practice and Theory, Cambridge: CUP
34. Waterhouse P. (1990) Classroom Management,
Stafford: Network Educational Press
35. White, R. (1987) Writing, Oxford: OUP
36. Zamel, Vivian (1992) “Writing One’s Way into Reading”
in TESOL Quarterly, Autumn

Glossary of ELT terms


Accuracy: correctness of the language used.

Accuracy work: techniques and strategies used to encourage
accuracy. These may range from frills through gap-filling exercises to
matching exercises. Usually there is one correct answer only.
Activity: part of a lesson with a particular focus and a clear
framework (e.g., grammar or vocabulary exercise, problem solving,
Approach: theory about the nature of language and about how
a language is learned. It implies different ways of teaching language
(method) and different methods making use of different kinds of
classroom activity (technique). Examples of different approaches are
the “Aural-oral Approach”, the “Cognitive Code Approach”, and the
“Communicative Approach”.
Appropriacy: language suitability for a particular situation or
occasion. It depends on a number of situational factors such as the
roles and status of language users, the roles and relationships of any
other participants to the communication situation, the setting and the
Agony column: a part of a newspaper or magazine where
experts give advice on all kinds of matters (e.g., marital problems,
trouble at work, etc.).
Anaphora: reference to an element previously mentioned.
Assessment: measurement of the ability of a pupil or the
quality or success of a course, etc. It may be by test, interview,
questionnaire, observation, etc.
Audio-visual aid: audio or visual device used to help learning
(e.g., pictures, charts, flashcards are visual aids*; radio records and
tape-recorders are auditory aids; film, television and video are audio-
visual aids).
Authentic: (about materials or activities) based on real items or
real-life requirements; not specifically prepared for language teaching
Automaticity: ability to use language without conscious
processing (awareness or attention). Many skills are considered to
be learned when they can be performed automatically.
Body language: use of facial expressions and body
movements to communicate meaning.

Glossary of ELT terms

Brainstorming: a) group activity in which pupils have a free

and relatively unstructured talk on an assigned topic as a way of
pooling knowledge, information and ideas. b) a form of prewriting in
which pupils write down as many thoughts as possible on a topic
without paying attention to organisation, sentence structure or
Bottom-up process: way in which humans analyse and
process language. It makes use of information that is already present
in the text. It involves understanding a text mainly by analysing the
words and sentences in the text itself. By contrast, top-down
processing makes use of previous knowledge, expectations,
experience, schemas, etc.
Cataphora: reference to an element mentioned later.
Choral / Chorus repetition: technique of asking a group or
class of pupils to repeat an example together for accuracy and
reinforcement; used in pattern practice* and drills.
Classroom atmosphere / climate: affective aspects of the
classroom, such as the feelings generated by and about the teacher,
the pupils or the subject matter. Aspects of the classroom itself that
contribute positively or negatively to learning.
Classroom discourse: type of language used in classroom
situations. Often different in form and function from language used in
everyday life. Teachers tend to rely on a discourse structure with the
pattern: initiation – response – evaluation. In this typical structure, the
teacher initiates a question in order to check the pupil’s knowledge, a
pupil responds, and the response is evaluated with feedback from
the teacher.
Classroom interaction: patterns of verbal and non-verbal
communication and types of social relationships that occur in the
Classroom management: ability to organise all aspects of the
classroom, from furniture layout, lesson stages, materials and
equipment, group organisation, to discipline and evaluation. Ways in
which pupil behaviour, movement, interaction, etc. during a class is
organised and controlled by the teacher to enable learning to take
place effectively. It includes procedures for grouping pupils for
different types of activities, use of lesson plans, handling of
equipment, aids, etc. and the direction and management of pupil
behaviour and activity.
Cloze procedure: a technique used to test reading and
listening comprehension using a written passage from which every
nth (6th, 7th or 8th) word is left out for the pupil to supply.
Code switching: change from one language (or language
variety) to another.

Glossary of ELT terms

Cognate: a word in one language that is similar in form and

meaning to a word in another language, e.g., contemporary –
contemporan, to validate – a valida, etc.
Cognitive process / strategy: mental process we use in
language learning, such as inferencing, generalisation, deductive
learning, memorising, etc.
Coherence: relationships that link the meanings of utterances
in a discourse or of the sentences in a text. These links may be
based on the speakers’ shared knowledge. Generally, a paragraph
has coherence if it made up of a series of sentences that develop a
main idea, with a topic sentence and supporting sentences.
Cohesion: grammatical and/or lexical relationships between the
different elements of a text (sentences or parts of a sentence).
Communicative approach / Communicative language
teaching: approach to foreign language teaching which emphasises
that the goal of language learning is communicative competence.
Teaching materials used with a communicative approach a) often
teach the language needed to express and understand different
kinds of functions (e.g., requesting, expressing likes and dislikes,
describing, etc.); b) are based on a communicatively organised
syllabus, c) emphasise the process of communication, such as using
language appropriately in different types of situations, for social
interaction with other people.
Communicative competence: the ability of not only appyling
the grammar rules in order to form grammatically correct sentences
but also of knowing in what context the sentences are appropriate.
Communicative drill: drill in which the type of response is
controlled but the pupil provides his/her own content or information.
Competence: a person’s internalised grammar. Ability to create
and understand sentences and knowledge of what are and what are
not sentences of a particular language. Distinction is made between
competence and performance, which is the actual use of the
Connectors: words or phrases that serve as links, and indicate
the relationship between what they are linking. For instance, as and
because indicate cause, consequently indicates result, although
indicates contrast, and and moreover indicate addition, then indicates
sequence, etc. Connectors act as signposts and help the readers to
anticipate and find their way through a text.
Context: that which occurs before and/or after a word, a phrase
or even a longer utterance or text. It often helps in understanding the
particular meaning of the word, phrase, etc.
Contextual meaning: meaning that a linguistic item has in
context, for example, the meaning a word has within a particular
sentence or a sentence has in a particular paragraph.

Glossary of ELT terms

Contextualisation: introduction of a topic/theme/activity by a

presentation which may involve Q/A, brainstorming, visual materials
or other techniques.
Controlled composition: oral or written composition (e.g., fill in
the blanks, combining sentences, etc.), in which the pupils follow a
model and instructions in order to produce error-free writing.
Curriculum: educational programme which states the
educational purpose of the programme; the content, teaching
procedures and learning experiences which will be necessary to
achieve this purpose; some means for assessing whether or not the
educational ends have been achieved. Sometimes, another term for
syllabus. Romanian: “plan de invatamant”
Deictics: terms that cannot be interpreted without an immediate
context. Words that have a ‘pointing’ function in a given discourse
context. For instance, the following note, pinned on a door: "Sorry I
missed you. I'm out of the office. Back in an hour” cannot be
interpreted without knowing who it was written by, who it is addressed
to or what time the note was written. Deictic expressions are typically
pronouns, demonstratives, certain time and place adverbs (here and
now), some verbs of motion (come and go) and even tenses. These
words cannot be given a precise meaning in a dictionary because they
are dependent on context for interpretation.
Descriptor: brief description of language performance, usually
arranged on a scale.
Display question: question that is not a real question as it does
not seek information unknown to the teacher. It is used to elicit
language practice.
Drill: an accuracy technique to offer opportunities for the use of
correct language forms and for establishing correct habits. It is based
on guided repetition or practice. A drill that practises some aspect of
grammar or sentence formation is also known as pattern practice. A
drill has two parts: the cue (the word or sentence provided as a model
by the teacher) and the pupils’ response based on repetition,
substitution or transformation. Examples:
Type of drill cue response
substitution We bought a house.
car We bought a car.
repetition We bought a house. We bought a house.
We bought a car. We bought a car.
transformation We bought a house. Did you buy a house?
What did you buy?
See also meaningful drill, mechanical drill and communicative
EFL: English as a foreign language.

Glossary of ELT terms

Elicitation: technique of getting information, language

contributions, ideas or opinions from pupils using a variety of
questioning techniques.
ELT: English Language Teaching
Ellipsis: the leaving out of words or phrases after they have
been referred to or mentioned, e.g., I saw a deer and you (saw) a
Embedded clause: a clause within a sentence, e.g., "The news
that he died surprised them."
Error: systematic deviation from the norm. Errors can be
classified according to vocabulary (lexical error), pronunciation
(phonological error), grammar (morphological or syntactic error),
misunderstanding of the speaker’s intention or meaning (interpretive
error), production of the wrong communicative effect) pragmatic
error). See also mistake.
Essay: longer piece of writing, often organised according to a
number of rhetorical forms and containing an introduction, a body
and a conclusion.
Evaluation: a) of pupils: process of giving marks/grades
according to the requirements of the system; b) of materials:
decisions to be made about the quality. It may involve the study of
the curriculum, objectives, tests, grading systems, etc. Tests and
other measures are used.
Feedback: process of giving comments or information on pupil
performance, by pointing out things done successfully as well as
errors. It can be done by either the teacher or other pupils.
Figures: information presented in the form of diagrams, tables,
maps, graphs, illustrations, etc.
Fluency: a) ability to produce spoken or written language with
ease; b) ability to speak with a good command of intonation,
vocabulary and grammar; c) ability to communicate ideas effectively;
d) ability to produce continuous speech without causing
comprehension difficulties or communication breakdown.
Fluency work: activities used to get pupils to express
themselves freely on a particular topic without paying attention to the
underlying language or fearing mistakes.
Follow-up: an activity developing from another which was done
Free writing/composition: kind of writing in which pupils write
without a model and with minimum guidance from the teacher.
Function: purpose for which an utterance or unit of language is
used. Functions are often described as categories of behaviour, e.g.,
requests, apologies, complaints, offers, compliments, etc.

Glossary of ELT terms

Gap-filling: completing the empty spaces (blanks) of a text.

Genre: a particular text type (spoken or written) with distinctive
characteristics in terms of structure, style, content and intended
audience, used in different social activities, e.g., recipes, letters of
complaint, essays, reports, speeches, novels, etc. A genre changes:
it is not a rigid set of rules for text formation. Social practice, which is
subject to change itself, makes a genre dynamic.
Gist: the main point or part; essence (like in "the gist of an
Graphic conventions: layout, punctuation, type face, use of
symbols and so on.
Grouping: arranging pupils into groups to help them learn
better. Different group arrangements include: whole-group (whole
class), small group (6 – 8 pupils), and tutorial group (less than 5
Group work: independent work on specific tasks, carried out
simultaneously by groups of 3 - 4 pupils.
Guided writing/composition: writing in which pupils are given
models and instructions but also the choice of using their own words.
Habit: pattern of behaviour that is regular and has become
almost automatic as a result of repetition.
Hyponymy: a relationship between two words, in which the
meaning of one of the words (superordinate) includes the meanig of
the other word (hyponym), e.g., flower (super-ordinate) – rose
Hypothesis: speculation concerning either observed or
expected relationships among phenomena.
Individualisation: strategy of giving pupils more control over
learning. In individualised instruction/learning, objectives are based
on the needs of individual learners, and allowances are made for
individual differences in what pupils wish to learn, how they learn and
the rate at which they learn.
Inferencing: process of arriving at a hypothesis, idea or
judgement on the basis of other knowledge, ideas, or judgements.
Learning strategy used by learners to work out grammatical and
other kinds of rules.
Information gap: a situation where information is known by
only some of those involved in communication. In order to promote
communication in the classroom, there must be an information gap
between pupils or between pupils and teacher. Without such a gap,
the classroom activities are mechanical and artificial.
Instructions: a part of class management and lesson planning.
Clarifications about what needs to be done. They should be clear and
Glossary of ELT terms

Integrated approach: the teaching of the language skills of

reading, writing, listening and speaking in conjunction with each
Interaction: in general, communication between people
involving the use of speech or written language. In the classroom,
patterns of discourse among various participants: T – whole class, T
– individual pupils, in pairs, in group work, etc.
IRF: Initiation – Response – Feedback.
Jigsaw: activity in which each member of a group has a piece
of information needed to complete a group task.
Language proficiency: a person’s skill in using a language or
degree of skill with which a person can use a language.
Learner-centred approach: approach to language learning
based on the individual needs and interests of the learner rather than
on a fixed syllabus or course book.
Lexical item: a word or group of words used in an utterance or
a sentence.
Lingua franca: language used for communication between
different groups of people, each speaking a different language.
Lockstep: pattern of teaching involving all the pupils in the
same task at the same time.
Materials: things that pupils use in the process of learning,
such as textbooks, handouts, readers, etc.
Meaningful drill: drill in which there is some control over the
response, but understanding is required in order for the pupil to
produce a correct response.
Mechanical drill: drill where there is complete control over the
pupil’s response, and where comprehension is not required in order
to produce a correct response.
Method: see approach. Examples of different methods based
on a particular approach are the “Audiolingual Method”, the “Direct
Method”, etc.
Mistake: accidental deviation from the norm, caused by non-
linguistic factors like carelessness, tiredness, stress, etc.
Mnemonic device: device, such as a string of letters or a line
of verse, used for helping one to remember something.
Monitor (to): to pay attention to the way in which pupils are
approaching a task when working independently, in pairs or groups.
The teacher may give guidance or hints and observe errors for later
OHP: Over-head projector.

Glossary of ELT terms

Open-ended question: a question which allows the pupils to

answer in their own way, in contrast to questions with limited
multiple-choice possibilities.
Pace: amount of time spent on a task.
Pair work: independent work on a task carried out
simultaneously by groups of two.
Paralinguistic features: not a systematic part of language.
Include such features as the way someone is speaking – loudly or
softly, shouting or whispering, the facial expression and physical
gestures they use when they speak.
Pattern practice: see drill.
Peer: person who has the same position, age, rank or level.
Performance: see competence.
Pre- … activity: activity that precedes and leads in to the main
focus activity. It may be used with any of the four skills.
Pre-teaching: focus on certain areas (such as structures or
vocabulary) that will occur in a following text.
Portfolio: work that has been produced and accumulated over
a period of time and submitted for assessment.
Problem solving: task for pupils to solve (often done in pair or
group work); the starting point is the same for all pupils, but their
solutions or emphases may be different.
Process approach: approach meant to improve the pupils’
writing skill, which emphasises the composing processes writers
make use of in writing, such as planning, drafting and revising.
Product – process distinction: distinction made between
completed acts of communication or language output (products) and
the underlying abilities and skills used in producing them
Productive skills: skills requiring production of language, i.e.
speaking and writing.
Project work: activity done in groups, in pairs or individually, in
which pupils focus on a topic or a theme and study it in detail,
followed by a final oral presentation to their peers. It involves three
stages: classroom planning, carrying out the project and reviewing
and monitoring. It is an activity which promotes co-operative learning,
reflects the principles of pupil-centred teaching and promotes
language learning through the use of language for authentic
communicative purposes.
Prosodic features: non-verbal aspects of language used
systematically to help give meaning to utterances: rhythm, phrasing
and pauses.

Glossary of ELT terms

Rapport: in general, a sympathetic relationship; understanding;

In the classroom, the way the teacher and pupils behave towards
one another.
Readability: how easily written materials can be read and
understood. It depends on the length of the sentences, number of
new words, and grammatical complexity.
Realia: objects from real life used in the language classroom as
teaching aids.
Receptive skills: skills requiring the ability of understanding
communication, i.e. listening and reading.
Redundancy: degree to which a message contains more
information than is needed to be understood.
Reference: the relationship between a word or phrase and an
entity in the external world. Reference covers all the devices that
allow lexical relationship within a text: words that refer to or are used
instead of other words (pronouns, demonstratives, comparatives).
For instance, the sentence ‘She asked John to go home and he did’
has three examples of reference: she, he and did. Only did can be
interpreted from the given context. Reference also covers such
lexical relationships as substitution, ellipsis, synonymy, hyponymy,
anaphora and cataphora.
Reference material: all the parts of a text that help the reader
to locate information or predict what the text contains, such as titles,
index, blurb and so on.
Reflective teaching: approach to teaching based on the
assumption that teachers can improve their understanding of
teaching and the quality of their own teaching by reflecting critically
on their teaching experiences.
Remedial work: work aimed at putting right existing language
Repair: ways in which errors, mistakes or misunderstandings
are corrected by speakers or others during communication.
Repetition drill: see drill.
Role card: card where the role for a subsequent role-play
activity is written for a “character”. The role may be restricted or very
freely outlined.
Role play: drama-like fluency activity in which the pupils play
parts and practise language appropriate to a given situation.
Scanning: speedy reading to extract specific bits of information.
Schema (pl. schemata): an underlying structure or general way
of organizing ideas that provides a basis for the listener’s and
reader’s expectations of how a text will develop.

Glossary of ELT terms

Self-access: (of materials) capacity of materials to be used

independently by pupils without the guidance or direction of the
Self-access learning centre: room or area containing learning
resources, which pupils can use under supervision. It may contain
computers for individual use, video and audio facilities, as well as
books. Pupils may be directed to certain learning materials designed
to complement regular teaching activities.
Simulation: activity which reproduces or simulates real
situations in which pupils act out situations with or without prior
preparation. It often involves dramatisation and group discussion.
Skimming: reading to get the general picture, without paying
attention to details. Skimming entails the reader’s ability to pick out
main points rapidly, discarding what is not essential or relevant to
that general picture.
Substitution: replacing a word or phrase that has already been
mentioned, e.g., use of pronouns, so, not, etc.
Substitution drill: see drill.
Syllabus: description of the contents of a course of instruction
and the order in which they are taught. It may be structural (based on
grammatical items and vocabulary), situational (based on the
language needed for different situations), communicative (based on
meanings and communicative functions), etc. Romanian: “programa”.
See also curriculum.
Synonymy: relationship between words, which have the same
or nearly the same meaning, e.g., hide – conceal.
Target language: a) language that is being studied; b) the
language into which a translation is made.
Task: activity designed to help achieve a particular learning
Teacher-centred approach: approach to language teaching
based on the dictates of the teacher, on a given syllabus and/or a
course book.
Teacher development: on-going professional development of
teachers beyond initial training, through in-service education
Teacher talk: language used by teachers when they are in the
process of teaching. It is often simplified language.
Team teaching: situation in which two teachers share a class
and divide instruction between them.
Technique: see approach. Examples of techniques are drills,
dialogues, role-plays, sentence completion, etc.

Glossary of ELT terms
TEFL: acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
TESOL: acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other
Languages. Used particularly in the USA. In British usage, this is
usually referred to as ELT (English Language Teaching).
Text: a piece of spoken or written language.
Top-down process: way in which humans analyse and
process language, making use of previous knowledge. The other way
is the bottom-up process.
Transformation drill: see drill.
Utterance: what is said by a person before or after another
person begins to speak.
Visual aids: visual support for pupils in the form of pictures,
drawings, cartoons, graphs, etc.
Wait time: the pause after a teacher has asked a question
before a pupil is asked to respond.

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