Tag Archives: esl

NoRedInk for offloading grammar diagnostics, instruction, and practice

2016 KOTESOL International Conference

Davis Ellis and I presented on our experience using NoRedInk with our academic English writing courses in the English Education department at a university in Seoul, South Korea. Our experiences, as well as the students’ experiences, were overall very good. The presentation provides suggestions for future implementations and one sincere desire to have access to the paid version of the site (still waiting on that one).

Abstract
This study investigated the use of NoRedInk, an online adaptive learning system with a focus on English grammar, by students in a first year writing course in an English Education program at a mid-sized university in Seoul, South Korea. It was noted that students in this course made a broad variety of grammar errors in their writing, which made addressing grammar topics during class time difficult. Previous instructional interventions had been both scattershot and time consuming. The extracurricular use of NoRedInk was seen as a way to address multiple challenges: class time, diagnostics, instruction, and practice. The questions this study addressed were: (1) how did students perceive the implementation of NoRedInk, and (2) did the use of NoRedInk correspond with a reduction of specific grammar errors in student writing. To answer these questions, data—end of course survey/interviews, NoRedInk reports, and student writing pre-/post-intervention assessments—were collected and analyzed. Survey data were analyzed to identify patterns to student perceptions and feedback, with follow-up interviews to further confirm and explore. Data from NoRedInk and the pre-/post-intervention writing assessments were analyzed for change in error rate as correlated with NoRedInk usage and performance. This presentation will detail the implementation of NoRedInk and the subsequent findings regarding student perceptions and performance.

Korean Flipped Writing Classes: Learning from Doing

Wall Flip, by JB London

2015 KAMALL-GLoCALL International Conference

Abstract:
Flipped learning approaches are being eyed for their potential to improve learning through reorganizing both the classroom and homework experience. Front-loading content and lower-order thinking activities normally provided during class time can free time during class to focus more on higher-order thinking activities. The purpose of this action research was to evaluate the flipped classroom model as implemented in an academic writing class at a Korean university and to use insights from student performance, student perceptions, and applied practice to revise instructional design. This action research was conducted with 137 students over two semesters of an academic English writing course. Data were collected through course assignments, end-of-course surveys, and student interviews. Findings indicate overall approval for aspects of the flipped classroom approach, including the use of instructional video and the focus on higher-order thinking activities during class. However, aspects of instructional methodology and content development were seen to be in need of modification and reconsideration. These findings will benefit teachers who are struggling to develop writing courses in a similar context.

PPT File (2015 KAMALL-GLoCALL_Korean Flipped Writing Classes)

 

Preparing Teachers to Teach Listening

Ian Britton
Ian Britton
http://www.freefoto.com/images/9910/12/9910_12_2253—Stop-Look-Listen-Sign_web.jpg

In my last post (Discovering Field’s Diagnostic Listening Instruction) I explained how I am approaching listening instruction with both a listening class and a teaching listening class using Field’s Diagnostic Listening Instruction.  In this post, I want to focus on what I do with the Teaching Listening class.  I’ll include a good deal of the materials as well as some design tensions that have arisen in the past and how I’m trying to deal with them now.

My main goal is to focus students on modifying texts (audio) and tasks to best assess for gaps in listening skills and to provide skills training to fill those gaps.  In doing so, we focus largely on Field’s Decoding and Meaning-Building Processes.

Chapters 2-4 discuss beginning, intermediate, and advanced level learners (in addition to other topics mixed into each chapter).  These chapters provide for a good launching off point in the discussion of text & task modification for diverse learners.  Students in the class have to consider learner abilities at each level (ACTFL Guidelines are a helpful framework).  They then have to analyze texts (audio) for potential difficulties that learners may encounter.  Doing this for imaginary learners is less than ideal, but this lack of authenticity is address later in the course (see below).  These analyses then inform how the texts and tasks are implemented in instruction.

The activities/lessons that arise out of these activities are rather predictable.  Students tend to focus on aspects of background knowledge, vocabulary, speaker dialect and speed, number of speakers, background noise, and so forth.  This is when the students usually have to be pushed to refer to the decoding and meaning-building processes.  This takes them out of their comfort zone (based on their own learning experiences) and requires them to think about a wide range of processes that inform listening.  Follow-up assignments that required referencing the processes list tend to show a greater variety of modifications and task-types.

Take the following example.  You have a group of largely low-level English language learners.  Through initial assessments of their listening comprehension, you have found that many are unable to distinguish certain phonemes, they have difficulty finding word boundaries (isolating individual words in multiword utterances), and they have difficulty understanding many dialects that differ noticeably from the North American dialects that they have grown used to.

Knowing this about the learners, you have to choose appropriate texts and tasks to address these gaps.  While you certainly can address more than one at a time, it might be helpful here to isolate our learning objectives.  Let’s take the word boundaries issue first.   We should be addressing this specific performance gap and the processes that can help: stress-timed rhythm, stressed and unstressed words (content vs. function), pronunciation of unstressed syllables, common features of connected speech (linking, blending, elision, etc.), and so forth.

Text: Given the objective, the focus should be more on listening to each word.  In order to do this, it would probably be best for the text to be naturally spoken by a familiar speaker (teacher) or in a familiar dialect.  The text should feature content and vocabulary/expressions that learners are largely familiar with.

Task: The task is focused on these listening processes.  Teachers can explicitly teach some aspects like the features of stress-timed rhythm or these aspects can be gleaned by exposure to the language (likely mixed with some guidance by the teacher).  The tasks, however, should be focused an a particular learning objective.  For stress-timed rhythm, students can be asked to mark all of the stressed words in phrases, sentences, or paragraphs.  That task can then quickly move into a discussion about the primacy of syllables over words in listening and pronunciation.  This then leads into discussion/tasks on the pronunciation and identification of unstressed words and syllables.  This can (and should) continue until each of the learning objectives have been addressed.

These tasks are good at focusing learners on modification and role that student variables play in instructional design. However, this is largely an empty academic task.  This year, I have the good fortune to be able to offer a little more authenticity.  Learners in the Teaching Listening class will be developing lessons for actual listening classes offered by the university and taught by me.  This is the first semester that the course has been offered and I was asked to design and implement it.  I decided to eat my own dog food and attempt to apply the principles of a diagnostic listening approach to the course (I’ll write more about that experience later).  In addition, I realized that this could be a great opportunity for the English Education students to design instruction for real learners.

This semester, the Teaching Listening students will spend much of the second half of the semester developing instruction that I will implement in my classes.  The plan is to have small groups be responsible for developing lessons that address common listening problems as diagnosed by the listening class’s midterm exam.  The students will be given access to anonymized testing and assessment data, which will guide their lesson development.  Lessons (with all materials) will be submitted to me and if I think that they would benefit the listening class, I’ll teach those materials.  I’m even considering having the English Education students run the instruction, but I’m not so sure that I’ll do that.  Anyone want to convince me either way?

That’s about it for the overview.  See below for a bunch of materials related to the class.

PowerPoints that I use in the course. The chapter presentations do contain some information and  resources not in the book.

Other course materials:

 

 

Discovering Field’s Diagnostic Listening Instruction

Photo by garageolimpo
Photo by garageolimpo

When I was first given a class on teaching listening, I scoured the bookstores for a textbook.  It was at that point I realized just how little respect listening instruction receives in publication.  There are a handful of books that cover a mix of speaking and listening, including a well-respected book by Paul Nation, Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking. Most of these books short change listening, though Nation treats it better than most.  A class dedicated to the practice of teaching listening shouldn’t have to share a text with speaking instruction.  A focused class deserves a focused text.

I finally found John Field’s book, Listening in the Language Classroom.  Field’s book is an amazing take on listening instruction.  He promotes using a “diagnostic approach” to listening instruction, which he contrasts with what he refers to as a “comprehension approach.”  This changed the way that I approached language instruction and the preparation of teachers who will have to do the same. I was one of the many who treated listening as a kind of solitary unit that learners either got or didn’t get. I never thought thought about WHY they had difficulties understanding past the obvious (and overly emphasized) issues of speed and vocabulary.

I was excited to use this with my students at the time and did so in that first semester.  It was one of the biggest disasters of my teaching career.  I rightfully had high expectations for the students in the class (all English Education majors), but I so completely misjudged the difficulty of the text.  It was a rookie mistake and both the students and I suffered for it.  I ended up sidelining the book and created outlines and presentations for the students to read/listen to instead (those outlines can be found on this Posterous site until the service closes down on April 30, 2013).  While that experience soured me on using Field’s book with my students, it did nothing to dissuade me from using his ideas with future classes.

I now try to integrate Field’s concepts and approach to instruction with a much easier, accessible text for learners in my classes (Practical English Language Teaching: Listening).  This series of books is written to be as accessible as possible to novice learners in the field of TESOL.  The “Listening” book is no exception.  In the past, I’ve spread the book out over the duration of a semester while sprinkling in concepts from the Field book to add depth.

This semester I’m trying something new.  The first 4 chapters will be done primarily as self-study, while I put more of a focus on Field’s concepts and the application of those concepts with different groups of learners (in parallel with chapters 2-4 in the PELT: Listening text).  The second half of the semester students will primarily be developing lessons for two listening courses taught at the university, with a focus on diagnosing student problems and implementing instructional interventions that address these weaknesses.  I’m quite excited about this partnership and a little nervous as well.

I’ll be following up here on this project throughout the semester, discussing the challenges and, hopefully, successes throughout.

 

I’d love to hear any thoughts that you have.  What experiences have you had with teaching listening or with teaching teachers how to to teach listening (that’s a mouthful)?  Anything I should look out for? Anything I should try?  Any great lessons that go beyond simple comprehension?