Language Learning: Critiquing Teaching Observations

Introduction

Learning strategies refer to the thoughts and actions that human beings engage in their daily lives in order to achieve a certain goal. In teaching and learning of language, learning strategies enable the language teachers identify areas of weakness of their students. This allows them to device appropriate ways of teaching which leads to success of the learners (Lund & Tannehill, 2009).

Stages of Language Learning

According to the curriculum development for foreign languages, language users in stage 1 should deal with aspects of daily life in predictable settings of daily life.

Students in this stage require memorization of content whereby the speakers should be highly sympathetic. In stage two, the learners begin to portray proficiency in the language whereby they are able to comprehend and produce created language. This involves sentence modification and formulation (Lund & Tannehill, 2009). Students also learn how to deal with courtesy requirements and evaluation of oneself as well as the immediate environment.

In stage three according to the curriculum, students obtain the chance to pursue their interests in the language whereby they adapt vocabulary relating to their personal needs. This gives them the full mandate of becoming independent users of the target language (Craft, A. 2000). Stage four learners on the other hand tend to take risks and are willing to make mistakes and correct them accordingly. They explore topics that tend to be less familiar and experiment with complex structures, which may be associated with advanced functions.

Learning Strategies

Development of learning strategies enables learners to have self confidence and understand their effectiveness in learning. This process can be referred to as Meta cognition. This knowledge gives the students room for self evaluation and reflection which they use in planning how to go about a learning task. Learning strategies also assist the language learners in trying to evaluate their performance (Papen, 2007). Students with high meta cognitive knowledge understand well the similarities between the current and the previous tasks of learning. They also have adequate knowledge of the strategies required for successful learning and have a strong anticipation for success.

Lesson Observations

In one lesson observation, I analyzed the differences between more and less effective language learners which mainly focused on comprehension. There were significant differences found between the effective and non effective learners. The effective learners tended to monitor their ability of comprehending by frequently asking themselves if they had contemplated the meaning of the content taught (Day & Hurwitz, 2011). They also related new information with prior knowledge through recalling of relevant personal experiences and information that they had studied before. They also took notes and made inferences about unknown words and information.

The level of confidence of language learners in their own language also determines to a considerable extent their acquisition of a second language. An example is studies conducted with college learners of Japanese, Russian and Spanish whereby the results indicated that there existed strong correlations between language learning strategies and the level of confidence of the students in their own ability of learning language. As a result, models first language learning strategies get developed, whereby instructions get provided for all levels of language learning students (Rhys, 2010). Learning strategies can also help to improve the motivation of the students (Jones & Debra, 2005).

According to the curriculum development for foreign languages, language learners should participate in community services in the areas of the targeted language. This way, they will be able to acquire the language more easily as get involved in career interns and interact with peers who are native speakers of the target language (Kinsella and Kate, 1995). This can be done through increasing individual learner’s confidence as well as providing students with the appropriate techniques for successful language learning. These enables students become self-reliant, and learn independently.

In another lesson, I observed cases of students who divided themselves up in groups where each group got assigned to a task which its members would perform. In some of the tasks that I observed, the students’ performances included graphic organizations where some group members gathered pieces of information, and later came up with illustrations or presentations in class (Richards, Jack and Theodore, 1986).

Through the group discussions and illustrations, the students were able to gather data from sources e.g. books and journals while others still conducted field studies such as interviews and questionnaires. This information provided them with a wide variety of knowledge and facts concerning different phenomena. It also helped them in learning the essentials of a language through encounter with some of the sources of these languages.

This helps in ensuring that all learners in the classroom acquire the concepts of the language and develop competence in the same (Kelly, 2009). During the third lesson observation, the practicing teacher issued the students with reading materials, which included text books and charts which contained information about their language of study (Diane, 2001). The students would then read and comprehend the information through a period of thirty minutes. The teacher then gave the students a test that evaluated their individual performance.

The students undertook the test on an individual level with no discussions whatsoever (Bloyce & Smith, 2009). After marking the tests and obtaining the results for each student, the teacher was able to assess the weakness of each learner as well as the students who required special attention (Craft, 2000). She then devised ways and methods of handling each student in the class. She gave the brighter students more and complex exercises to work on while the weak students worked on simpler exercises (Hermin, and Toth, 2006). She also gave examples to the weak students and attended to them on an individual level.

Teaching methods and Techniques

Examples of teaching methods used in teaching language included grammar translation method. This is a language teaching method that developed with the study of languages such as Greek and Latin. This method highly emphasized on reading literature in a foreign language and translating it into the first language. Teachers addressed and taught the language using the students’ first language where vocabulary got presented in bilingual lists (Ferris and Dana, 2002).

Another method used in language teaching refers to the Audio-Lingual Method. This refers to a language teaching method developed in America in the 1940s. In this method, the students learnt the language through drill work and repetition. The method emphasized on repetition, memorization and listening (Freeman & Richards, 1996).

In the fourth lesson observation, the practicing teacher employed the Total Physical Response (TPR). This method based its teaching on a sequence of commands given by the teacher or instructor (Hsu, 2006). It put its emphasis on listening and comprehension and gave room for students to practice speaking the language.

The teacher got involved in very little speaking and mainly concentrated on giving commands which the students followed actively (Kinsella, and Kate, 1995).

The mode of assessment and evaluation of students’ performance was mainly through practical activities, whereby the students pronounced and spelt some words or derived meaning from a given context, written in the language of study. The learners tended to understand concepts of the language much easily where most of them recorded high scores in the tests National (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2011).

Conclusion

Language teaching requires a lot of concentration. It is therefore, essential that practicing teachers of language should develop effective teaching techniques and methods (Joubert, 2008). This is in order to ensure that the learners understand the language and acquire the concepts in the best way possible (Harmer, and Jeremy 2003). Learners, on the other hand, should develop learning techniques to help them in the understanding and acquisition of language. This also helps them in self evaluation and in knowing their strengths, as well as weaknesses.

Lesson Observation Form

Date Teacher’s Name Observers Name Class

In my observation I mainly focused on the Teaching methods and techniques as well as Learner objectives

During one of my lesson observations, I noticed a difference in the language learners who attended the class. Some learners were more effective than others in learning the language.
I also noticed that the practicing teacher employed a number of teaching techniques in teaching the language which included use of practical activities for the learners and engaging the learners in group activities.
I also noticed in another lesson observation that the students had the ability to read and comprehend letters and alphabets from the foreign language when provided with sources of material such as textbooks and charts.
The practicing teachers were very proficient in teaching the language which made me wonder if they had been exposed to the language earlier in life or had just acquired the language through learning.
I also noticed that the language students acquired the new language easily and enjoyed every bit of it, which greatly contributed to the high performance in their tests.
This made me want to ask if they really loved the language or they had a passion for the practicing teacher who was teaching the language.

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