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Teacher Training Course

University of Texas at Austin

COMEXUS summer course 2009

Thanks to Maggie Hug from COMEXUS, Dr. Wanda Griffith from UT, Dr. Mary Lou Price from UT, Dr. Mike Smith from UT, and Dr. Elsa Delvalle from UT.


1.-Communicative Language Class
5.-How to teach Phonetics
6.-Tips for teachers
7.-Ideas for the classroom: Activities, games, material, group dynamics.
8.-Parts of a lesson plan P.P.P.
10.-The four strands in language teaching and learning
11.-Teaching Grammar
12.-Krashen: Acquisition and learning
13.-Principles of learning

1.-Communicative Language Class

-Communication rather than structure.- The language has to be taught to communicate something instead of just learning about the language itself.
-Emphasis on communicative functions.- The language learning process should be based on communicative functions with specific goals, context and situation where the language is the main tool for communicating something.
-Relation of forms and functions.- Language form could be taught in communicative functions.
-Collaboration.- Students and teachers learn, rephrase, correct, help, etc. collaborating in class.
-Purposeful interaction.- When using language in class, students need to know that it has a purpose, not a simply repetition or drill that could be meaningless.
-Focused on learners.- Lessons should be student centered, we as teachers have to take advantage of the Multiple intelligences theory, VAK model, Kolb model, in order to provide most students with many opportunities to get involved in class.
-Teacher.- should always be a facilitator, a counselor, a guide, an organizer.
-Opportunities.- We have to provide students with opportunities to share and explore attitudes, feelings, and opinions.
-Materials.- Materials have to be authentic.
-Learning situations.- We have to create real learning situations in class, where every student has a part of the solution of the problem or possible problem.
-Atmosphere.- It is very important to create a warm, safe, atmosphere in class, this way students will dare to participate more actively in class.
-Variety.- we have to use varied materials, topics, activities and ways of interacting in class.
-Acquisition of cultural knowledge through the use of the target language.- Learning a language has to do a lot with culture of countries where that language is spoken.
-Tolerance of errors.- Not always language use has to be perfect: correcting mistakes all the time could result in a decrease of motivation in students.
-Goal of fluency.- Being fluent in language does not mean that every single sentence has to be perfectly spoken. The language has to emerge naturally as Krashen and his colleagues suggest.
-Always perfect?.- It is supposed that when people do not commit mistakes in learning something is because they already knew it, so the learning process has to bear mistakes, they are normal in the process.
-Fluency.- This is the productive skill of language. The goal is not to struggle to much in understanding and expressing meaning.

Meaningful vs mechanical

Meaningful is communicative. Mechanical mostly has only one answer.
Open ended: Questions, exercises, activities that have less control, example: What do you think about..?
Closed ended: Activities, questions, exercises that have a definite answer or two. They are controlled. Is it a pen or a pencil?

Open and meaningful: It is real, it asks to be completed with "I", it also communicates something.
*Complete the blanks
1.-I ____________ in the kitchen

Open and mechanical: Who is the boy? It does not engage because it is unreal.
*Complete the sentence
1.- The boy ____________ in the kitchen

Closed ended: It is meaningful, you can't put drink or read.
*Choose a verb to fill in the blanks Read-drink-eat)
1.-I ________ some candy

Closed and mechanical: Only an answer
*Put the word in past tense
1.-I ________ some candy (Eat)

2.-P.P.P. Presentation-Practice-Production

Differences between practice and production

Ph. D. Wanda Griffith's example: Imagine the role of students and teachers as in a soccer team. Practice is: The controlled exercises, techniques to kick the ball, to receive and make a pass, etc. all of this during the training where the coach can figure out possible settings that could occur in a match. He organizes the team in a controlled way according to his experience, knowledge, etc. Production is: The real match where the coach does not have control over what could happen, students have to create solutions spontaneously according to their background, knowledge, attitude, aptitudes, etc.

Presentation: Activities for introducing new materials

When? Usually at the beginning of the class.
Why? To provide a clear model of what students will be practicing.
To generate interest. Remember if students are not motivated is teacher's fault.
How? Dialogue (spoken taped), silent or oral reading, video, song, combination. The important here is to demonstrate the point of the lesson.

Elements of Presentation

Warm-up: To relax, engage students. To relate language to their lives. To personalize the lesson.

Eliciting vocabulary:

Set the scene: Introduce proper names and locations. Anchor students in context (what to expect)

Focus question: A gist question. Understanding of gist, Ex. Do you think they are happy? This question must be answered in the presentation stage. Try to ask Wh questions, no yes-no questions which have only two choices.

10 to 15 minutes

Suggestions: The presentation context should be a demonstration rather than an explanation.

Practice: Controlled activities in and out of the classroom which can, or can not, be communicative.

Repeated of controlled pieces of language. Ex:
The car is yellow. The dog is....

Why? In order to give students the opportunity to use target language. IMPORTANT: Practice should not be graded because it could make students to feel anxious. Practice reintegrates previously taught material.
It includes: Instructions, modeling, exercises which usually start as teacher centered and controlled activities.
Goal: To make students feel confident that they can use the language.

Why? To reinforce target structure as much as possible. To give students opportunities to try the new language (meaning and usage). To allow maximum individual practice and correction (everyone has needs to go by himself).
When? After presentation. For remedial work if necessary.
What? Drills: Easy to difficult

Production: Activities that require students to produce language.

*A real problem to be solved: There is a reason to use the language. Problem that requires solution.
*Identifiable answer to the problem: There could be more than one answer.
*It requires HOTS (High Order Thinking Skills): To apply, synthesize, criticize, analyze, evaluate.
*Open-ended: All answers are correct. Every single student has a little piece of the solution.
*Multi-way information exchange.
*Manipulation of information instead of language.
*There has to be a reason for students to participate.
*It creates spontaneous use of language.

Problem resolution:
*Task with identifiable solution to be completed.

Example: Creation of a tourist brochure, arranging a party, ordering a meal, making travel arrangements or schedule.
Example: Opinion gap: You are in certain (difficult) situation in a desert and you can only carry 7 things out of 20 items in order to survive. You have to agree what to carry, give opinions, arguments, etc.
Example: How to improve something related to lives of students.

The important thing is to identify what students are going to do with the information: Share it, solve something? After Practice students have to move to real situations, experience new things, accomplish a task rather than the only answer the exercise.

The PPP paradigm can be understood as a pyramid: The top (the smaller space) is the presentation stage, if it takes too long it is a teacher centered class: The space in the middle is the practice and the space at the bottom is the production. The production stage is the base for acquiring the language instead of only learning which could be anchored in practice. If most activities are focused on the bottom of the pyramid, the class becomes more student centered.

Language learning is like learning to ride bikes: you learn by riding it instead of getting to know the parts of the bike. You do not learn only by seeing others.


Eliciting: How to present words without TRANSLATION. When students DO NOT know the word, vocabulary or pronunciation. Do not present many words, present 6 to 8 new vocabulary words.

Ways to present new vocabulary:
*Give references: Pictures, visuals.
*Modeling: Clear energetic modeling in front of the class.
*Synonyms and antonyms: Present vocabulary using opposites. Asking: "What's another word for....?" or "What;s the opposite of...?".
*Drawing: By drawing on the board without words
*Briefly: Invent a context where the word can be used. "Stagger is when you are tired, dizzy, drunk and you walk in the street..."
*Showing visuals: Use pictures, photographs, drawings.
*Mimic: Exaggerate mimic in order to point the meaning.
*Ask student to draw something.
*Concept checking: Always check if students are understanding the meaning of concepts by asking questions, asking them to act, to role play, to draw, to model.
*Realia: Always give references such as pictures, real stuff, visuals.


Meaning is composed by two factors: What you say and How you say it.

What you say: Vocabulary, grammar.10 to 15% of meaning.

How you say it: Intonation, body language, rhythm, stress (Suprasegmentals) 85 to 90% of meaning.

Intonation in Spanish language is very different that in English language: Spanish speakers usually maintain intonation high even if they have finished the sentence, and for English speakers this sounds like a question. They (English speakers) get confused with this high level intonation at the end of the sentence, they expect more talk after the other person has ended speaking. In English intonation goes high and then goes down, this is some kind of pause that means that the sentence has finished and gives permission to speak to the other person.

5.-How to teach Phonetics
1.-A very good idea is to elaborate a telephone dial keyboard and give a word to each number. Example: 0=cap, 1=cop, 3=cup, 4=boat, 5=bought, 6=boot, 7=chip, 8=sheep, 9=ship.


*Drill words

*Provide students with a handout.
*Student A invents a telephone number.
*Student B asks What is your telephone number?
*Student A answers My telephone number is Cop, cap, bought, chip, sheep, boat (1-0-5-7-8-4).
*Student B writes down the telephone number, and change roles.

*Handout with a telephone key board drawing.

2.-Ask students to create a rap song with sounds Example: t t t p p k k t p k f f t f

*Each song could be perform in groups.
*Listeners could copy the sounds, as if was a dictation.

3.-Go fishing


*Put the deck of cards on a table (Facing down)
*Student A picks a card.
*Student B asks "Do you have an M sound?
*Student A answers yes/no.


*Deck of cards with words.

4.-One letter at a time


*Make sentences or students write them.
*Student A dictates the sentence by spelling in: p-l-e-a-s-e space g-i-v-e- space t-h-e space p-e-n-c-i--l
*Student B writes it down.

5.-Minimal pairs


*Make pairs of very similar words in cutouts, a word on a piece of paper. Example: Sheep-ship. Boat-bought. Cap-cop. etc.
*Put them on a table, facing up.
*Two or three students go to the table.
*Teacher or any student says aloud "CAP"
*The first one who grabs the card wins it.
*The student with more cards wins the game.

6.-Tell me where to go


*Teacher gives a map (or students draw it)
*Minimal pairs cutouts: Back street-Bag street. Work street-walk street. etc.
*Give directions on how to get to a place. Example: First go to Work street. Then walk to Back street.

6.-Tips for teachers
*One very important issue is that in class students have to be busy most of the time, that is a student-centered class. The important place in the classroom is where students are seated, not the front.
*A suggested order in teaching skills with beginners is: First listening. Then speaking. After that reading. And at last writing. It is the natural order we acquire our mother tongue.
*Random order when students participate. It is boring to participate according to the list.
*Clear cues. Tip: Cue, then prompt: Cues can be voice, pictures, sounds.
*Fast pace: Do not wait more than 10 seconds with each student when waiting for answers.
*Natural stress, rhythm and intonation.
*Model instructions
*Model the drill with the help of a strong student.
*Stop activities when they are still interesting.
*Mix phonetics to vocabulary, this way students practice and learn.
*Conversations: While listening to conversations ask students to notice the stressed words, not only vocabulary, grammar, or specific words.
*Attraction getter: Show a visual, ask a question, tell a story, say some statistics, say a quote, all of this strategies are very useful to attract attention when presenting a topic. Use a whistle, there are funny ones such as duck whistles, these sounds really get the attraction. A teacher used to yell I'm pregnant! as a funny way to get the attraction.
*Homework: Be very careful with homework, it is better that students do activities in class where the teacher is a guide. Instead of, it is better to ask them to only read as a homework and do activities in class.
*Before starting an activity, give the instructions on paper, it could save a lot of time.

7.-Ideas for the classroom: Activities, games, material

*Matching definitions: Make two sets of strips. On a set write down words related to a topic, example: house, building, restaurant, etc. On the other set of strips write down the definitions. Provide students with the two sets of strips, They have to match words to definitions. Variation: Give the strips randomly and students must go around the classroom searching for their matches.

*Scrambled sentences: Write sentences on strips of paper, then cut them in parts. Students have to order the parts of the sentence.

*Blind fold: When practicing asking and giving directions, put a handkerchief on students and then guide them to advance, practice go, walk , turn left, turn right, etc.

*Scrambled conversations: Choose a conversation and make some copies. Then, cut the conversation in parts. Students could listen to the conversation, or figure it out, or guess, and try to order it.

*Hot potatoes: Use a bouncy and soft ball. Toss the ball to any student and play music. Suddenly, stop the music. The student who has the ball has to relate a picture to a sentence, answer a question, ask a question, tell what he/she likes/dislikes, etc.

*True or False: Students make two cards: One with a letter "T" for true and another with the letter "F" for false. Say a sentence taken from a listening activity, a text or conversation that could be true or false. Say the sentence aloud and students raise the true or false paper. It is a good exercise to check if students are understanding input.

*Watching a video and learning action verbs: Play a video, cartoons such as the Coyote and the Roadrunner could be very useful because contain lots of action. Make strips of papers and write down the action verbs on them, students could make these strips. Play the video and students must recognize or link the verbs to what is happening in the video.

8.-Parts of a lesson plan P.P.P.

*Outline: It breaks down parts of the lesson hierarchically. It is a step by step plan of the class.
*Grammar point objective.
*Functional objective: Example: Giving and asking personal information, describing people, etc.
*Warm-up activity: To get ready to communicate. It must not use the target language, it is some kind of talk to get students interested.
*Vocabulary eliciting: Restricted to 7-8 words.
*Concept check questions for vocabulary.
*Focus question: A gist question that does not ask for details, only to notice if students get the main idea. Example: When seeing a video or listening to a tape, a correct focus question could be: What are the people talking about? or What are they planning to do? A wrong focus question would be: What did the man answer to the woman? or What color of clothing was he wearing? The teacher can also give some options to answer the focus question.
*Presentation of material: Dialogue, recording, video, paragraph, etc.
*Possible answers for the focus question.
*Activities and instructions: Activities are usually controlled and have one correct answer.
*Production activity.

Important: Not all lessons have to include the three stages of PPP. For instance, in a class you can work with new vocabulary, then in other class students practice as much as possible, and production in some other stage as a final presentation at the end of the chapter or unit. What teachers must have in mind is that activities must be thought as student centered ones, it means that STUDENTS are always BUSY in the classroom and teacher is always going around providing help where is needed.


What is Motivation? Of course there are many definitions and we would need to look for a catch-all term which should include all of them. The following ideas are taken from presentation of Ph. D. Michael Smith at the University of Texas during the teacher training course to the COMEXUS Group and it is based on the work of authors Gardner and Lambert.

There are two types of motivation: Instrumental and Integrative in language learning.

Instrumental: Learning a language is not your goal, it is only to get a job or to get a grade. It is a means to do something.

Instrumental motivation is external: To get good grades, to pass tests, to obtain gifts, rewards or praising. Danger: Students could get used to it and only work for rewards and be conditioned. It is recommended to use this type of motivation temporally and then move to internal.

Integrative: Learning a language is because you have a positive vision of speakers, and want to socialize or be like them.

Integrative motivation is internal: People learn because they are interested in something: Music, sports, going out, etc. Things that people like because are natural, they enjoy talking about topics of their interest. Example: A group of boys who really like basketball, teacher links his favorite topic to the lesson by teaching how to communicate with teammates in other language and thus rivals will not be able to understand them.

Conclusion: Integrative motivation leads to a better learning, more successful. They both types of motivation work. People are motivated for many reasons.

3 variables in Motivation

1.-The value: The value of the learner could be understood with this question: What do I earn, win, gain for learning this? Or: Is it valuable to learn this new language?

Maximizing value: Extrinsic rewards. Find things that students are naturally related to: Hobbies, music, holidays. Explain when and where students could use what they are learning in class. A good idea is to videotape first classes and then, in certain time show the film to demonstrate that they have already advanced a lot. Use humor in class. Fulfill basic needs.

2.-The learner's expectancy: Students expect to be successful: If I think that I am good at something it is because I think I am going to succeed. It is like: I trust myself and my own expectations raise expectancy of succeed.

Increasing Expectancy: Establish a history of success in similar situations like telling an anecdote of the problems you had when learning English or tell a story about a person who learned English such artists, relatives, friends, etc. Students have to picture themselves being successful "If he learns, why not me? Create a chain of expectations, example: Lorena Ochoa learned then her mother had to learn, after her boyfriend, etc. Be sure everybody is successful since the first day of class, give the sensation of "I can learn" among students. Be careful, sometimes we, teachers, present some topics and do not give enough practice before tests. This creates expectancy to decrease, the syllabus should be taught one lesson at a time. If methodology is poor students notice that they will not learn from that teacher and motivation decreases. We have to build the trust that we will indeed teach. We have also to nurture the belief that a learned study strategy that worked before in class will work again, maybe it will not work as it did, that is why variety in class raises expectancy.
*Provide practice, lots of practice from controlled to guided to free activities

3.-The need: The learner's need for success. This means that learning will take me to other place that I need to get to. It is self development or improvement and it is clearly related to own goals.

Exposing NEED: Need is like a line where the person is advancing on. It is a gap space between the student and the goal to achieve.
*Learning objective: Teachers have to know clearly where students are in the line, in other words, must know what students already know.
*Pre-questions: It is like a warm-up activity in order to check what students know such as pre-tests and diagnostics tests.
*Mysteries and problems: Create activities to solve them. Mysteries are very engaging. If the solution involves English language, then a need is created. When there is a mystery people would like to know the solution. Other activity which includes some type of problem is "To find some who....(plays chess, likes rock music, romantic movies, etc)" where students go around the classroom looking for answers.

Value, expectancy and need have to be balanced in order to keep motivated students. Examples: What happens when you have a student who is an English native speaker in your classroom?, he could not have a value to learn because he always gets perfect grades, he knows everything you teach in your classroom. Or the case of a kid of a wealthy family who is always saying that English is not important, or is not valuable for her, because her family has a lot of money and she does not need to learn English to get a job? Another different case could be a boy who wants to learn English because he links it to get grades but, he does not believe that he actually can? This boy will have a value to learn but low expectations of himself. These cases are just to illustrate that teachers have to be able to recognized which variable is low in students who are not motivated in class.

SOMEONE is MOTIVATED when has the NEED for success, an EXPECTATION that can be successful at a given task, and perceives some VALUE in doing things.

10.-The four strands in language teaching and learning

Based on the work of I. S. P. Nation.

Each of the following elements have to be balanced in class. Each element 25% of the time of the lessons, it could be in one single class or in many classes of the program. The goal is to have a balance in activities.

*Meaning focused input:
-When listening or reading attention has to be paid to ideas and messages not only to the forms or structures.
-When listening or reading most vocabulary must be familiar. it is recommended that the 95% of vocabulary should be previously known and only the 5% should be new.
-Students must use context cues to decode message. Example: You do not have to explain each word, students can guess, predict, according to their background knowledge.
-It is recommended that a large quantity of input in class.

*Meaning focused output:
-Learning through speaking and writing.
-What students write or talk must be familiar.
-Main goal: To convey a message to someone else.
-A small proportion of new language.
-Use communication activities: Dictionaries, make up gaps, in productive knowledge. -Teach the correct use of vocabulary. What a verb adjective, noun or adverb is.
-Give many opportunities to produce (to use writing and speaking in meaningful tasks).

*Language focused learning:
-Pay explicit attention to language items and features.
-Include direct study of vocabulary, grammar, phonics and spelling.
-Attention to language forms.
-Notice that students posses knowledge of forms.

-Fluency means to become faster and more accurate when speaking.
-A lot of practice and repetition.
-All what students hear, speak, read or write should be largely familiar.
-Focus on conveying a message.
-Put pressure to perform faster (Each time that you do the same activity in different classes, give less time to accomplish the task).

11.-Teaching Grammar

*Cocktail activity.- Make strips of paper. Write sentences on them, example: "There is a lot of garbage in the classroom". Divide the class into students A's and students B's. Students A's say their sentences to students B's. Students B's listen to them and agree or disagree.
Good things about this activity:
-A lot of listening
-Catches others attention
-It includes movement
-In large classes most students are involved
-It is communicative because students ask real questions.
In my classroom: It could be used to teach places of the city: There are two buildings in front of the school.

-Invent sentences when seeing visuals, try to use funny, weird, interesting visuals, they are attraction getter.

*Category squares
-Students make 5 or 6 lines
-Each line stands up in front of a square on the whiteboard.
-Say an incomplete sentence: The school should be...
-Ask students to write on the whiteboard adjectives that complete the sentence.

*Learning nouns: Competition in teams
-Students form teams.
-They come to the front of the classroom, in a line.
-Each line in front of a space on the blackboard.
-They have to make a list of things needed to organize a party.
-The teams with most items for the party wins.

*Sentences with "I used to"
-Write "When I was ____ I used to _____
-Students can complete the sentence with any verb and age.
-Then tell a partner what they wrote.
-The student who listened to him/her has to tell the class what his/her partner said, "When Adriana was ____ she used to __________.
-Write "Now I ____ " to make a contrast. It could be: "Now he/she _______" or "Now he/she does not _____________.

*Setting up routines
-Ask students to make a list of verbs.
-Write: "I ________" to describe a daily activity.
-Students tell a partner about their routines.
-Then students say what partners told them.
-After they say it some questions can be asked, such as "Do you ever go dancing?" or "Do you ever go swimming?"

12.-Krashen: Acquisition and learning
Five hypothesis
1.- Acquisition-learning hypothesis

*Acquisition: Acquiring the language is unconscious, a natural process. It is how we learn our mother tongue.

*Learning: Learning the language is a conscious process. Attention is paid to the forms and structure of language. Krashen says that in school, we learn more about the forms that the real use of the language, for him, that is the main point of failure when studying a second language in classroom, as if it were an unnatural way to acquire a language.

2.-Monitor hypothesis

*When learning a language we are always monitoring ourselves, trying to speak the most accurately as possible. This, weakens fluency because we are always paying attention to the forms, not only to the meaning of the message.

3.-Natural order hypothesis

*This means that a natural order of acquisition must be followed, in other words, from easy to difficult language.

4.-Input hypothesis

It means that the language in class must be a little challenging. Students have to be able to understand about the 80% of words and the rest should be the challenging part in order to advance in small steps. An important issue that he points is that we, as teachers, must not make students speak until they are ready to. The language will emerge at the right moment. In first classes it is recommended that teachers do not make students speak, they are not prepared. Students must be exposed to the language, the better if it is real such as TV, newspapers, radio, etc.

5.-Affective filter hypothesis

*Acquisition occurs in low anxiety classrooms. If students feel the environment is the appropriate, acquisition is more possible to take place.

13.-Principles of learning
*Readiness.-It refers to be ready physically, mentally and emotionally to learn.

*Exercise.-It refers that we need to repeat to remember. Information is better retained if it is meaningful. Students need a lot of practice and repetition.

*Effect.-If students have a satisfying feeling towards the language, they will learn more. Unpleasant experiences weakens learning. Students continue doing what has a pleasant effect.

*Primacy.-A first impression of language lessons will be difficult to erase, if the first lessons are pleasant students will have the sensation of a good subject, fun, useful, interesting, meaningful, etc.

*Recency.-It states that what we have learned recently is better remembered.

* Intensity.-Intense material will be better retained. A good learning experience teaches more than a routine or boring experience. Materials must provide with sharp, clear, vivid, dramatic, and exciting experiences.

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