Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Topic: Reflective Teaching

What is Reflective Teaching?

Critical reflection is an activity where a teacher recalls, analyzes and evaluates an experience. In language teaching, this experience can be a lesson taught, an interaction between teacher and student, specific classroom tasks, as well as, applications of theories in the classroom. Teachers can reflect on the experience and determine what is working well and what can be changed to make it better. Measuring how well an activity or task worked, should be done in alignment with the objectives of the activity or task.

Reflective teaching helps teachers improve their teaching practice. Reflective practice encourages teachers to answer the following questions:

1. Which teaching model am I using?
2. How does it apply in specific teaching situations?
3. What objectives am I targeting?
4. How well is it working?
5. What can I change to improve my teaching?
6. How are my students reacting to my teaching?

A reflective teacher shifts from focusing on "how to" questions to asking "what and why" questions (Bartlett, 1990).

Reflective practice helps teachers implement a cycle of theory understanding, practice (application) and reflection. This cycle can be used throughout a teacher's career as he/she tests new theories and adapts them in his/her specific setting.

What are the steps to reflective practice?

Step 1: The activity or event itself. The first step is the occurance of the instructional activity. At this point, teachers usually decide to reflect on their own teaching practice, but may involve peers to observe and provide comments.

Step 2: The recollection of the activity. In this step, the activity is recalled without evaluation. There is documentation of what occured during the activity. Several types of documentation tools can be utilized. Reflection forms, journals, videos, peer observation anecdotal notes, and others.

Step 3: Evaluation and response to the activity. The teacher aligns intended objectives with achieved objectives to determine the quality of learning. In this step, teachers ask the essential questions involved in reflective practice (see above).

Summary by Waheeda Said
AELTA Professional Development Training Center
Saudi Arabia


Participant Interactive Activity

1. Select a classroom event/instructional activity to practice the three steps of reflective teaching

2. Write notes to document what occured (without evaluation)

3. Now reflect by answering the six questions listed above.

4. Submit a post with your comments about this activity and how it helped you improve your teaching practice


Bailey, K.M. 190. The use of diary studies in teacher education programmes. In J.C. Richards and D. Nunan (Eds), Second Language Teacher Education (pp. 215-226). New York: Cambridge University Press

Bartlett, Leo. 1990. Teacher development through reflective teaching. In J. C. Richards and D. Nuna (Eds), Second Language Teacher Education (pp. 202-214). New York: Cambridge University Press

Friday, April 17, 2009

Article: Integrating Skills

Read the following article and post a comment on how you integrate skills in the secondary English language classroom.................

Integrated Skills in the ESL/ EFL Classroom
Rebecca Oxford, University of Maryland

One image for teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) is that of a tapestry.
The tapestry is woven from many strands, such as the characteristics of the teacher, the learner,
the setting, and the relevant languages (i.e., English and the native languages of the learners and
the teacher). For the instructional loom to produce a large, strong, beautiful, colorful tapestry, all
of these strands must be interwoven in positive ways. For example, the instructor's teaching style must address the learning style of the learner, the learner must be motivated, and the setting must provide resources and values that strongly support the teaching of the language. However, if the strands are not woven together effectively, the instructional loom is likely to produce something small, weak, ragged, and pale—not recognizable as a tapestry at all.

In addition to the four strands mentioned above—teacher, learner, setting, and relevant languages —other important strands exist in the tapestry. In a practical sense, one of the most crucial of these strands consists of the four primary skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. This strand also includes associated or related skills such as knowledge of vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, syntax, meaning, and usage. The skill strand of the tapestry leads to optimal ESL/ EFL communication when the skills are interwoven during instruction. This is known as the integrated-skill approach.

If this weaving together does not occur, the strand consists merely of discrete, segregated skills— parallel threads that do not touch, support, or interact with each other. This is sometimes known as the segregated-skill approach. Another title for this mode of instruction is the language-based approach, because the language itself is the focus of instruction (language for language's sake). In this approach, the emphasis is not on learning for authentic communication.
By examining segregated-skill instruction, we can see the advantages of integrating the skills and move toward improving teaching for English language learners.

Segregated-Skill Instruction

In the segregated-skill approach, the mastery of discrete language skills such as reading and
speaking is seen as the key to successful learning, and language learning is typically separate from content learning (Mohan, 1986). This is contrary to the integrated way that people use language skills in normal communication, and it clashes with the direction in which language teaching experts have been moving in recent years.

Skill segregation is reflected in traditional ESL/EFL programs that offer classes focusing on segregated language skills. Why do they offer such classes? Perhaps teachers and administrators think it is logistically easier to present courses on writing divorced from speaking, or on listening isolated from reading. They may believe that it is instructionally impossible to concentrate on more than one skill at a time.

Even if it were possible to fully develop one or two skills in the absence of all the others, such an
approach would not ensure adequate preparation for later success in academic communication,
career-related language use, or everyday interaction in the language. An extreme example is the grammar-translation method, which teaches students to analyze grammar and to translate (usually in writing) from one language to another. This method restricts language learning to a very narrow, noncommunicative range that does not prepare students to use the language in everyday life.

Frequently, segregated-skill ESL/EFL classes present instruction in terms of skill-linked learning strategies: reading strategies, listening strategies, speaking strategies, and writing strategies (see Peregoy & Boyle, 2001). Learning strategies are srategies that students employ, most often consciously, to improve their learning. Examples are guessing meaning based on context, breaking a sentence or word down into parts to understand the meaning, and practicing the language with someone else.

Very frequently, experts demonstrate strategies as though they were linked to only one particular skill, such as reading or writing (e.g., Peregoy & Boyle, 2001). However, it can be confusing or misleading to believe that a given strategy is associated with only one specific language skill.

Many strategies, such as paying selective attention, self-evaluating, asking questions, analyzing,
synthesizing, planning, and predicting, are applicable across skill areas (see Oxford, 1990).
Common strategies help weave the skills together. Teaching students to improve their learning
strategies in one skill area can often enhance performance in all language skills (Oxford, 1996).

Fortunately, in many instances where an ESL or EFL course is labeled by a single skill, the
segregation of language skills might be only partial or even illusory. If the teacher is creative, a
course bearing a discrete-skill title might actually involve multiple, integrated skills. For example, in a course on intermediate reading, the teacher probably gives all of the directions orally in English, thus causing students to use their listening ability to understand the assignment. In this course, students might discuss their readings, thus employing speaking and listening skills and certain associated skills, such as pronunciation, syntax, and social usage. Students might be asked to summarize or analyze readings in written form, thus activating their writing skills. In a real sense, then, some courses that are labeled according to one specific skill might actually reflect an integrated-skill approach after all.

The same can be said for ESL/EFL textbooks. A particular series might highlight certain skills in
one book or another, but all the language skills might nevertheless be present in the tasks in each book. In this way, students have the benefit of practicing all the language skills in an integrated, natural, communicative way, even if one skill is the main focus of a given volume.

In contrast to segregated-skill instruction, both actual and apparent, there are at least two forms of instruction that are clearly oriented toward integrating the skills.

Two Forms of Integrated-Skill Instruction

Two types of integrated-skill instruction are content-based language instruction and task-based
instruction. The first of these emphasizes learning content through language, while the second
stresses doing tasks that require communicative language use. Both of these benefit from a diverse range of materials, textbooks, and technologies for the ESL or EFL classroom.

Content-Based Instruction.

In content-based instruction, students practice all the language skills in a highly integrated, communicative fashion while learning content such as science,
mathematics, and social studies. Content-based language instruction is valuable at all levels of
proficiency, but the nature of the content might differ by proficiency level. For beginners, the
content often involves basic social and interpersonal communication skills, but past the beginning level, the content can become increasingly academic and complex. The Cognitive Academic
Language Learning Approach (CALLA), created by Chamot and O'Malley (1994) shows how
language learning strategies can be integrated into the simultaneous learning of content and

At least three general models of content-based language instruction exist: theme-based, adjunct, and sheltered (Scarcella & Oxford, 1992). The theme-based model integrates the language skills
into the study of a theme (e.g., urban violence, cross-cultural differences in marriage practices,
natural wonders of the world, or a broad topic such as change). The theme must be very
interesting to students and must allow a wide variety of language skills to be practiced, always in
the service of communicating about the theme. This is the most useful and widespread form of
content-based instruction today, and it is found in many innovative ESL and EFL textbooks. In
the adjunct model, language and content courses are taught separately but are carefully
coordinated. In the sheltered model, the subject matter is taught in simplified English tailored to
students' English proficiency level.

Task-Based Instruction

In task-based instruction, students participate in communicative tasks in
English. Tasks are defined as activities that can stand alone as fundamental units and that require comprehending, producing, manipulating, or interacting in authentic language while attention is principally paid to meaning rather than form (Nunan, 1989).
The task-based model is beginning to influence the measurement of learning strategies, not just
the teaching of ESL and EFL. In task-based instruction, basic pair work and group work are often used to increase student interaction and collaboration. For instance, students work together to write and edit a class newspaper, develop a television commercial, enact scenes from a play, or take part in other joint tasks. More structured cooperative learning formats can also be used in task-based instruction. Task-based instruction is relevant to all levels of language proficiency, but the nature of the task varies from one level to the other. Tasks become increasingly complex at higher proficiency levels. For instance, beginners might be asked to introduce each other and share one item of information about each other. More advanced students might do more intricate
and demanding tasks, such as taking a public opinion poll at school, the university, or a shopping

Advantages of the Integrated-Skill Approach

The integrated-skill approach, as contrasted with the purely segregated approach, exposes English language learners to authentic language and challenges them to interact naturally in the language. Learners rapidly gain a true picture of the richness and complexity of the English language as employed for communication. Moreover, this approach stresses that English is not just an object of academic interest nor merely a key to passing an examination; instead, English becomes a real means of interaction and sharing among people. This approach allows teachers to track students' progress in multiple skills at the same time. Integrating the language skills also promotes the learning of real content, not just the dissection of language forms. Finally, the integrated-skill approach, whether found in content-based or task-based language instruction or some hybrid form, can be highly motivating to students of all ages and backgrounds.

Integrating the Language Skills

In order to integrate the language skills in ESL/EFL instruction, teachers should consider taking
these steps:

1. Learn more about the various ways to integrate language skills in the classroom (e.g.,
content-based, task-based, or a combination).

2. Reflect on their current approach and evaluate the extent to which the skills are integrated.

3. Choose instructional materials, textbooks, and technologies that promote the integration of
listening, reading, speaking, and writing, as well as the associated skills of syntax,
vocabulary, and so on.

4. Even if a given course is labeled according to just one skill, remember that it is possible to
integrate the other language skills through appropriate tasks.

5. Teach language learning strategies and emphasize that a given strategy can often enhance
performance in multiple skills.


With careful reflection and planning, any teacher can integrate the language skills and strengthen the tapestry of language teaching and learning. When the tapestry is woven well, learners can use English effectively for communication.


Chamot, A. U., & O'Malley , J.M. (1994). The CALLA handbook: Implementing the cognitiveacademic
language learning approach. Reading: MA: Addison Wesley.
O'Malley, J.M., & Valdez Pierce, L. (1996).Authentic assessment for English language learners:
Practical approaches for teachers. New York: Addison Wesley.
Mohan, B. (1986). Language and content. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.
Nunan , D. (1989). Designing tasks for the communicative classroom. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning strategies. What every teacher should know. Boston, MA:
Heinle & Heinle.
Oxford, R. (1996). Language learning strategies around the world. Cross-cultural perspectives.
Manoa: University of Hawaii Press.
Peregoy, S.F., & Boyle, O.F. (2001). Reading, writing, and learning in ESL. New York: Addison
Wesley Longman.
Scarcella, R., & Oxford, R. (1992). The tapestry of language learning: The individual in the
communicative classroom. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. (5 of 6)5/13/2006 3:21:26 PM
Integrated Skills in the ESL/EFL Classroom
A full-length version of this article appeared in ESL Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 1, January/February 2001

References: Integrating Skills


Integrating Skills