Focus on the Learners

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Focus on the Learners
A.
The Intermediate level students have different backgrounds, learning experiences, and learning styles, but they find some common ground in the learning styles preferred, the parts of speech to be corrected, and the skills to be developed. The class is composed of 11 students who fall within the age range of 17 to 43 years. The group diversity also extends to their nationalities: five Thais, two Sri Lankans, two Pakistanis, one Japanese, and one Korean. The students with similar ages and nationalities tend to converse more with each other. Collectively, all of them have mentioned that their primary motivation to learn English is to make them more qualified for a job or a university while five have mentioned a secondary motivation to migrate to a Western country where English is the main language. The Thai students shared positive views of their previous learning experiences of the English language because they encountered native speakers in school, the workplace, or in their social/working lives; most of them show more confidence in communicating their ideas and thoughts. One of the Thai students, Vee, may agree with their views, but she admitted that she has not had enough chance to use the language. Those who shared negative views expressed that there was a lack of speaking activities to incorporate what they learned; the Korean student, Conan, stated that his school focused on writing and tests. Similarly, the Japanese student, Haruna, learned grammar well, but there was rarely any opportunity to use it in speech; she is more receptive to oral instruction in slow repetition. Thai student, Benz, mentioned that there is opportunity to use English with other Thais, but they pick up each other’s pronunciation. The refugees, Goby and Adeel, have less exposure to English as a subject in school, so they had no opinion about their previous learning experience. Most of these students try to learn from media, but show more hesitancy to speak. Like the students’ learning experiences, their learning styles vary because they almost spread evenly across all learning styles with the majority dominating in the following styles: interpersonal and linguistic. They prefer activities that use a combination of kinesthetic, visual, and interpersonal styles in language lessons. Although their specific needs vary, the majority show the need for improvement in grammar and pronunciation. One noticeable error in grammar is incorrect verb form for interrogative and negative statements; for example, the sentences “I eat no dinner” and “Where usually Nan have lunch?” are lacking the helping verb “do/does” in negative form and interrogative form respectively. With pronunciation, some students don’t have the phoneme /l/ in their first language, so they use /r/ instead: “Engrish” for “English” and “jeerious” for “jealous”. Most of the students have shown the need to develop their speaking skills especially Ben and Nan, who have specified that they need to use English for their field of work – aviation and finance respectively. The students who need help in speaking more are Fausi, Haruna, Conan, Goby, and Adeel because it has been observed that Azeem, Tre, and Benz dominate during class discussions.

B. Grammar

The language focus for these students will be grammar. Even though most of them have experience in learning grammar in written form, they have not had enough opportunity to become comfortable with it verbally. Although good pronunciation can impress native speakers, the students’ aims to use English for employment and immigration opportunities require both written and spoken assessments. Addressing grammatical errors communicatively can develop the students’ understanding and use better than focusing on pronunciation drills. To address the students’ errors with the forms of interrogative and negative statements, variations of the popular guessing game “Twenty Questions” can be implemented as (Wright, pp. 157-8)....
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