ELT terms - defined and referenced!


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(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)




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Intrinsic/extrinsic motivation

These terms both refer to types of motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the wish to do something because of the pleasure or enjoyment that doing this brings. Extrinsic motivation refers to the wish to do something that is due to the desired result or outcome of doing it. Both of those motivations have been used to explain the wish to learn languages, though nowadays more complex explanations of language learning motivation are available. Teachers are often concerned about how to increase their learners’ motivation.

Example

"When I learnt English at school I just did it to get good marks, and because I thought it would help me when travelling. Now though, I just love it – I love learning all those words, imitating the accent, listening to the flow etc etc – I guess my motivation has changed from extrinsic to intrinsic."

Further reading

Dörnyei, Z. (1990). Conceptualizing motivation in foreign language learning. Language Learning, 40.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Motivation Strategies in the Language Classroom.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dörnyei, Z.(2008). The Psychology of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford University Press.

Dörnyei, Z. (2010). Teaching and Researching: Motivation. London: Routledge.

McDonough, S. (2007). Motivation in ELT. ELT Journal 61/4. Oxford University Press.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. Oxford: Macmillan.

Ur, P.  (1999). A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/intrinsic-motivation

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/alexenoamen/ways-motivating-efl-esl-students-classroom

 

 

Debate

A debate is an activity in which students are placed in two groups arguing for or against an issue. Debates can be informal or formal. Formal debates may follow rules, for instance, on how long to speak, how to interrupt, who speaks after who, obeying the chairperson and voting on the issue at the end of the debate. In ELT, debates are used to develop fluency, focus on register and explore issues. Students are usually given preparation time to prepare and possibly script their arguments.

Example

"Last week in class we had a formal debate about the advantages and disadvantages of wearing school uniform. It was interesting but I think it might have better as an informal discussion instead – in that my way students would have felt freer and said what they really thought."

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Harmer, J.(2012). Essential Teacher Knowledge. Harlow: Pearson.

 

 

Role play

This is an activity in which learners take on roles (characters) and act them out in a situation. It is used to practise language, often as a free practice activity. It is also used to help students to explore ideas and issues. A role play is different from a simulation. In a simulation, learners are put in a situation in which there is some problem to resolve. They are not given specific roles.

In role plays, learners are often given role cards to guide what they need to say, do or discuss. An example of a role play would be putting students into groups of four with one of them each as head teacher, parent, local shopkeeper or student representative, and then to hold a group discussion in their roles on design plans for rebuilding the school. Role plays can also be used to prompt writing, reading and listening, for example, when learners are given different roles in which to receive and react to information from a text.

Example

"Some of my students really enjoy doing role plays – they like the freedom that comes with pretending to be someone else, but others just get shy and embarrassed, so I have to think carefully about how often I do role plays and whether they can be done as pair work rather than in front of lots of other students."

Further reading

Crookall, D. & Oxford, R.L. (Eds.) (1990).  Simulation, Gaming, and Language Learning. New York: Newbury House.

Ladousse, G. P. (1987). Role Play. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. Oxford: Macmillan.

Scrivener, J. (2012). Classroom Management Techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Skehan, P. (1998b). Task based instruction. In Grahe, W. (Ed.), Annual review of applied linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ur, P.  (1999).  A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Tompkins-RolePlaying.html

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/elt-guide-2-simulations

 

 

Open pairs

This term is used to refer to a classroom interaction pattern in which two students talk to one another across the class so that other students can listen to what they are saying. This pattern is used particularly to demonstrate how to carry out an activity or task, or to act as feedback on an activity or task just completed.

Example

"I often use open pairs in my class before the learners start an activity. I ask two students to carry out the activity in front of everyone else. In that way the others see what to do and also hear what language they could use."

Further reading

Scrivener, J. (2012). Classroom Management Techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/open-pairs

 

 

Metaphor

A figurative use of language in which one thing is described as another to bring out its characteristics, e.g. in he has a really hot temper, hot is metaphor for quick and fierce. Metaphors can be culturally specific and are therefore important for learners to be aware of and learn. Some experts maintain that some cultural metaphors strongly influence the way we see the world.

Example

"People sometimes use a range of metaphors for talking about lesson planning, for example: a route map, a straightjacket, a photograph, a sketch, an instruction leaflet."

Further reading

Holme, R. (2004). Mind, Metaphor and Language Teaching. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Lazar, G.(2003). Meanings and Metaphors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Littlemore, J. and Low, G. (2006). Metaphoric competence and communicative language ability. Applied Linguistics 27(2).

Thornbury, S. (1991). Metaphors we work by. EFL and its metaphors. ELT Journal, 45/3. Oxford University Press. http://www.scottthornbury.com/articles.html

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/exploring-metaphors-classroom

 

 

Context

This term is used in ELT to refer either to the situational (where and when) context in which something happens, or to the language surrounding words in a sentence or utterance (sometimes called co-text). M.A.K. Halliday proposed that a situational context contains three components: field (subject matter), tenor (social relations between interactants) and mode (the way in which language is used), which strongly influence the register of language. The contexts in which languages are learnt and taught are also much discussed in ELT these days.

Example

"When we teach learners new language it’s important to put it in context – this helps them understand its meaning."

Further reading

Brown, H. Douglas. (1994) Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, 3rd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Celce-Murcia. . (2001) Discourse and Context in Language Teaching: A Guide for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holliday, A. with Martin Hyde and John Kullman (2010). Intercultural communication: an Advanced resource book for students, 2nd edition. Oxford: Routledge.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

 

 

Short-/long-term memory

Our memory system is able to store memories for shorter or longer periods. Our short-term memory (also called working memory) is limited in capacity and only retains information for a short period of time, while our long-term memory is much larger and retains information for longer.

Example

"I have a wonderful short-term memory for things like the prices of items I bought yesterday, what my family were wearing yesterday and how long it took me to do things, but my long-term memory is poor – I have few recollections of my childhood."

Further reading

Bilborough, N. (2011).  Memory Activities for Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The theory in practice. New York: Basic Books.

Skehan, P. (1998). A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stevick, E. (1976). Memory, Meaning and Method. New York, NY: Newbury House Publishers.

 

 

Information gap

This term is used to refer to the situation in which one person or group has information which another person or group wants but doesn’t have. For example, if a shopkeeper knows the price of an item you want to buy but you don’t know the price, then there is an information gap between you and the shopkeeper. To ‘bridge’ this information gap, you ask the shopkeeper the price and he/she replies. As can be seen from this example, the information gap prompts purposeful communication. This is the reason why many communicative classroom activities are designed around information gaps. They are said to promote genuine communication and use of language rather than language use for display or purely practice purposes. Many well-known ELT activities are based around an information gap e.g. Find Someone Who, jigsaw reading and listening, describe and draw, problem solving.

Example

"In our first lesson I gave each student brochure of their new town, then I asked them to plan a joint outing together for next Sunday. To do this the students had to share information about all the places they could visit, then exchange opinions and make a decision. It was a huge information gap activity, which worked very well."

Further reading

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. (2012). Essential Teacher Knowledge. Harlow: Pearson.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

 

 

Learning aim

A learning aim is something that the teacher intends her students will learn during a lesson, and that she designs her lesson around in order for that learning to take place. It may also refer to the learning goals of a course or syllabus. The term is often used interchangeably with the term objective.

Example

"My aims in my last lesson were:

- To present and practise new adjectives for describing people

- To give students oral fluency practice in describing one another

- To give students written practice in describing their families"

Further reading

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. Oxford: Macmillan.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. and Watkins, P. (2007) The CELTA Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Watkins, P. 2005. Learning to Teach English: A practical introduction for new teachers. Peaslake: Delta Publishing.

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/a-is-for-aims/

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/dogme

 

 

Cohesion

This is the way in which language is used in written or spoken discourse to make it link together. Cohesion is achieved by using lexical or grammatical devices such as lexical fields, substitution, ellipsis, linking words, discourse markers, back (anaphoric) and forward (cataphoric) reference.

 Example

"'I never understand what he’s saying, so I bought a tennis racket.'

This sentence is cohesive through its use of a lexical field and linking words, but it’s not coherent – it just doesn’t make sense."

Further reading

Canale. M.and Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1/1.

Cook, G. (1989). Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Halliday M. A. K. and Hasan R. (1976) Cohesion in English Harlow: Longman

Hoey, M. (1991). Patterns of Lexis in Text. Oxford: Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McCarthy, M. (1991). Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Widdowson, H. G. (1978). Teaching Language as Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/coherence

http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/ask-the-experts/methodology-questions/methodology-coherence-and-cohesion/154867.article

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/cohesion

 

 

Coherence

In English language teaching coherence refers to the ways in which a piece of discourse ‘makes sense’ through links in meaning. It does this by using various internal devices such as logical sequencing, adherence to a particular genre, accepted forms of text structuring, but also by referring to accepted external conventions and ways of thinking and experiencing in the outside world, such as adherence to one topic, relevance between topics, shared knowledge.

Example

"A: That's the telephone.

B: I'm in the bath.

A: O.K."

(Widdowson, H. 1978, p. 12)

Further reading

Canale. M.and Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1/1.

McCarthy, M. (1991). Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Widdowson, H. G. (1978). Teaching Language as Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/coherence

http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/ask-the-experts/methodology-questions/methodology-coherence-and-cohesion/154867.article

 

 

Objective

This term has two main meanings in ELT, one related to assessment and the other to lesson planning. In relation to assessment it refers to types of assessment for which there is only one correct answer and for which the assessor doesn’t therefore need to use their judgment to decide on the value of the answer. Examples of objective test formats are True/ False, multiple choice, matching, gap-fill.

In relation to lesson planning, an objective is a specification of what a teacher intends the learners to have learnt, or be able to do better, by the end of the lesson. It is sometimes used interchangeably with learning outcome in this meaning.

Example

"The advantage of objective tests is that each item is short and clearly targeted, but their disadvantage is that they don’t really test use of the language." 

Further reading

Davies, A. Brown, A. et al. (1999). Dictionary of Language Testing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hughes, A. (2003). Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J. (2013) Curriculum approaches in language teaching: forward, central and  backward design. RELC Journal, 44/1.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://eltnotebook.blogspot.com/2006/11/setting-objectives-part-one.html

http://eltnotebook.blogspot.com/2006/11/setting-objectives-part-two.html

 

 

Subjective

This term is used in ELT to refer to types of assessment in which the assessor needs to use their judgement as to how correct an answer is, because the answer is open-ended and can be evaluated according to various different criteria. Speaking tests and essays are examples of subjective assessment formats. Two people listening to the same student speaking might grade him/her differently because they are listening for different things or because they give importance to different aspects of speaking.

Example

"I was worried about doing an interview as part of my test because I didn’t like my grade depending on the examiner’s judgment. But then they explained to me that the examiner had to work with specific defined criteria when grading, and that another examiner would be present to grade as well, so I realised my grade wouldn’t be subjective."

Further reading

Davies, A. Brown, A. et al. (1999). Dictionary of Language Testing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hughes, A. (2003). Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

https://www.teachers.cambridgeesol.org/ts/digitalAssets/110970_tkt_glossary_august_2009_final.pdf

 

 

Functions

Functions are the communicative reasons for which we use language. For example, we say hello to greet someone, we say because I was tired to give an explanation, and Go on – you can do it! to encourage someone. Seeing language as a set of functions or reasons for communicating rather than as a set of grammatical items allows a teacher or materials writer to focus on the learner’s communicative needs. This way of seeing language was important in the development of the communicative approach.

Example

"I took Russian lessons a few years ago. We spent our time learning and using the language for functions such as apologising, expressing cause and effect, describing, giving opinions, disagreeing. You could see immediately the reason why you were learning these things." 

Further reading

Howatt, A. P. R. and Widdowson, H.G. ed.s. (2004). A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Van Ek, J.K. and Trim J. (1998) Threshold 1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Widdowson, H. G. (1992). ELT and EL Teachers. ELT Journal 46/4. Oxford University Press.

 

 

Notional syllabus

A syllabus that is organised according to the grammatical notions (concepts) that a learner might need to express (e.g. cause and effect, frequency, pastness, agency, duration, quantity) rather than according to structural or task progression. Notional syllabuses were particularly influential in the 1970s and were often linked with functional syllabuses, making for notional-functional syllabuses, in which the language needed to express particular functions was focussed on.

Example

"Because of its focus on abstract categories like pastness, uncertainty, comparison, it is quite hard to make a notional syllabus seem real, achievable and motivating to students."

Further reading

Abbs, B. and  Freebairn, I. (1979). Building Strategies. Harlow: Longman.

Howatt, A. P. R. and Widdowson, H.G. (2004). A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van Ek, J.K. and Trim J. (1998) Threshold 1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilkins, D.A. (1976). Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Discrete

Isolated, distinct, by itself. This term is used to refer to the teaching or testing of language items, when they are focussed on separately from others and in a minimal context. A teacher might, for example, give students an exercise just practising modal must, or a drill on the word stress in new vocabulary.

In language tests, multiple choice is often used to provide a discrete focus on specific grammar items. Correction is often discrete too, focussing on specific language items.

Example

"When I listened to my students doing a group discussion it was clear they were having real problems with the forms of some irregular past tenses, so the next lesson I just focussed on these, doing noticing activities and exercises – a discrete approach – before combining them into another group discussion in the following lesson."

Further reading

Davies, A. Brown, A. et al. (1999). Dictionary of Language Testing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ur, P.  (1999).  A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/discrete-item

 

 

Integrated

This term is used to refer to a way of teaching language skills and to types of syllabus. A lesson which extends work on one skill into another is called an integrated skills lesson. For example, learners could do work on a listening text on a particular topic then do a speaking activity that picks up on the language of the same topic, or they could do work on a reading text then develop their ideas and language by writing about the topic of the reading text.

An integrated syllabus is one which tries to ensure that the different syllabus components support one another e.g. the vocabulary enables the grammar, the grammar enables the functions.

Example

"I like using integrated skills in class. I think this approach gives learners an opportunity to consolidate and extend their language in a different context or skill."

Further reading

McDonough, J. and Shaw, C. (2003). Materials and Methods in ELT, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Nunan, D. and Carter, R. (2001). Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Selinker, L. and Russell, S. (1986). An empirical look at the integration and separation of skills in ELT. ELT Journal 40/3. Oxford University Press.

http://www.onestopenglish.com/skills/integrated-skills/

 

 

Form/forms

These are the ways through which language is expressed, for example, in grammar they refer to grammatical patterns, in pronunciation to sounds, stress and intonation and in writing to handwriting and spelling. Learners learning a language need to learn both the forms of language and the meanings they convey. Form in language learning is related particularly to accuracy.

Example

"Some people find languages like French, Spanish and Italian quite difficult to learn as each verb tense and person has a distinct form. Remembering all of them can be a headache."

Further reading

Doughty, C., & Williams, J. (Eds.) (1998). Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/f-is-for-focus-on-form/

 

 

Intake

The language that a learner meets in their environment and that they absorb. A distinction is made between input and intake. Input is the language available in the environment, intake is that part of the input that the learner (consciously or unconsciously) chooses to pay attention to and take in. Intake is the first stage in noticing language.

Example

"When he hears a foreign language his ears perk up and his eyes brighten-he seems to unconsciously or consciously pay attention to every bit of input that comes his way, busily turning input into intake."

Further reading

Gass, S. and Madden, C. (1985). Input in Second Language Acquisition. California: Newbury House. Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). Intake factors and intake processes in adult language learning. Applied Language Learning 1994, 5/1.

Van Patten, B. (2002). From Input to Output. New York: McGraw Hill.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/input

 

 

Input

The language in the learner’s  environment that the learner is exposed to through hearing or reading and which is available for intake in order to drive language learning.

Example

"When you go to a foreign country there is input everywhere: in street signs, newspapers, television, people talking, menus, leaflets etc etc."

Further reading

Doughty, C., & Williams, J. (Eds.) (1998). Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krashen, S.D. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.

 

 


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