ELT terms - defined and referenced!


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We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

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




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Scaffolding

Scaffolding refers to techniques the teacher can use to support learners in their learning of new language or skills. The techniques include breaking tasks down into small steps, providing demonstrations, providing visuals to support texts and talk, providing learners with dictionaries, guiding learners with teacher talk. The term 'scaffolding' was put forward by Bruner and colleagues (1976), who developed the idea after reading Vygotsky ("What learners can do today with support, they can do alone tomorrow" (Bentley, 2010, p.69)).  Scaffolding is also used to refer to the support speakers give one another to keep their communication going e.g. making eye contact, nodding, asking relevant questions.

Example

"Driving instructors usually gradually scale down the amount of scaffolding they give learner drivers. At first they may use a second steering wheel, tell them when and how to change gear etc, then bit by bit they tell them and show them less and less till they are ‘on their own’."

Further reading

Bentley, K. (2010). The TKT Course CLIL Module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Foley, J. (1993). Key concepts in ELT in ELT: scaffolding ELT Journal 48/ 1. Oxford University Press.

Gibbons, P. (2008). Challenging pedagogies: More than just good practice?’ in NALDIC Quarterly

vol. 6 no. 2. https://www.naldic.org.uk/Resources/NALDIC/Professional%20Development/Documents/NQ6.2.3.pdf

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

Wood, D. Bruner, J.S. & Ross, G. (1976) The role of tutoring and problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17/2, pp. 89-100.

Scaffolding children’s learning: https://www.carolread.com/download/scaffolding-childrens-learning-through-story-and-drama-cats-autumn-2008/

PPP

This acronym stands for Presentation-Practice-Production. PPP is an approach to language teaching that was very popular in the 1980s. The approach involves first the teacher presenting the form and meaning of new target language to students in a meaningful context (presentation), then giving learners the opportunity to do controlled practice of the target language (practice), then finally letting students use the target language in freer, less controlled activities (production). The rationale for PPP is that learners need an accuracy-focussed stage in which to practise the language in relatively error-free conditions before using it in less guided conditions. This is so as to give them the opportunity to build up good habits and avoid errors, a platform from which they can then engage in more fluency-based activities. The approach has been criticised for being too restrictive and rather artificial, but attempts have been made to respond to these criticisms by making its activities more meaningful and communicative. It currently survives in more subtle forms in many ELT classrooms and materials.

Example

"Some of my students really like PPP-type lessons – I think they like to be guided before jumping into using the language without support. Other students I have clearly find it limiting and a bit meaningless. It depends on their learning styles, so I try to vary the approaches I use across my lessons."

Further reading

Burns, A. and Richards, J. (2012) Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

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

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

 

 

Drilling

Drilling is a teaching technique in which the teacher asks the students to repeat several times items of language that they are learning. These can be vocabulary, structures, sounds or functions. Drilling, which involves students in responding to a prompt, originated in the behaviourist approach to learning and was intended to reinforce learning through habit formation. Many now criticise drilling for being a passive, boring and uncreative way of learning language. Others think it has a place in providing accuracy practice and security for learners at early moments of learning something new. There are various kinds of drill, for example:  whole class, individual, repetition, substitution, transformation.

Example

"Whenever I teach new vocabulary I ask my students to repeat it after me, sometimes four or five times. I make sure to listen carefully to their responses, and try to make the drill interesting by e.g. asking them to say things very quietly, very loudly, very slowly, very quickly etc. I think drilling, in small doses, helps learners, especially those who lack confidence."

Further reading

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

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

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

Ur, P. (2009). Grammar Practice Activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

Personalisation

This is a teaching technique which involves the teacher using materials or teacher talk that makes a clear link to students’ own lives, interests or attitudes. The idea behind personalisation is that students will become more motivated and learn better when they can see that language has relevance to themselves.

Example

"We read a text about space travel then had a discussion about who amongst would like to do space travel, why and why not. This personalised the topic and made it real for us."

Further reading

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

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

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

 

 

Mingle/a mingling activity

In this activity several/all the members of a class get up and go to a free space in the classroom. They then carry out a communicative task (e.g. a survey, Find Someone Who) which requires them to talk to all other members of the group, and often to note down answers.

Example

"On the first day of our course the teacher gave us a worksheet then asked us to all get up and complete it. We had to go round talking to every other student to get personal information about them. It was a great ice-breaker."

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/mingle

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

 

 

Guided discovery

Guided discovery is an approach to teaching language in which learners are presented with examples of language (e.g. adjectives starting with the prefixes in- or un- or ir-) and prompted or asked leading questions in order to work out what the rule of use is, or what grammatical patterning underlies the examples. Guided discovery is said to encourage learners to become more autonomous and to be based on the way language is learnt naturally outside the classroom.

Example

"Teacher: Look at these examples on the board, then complete the rule about how to form the present perfect."

 

The present perfect

I have been to China.

He has travelled all over the world.

They have bought tickets for a boat trip to Cyprus.

The form of the present perfect:

Subject + ………………… + …………………

 

Further reading

Ellis, R. (2002) Methodological options in grammar teaching materials. In Hinkel, E., & Fotos, S. (eds.) New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms.  Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/guided-discovery

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/tag/guided-discovery/

 

 

Eliciting

This is a teaching technique in which the teacher prompts learners in order to elicit or draw out from them specific answers.  It is a technique used especially to re-activate or revise language items or ideas, and/or to encourage learners to contribute to their own learning rather than being spoon-fed by the teacher. Some people criticise the use of elicitation techniques as they think that they lead to language being used simply for display (to show you know it), rather than to real communicative language use.

Example

"Teacher: What do you call someone who checks and records a firm’s money?

Student 1: A banker.

Teacher: No, they work in the firm and watch what money the firm spends and receives. An a………

Student 2:  An accountant.

Teacher: That’s right."

Further reading

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

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

Ur, P. (1999). A course in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/eliciting

 

 

Monitor/monitoring

This term has two distinct meanings in ELT. The first comes from one of the five hypotheses that make up Krashen’s input hypothesis, a theory of language acquisition in which he maintained that when a learner is monitoring their use of language, they are focusing on accuracy and inhibiting acquisition. In this use monitoring means the learner checking and evaluating their own language output, as they produce it, whether it be speaking or writing.

The other meaning of monitoring refers to the teacher observing and assessing learners in class.

Example

"I find that when I monitor my own language use as I speak, it really slows me down and makes me hesitate and make mistakes."

Further reading

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

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

O’Malley and Chamot, A. (1990). Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

 

 

Connotation

A connotation is the emotional association attached to a word collectively or by an individual. For examples, dogs in some cultures have the connotation of being soft, loyal creatures. In other cultures they are considered dangerous and dirty. Knowing the connotation of a word is part of knowing a word.

Example

"My personal connotation for yoghurt is as something healthy, light and eaten at breakfast. For my mother it was something weird and unfamiliar."

Further reading

Gairns, R. and Redman, S. (1986). Working with Words: a guide to teaching and learning vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Klippel, F. (1994). Cultural aspects in foreign language teaching.  Journal for the Study of British Cultures. I/1.

Schmitt, N. and  McCarthy, M.  (ed.s) (1997). Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, Pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tomalin, B. and Stempleski, S. (1993). Cultural Awareness.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/v-is-for-vocabulary-teaching/

 

 

Discourse marker

A discourse marker is a word or group of words, often at the beginning of a sentence or utterance, which signal(s) to the listener or reader the direction in which the speaker or writer intends to continue what they are saying. Examples of discourse markers are as I was saying, to sum up, by the way. Linkers are also sometimes said to be discourse markers.

Example

"It’s useful to teach discourse markers to learners. They help learners structure what they are saying or writing and make the purpose of what they are saying clearer."

Further reading

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

Hedge, T. (2005). Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

Thornbury, S. (2005) Beyond the Sentence. Oxford: Macmillan.

Widdowson, H.G. (2007) Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Accuracy

Accuracy describes the ability to write or speak a foreign language without making grammatical, vocabulary, spelling or pronunciation mistakes. It is often contrasted with fluency. Classroom activities are sometimes categorised into those that promote fluency and those that promote accuracy.

Example

"She makes lots of grammar and pronunciation mistakes – her speech isn’t very accurate; but she speaks so fluently and expressively that everyone understands her."

Further reading

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

Ellis, R. (2001). Grammar teaching – Practice or consciousness-raising? In Richards, J. C., & Renandya, W. A. (Eds.), Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

Norris, J. M., & Ortega, L. (2001). Does type of instruction make a difference? Substantive findings from a meta-analytic review. Language Learning, 51, Supplement 1.

Spada, N. (1997). Form-focussed instruction and second language acquisition: A review of classroom and laboratory research. Language Teaching 30.

Swan, M. (1985) A critical look at the Communicative Approach, ELT Journal, 39/ 1and 39/ 2. Oxford University Press.

Truscott, J. (1996). The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes. Language Learning, 46.

Widdowson, H.G. (1985) Against dogma: A reply to Michael Swan,  ELT Journal, 39/ 3. Oxford University Press.

Accuracy and correcting mistakes (CUP) www.cambridge.org.br/upload/news/00000855.doc

 

 

Fluency

Fluency is the ability to speak over stretches of language smoothly, naturally and without too much hesitation or pausing. Fluency is sometimes also used to refer to writing. In this case it means writing with ease – coherently and with flow.

Example

"He was a native speaker but he spoke so slowly – he was always searching for words, hesitating and pausing. His lack of fluency made him a bit difficult to pay attention to and understand."

Further reading

Bygate, M. (1987). Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (ed.)  (2005). Planning and Task Performance in a Second Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hedge, T. (1993) Key concepts in ELT: Fluency. ELT Journal 47/3. Oxford University Press.

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

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

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/f-is-for-fluency/

 

 

Chunk

Chunks are longer stretches of language that frequently occur together. They include collocations, phrasal verbs, social formulae, sentence frames, idioms and discourse markers. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with collocation.

Example

"When students learn fixed expressions such as despite the fact that, in my opinion, to summarise or by the way as chunks, they often find them easier to remember."

Further reading

Lewis, M. (1993). The Lexical Approach. Brighton: Language Teaching Publications.

Lindstromberg, S. and Boers, F. (2008). Teaching Chunks of Language. London: Helbling Languages.

Schmidt, N. (2000). Key concepts in ELT: chunks. ELT Journal 54/4. Oxford University Press.

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

http://www.scottthornbury.com/articles.html 

 

Multi-word unit

A group of words (e.g. a verb + adverb particle or preposition) which has a meaning as a whole and for which the meaning of the whole group of words is different from the meaning of each individual word. Multi-word units are often phrasal verbs, idioms, compounds. Examples of multi-word units are fall in love, a hand-set, once in a blue moon, to look after. It is useful for learners to learn these units as chunks rather than piecing them together from individual words. Multi-word units are sometimes referred to as polywords.

Example

"Learners seem to learn phrasal verbs more easily if they see each one as a multi-word unit which is a complete lexical item in itself, rather than as a verb + an adverb or preposition."

Further reading

Laufer, B. (1997). What’s in a word that makes it hard or easy: some interlexical factors that affect

the learning of words. In N. Schmitt and M. McCarthy (ed.s) Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, Pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lindstromberg, S. and Boers, F. (2008). Teaching Chunks of Language. Helbling Languages.

Nattinger, J.R. and DeCarrico, J.(1992) Lexical Phrases and Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

 

 

Error/Mistake/Slip

These words – error and mistake in particular – are often used interchangeably. When given distinct meanings, a slip refers to the kind of mistake we can all (including proficient speakers) make due to pressure of time, anxiety etc. i.e. this is not a mistake due to lack of proficiency but due to the temporary effect on the speaker of particular circumstances .

An error refers to a systematic mistake made by a language learner that is due to lack of mastery of that part of the language system [see also interlanguage]. Mistake is a non-technical word that refers to both a slip and an error.

Example

"He’s a proficient English speaker – there are no errors in his language, but when he gave that talk the other night he was so nervous that he made loads of slips."

Further reading

Ellis, R. and Barkhuizen, G.P.  (2005). Analysing Learner Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Corder, S. P. (1967). The significance of learners' errors. International Review of Applied Linguistics 5.

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

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/linguacom/feedback-error-correction-%E2%80%93-it-your-job

 

 

Colligation

A type of collocation in which words are linked together at the level of grammar rather than meaning e.g. in a hurry, what about sending an email (what + about + gerund).  Michael Hoey says ‘The basic idea of colligation is that just as a lexical item may be primed to co-occur with another lexical item, so also it may be primed to occur in or with a particular grammatical function. Alternatively, it may be primed to avoid appearance in or co-occurrence with a particular grammatical function.’ (Hoey 2005:43).

Example

"Students sometimes make mistakes of colligation, for example: I know what do you mean; I don’t mind go work on Sundays."

Further reading

Hoey. M. (2005). Lexical Priming. London: Routledge.

Mitchell, T. (1971).Linguistic ‘goings-on’: collocations and other lexical matters arising on the linguistic record, Archivum Linguisticum 2.

O’Keefe, A., McCarthy, M., Carter, R. (2007). From Corpus to Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2002). How to Teach Vocabulary. Oxford: Macmillan.

 

 

Collocation

Two or more words that occur together more often than on a random basis are said to collocate or to be collocations. Collocations may be strong e.g. blond hair. In strong collocations the words can rarely, if ever, be replaced by other words. Other collocations are weaker or weak e.g. grey hair. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with chunk. In this sense collocation can cover e.g.: phrasal verbs, compound words, idioms, fixed expressions.

Others use collocation to refer mainly to two- or three-word groups that frequently occur together. Corpora making use of concordance programmes have helped linguists find collocations in language and realise how very common they are.

Example

"To have a shower is a collocation in UK English and Australian, whereas to take a shower is a much more common collocation in the USA."

Further reading

Lewis, M. (1997). Implementing the Lexical Approach. Boston, Mass., Thomson Heinle.

McCarthy, M. and O’Dell, F. (2005). Collocations in Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Keefe, A., McCarthy, M., Carter, R. (2007). From Corpus to Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walter, E. and Woodford, K. (2010).Collocations Extra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

Affective filter

Certain researchers into language acquisition, particularly Stephen Krashen, maintain that language learning is facilitated or obstructed by an ‘affective filter’. The filter is made up of attitudes or feelings which are said to control and select the input learners absorb from their environment. If their affective filter is set low, learners are open to receiving input. If it is set high, because they are stressed/ anxious/ poorly motivated etc., then they are not open to receiving input.

Example

"For some unknown reason, he just loved Spanish and took in everything he heard – his affective filter was clearly set low."

Further reading

Ellis, R. (1983).Review of Krashen’s principles and practice in second language acquisition. ELT Journal 37/3. Oxford University Press.

Gass, S. (1997). Input, Interaction and the Second Language Learner. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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

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

VanPatten, B. and Williams, J. (eds) (2007). Theories in Second Language Acquisition: an introduction. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

 

 

Learner autonomy

This refers to the learner’s ability to take charge of and direct their own language learning without relying on the teacher. It is believed that if a learner is autonomous, they take responsibility for their own learning and that this is a good thing, as it allows them to learn independently (and hence more deeply) and to go on learning. Many teaching approaches, materials and courses contain a focus on strategies that help to make the learner more autonomous e.g. how to work with a dictionary, developing proofreading skills, deciding what to learn next. Some learners appreciate the freedom and responsibility autonomy gives them, while others may prefer the teacher to remain in charge. Learner autonomy is also referred to as self-directed learning.

Example

"He’s such an autonomous learner that he finds it hard to accept being told what and how to learn by a teacher in a classroom."

Further reading

Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning. Harlow: Longman.

Benson, P. & Voller, P. (1996) Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning. Harlow: Longman.

Cohen, A. D. (1998). Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language. Harlow: Longman.

Holliday, A. (2005) The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Teaching. New Haven, NH: Yale University Press.

Little, D., Ridley, J. & Ushioda, E. (Eds.). (2003). Learner Autonomy in Foreign Language Classrooms: Teacher, learner, curriculum and assessment. Dublin: Authentik.

Nunan, D. (1988). The Learner-centred Curriculum: A study in second language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nunan, D. (1996). The Self-directed Teacher. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scharle, A & Szabo, A. (2000) Learner Autonomy: A guide to developing learner responsibility Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, R. (2008). Key concepts in ELT: learner autonomy. E LT Journal 62/4. Oxford University Press.

 

 

Metalanguage

The language and terms that we use to talk abstractly about language and language learning. This covers terms for grammar, vocabulary, phonetics, discourse and learning strategies. Teachers may use some metalanguage to talk to their learners about language or language learning e.g. ‘This is an indefinite pronoun’, ‘Try to work out what the best vocabulary learning strategies are for you’. Some learners, though not all, appreciate learning some metalanguage as they think it helps them to learn better.

The NILE Glossary contains many terms which make up the metalanguage of English language teaching, as does Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT.

Example

"His lessons were full of so much metalanguage that I really didn’t have a clue what he was talking about."

Further reading

Allford, D. (2013). Vygotsky, metalanguage and language learning. The Language Learning Journal, 41/1.

Andrews, S. (2007). Teacher Language Awareness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.t

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

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

 

 


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