Celta Focus on Learner

1 January 2017

She followed her husband to the UK with her children. Her husband is doing a PhD. at Oxford University and has a couple of years further study before he finishes. xxxxx is currently working at Primark as a shop assistant. She learnt some basic English while at school, however much of this was listening, reading and writing based and the opportunity to speak with fluent English speakers was limited.

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Her motivation to improve is initially based on her need to communicate better at work and in everyday life activities, such as shopping. She would also like to do some further study in England but realises that her level of English needs to improve before she would be accepted onto a course. She sees the benefits of her improvement and this motivates her to learn more. She is very much a concrete learner. She enjoys the oral interaction and believes this is how she learns most effectively. She believes her strengths are in reading and listening.

She says she understands most things she reads and hears but struggles when trying to express herself orally. She believes her vocabulary could be significantly improved; and from listening to her I believe her pronunciation could also be improved. Part of the reason for this is her lack of social interaction with native English speakers and also her lack of confidence as she believes this is her weakness. However the challenges of a Nepalese person to differentiate some consonant clusters, stress values, vowel sounds and diphthongs alluded to below needs to be taken into consideration. xxxx enjoys the oral interaction exercises most of all.

She doesn’t particularly dislike anything in the lessons, referring only to doing nothing while waiting for others to finish an exercise. Analysis To help xxxxx I believe some focus on speaking to give here more practice and improve her confidence would be appropriate. Also some work on pronunciation would be beneficial. xxxxx tends to be monotonic and sometimes mumbles (maybe due to her lack of confidence) so I believe an exercise forcing attention to stress and maybe intonation would be helpful. I noticed in our chat, and also in lessons, that she uses present simple forms when past simple is the correct form.

For example she will say we speak about or we talk about rather than we spoke about or we talked about. I will address improving speaking as a skill and incorporate into this the correct use of past simple. I will address pronunciation as a language area. In particular stress. The extract for a NELTA Journal below gives an example of the challenges a Nepalese person encounters when pronouncing English words. Activities Speaking For improvement of speaking I have selected 2 exercises from 700 Class Room Activities – Instant Lessons for Busy Teachers by David Seymour and Maria Popova.

These are speaking exercises with an emphasis on past simple forms. Sequences p 93 – this is an interactive exercise where the students take it in turns to ask and reply to questions relating to what they have done in the past. This will encourage speaking with a partner and provide for a good feedback section where the students relay what they have found out about their partner’s past activities and give the teacher a good opportunity to also correct grammar and pronunciation. The Last Time p94 – this exercise places students into pairs where they take it in turns to ask each other “when was the last time they did a particular activity”.

This exercise promotes an excellent opportunity for speaking and again the promotion of the correct us of the past simple form. Feedback session would enable the teacher to correct any grammar and pronunciation errors. Pronunciation For improvement of pronunciation I will address stress as the key area. I have selected Pronunciation: Stress from Just Right Upper Intermediate by Jeremy Harmer and Carol Lethaby. Exercises 26 to 30 on p 12. In exercise 26 the students listen to some sentences and circle the words which are stressed. Exercise 27 gives the students an opportunity to then repeat these sentences using the same stresses.

There is also opportunity in feedback to move the stress points around and gain input from the students on which other variations could be used and when. Exercise 28 gives the students practice in the use and emphasis of “so” and “such” in response to bad news. Drilling them to apply the appropriate stress would be employed. Exercise 29 is a pairs exercise giving the students turns in using appropriate stress in sentences expressing sympathy. This will give the students an opportunity to practice and reinforce what they have learnt in the lesson so far. Feed back to the class enables the teacher to correct and drill where necessary.

Exercise 30 is a variation on 29 but where the student has to be more creative and devise their own scenarios. Again the exercise reinforces the lesson learning points.

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