Remembering – Foreign Language Teaching

April 30th, 201112:05 pm


Remembering – Foreign Language Teaching


One of the most important processes in language acquisition is the remembering of what has been learned. Psychologically, memory is not a reservoir of past events. It is rather an adjustment between past impressions and present demands. It is not a faculty but a process, or rather a group of mutually related processes. From the point of view of behaviour, memory is the reproduction of previously encountered responses to a given stimulus.

Apart from abnormal causes like injuries and brain diseases, forgetting may be due to the fact that the material had been repressed by the mind as too difficult, that new patterns have replaced or interfered with it, that patterns have been too long without use, or that the material was badly patterned in the first place. A study of the causes of forgetting gives us a clue to some ten factors involved in remembering. Among them – psychological, linguistic, methodological and others.

1) psychological – who does the remembering (his age, his intentions, his experience);

2) linguistic – what is to be remembered (the material and its context, how it is learned, the amount of practice or repetition, the amount of time elapsed).

A method may favour any one of the three memory types – eye, ear, or motor.

A reading method favours the eye type; listening to the material of a course favours the ear type; and writing and speaking methods favour motor type. These types represent, of course, the predominant sense awareness. Only the blind and the deaf are all of one type to the exclusion of others.

Yet, the predominant memory type of the learner may well affect the skill he will most easily acquire and also his preference for one sort of staging over another. It may also affect the relative proportion of recognition of productive vocabulary that he is likely to master. Learners with fugitive memories may have difficulty with all the language skills.

Structure of a Lesson

A lesson involves a trade-off of activity between the teacher and the learner on the one hand and between the learners on the other. In recent years the types of activity, which constitute independent stages of a lesson (questioning, grading and marking, presentation, consolidation and repetition of new material), tend to be incorporated into a definite, flexible and variable structure. It may be said with some confidence that a sound, practical knowledge of these stages is central to successful teaching.


I. Organising for Instruction


The first stage involves preparation of students for language learning activity (organising for instruction). It is, first and foremost, the beginning of a lesson: greetings, transition to work, absences, lateness and information regarding the items to be discussed during the lesson.

Remembering that the beginning of a lesson provides plenty of communicative opportunities. The teacher asks about the pupils’ weekend, talks about the weather, inquires about absentees. Phonetic drills are widely practised, commands and structural patterns could be recommended here (TPR and A-LM). A lasting practice of this technique seems to be loosing its instructional value because such dialogues are formal and do not arouse the pupils’ interest. At an advanced stage (in the 9-11th grades) question-answer exercises give way to depicting a picture or a situation and prove effective (Suggestive Method, CM are often resorted to).

In senior classes listening comprehension can be recommended, followed by questions, answers, and other ways of checking understanding. The time span of this stage is 2-3 minutes.

II. Revising Old Material

This stage is the basic one, as it involves the application of language items taught. The pupils do various exercises, depending on the type of the lesson and the level of teaching. Of course, the material to be revised depends both on the teaching point and the type of drills included in the plan. Some drills may require flash cards, filmstrips, recordings or videoclips.

The teacher may decide to revise some structural words in more than one of the principled ways, and follow up with the number of useful examples, so as to give the learners the idea that they are doing something of importance.

In this stage the pupils master such skills as comprehension, speaking and reading. The stage takes up to 10-15 minutes approximately.

Comprehension may be checked (1) by asking the learner to

point to something, (2) to do something, (3) to answer a question, (4) to explain the content, (5) to make a summary in his own language, etc.

III. Presentation of New Material

Getting the language material into the minds of the learners largely depends on the technique of presentation peculiar to the method; it also depends upon the teaching technique of individual teacher. We are here concerned with the analysis of the teaching text that is put into the heads of the learners with its recorded or pictorial equivalents. What does the learner see when he opens his textbook? How much of the language does it teach? How are the forms and meanings of the language conveyed? Does the quantity and quality of teaching vary from one part of the text to the other? These are some of the questions that must be answered in making the analysis of presentation.

Some methods do all the presentation; others do none at all. Some present the meaning of the language; others present only its form. For example, there are textbooks made up exclusively of pictures, i.e. in which ostensive principle prevails; others made up exclusively of words. The former may give only the context or meanings of the words spoken by the teacher; the latter only the written forms leaving for the teacher to supply their content. Teaching a language involves the presentation of both: (1) content and (2) expression or demonstration. The content is circumscribed by the school syllabus and includes Instructional Methodological Sets also known as Portfolio (textbooks, books and other source materials around which the instruction is organized; radio and television tapes, videoclips, newspapers and popular journal articles, etc. relating to the subject matter. The demonstration covers the techniques used to teach the language material. It includes the number, order and spacing in which different forms of language units – spoken or written – are presented to the learners. It is essential that the materials be selected on the criteria of interaction with meaning, form, and function.

The task of this stage is to acquaint the learners with these items orally. By conscious repetition the pupils especially lower-attaining, imitate and come to understand them before they use them, i.e. in order to speak or write a language, the learners must first be able to understand it. This stage lasts about 10 minutes. If new material is not presented the second stage is omitted and the third is expanded.

IV. Practice

Having presented new material, it must then be practised: the learner must produce examples of their own in response to cues given by the teacher or the tape. The teacher provides generalisations in the pupils’ mother tongue or the target language. Various manipulative drills may be used.

The teacher relaxes control over the learners. This stage will practise not only the new items but also what has been learned in the previous lesson. Do not correct every mistake the pupil makes. Encourage students to speak, exchange views. The teacher should encourage the use of new items, but should allow the students to practise other material in as natural way as possible. This stage takes up 10-15 minutes.

If new material is not practised this stage also falls out.

V. Reinforcement

Reinforcement is fixing of new material firmly in pupils’ mind, so that he can handle it correctly and fluently.

This stage is optional. It arises from the necessity for further guidance of the learners so as to make sure that they are learning correctly.

If the material is revised twice in the lesson the pupils will longer retain it in their memory. The teacher selects exercises to practise certain skills at corresponding levels (lexical or structural) and with classes of words at each level. The time allotted for this is 5 minutes approximately.

VI. Closing Stage

It involves the creation of situations, the response to which makes the learners use the words and speech patterns, and combining the new teaching point with what they have already been taught.

Besides, in this stage the pupils’ answers are graded and marked and homework is set and explained. The purpose of testing is to judge what has been learnt, what still needs to be learnt and what has to be taught again. In this stage the students should not receive any help from the teacher.

The above-mentioned lesson structure is typical but in real-life it is subject to change. If new material is not presented, the second and fourth stages are not planned and the remaining ones are treated with a greater amount of consideration. And, lastly, the teacher should adopt a critical approach towards his plan and the way it is executed. The time span for the closing stage is 2-3 minutes.

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.