Academic journal article Babel

'That Didn't Work, Did It? I Need to Know How to Do That!' Delivering Classroom Activities to Maximise Language Learning

Academic journal article Babel

'That Didn't Work, Did It? I Need to Know How to Do That!' Delivering Classroom Activities to Maximise Language Learning

Article excerpt


Many novice language teachers have difficulty putting into practice their developing knowledge of language teaching. This article focuses on one of seven case study teachers as an exemplar of those involved in a New Zealand in-service professional development program for teachers of languages (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish) in schools. The program was successful in developing teachers' understanding of what learners need in order to develop language knowledge. However, observations of the case study teachers revealed that some had weaknesses in classroom delivery, resulting in unproductive use of teaching time and minimum student language learning. To maximise learning, many experienced teachers have already established classroom routines and procedures. To assist novice teachers in addressing the microskills of classroom routines and the utterances needed for delivery to maximise productive time in language classrooms, we offer our Engage, Ensure, Sustain, Reflect (EESR) framework. A teaching event from a Year 8 French class is used to elaborate the framework which may provide support for language teachers to develop good classroom management skills. As well, the EESR framework may have relevance for language teacher educators working with pre- and in-service teachers.

Key Words

classroom delivery, routines, maximising language learning, framework, language teacher education



Learning languages involves learning to communicate in the target language (TL), understanding the relationship between language and culture and developing awareness of self and others. These interrelated areas are fundamental in The generic framework for teaching and learning languages in English-medium schools (Ministry of Education, 2007) in New Zealand and in the Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2011). The focus on the curriculum strands may vary according to stages of learner development and languages taught and may be emphasised by language teachers at different times in the classroom. However, underpinning both curricula is the core focus on learner communication in the new language. As noted in the Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages to understand and use the new, unfamiliar language, 'the learner requires significant cognitive effort to make sense of it' (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2011, p. 17). Experienced teachers have developed routines and skills that encourage learners to make a 'cognitive effort' so that communication can take place effectively. Novice teachers need knowledge and practice of the microskills that experienced teachers use to maximise language learning. However, this can be an overlooked area in language teacher development. This paper introduces Beth, a novice language teacher, outlines a teaching event that took place in her classroom and suggests a framework that would assist novice teachers like her to develop the skills for effective lesson delivery.


Beth was delivering a French lesson to a class of twelve year old boys and girls who learned French twice a week. The observer (a member of the research team) was sitting at the back of the classroom, noting how Beth delivered an interactive classroom event. Beth was aiming to revise vocabulary, introduce new grammar and provide opportunities for learners to practise the language within the context of a family tree.

From the start, some learners were restless. Two boys were arguing behind their desk lids about a bottle of Coke. Others had their exercise books out on the desk. Before the class was fully settled, Beth started the lesson. She pointed at the family tree she had prepared on the board with English vocabulary (mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, son and daughter), elicited the equivalent in French and wrote the words on the board. …

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