Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Getting Ell Students out of Their Shells: Enhancing Student Engagement through Writing

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Getting Ell Students out of Their Shells: Enhancing Student Engagement through Writing

Article excerpt


When teaching students that speak a foreign language how to speak English or any other second language, engaging the students in the lesson is integral to the students' achievement of maximum retention of the lesson. However, engaging English language learners (ELL) students tends to be difficult due to the multitude of multicultural differences that may exist between the teacher and the many different nationalities that comprise ELL students. Further compounding the problem of engagement are language anxiety (LA) or foreign language anxiety (FLA), which are interchangeable phrases used to conceptualize the same circumstance ELL students experiences when they are asked to complete any assignment involving explicit use of the second language (L2) and become overwhelmingly nervous. Writing and group activities have both been identified as effective tools for engaging students of all paradigms in the material being taught and reducing the occurrences of LA or FLA amongst ELL students. This research explores the occurrence of LA or FLA amongst several classes of ELL students to determine how effective writing and group are at alleviating the occurrence of student anxiety in conjunction with L2 assignments and whether these tools help get ELL students out of their shells to help facilitate learning and retention of the L2 for students learning another language. The determinations extrapolated from the surveys administered to ELL students indicated that the participants were less likely to experience LA or FLA when L2 writing involved group exercises as opposed to individual exercises.

KEYWORDS: ELL, LA, FLA, anxiety, language anxiety

I. Introduction

The physical condition known as anxiety has been categorically defined as three specific forms, identified as trait anxiety, which denotes this condition as a personality trait; state anxiety that occurs when an individual experiences apprehension at a precise moment in time; and situational anxiety that occurs within the context of a well-defined situation (Awan, Azher, Anwar, & Naz, 2010). The feeling of nervousness associated with language learning termed as language anxiety (LA) is a form of situational anxiety (Awan, Azher, Anwar, & Naz, 2010). The term 'foreign language anxiety'(FLA) is typically used to describe a generally vague impression of apprehension or fear that can arise when English language learner (ELL) students are engaged in different kinds of activities performed both in and out of the classroom designed to facilitate the acquisition of the second language (L2) (Chen, Kyle, & McIntyre, 2008; King, 2013). Foreign language anxiety is determined to stem from a multifaceted collective of behaviors, self-perceptions, feelings, and beliefs associated with classroom language learning derived from the distinctiveness of the language learning process (Chen & Chang, 2009). In the context of this definitive explanation, three overall constituents of language anxiety have been proposed, which are test anxiety, fear of negative evaluation, and communication apprehension (Young, 1991). Athough language anxiety is sometimes viewed as a helpful facilitator of successful completion of the complex tasks required of L2 learning, it can also evolve into a debilitating anxiety, or writing apprehension, which cannot be easily dismissed (Awan, Azher, Anwar, & Naz, 2010). The potentially harmful effects of anxiety can occur frequently in the context of L2 teaching and learning (Trang, 2012).

It has been theorized that scaffolding for ELL learners through group activities can reduce the severity of language anxiety as well as writing apprehension and help improve the outcomes for the completion of the L2 activity (Foss & Reitzel, 1988). Research concerning the efficacy of pairing ELL students in groups using associative learning techniques indicates that these situations encourage oral participation when L2 students collaborated through group learning, their motivation increased, they took more initiative, and experienced lower levels of anxiety regarding their learning (Tong, 2010; Trang, 2012). …

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