Aiming for the Target Language: Setting Language Learning Goals
The beginning of the school year is a great time for setting goals. Teachers as well as students need to make a plan that will guide them throughout the year. NCLRC has developed some useful tools which can help in setting realistic, achievable language learning goals. The first step is to talk with your students about the difference between achievable goals and unrealistic goals. Often, students say, “I’d like to learn to talk like a native speaker of (language X).” A more achievable goal would be “I’d like to learn 15 new words a week in (language X).” Or, “I will watch at least one movie a month in (language X).” You can help your students to distinguish between short-term and long-term goals. Short term goals help students feel a growing sense of accomplishment. For example, “I want to make a poster about my Italian favorite singer.” Long-term goals are those related to one’s motivation for learning the language, for example, “I want to be able to order a meal in Italian when I travel to Italy.”
Goal-Setting and Portfolio Assessment
A few years ago, the staff of NCLRC developed a wonderful Portfolio Assessment guide, which includes worksheets that you can have your students complete and print out as they set their own goals. This online worksheet can be converted to a printable page:
Worksheet for Setting Reasonable goals
Another way to approach the setting of goals is to evaluate one’s current level of proficiency in the target language, and then to set goals related to achieving a higher level. The worksheet students can use for this purpose is:
Setting Personal Language Goals - Self-Evaluation Rubric
Monitoring the Achievement of Goals
￼After setting the goals, students should be reminded to monitor their progress in achieving them. What does monitoring look like in the classroom?
- Monitoring happens when students look back at their written goals and annotate them with comments: “I learned 10 new words this week.”
- Monitoring can be accomplished by reflection on a product: “This paragraph I wrote includes the new vocabulary I learned this week. I can remember them better now that I have used them in context.”
- Monitoring can be an internal process, such as when students perform a task successfully, and think to themselves, “I felt confident of what I was saying and I know I understood what was being said to me.”
Following the process of monitoring, students should be asked to evaluate their work and extend their application of learning strategies to new tasks. See the box and related articles listed below for more details on how to incorporate goal setting into instruction on general learning strategies.
Learning Strategies and Goal-Setting
The graphic at right shows the relationship between the metacognitive strategies and Task-based learning strategies. A learner is at the center, and after realizing his goal for a task, decides to use a strategic, problem-solving approach to complete it. At various stages of the task he may use any of the metacognitive strategies, planning, monitoring, managing and evaluating. The categories surrounding the outer circle refer to the lists of strategies from which the learner can choose: What You Know, Your Imagination, Organizational Skills, Variety of Resources.
Setting a goal for learning is one of the general learning strategies known as
Metacognitive strategies. The result of goal setting, reflecting upon your own thinking and learning, is metacognitive thinking. We list four general metacognitive strategies:
- Organize/Plan Your Own Learning
- Manage Your Own Learning
- Monitor Your Own Learning
- Evaluate Your Own Learning
Related articles on our website:
Lend Me an Ear - Teaching Listening Strategies for World Language Learning
Empowering Your Students with Learning Strategies
Secondary Education Learning Strategies Guide
Learning Strategies Definitions (Monitor)
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Lend Me an Ear - Teaching Listening Strategies for World Language Learning
This month we examine the National Standard of Foreign Language Learning relating to Interpretive Communication. Interpretive Communication refers to the understanding of material that is read or heard. Often language teachers do not use recorded materials because students react with dismay; "I can’t understand a thing!" When a teacher gives support before the listening task through instruction in strategies, students are able to break down the flow of sound into comprehensible language. The strategies-based instruction (SBI) approach developed by Cohen (1998) can be summarized with the graphic shown here. Students are guided to apply strategies before, during and after a language task. If students are supported through these three phases of a task with learning strategies, they can successfully finish the task and develop their own repertoire of strategies to apply to other learning contexts.
To develop listening comprehension skills while expanding social studies knowledge, the Spanish teacher can use a foreign language podcast, such as our Culture Club Teen Hangout podcast to provide authentic language models and listening content. The following lesson plan follows the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA-FL), which integrates language, content, and learning strategies instruction.
At the beginning of class, the teacher begins by asking students in Spanish what they know about Puerto Rico. What languages are spoken there? Is it part of the United States? Where is it?
She guides students to a map to see the location of the island and shows a photo of a typical scene from a travel web page. Next, she asks students to think about how they usually get information when they are listening – perhaps they listen for specific words, as when the sports report is on and they hear the name of their favorite team, then take note of the game score. She confirms the fact that they already have some strategies for listening, which they can apply to listening in Spanish, too.
The teacher explains that she will play a short excerpt from the beginning of the podcast and show a strategy to use before she listens. I’m going to listen to the beginning of this podcast to find out who is speaking, and why they made the podcast. This strategy is setting a goal. I’m also using what I know about podcasts because I know that at the beginning there is usually an introduction telling who is speaking and why they made the podcast."
She opens up the application iTunes on her computer and makes sure the speakers are turned on, then selects the Podcasts section and the "NCLRC Language Resource" then "Culture Club Hangout Interview" and forwards to :24 seconds into the podcast, where Adrian introduces himself in Spanish. She plays the segment to :55 seconds. "While I listen to this, I am thinking, ‘I should hear a name.’ I did hear a name, the interviewer is Adrian. Now that I have heard this, I can summarize for you by saying, ‘This podcast is for teachers and students of Spanish, and it will be an interview with a young woman who is from Argentina but lives in Peru.’ I’m going to use one more strategy here: after listening, I can personalize by thinking of how useful this will be to me in classes; I can let you hear native speakers of Spanish talking about their lives. I’m also thinking about how useful it is for you to hear different accents in Spanish from the young man, who is from Puerto Rico, and the young woman, who is from Argentina."
Now, the teacher hands out the list of questions in Spanish. She directs students to read the questions and think of what they want to know about the student in Puerto Rico. Are they interested in fashions? If so, they might pay special attention to questions 19 – 21 (using iTunes the teacher can go directly to those questions by choosing the top menu for "Chapters" and selecting the question.) Or, if they want to know what Natalia thinks about the US or American food, they would choose to focus on the responses to questions 25 and 26.
The teacher displays a list or gives students a handout with the strategy reminders:
Use one or more of these strategies:
BEFORE LISTENING: Think of What I Know, Set a goal
WHILE LISTENING: Focus on Key words
AFTER LISTENING: Summarize, then Personalize It - Make it My Own
She reminds students to begin by setting a goal, and then plays the podcast through once. Then, she asks students which questions they want to hear again, and uses the Chapters menu to select and play those questions and responses. After they have heard the answers, she asks them to summarize by telling their neighbor in Spanish about what they learned. She suggests that they can draw a picture of a young person in the styles that Natalia described, or make a statement to Personalize, such as "A mi me gusta escuchar música con el ipod."
A student interested in politics may comment on Natalia’s opinions about American foreign policy, "Los Estados Unidos son una democracia generosa que ayuda a todos."
When the class has finished discussing the podcast, the teacher asks them to think about the goals they have set for themselves. "Were you able to meet your goal? Write an entry in your learning journal about how you could understood what you were listening to. Did using the strategy that you chose help you to remember or understand what you heard? What other times can you use it?"
The teacher asks her class to try using the same strategy in the evening when they listen to Univsion or a Spanish radio station. She gives them a list of podcasts that they can download for their own practice, and asks them to summarize something they have listened to at home in Spanish for the next class.
One way to expand this lesson into mainstream content classes would be a collaboration with the Social Studies teacher. Students could have the opportunity to continue learning about Puerto Rico and practicing their listening strategies as they watch a movie, La Guagua Aérea, (IMDB: http://imdb.com/title/tt0143284/) about Puerto Rican Immigration to the US. The Social Studies teacher might discuss the film contents in English, and plays segments which have subtitles in English. The Spanish teacher could give her students the assignment to respond to the movie in Spanish.
In conclusion, teaching listening comprehension strategies can give students the tools they need to be successful in language learning, and provide motivation for students to understand authentic, interesting content.
Download Podcast Transcript
For a complete list of language learning strategies, see http://nclrc.org/about_teaching/topics/lang_learn_strat.html
1.- Chamot, A.U., Barnhardt, S., El-Dinary, P.B.,& Robbins, J. (1999). The Learning Strategies Handbook [Buy Now] . White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.
2.-Cohen, A. D. (1998). Strategies in learning and using a second language. Harlow, England: Addison Wesley Longman.
Sanchez, L. R. (1994). La Guagua Aérea. San Juan, P.R.: Editorial Cultural Inc. [Buy Now]
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Step One in the CALLA Model: Preparing for Learning Strategies Instruction
As a foreign language teacher you understand the importance of helping your students learn a new language in the most effective and efficient manner possible. You probably use different techniques to help your students learn to listen, speak, read and write in the target language. Your students also use techniques, or strategies, they believe will help them learn their new language. Some of these strategies may indeed help them become better and more efficient learners; whereas others, if used in the wrong contexts or with the wrong tasks, may not. Some learners, whose repertoire of strategies is limited, may not know that by using different strategies they can facilitate learning of the new language. Research conducted by staff at the NCLRC revealed that the most effective language learners are those that have a large repertoire of strategies and are able to select the best strategy to help them meet the demands of a specific task.
As teachers, we often focus more on how we teach than on how our students learn. Learning strategies instruction forces us to examine not just what we do to facilitate learning but what our students do to facilitate their own learning. When we think about curriculum, lesson design, or even how we respond to a student's question, learning strategies instruction acts as a lens that focuses us on the how of learning rather than just the what. Learning strategy instruction gives us a language with which we can discuss learning with our students and a means to improve their learning. In a classroom that incorporates learning strategy instruction, the teacher and the students attend to the process of learning and how to improve that process.
Though the goal of learning strategy instruction is for students to become independent learners with the dexterity and wisdom to use strategies appropriately in a variety of contexts; in the beginning, learning when and in what contexts to use particular strategies or groups of strategies requires direction and guidance by the teacher. Students then take on more responsibility over time. In The Learning Strategies Handbook (Chamot, Barnhardt, El-Dinary, and Robbins, 1999), the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) instructional sequence is proposed as a framework for teaching learning strategies. The analogy of constructing a building from the ground up is used to explain the CALLA framework. First a foundation must be poured (preparing students for strategies); next scaffolding is erected to support the building in progress (presenting strategies and coaching students as they practice them). As the building evolves, the scaffolding is slowly removed (instruction and coaching begin to taper off as strategy use becomes ingrained and is extended to other areas). However, once constructed, buildings still require maintenance and repairs from time to time (hence, the need to evaluate strategies and instruction and to revisit earlier phases of instruction for additional support).
In the above analogy, the CALLA instructional sequence is evident. This sequence involves the following phases: preparation, presentation, practice, evaluation, and expansion. Given that many of us are beginning a new instructional year, the focus of this article in on the preparation phase. How do we begin to incorporate learning strategies into our classrooms? To begin you must examine your own beliefs and practices about language instruction. How do you currently organize your classroom and your students' learning? Do you operate from a learner-centered perspective, or is your orientation more teacher-centered? If you have already established a learner-centered environment, then implementing learning strategies instruction will be easier. If not, then you will need to examine your own orientation toward teaching. Are you willing to spend instructional time on helping students understand the strategies they currently use and then guiding them in learning and using new strategies? Are you willing to focus more on the process than on the product? In a learner-centered classroom, both the teacher and the students must share responsibility for learning and the belief that by focusing on learning strategies, learning will be enhanced.
Several examples of activities that have been used successfully to create learner-centered classrooms include asking students to reflect on language learning, to set personal language goals, and to assess their own language abilities. When asking students to reflect on their own language learning, teachers can have students recall different types of learning activities they found useful when studying a language. Questions such as, "What learning activities did you find helpful in learning a new language?", or "What did you find most difficult about learning a new language?," can be used to stimulate student reflection on language learning. If students have not had prior experience with learning a new language, they can reflect on how learning a language is similar to and different from learning in other subjects (art, mathematics, science). Through these activities, your students will begin to develop an awareness of how they learn and how context and task can alter their approach. In addition, using these activities at the beginning of the year establishes a climate that encourages reflection and investigation into how we learn. Remember also, to participate in these reflective activities with your students and share your own successful and unsuccessful learning strategies.
Giving students the opportunity to set their own personal language goals helps them invest in learning a second language and is another step toward creating a learner-centered classroom. Goal setting should help students distinguish between long and short term goals. Whereas long term goals (I want to read novels in French) provide motivation for learning the language, short term goals help us feel a growing sense of accomplishment. One activity is to have students brainstorm their personal goals on a sheet of paper. Then, list their goals on poster paper (that way they can be saved and reviewed throughout the year). Ask students to help you organize them into short- and long-term goals. If possible, match short- and long-term goals so that students see the connection between them. (See also Goal-Setting: A Strategy for Self-Regulation by Sarah Barnhardt in the October, 1997 issue of The Language Resource.)
Tied to setting personal goals for language learning is the self assessment of language abilities. In traditional classrooms, students expect you to evaluate them; hence, they look outside of themselves to determine progress. With learning strategies instruction, students begin to assume control of their own learning, and with guidance from the teacher, to assess their own progress. Self assessment involves thinking about one's prior experiences and knowledge, along with the processes involved in achieving such knowledge. The beginning of a new school year offers the perfect opportunity to have students assess their language learning skills. Rubrics and scales representing varying levels of proficiency in each of the modalities allow students to represent their abilities graphically. Students who are new to language learning can rate the areas they think will be difficult or easy for them based on other learning experiences.
The activities described above are only a few of those that can be used at the beginning of the year to help create a learner-centered atmosphere. This atmosphere represents the foundation of learning strategies instruction. You and your students will work together over the coming year to make the how of learning a foreign language as important as the what.
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Step Two in the CALLA Model: Presentation-The What, When, Why, and How of Learning Strategies Instruction
Explicit instruction in learning strategies is one means of improving students' acquisition of a second or foreign language. The goal of learning strategy instruction is for students to become independent learners with the ability to use strategies appropriately in a variety of contexts; however, in the beginning, learning when and in what contexts to use particular strategies or groups of strategies requires direction and guidance from the teacher. Foreign language teachers will find it helpful to use a framework such as the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) to explicitly teach learning strategies. CALLA is a language learning approach that specifically incorporates learning strategy instruction and is applicable to all foreign language instructional settings.
CALLA involves five phases of instruction: preparation, presentation, practice, evaluation, and expansion. In the article: Step One in the Calla Model , I reviewed the first phase in teaching learning strategies, the preparation phase. This article addresses the second phase, the explicit presentation and modeling of learning strategies. Strategy instruction is recursive, meaning that once a strategy has been prepared for, presented, practiced, and evaluated, it should be re-taught and practiced until students have an intuitive sense for when, how and why to use it. The presentation discussed here uses the strategy of inferencing as an example and assumes that this is the first time it is introduced.
In the presentation phase of teaching learning strategies instruction teachers should:
- Give the strategy a name and encourage students to use that name when referring to the strategy. For example: "I am using inferencing when I figure out the words I don't know from the context." Knowing a strategy's name enables students to have a discussion about strategy use and to differentiate between strategies. High school foreign language teachers can use the strategy's formal name, such as selective attention or prediction. Elementary teachers will want to select a more age-appropriate name such as "look and listen" for selective attention, or "think ahead" for prediction.
- Model the strategy. Modeling should be done on a task that is similar to the one on which the students will practice the strategy. For example, students might be required to use inferencing when listening to a taped conversation. Prior to having students complete this task, the teacher can model inferencing on a similar task in the target language, such as listening to a taped interview. When listening, the teacher should stop at certain points where something is unclear and think aloud while trying to figure out words or phrases from the context, intonation or other clues. A think-aloud serves the dual purposes of modeling strategies and making strategy instruction explicit. The first time a think-aloud is used and when it is used with lower-level students, teachers may want to conduct the think-aloud in the students' native language, if possible. At the upper levels, encouraging students to think in the target language is important, so when modeling with think-alouds at these levels, teachers may want to use the target language.
- Model thinking aloud visually as well as orally. Teachers should write on the board or poster paper their "think-alouds" and discuss with students how they used inferencing at various points.
- Explain the importance of the strategy. For example: "As I listen to this conversation, there are some words and phrases I don't know. I have several options: I can get frustrated and stop listening, I can ignore the words and phrases I don't know and just keep listening, or I can try to use the context to figure out what I don't know. If I keep on listening using inferencing, I will be happy that I didn't give up, and I will possibly learn some new words. Inferencing is an important strategy because when I use it I can often complete a task instead of giving up."
- Tell students when to use a particular strategy. For example, you can explain to students that inferencing is an appropriate strategy to use when you don't understand every word you hear or read because you can use what you do understand to help you figure out what you don't understand. Also, if you have emphasized in your think-aloud or your explanations one modality, for example listening, make sure to emphasize that the strategy can be used with other modalities as well, such as reading or writing.
- Give students an opportunity to share ways in which they have already used a particular strategy. You may want to have small-group or class discussion, and then list the student-generated examples on the board or poster paper. You can also use learner diaries to encourage those who are reticent to speak in class to write about their experiences with various strategies.
Once you have explicitly taught a particular strategy, you will want to provide students with different opportunities for practice. Important aspects of the practice phase of instruction will be reviewed in the next edition of the NCLRC Language Resource. Remember that the presentation phase may need to be repeated, though perhaps not as extensively as the first time you present a strategy. Try to think of different contexts or modalities in which to present each strategy. If you introduced inferencing, for example, the first time in a listening context, you may want to present it the next time in a reading context. Moreover, be sure that each time you present or discuss a strategy that you name the strategy, model it, and address how, when, and why to use it. In doing so, you will be guiding your students towards metacognition and independent learning.
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Step Three in the CALLA Model: Practice, Practice and More Practice With Learning Strategies
The goal of learning strategies instruction is for students to become independent learners capable of using cognitive and metacognitive strategies appropriately in a variety of contexts. In learning strategies instruction, it is important that students understand how, when and in what contexts to use particular strategies or groups of strategies. To provide appropriately focused instruction, foreign language teachers will find it helpful to use a framework such as the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA). CALLA specifically incorporates learning strategy instruction and is applicable to all foreign language instructional settings.
CALLA involves five phases of instruction: preparation, presentation, practice, evaluation, and expansion. In Step One and Step Two I reviewed the preparation and presentation phases of learning strategies instruction. This article addresses the third phase, practice.
In NCLRC workshops and institutes on learning strategies instruction, we encourage teachers to begin their lesson planning by considering the practice phase first. The purpose for learning a new strategy is to facilitate students' learning of authentic language and content. Learning strategies should not be taught in isolation from this content and language. It makes sense, then, to begin by considering the language and/or content the teacher wants students to learn. Once the teacher knows this, she can determine which learning strategy or strategies would be most useful in helping students learn that content or language. For example, if the class is learning the terminology and language for discussing weather, the explicit use of prediction could be taught in the context of predicting weather. The content and/or language the class is focusing on becomes the material of the practice phase. Thus, after determining this material and after having selected the most appropriate learning strategy to facilitate learning that material, the teacher will be better equipped to plan the preparation and presentation phases.
When creating and/or selecting material for the practice phase, the teacher must think carefully about her students' abilities. The level of the tasks and material should be slightly above what the students can do independently. If the class involves varying levels of students, then the teacher will want to design different types of tasks for the practice phase to accommodate these differing ability levels. Success with learning strategies is dependent upon whether students experience their usefulness. If the material chosen for practice is too easy, students will not see the need for the learning strategy--they can succeed without it. If the material is too difficult, then even with the learning strategy the students might not succeed at the task, and again might perceive the strategy as useless. Thus, the key to successful practice is in the choice of appropriately challenging material and tasks. For example, if the focus is on comprehending oral directions in the target language, an appropriate strategy might be selective attention. However, the choice of material is critical. If the students are beginners, a taped passage that includes too many directions or too much miscellaneous information would not be appropriate. A shorter passage, clearly enunciated, and with a small amount of miscellaneous information is more likely to facilitate success with selective attention.
Additional components of the practice phase include coaching and teacher feedback. After introduction to and practice with a learning strategy and as new strategies are added, students will need additional practice opportunities as well as reminders to use certain strategies. Over time, the teacher should continue to provide practice and encourage students to use strategies, but he should also gradually eliminate specific reminders since the expectation is for students to develop independence in strategy use. In the early stages, students also need feedback about how well they are applying a strategy. Feedback should be specific and should restate the strategy the student used and how it was used. For example, a teacher might say, "I liked the way you used inferencing to figure out the meaning of that word. You used the words after the comma to figure out that here, *fuego* must mean passion."
When beginning learning strategies instruction, the practice phase is usually focused on one strategy at a time. However, after strategies instruction has progressed to the point where students have a repertoire of strategies, the practice phase should guide students to select the most appropriate strategy for a given task. Guided practice in strategy selection often involves teacher modeling. The teacher may present a task for herself to perform and, via a think-aloud, talk through how to examine the task at hand, consider various strategies, and match the demands of the task with the best strategy or strategies. Students should then be given opportunities to practice making strategies choices within the context of work with authentic language and content tasks. Cooperative learning groups are particularly helpful at this point as students can learn from each other about which strategies work best for which situations.
In summary then, important aspects of the practice phase of learning strategies instruction include:
- Beginning lesson planning with the practice phase by determining the content and language students need to learn;
- Selecting an appropriate strategy to facilitate learning of that content and language;
- Choosing practice material and tasks at appropriate levels of difficulty;
- Incorporating coaching and teacher feedback;
- Using cooperative learning groups to encourage students to support one another in the use and practice of learning strategies, and
- Guiding students to make full and appropriate use of their repertoire of learning strategies.
As a final note, teachers should take advantage of the practice phase to monitor their students' strategies use. Systematic observation and note taking on how and to what extent students are using strategies may be helpful in making decisions about the need for more instruction in a particular strategy, the need for more practice, and at what level. Just as we encourage our students to become strategic learners, we must strive to become strategic teachers, taking advantage of every opportunity to understand more about how our students learn.
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Step Four in the CALLA Model: Encouraging Student Self-Evaluation of Learning Strategies
The goal of learning strategies instruction is for students to become independent learners capable of using cognitive and metacognitive strategies appropriately in a variety of language and content learning contexts. In learning strategies instruction, it is important that students understand how, when, and in what contexts to use particular strategies or groups of strategies. To provide appropriately focused instruction, foreign language teachers will find it helpful to use a framework such as the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA). This approach guides teachers in the explicit teaching of learning strategies within a foreign language context.
CALLA involves five phases of instruction: preparation, presentation, practice, evaluation, and expansion. In previous issues of this newsletter, I reviewed the preparation, presentation, and practice phases of learning strategies instruction. This article addresses the fourth phase, evaluation.
In her second year high school Spanish class, Ms. Sanchez has been monitoring her students' vocabulary learning strategies. She notices that Mary's vocabulary notebook looks quite different from the other students' notebooks. Instead of a list of words with the English translation or definition next to it, Mary has classified her words into four separate groups and given each group a heading. Ms. Sanchez comments on Mary's use of an important learning strategy. "Mary, I see that you are using the learning strategy grouping to help you remember the new vocabulary words. Does it seem to be a helpful strategy in learning new words?" Mary responds that yes, it has, and that she has just started using it in place of listing the words and writing definitions as she used to. When Ms. Sanchez probes a bit further, asking why the strategy grouping has been helpful, Mary answers that because she has to "play with the words in her mind" in order to group them, she is better able to remember them.
This brief scenario portrays how encouraging students to evaluate the usefulness of a particular strategy can be as simple as Ms. Sanchez's questions: Does this strategy seem to be helpful? Why or Why not? Equally important is her alertness to Mary's use of a new strategy. Teachers who are serious about strategies instruction are continually on the look out for strategy use on the part of their students. When a student is observed using a new strategy, or using a familiar strategy in a new context, teachers can direct students to think about and evaluate the usefulness of the strategy for performing a particular task.
The evaluation phase of the CALLA instructional sequence focuses on student self-evaluation of the effectiveness of the strategies they use in accomplishing specific tasks. Students need to find out which learning strategies work best for them for certain tasks, why they work, which strategies are not effective, and when and why they are not effective. Through such self-evaluation, students consciously monitor those strategies they find effective and ineffective, and by so doing refine their individual repertoire of strategies.
In addition to Ms. Sanchez's questions, more involved methods of encouraging student self-evaluation of their learning strategies include the following:
- Class Discussions. Teacher-led class discussions of the effectiveness of a particular learning strategy immediately after students have practiced the strategy may include inviting students to comment on how they used the assigned strategy, whether they used additional strategies, and which strategy or combination of strategies worked best for them.
- Learning Strategy Checklists. Checklists consist of a series of statements such as: I made predictions before listening to the news report. I thought about what I already knew about the news report topic: endangered species. I used selective attention to focus on key vocabulary words, etc. Students must indicate on the checklist whether they used the strategy and/or to what degree they used it. Statements may focus on one particular task, as in the above example, or they may refer to strategy use over time. For example, students may be asked to check off how many times within a week they used the strategy inferencing.
- Charts and Graphic Organizers. An example of a familiar chart that can be adapted to learning strategies evaluation is the K-W-L chart. In addition to collecting students' prior knowledge on a topic (under the K column), what they want to know or learn about (under the W column), and what they learned after studying a topic (under the L column), an H column can be added that includes information on how students learned what they did. Thus, the chart becomes a K-W-L-H chart.
- Learning logs, journals and diaries. A learning log is a summary of what has been learned over a given period of time. To help students evaluate the effectiveness of strategies they have learned, the teacher asks students to summarize which strategies have proved most effective and why, and which have proved less effective and why. Learning logs can also be structured so that students who are new to the language or who are quite young can circle pictures or adjectives in their logs indicating whether particular strategies have or have not worked well for them. Similarly, journals and diaries can be used on a daily basis to record strategy use and its effectiveness and to communicate personally with the teacher (dialogue journals). Teachers can periodically check their students' logs and/or lead class discussion on the comments students record in them.
These are just a few of the many activities teachers can use to engage students in the evaluation of learning strategy use. More examples of evaluation questionnaires, checklists, graphs, charts, etc., as well as other activities to use with this phase of the learning strategies instructional sequence are available in the Learning Strategies Handbook, authored by Anna Uhl Chamot, Sarah Barnhardt, Pamela Beard El-Dinary, and Jill Robbins of the NCLRC. The Handbook is available from Addison-Wesley Longman.
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Step 5 in the CALLA Model: Applying Strategies to New Tasks and Real-life Situations
The goal of learning strategies instruction is for students to become independent learners capable of using cognitive and metacognitive strategies appropriately in a variety of language and content learning contexts. In learning strategies instruction, it is important that students understand how, when and in what contexts to use particular strategies or groups of strategies. To provide appropriately focused instruction, foreign language teachers will find it helpful to use a framework such as the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA). This approach guides teachers in the explicit teaching of learning strategies within a foreign language context. CALLA involves five phases of instruction: preparation, presentation, practice, evaluation, and expansion. The first four phases of the learning strategies instruction (Step One, Two, Three and Four) were reviewed. This article regards the fifth phase, expansion.
Once students have evaluated which learning strategies work for them, and when to apply one strategy or another, students and teachers can discuss how else these strategies might be effectively applied. In the expansion stage students learn to relate and transfer strategy use to other tasks, subject areas and other aspects of their lives. Students can follow up strategy evaluation in class discussions or as homework, by brainstorming ideas about other situations these strategies could be useful. For instance, if your class has just used inferencing in a reading lesson, in a feedback session one learner might suggest using this strategy in listening activity on following directions. In addition, when, during the evaluation stage, students identify some strategies that do not work in certain situations, you can ask them to suggest other situations where these strategies would not be appropriate. For example, while inferencing is a useful way to guess the meaning of a new word in a story, it may not be appropriate in expository writing, where context might not provide a precise enough meaning. You can initiate a brainstorming session by sharing with your class some different ways you use one of your favorite learning strategies. In addition to class discussion, there are various ways to help students recognize and transfer learning strategies:
Expanding to Other Language Activities
Encourage your students to use strategies in other activities. For instance, if they visualized while reading a story, have them visualize while writing a report. If they predicted before watching a video, have them predict before reading a poem. If you assign the use of a strategy in a new context for homework, students can report back on how they used the strategy and how well it worked.
Expanding to Other Academic Subjects
As a language teacher, you present grammar, vocabulary and language skills in a wide variety of contexts. In addition to explicitly teaching culture, you present target language using history, literature, arts, geography and more. Conducting learning strategies instruction and practice in varying contexts will help encourage students to transfer the strategies' applications. You can follow-up by having learners compare and contrast language learning strategies with strategies used in their other subjects, such as making hypotheses in science, or imagining in art.
Expanding to Non-Academic Situations
Learning strategies are useful in all sorts of life functions. You can model an example of using learning strategies in a real-life situation, such as re-decorating you kitchen or creating a personal exercise program in order to encourage students to suggest their own. Providing a model will help develop the students' transferring skills which will allow them to use learning strategies in all aspects of their lives. Once learners can expand the use of these learning strategies, they will be able to apply them to all aspects of life.
Expansion through Positive Feedback
Identifying and praising students using a learning strategy in a context different from which it was taught will help build learner confidence and encourage further expansion of learning strategies. For example, if the class learned to use cooperation to facilitate a speaking activity, you can praise a student who uses it on a writing assignment. When your students recognize that their expansion of learning strategies to new contexts is valued, they will begin to feel that their input is an important part of the educational process.
Expansion through Learning Logs
An individual or class learning log, such as a poster-sized-chart, will allow students to start taking responsibility for expanding their use of learning strategies. You can encourage students to use these strategies in various ways, using materials of their own choice, and report back to the class. Students will be motivated by the freedom to choose the appropriate learning strategies and his or her own materials.
Expansion through Teaching Others
Teaching peers, siblings or even parents about using learning strategies offers both the teacher and the learner an opportunity to expand strategy use. Students can expand their strategy use by interviewing friends and family on their own uses of learning strategies in education and everyday life.
Examples of evaluation questionnaires, checklists, graphs, charts, etc., as well as other activities to use with this phase of the learning strategies instructional sequence are available in the Learning Strategies Handbook, authored by Anna Uhl Chamot, Sarah Barnhardt, Pamela Beard El-Dinary, and Jill Robbins [of the NCLRC]. The handbook is available from Addison-Wesley Longman.
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