Resource: Appropriate Repetition

Hi, just a short post this time. I’ve uploaded a resource that I made a while ago. It works best with group classes. It’s a game-like activity. The students beat the teacher if they use all the strips (not crossed out) to get repetition but appropriately and not just grunting or commanding.
The top row of crossed out words and phrases are common among Japanese learners. Feel free to change it up. Give me some credit if you make a remix/localization and let me know and I’ll link to it here.
Anyway, the sheet is here as a PDF and Word document to edit.

Emergent Language and Your Learners

Rant alert.
It has been some time now since I finished my DipTESOL and since I was a guest TEFLologist. This post is about Dogme, dogmatism and possibly dogged determination and the sheer bloody-mindedness involved. My tutors on the Diploma advised me against Dogme because they knew it would be very difficult to meet the assessment criteria. This post is in no way intended to be a criticism of them.
I failed a Dogme lesson in my DipTESOL teaching practice. I had been forewarned that Dogme lessons would be difficult to meet the assessment criteria with. I believe, from my experience as a language teacher and a language learner that emergent language (Meddings & Thornbury (2009, Part A, 3), that is scaffolded language based on direct need as opposed to arbitrary grammar or lexical sets based on level of complexity and (possibly blind) estimation of being ready. Having more lessons to teach than most of my tutor group, I decided I could risk it. I went in to the lesson, focussed on learner-centredness, and a ton of paper to take notes of learners’ problematic utterances.
There was discussion, there was error treatment, there was a bit of tidying up of learner language with some drills where needed.
The lesson didn’t pass. Reading between the lines, ‘Lack of language focus’ means ‘Don’t just scaffold several things seen to need work; pick one or two to focus on and then we can tick the box.’ Even with a Task-Based lesson as my externally assessed lesson, using emergent language caused a lower grading than might have been attained with a preselected grammar point. (Aside: I had predicted high numbers to be problematic and did a bit of a focus on that.) The problem that arises here is that emergent language for only a couple (or at best, a few) is looked at in depth. Better than an arbitrary choice of a grammar structure but why not look at more in less depth, assigning further investigation as homework? Those who need the assistance will surely notice correction and further examples.
Regular readers will know that I’m no fan of teaching grammar points  (or Grammar McNuggets [Thornbury, 2010]). When I gave my presentation on the lack of application of SLA in Eikaiwa (language schools) and ALT industries in Japan, I had a really pertinent question. “How can you teach language based on emergent language?”
You can group your learners, set them differentiated tasks, after giving language input based on your notes of learner language. This is not something I did in my DipTESOL teaching practice but it is something I have done in my university classroom. It doesn’t have to be grammar; it could be vocabulary or even discourse-level work.
Be aware, though, that some learners do not see the value in using what they have said. They expect a grammar point, whether that is good for them or not. In that case, I suppose you can only make the best of things and give your students what they want. I would say, in a probably overly patrician way, that you might want to sneak in something they need, much like hiding peas and carrots in the mashed potatoes.
I think the big problem in using emergent language in your teaching is that it can’t be planned as such. It can be estimated and you’ll be right or wrong, or it can be saved for the next lesson but at that point it may not be as fresh in your learners’ minds and then less readily brought into their interlanguage, as defined by Selinker (1972, in Selinker, 1988). It means being ready to be reactive. It might not be the best way to get boxes ticked in an assessment.


Meddings, L & Thornbury, T (2009) Teaching Unplugged. Peaslake: Delta.
Selinker, L (1988) Papers in Interlanguage, Occasional Papers No. 44 (
TEFLology (2015) Episode 35: Dogme on the Diploma, Dave Willis and the Lingua Walkout  (
Thornbury, S (2010) G is for Grammar McNuggets (

#ELTchat  3 Feb 2016 Summary: Differentiation

Differentiation is, in the educational sense of the word, treating learners differently. Here is what the Twitter #eltchat (transcript) said about it.

What is differentiation?

“What is differentiation?” appears to be such a difficult question to answer that it only got directly answered by one short answer by Angelos Bollas, despite being asked by both James Taylor and Shaun Wilden. Angelos said it is:

“designing and/or assigning diff tasks for diff ss for the same lesson”

whereas Yitzha Sarwono said it is:

“giving students different works for the same subject discussed”

How people differentiate

Talken English remarked that there are always fast finishers that need extra work. Patrick Andrews stated that differentiation isn’t just mixed abilities but also “motivation, backgrounds, etc.” Sue Lyon-Jones also added that sometimes it is appropriate to “have a spread of abilities in one group”.
Patrick mentioned:

“levels are not the same as abilities.  – if someone has only just begun, they may be able but beginner”

And Sue Lyon-Jones added that such “‘spiky’ profiles” are common in ESOL.
Talken English said that at their school there is a large gap in ability.
Sue Lyon-Jones said that differentiated homework (such as pre-teaching vocabulary) is useful, and Yitzha said that she set difficult tasks to more able students and similar easier work to students with similar problems.
MariaConca said that differentiation was necessary to cater to different learning styles. Glenys Hanson then mentioned that learning styles have been found to lack any evidence backing them up. Rachel Appleby mentioned that using learning activity styles can be good to ensure learners get different activities that they might not usually choose to do. I said that this would be a good method to counter previous teachers’ labelling of students as things like ‘a visual learner’.
I mentioned that I often differentiate by outcome, to which Patrick recommended and old book by Anderson & Lynch called ‘Listening’. I was asked how I would differentiate by outcome and my example was:

“High: order food with pragmatic appropriacy. Mid: order food (formal lang). Low: order food – no L1”

I also mentioned that it can be worthwhile differentiating by mental states, too, and not just ability.
Patrick said he was thinking about using drama in his classroom and that students who didn’t want to perform could take other roles such as directing, etc.
I said that different roles could be set in discussions: overpowering students could be given quieter roles and weaker students could be set as leader to prove their ability.
Sue Annan asked rhetorically:
“can you differentiate the amount of work, rather than the work itself- choose 4 q’s to answer(?)

Problems with differentiation

Problems with differentiation that were talked about were:

“exposing weaker students. You don’t want them to feel uncomfortable.” (Talken English)

Glenys said

“Ts often project feelings onto students they don’t have. Respect weaker students & they’ll be OK.”

I also said some learners might think they are of higher ability than they really are if they are kept with others of similar but lower ability.