My philosophy of second language teaching is to combine a high interest message + high touch media + high tech media! For media I combine high touch and high technology. Motivation is extremely important in the second language learning and the appropriate choice of message and media can help motivate students.
The high touch media part of my lessons includes the use of costumes, props and video. I use costumes and props to engage all the senses including the kinesic sense. Teaching with multiple modalities accommodates different perceptual learning styles. The use of costumes is a fun activity that lowers anxiety, boredom and doubt and lowers the affective filter. According to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, a lowered affective filter should enhance second language learning. I also use video as the common classroom experience of a Language Experience Approach (LEA) lesson in order to engage all the senses of the students prior to discussion.
The high tech media part of my lessons includes both hypermedia and student centered technology projects. I use my blog to provide a hypermedia mode of instruction and this increases teacher control over lesson content. The use of online hypermedia content means the instructor can more readily control the difficulty level of text presented in the classroom for lecture and/or discussion purposes. The instructor can easily share lecture and/or discussion notes by sending links to the notes via social media. The students can access information that was not presented in class through hyperlinks in the online lesson. The hyperlinks are designed as extensions for remediation or enrichment.
When appropriate the students in my classes do technology based communication projects. Students have done presentations in my classes using Animoto, Comic Life, Movie Maker and Prezi. Second language learners may be unsure of their English skills but still have a strong interest in technology that motivates them to try to communicate to their fellow students via technology based communication projects. The infusion of technology as a communication tool in the second language classroom also improves the technological competence of the students. Finally, the best way to teach second language learners how to talk about technology is through technology projects.
If the main second language objective of the class is the development of Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) then I pick topics from pop culture. I also use more high touch media rather than a high tech media when BICS are the main goal. The focus of video lessons for BICS is on the 5w’s. I have taught high interest ESL lessons in which the emphasis is on BICS:
If the main second language objective of the class is the development of Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) then I use authentic academic materials. I also rely more on hypermedia to communicate complex material in a fun and interesting way in which the pace of comprehensible input is tightly controlled. I am also more likely to put an emphasis on technology based communication projects. I use an analysis of literary elements rather than the 5w’s when using video in CALP centered lessons. Some good examples of my more CALP centered lessons are at:
My video lessons are at:
In either case, I use prior research that I have done on what EFL students find interesting in order to guide my lesson content decisions. In Fox (2004) the focus was just on student interests. The follow up article Fox and Miller (2007) compared student interests with textbook content and found there was a poor match. This packet is an attempt to provide research based high interest topics that is superior to that of most textbooks. In my opinion, effective second language teaching is the masterful synergy of message and media to create optimal conditions for learning!
In all my lesson plans there will be both a BICS and CALP activity but I vary the ratio of time spent on the BICS versus CALP objective depending on the level. The table below is an approximation of the ratio of time this instructor will spend on BICS versus CALP activities depending on the ESL level.
If the level of the students is very low then I might focus on the BICS activity and forego the CALP activity altogether. On the other hand, even with a very high level class, I would never neglect the BICS activity altogether. The BICS activity acts as a natural motivational warm up activity that introduces the CALP activity even in the case of very high level ESL learners.
Fox, H. & Miller, A. (2007). What EFL Topics do Students find Interesting? Hwa Kang Journal, 13, 99-110
Fox, H. (2004). A Study of ESL Teachers and Their Attitudes About Computer-Assisted Language Learning Usage, Hwa Kang Journal of TEFL, 10. 37-56