DELTA Module 3: Extended Essay
LDT: Developing teachers’ activity set-up for young
learners of primary school age.
Table of contents
Part 1: Key issues…………………………………………………………………………3
Part 2: Need analysis: Background……………………………………………10
Challenges teaching Young Learners:…………………………….13
Teacher beliefs about learning and teaching:………………13
Part 3: The Course:…………………………………………………………………..15
Aims and objectives:……………………………………………………16
Part 4: Assessment:……………………………………………………………………21
Part 5: Conclusion:…………………………………………………………………….24
Developing teachers’ activity set-up skills for young learners of
primary school age
For decades exponents of different language teaching methods have put
forward methods that they claim best serve language teaching. These
methodologies, ranging from the Grammar Translation Method, the Direct
Method, the Audio-Lingual Method, the Silent Way, Suggestopedia,
Community Language Learning, the Total Physical Response Method, Natural
Approach, Oral Approach, Situational Language Approach, through to the
Communicative Approach can leave language teachers in a state of
uncertainty as to which approach to choose and how to go about that
choice. While these methods purport to be different, it would however be
wrong to assume that they project entirely different roads to language
teaching. Rather, it has been observed that most of these methods have
overlapping theories and approaches to language learning and teaching.
What may superficially appear to be a new method, is often merely a
variation of an existing method presented with new nomenclature or, as
Wilga Rivers (1991, p.283) succinctly puts it, “the fresh paint of a new
terminology that camouflages their fundamental similarity.”
It has however been observed by teachers that, given the diversified nature
of the language classroom and the complexity of language learning and
learners, “no single perspective on language, no single explanation for
learning, and no unitary view of the contributions of language learners will
account for what they must grapple with on a daily basis” (Larsen-Freeman,
1990, p. 269). This widespread dissatisfaction with the notion of methods
has led many to the conclusion of what Jarvis (1991, p. 295) aptly posits as
“Language teaching might be better understood and better executed if the
concept of method were not to exist at all”. Most ELT teachers have
therefore slowly come to the realization that “no matter how much
intellectual energy is put into the invention of new methods (or of new
approaches to syllabus design, and so on), what really matters is what
happens when teachers and learners get together in the classroom...”
(Allwright and Bailey 1991). My focus in this EA is teacher preparation
before the “…get together in the classroom…”
We are now in what is often termed the “post-methods” era, and a time
when the internet offers teachers a wider range of resources and activity
banks than ever before. Rather than adhering to a potentially restrictive
method, teachers may tend to employ an eclectic approach, and hence the
key methodological factors become the principled selection and effective
execution of learning activities – my focus in this essay is to improve the
latter, that is, activity set-up among young learner teachers of primary
I have chosen developing activity set-up skills for teachers of young learners
of primary school age as my specialism for the Delta Module Three
assignment, as it is my informed judgment (from my classroom experience
and research) that teachers with good awareness and superior activity set-
up skills are better placed to handle classroom interactions. Also, they can
further ensure that their lesson aims and objectives are met, or as Allwright
and Bailey 1991 highlight, position them to be “alive to what goes on in the
classroom, alive to the problems of sorting out what matters, moment by
moment, from what does not.”
Accommodating for language in the classroom and engaging learners to
participate optimally in lessons are two of the most difficult tasks that we
as teachers face in our daily bid to teach new language. Thus classroom
language accommodation include consciously employing concise and clear
articulation with appropriate signposting at critical points in the lessons,
using visuals, grading our sentences in terms of length and speed,
modelling, activating learners’ schemata, scaffolding, and varying
instructions according to levels.
As such, there is the pertinent need for us to be exposed and be familiar
with language and activities that really work in the classroom. Language
used for the start and end of lessons, asking questions and checking
understanding, controlling energy levels, using the IWB, fun activities,
For the sake of this specialism however, activities set up has been subsumed
into four categories: Interaction patterns, teacher and learner roles,
learning styles and energy levels and classroom instructions.
From my classroom teaching experience, research and observation of both
experienced and less experienced teachers, it is my impression that the four
categories listed above are the core pillars to a successful lesson. Varying
interactions patterns and teacher and learner roles, catering for different
learning styles and managing energy levels and using effective classroom
language were, from my experience and a survey conducted among
teachers, the most challenging and critical procedures during a lesson.
In my bid to cater for learner-centred lessons in my everyday teaching, I
have experimented with and conducted surveys on several lessons were
some or all of the listed categories have been either employed or totally
ignored. My findings accentuated the need for a development of these set-
ups and more so among young learner teachers of primary school age; as
they enable the teacher to manage energy levels, ensure appropriate
learner participation, and create working routines that have a positive
impact on learning. They also help to motivate learners and ensure that
different learning styles are catered for and different needs met.
While these are not ranked in any order of preference, I feel very much
inclined to start by highlighting learning styles and managing energy levels
as these, to a very large extent, determine the pace and learning
environment of the language classroom.
Keefe defines learning styles as “the composite of characteristic cognitive,
affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators
of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning
environment” (Keefe, 1979). Managing energy levels on the other hand is
how a teacher helps control the mood of the class. Warmers, settlers and
stirrers are activities that do this. Warmers ‘warm’ up and prepare learners
for the lesson. Settlers ‘settle’, calm a class down while stirrers likewise
‘stir’ energize/reenergize the class.
Consolo (2000) observed that in the classroom, learners and teachers are
seen as members of the contexts in which spoken language has social and
pedagogical functions. This brings me to the importance of interaction
patterns in the teaching classroom. Rivers (1987) suggests that “through
interaction, students can increase their language store as they listen to or
read authentic linguistic material, or even output of their fellow students in
discussions, skits, joint problem solving tasks, or dialogue journals”. Varying
interaction patterns therefore extends the role of language beyond mere
communication to the establishment and maintenance of relationships in
the classroom (Cazden, 2000) which can be replicated outside the
classroom. Using the right interaction patterns is therefore not only a
fundamental factor in the success of any classroom activity but also a core
ingredient to achieving learning aims.
Crucial also, to both successful teaching and learning are giving and
checking instructions as these “ … are the main way that teachers manage
classroom learning…” Thornbury (2006) because if learners are expected to
successfully complete a task, instructions on how to execute the task should
not only be simple but logical and achievable. As Scrivener (2005) highlights
“An essentially simple activity can become impossible, not because the
students couldn’t do it, but because they didn’t understand what to do.” I
have witnessed this first hand as a teacher during my earlier teaching days
and as an observer observing experienced and less experienced teachers.
Giving simple and clear instructions and checking that learners do
understand what is to be done and what is required of them, is therefore
key to language teaching and learning, especially with young learners.
Lalonde, Lee and Gardner (1987) listed three classroom behaviours that
have been identified by teachers as significant for the good language
learner. The good language learner is therefore someone who “…actively
vocalizes corrections, speaks out regardless of making mistakes, and focuses
on getting ideas across…” From my classroom experience and observations, I
have discovered that in order to create an environment where learners
would become good learners, we as teachers, need to vary our classroom
roles. We therefore have numerous roles to fulfil both in and out of the
classroom. Anthony Mollica (1998) summarises these roles as:
Out-of Class Roles:
As shown above, it can be observed that in order to be good teachers we
must spend considerable time outside the classroom to engage in activities
that will maintain and enhance our professional status in term of
competency, fluency and proficiency, Mollica (1998). Awareness of and
development of the different roles that we as teachers have to undertake in
and out of the classroom, is therefore quite significant as they not only
develop learner’s linguistic competence but also ensure active learner
involvement in the learning process.
James, Jason, Zoe, Elaine, Daniel and Tess are new teachers in a language
school in China, who have been teaching under a year, and are from the UK,
Canada, China and the USA respectively. Appendix 1. I chose them for this
assignment because in my role as Senior Teacher, I have to observe, mentor
and offer insight on their teaching methods and techniques.
Following Brown’s (1995), Soriano’s (1995), Hutchinson & Waters’ (1992),
and Witkin and Altschuld’s (1995) definition of needs analysis, I carried out
a series of need analysis surveys taking into account learners’ “necessities,”
“lacks,” “wants,” and “gaps” and gathered information that served as the
basis for the course design that will meet the needs of these teachers,
Brown (1995) Appendix 1 : Need Analysis results.
Using the Present-Situation Analysis model, I used the following needs
First, I administered questionnaires (suggested by Jordan, 1997) to teachers
asking about their personal details, the number of minutes spent planning,
the most important procedures in a lesson, the most challenging procedures
and their reasons for teaching young learners in order to gain a general
understanding of what methods and approaches they use and what
procedures they were struggling with (Robinson, 1991). I then observed a
series of lessons taught by them paying particular attention to the areas
highlighted as challenging.
Next, questionnaires were again administered only this time, on their beliefs
about teaching and learning and on their knowledge and skills as teachers
(Richard & Lockhart, 2000) to determine what their expectations were (as
teachers and of the learners) before and after a lesson. Appendix 2
Finally, teachers completed questionnaires on their perceived strengths and
weaknesses in activity set-up, perceived areas of activity set-up that cause
the most difficulty and other areas the teachers have self-identified as
problematic, (Richard, 2000) so as to be able to plan my course. Appendix 3
As detailed in Appendix 1: General information of teachers; James, late
20s, is British and has been teaching young learners for less than six months.
Jason, also late 20s, is from Canada and has been teaching YL for less than a
year. Zoe and Elaine, early and mid 20s, are Chinese and have been
teaching YL for less than a year. Daniel and Tess, late and mid 20s, have
been also been teaching YL for less than a year.
James enjoys teaching YL as he finds it challenging and different from
previous line of work. Jason has always wanted to be part of children’s
educational growth and teaching YL provides that opportunity. Zoe can
easily relate to YL; teaching them is therefore more staying in touch with
the child in her. For Elaine and Tess, teaching YL is more rewarding, full of
surprises and tangible than AL and Daniel thinks that teaching YL is
Challenges teaching Young Learners
The questionnaires reveal that almost all the teachers struggle with giving
and checking instructions, varying interaction patterns and teacher roles,
managing energy levels and catering for multi-levels as challenging
procedures during a lesson. They therefore think that a course designed to
help with the development of activity set-up in the primary classroom
should be centred on the listed procedures. Appendix 3: Strengths and
Teacher beliefs about learning and teaching
James believes that every learner is capable of learning giving the right
environment and that teachers should be knowledgeable, humanistic yet
For Jason, learning is at its best when learners are inquisitive and have the
environment that caters for that inquisitiveness and our role as teachers is
to guide learners in their inquiry of knowledge.
Zoe thinks that Learning is about exposure and support and that helping
learners notice that gap is our primary role as teachers.
Tess holds the views that learning is all about motivation, input and
instruction and as teachers, our primary role is to create an environment
conducive enough for learning and teaching to take place.
Daniel believes that language learning is mostly about need, motivation,
support and environment and that our primary role as teachers is setting a
purpose for learning.
For Elaine, learning in any form, consists of the acquisition of knowledge
and how we go about acquiring that knowledge is what learning is all about.
Our role then is to create an environment that caters for high learner
involvement. Appendix 2
Self- Diagnosis – Teacher perceived strengths in activity set-up
James thinks he has good classroom energy and motivation which account
for overall rapport with learners but struggles to successfully manage energy
levels, which affects activity outcomes.
For Jason, support for both strong and weaker learners which ensures that
multi-levels are catered for is his strongest suit in the classroom. He
however struggles with warmer, settler and stirrer balance which makes
Zoe states that good scaffolding and monitoring which ensure that learners
are supported and engaged are her strengths but struggles significantly with
stirrer and settler balance and varying interaction patterns.
Tess highlights that her good classroom energy and dynamics which helps
with rapport and learner participation are her strengths and that managing
energy levels and varying interaction patterns are her weakest.
Daniel and Elaine think that classroom management skills and keeping
learners motivated are their strengths but struggle with varying interaction
patterns and giving and checking instructions. Appendix 3
The course was an intensive one-week, 56 hours course, taught by me and
my Director of Studies in China in a private language school during 2013.
During each day, tuition (in-person or video), observations, activities and
presentations were timetabled for 8 hours. These ran from 9:00am to 17:00
with 15, 30 and 90-minute breaks for tea and lunch.
Aims and Objectives
Course aims, as Richard (2001) states; broadly define the purpose of the
course as such, this course aimed to:
Develop young learner of primary school age teachers’ activity
set-up skills through tuition, observations and practice.
Course objectives, as suggested by Richard (2001) describes in smaller units
of learning, what the aims seek to achieve and also provide a basis for the
organization of teaching activities. This course aimed to help: Appendix 4
Raise teachers’ awareness of their roles in and outside the
Raise teachers’ awareness of the differences between young and
Raise teachers’ awareness of the stages of a lesson and what goes
into a lesson plan.
Develop and practise teachers’ instruction giving and checking
Raise teachers’ awareness of and provide opportunities to
experiment with different interaction patterns and teacher roles.
Raise teachers’ awareness of different learning and styles and
what roles these play in learning.
The course took place during the second week induction of the teachers in
our private language school in China. Given that teachers were from
different backgrounds (countries) and teaching experience, their
motivation, teaching beliefs, strengths and weaknesses varied considerably
in many areas. These constraints were addressed by differentiation where
appropriate (video, in-person etc). Resources, such as books and videos,
interactive whiteboard and space were readily provided by the school as the
course was incorporated into the induction training of new and less
experienced teacher. I however initially had issues with the assessment
phase of the course, as the school wanted to use the results as part of the
appraisal for the teachers’ probation. This was later duly resolved and the
course was delivered as planned.
The course as designed (Appendix 5) is a 56-hour course spread over a week
(Monday to Sunday) and convened from 09:00 to 17:00 with 15, 30 and 90-
minute breaks for tea and lunch. Appendix 5: Course Plan
This was a learner-centred approach course designed with the teachers’
situation in mind; (Hutchinson & Waters, 1992) taking into account teachers’
needs, necessities, lacks, wants, and gaps, Brown’s (1995), Soriano’s (1995),
and Witkin and Altschuld’s (1995). The course comprised input (loop; in-
person or video), observations, research and practice.
I particularly chose Loop Input as the primary method of delivering the
course as it does not only provide opportunities for teachers to experience
the processes and contents of learning by doing but also caters for explicit
input with reinforcements ( post-tasks reflection) to help teachers absorb
and digest input for subsequent replication. Appendix 6
Input was therefore either in-person (me or my Director of Studies) or video
lessons of other experienced teachers highlighting or teaching a particular
activity set-up skill.
The morning sessions were mainly for input and reflections while the
afternoon sessions were aimed at practice and overall feedback. At the end
of each day’s session, teachers were set written homework in order to be
prepared for subsequent sessions.
The input sessions raised awareness and highlighted the importance of a
particular skill set (e.g. Lesson Planning) and the necessary steps/stages
involve to make the set skill a successful in the classroom.
The presentation stages of the sessions gave teachers opportunities to
replicate the input and skills that they had earlier engaged with making the
learning process experiential (Alexander et al., 2008:87). These were
followed by feedback sessions to clarify any issues teachers had and to
reinforce the set-up skill(s) of the day.
Given the broad nature of resources available on activity development skills,
I decided to narrow down material selection to those that were of
immediate relevance to the needs of the course.
The following resources were therefore used: As evidence in Appendix 6
Approaches & Methods in Language Teaching (J. Richards & T.
How to Teach English (J. Harmer, 1998)
Learning Teaching (J. Scrivener, 1994, 2005)
The Practice of English Language Teaching 4th
Ed (J. Harmer,
Teaching Languages to Young Learners (L. Cameron, 2001)
Teaching English in the Primary Classroom (S. Halliwell, 1992)
Teaching English To Children (W. A. Scott & L. H. Ytreberg, 2005)
What English Teachers Need to Know (D.E. Murray & M.A. Christison,
Vol II 2011)
Classroom Dynamics (J. Hadfield, 1992)
Classroom DIY, A Practical (M. Leimanis-Wyatt, 2010)
The Classroom Survival Manual (R. L Partin, 2009)
The Ultimate Teaching Manual (Gererd Dixie ,2011)
A course in Language Teaching ( Penny Ur, 2009)
Planning Lessons and Courses (T. Woodward, 2009)
100 Ideas for Lesson Planning (Anthony Haynes, 2010)
Classroom Instructions That works ( J.D. Hill & K.M. Lynn, 2006)
Classroom Interaction and Social Learning (K. Kumpulainen & D.
A Guide to Effective Instructions (D.C. Orlich et al, Teachong
Teaching and Learning Languages (Anthony Mollica, 1998)
Learning to Teach English (Peter Watkins, 2005)
Effective Language Learning (Graham Susan, 1997).
Designing Task for the Communicative Classroom ( Nunan David,
I am of the impression that choosing from a range of course materials made
it a lot easier to meet the needs, aims and objectives of the course, as most
of the materials directly addressed activity set-up skills with practical
examples. Appendix 6 Daily Course Plan
Assessment and Course Evaluation
In this section, I will discuss assessment in general and highlight how
teachers were assessed. Authentic assessment, incidental or intended is an
important aspect or learning and teaching (Brown, 2003). It should contain
tasks and contexts that are interesting, authentic, real life, and is done at
different times and using a variety of methods which reveal the learning and
development of the learner; the higher the degree of authenticity
therefore, the more positive the effect and motivation for learning (Gulikers
et al, 2004, p.68).
Taking into consideration Gulikers et al’s five dimensions of authentic
assessment and as can be seen from the course overview and daily plan
(Appendix 6), formative, summative and criterion-referenced assessments
were carried out in order to measure the degree to which knowledge of
activity set-up skills was grounded in profound understanding and how that
knowledge was demonstrated in an authentic manner. Also, to ensure that
assessment at different stages of the course was reliable, valid, interactive
and practical ( Hyland, 2006), assessment tasks only assessed the skills that
were taught( activity set-up skills) with emphasis on improving both learning
and delivery of the course and feedback ( peer, tutor-led) was consistent
with the assessment.
As this was a skills focused course, formative assessment was however used
on a daily basis to help in the delivery, learning and teaching/realigning of
the course. Teachers were, for example, quizzed after each input session
(peer or tutor-led) with a whole class feedback session which helped
demonstrate teachers’ understanding of the concepts and skills.
When it came to the practical demonstration of the skills taught,
assessment was mostly based on teachers’ performance of the individual
presentations at the end of each day’s session and these sought to help
teachers replicate the types of tasks they would have to carry out in their
future teaching making the assessment of immediate importance and more
meaningful (Bachman & Palmer, 1996). For example, teachers were asked to
draft a lesson plan at the start of the course highlighting the necessary
classroom procedures. As the course progressed, they were required to
make relevant changes to those lesson plans as they deem fit and share with
their other participants why those changes were needed. This helps
highlight and reinforce their understanding and knowledge of the necessary
procedures and why these are integral to making a lesson successful.
The final demo lessons were summative in nature, testing all the activity
set-up skills developed throughout the course. These exhibited the overall
success of the course while the feedback sessions catered for ways that
course delivery could be improved. The final exam was a multiple choice
exam used to test and reinforce teachers’ understanding of the course
which was peer-marked marking the process a worthwhile and meaningful
The effects of the assessments overall, had a positive and beneficial
(Hughes, 1989:2) backwash as teachers’ activity set-up skills were directly
tested. Also, teachers’ overall performance on the course did not play any
role in teaching appraisals.
Hutchinson and Waters (1987) suggested that in order to evaluate the
usefulness of the course and to determine to what extent the course met
learners’, in this case teachers’ needs, evaluation should be carried out
during and at the end of the course. Course evaluation was therefore done
on a daily basis at the end of each day’s session during feedback and at the
end of the course when teachers were asked to evaluate the course making
suggestions were necessary. It was also agreed that teachers would continue
giving feedback on the usefulness, validity and practicality of the course as
they put said skills to use in their daily teachings.
As highlighted and discussed in the Part 1 of this essay, the need for
teachers, especially among young learners teachers of primary school age,
to be aware of and develop their activity set-up skills, is integral to their
teaching and development as good teachers. In order to successfully address
teachers’ needs as indicated in the Need Analysis section, I gathered and
analysed data i.e. through surveys and observations. These were used to
determine what areas needed attention the most and how these would be
addressed in a way that teachers would develop these skills without loosing
motivation. After analysing teachers’ beliefs about learning and teaching
and their perceived strengths and weaknesses in activity setup, I designed a
teacher training course that catered for these needs and delivered it with
the help of my Director of Studies.
Teachers were more aware and alive to activity set-up in and outside of the
classroom after the course and I believe this was primarily because of the
course. Although the course did not cater for other classroom challenges
like learner motivation and classroom management, teachers were however
made to understand good activity set-up skills will aid in addressing these
From the post-course interview conducted, the course also gave teachers
more insight into teaching methodologies and approaches and further
helped distinguished the pronounced and subtle differences between young
and adult learners. It further helped highlight the roles and expectations
from them and their learners which placed them in a better position to
cater for learners’ needs and expectations.
The striking limitation of the course was its intensive nature, as teachers
had too much to take in and replicate in a short period of time. I do
however believe that this and any other remaining issues will be addressed
in subsequent individual observations and feedback sessions.
In conclusion therefore, given that this is my first ever designed and
delivered teacher training course, I recognise that there are a number of
limitations but the course did address and develop teachers’ activity set-up
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