Select English teacher Richard takes us through his top study skills for learning English.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition is an essential study skill for learning English, as it allows you to assimilate the language into your long-term memory. It is important to have repeated encounters with new language at spaced intervals (days and weeks). The more exposure you have to the language, the more likely you are to remember it. Richard uses vocabulary review games such as ‘Backs to the Wall,’ ‘Taboo’ and a running dictation ‘Grass Skirt Race.’
It is also important for language learners to repeat tasks more than once, as it improves accuracy and encourages more ambitious language use. This is because the first time you do a task, you focus on communicating the meaning, and it takes all of your attention to do this. The second time around, you already know how to communicate the meaning, so you can now focus on form and pay attention to the language you use to express the meaning. Richard does this by getting his students to change partner and to tell the story/information again.
Contextualise new language
Richard recommends using an inductive approach or guided discovery tasks, as these will help you to understand the language in context and therefore make it easier to absorb and remember later. This means that instead of simply learning a new word and its meaning (for example in a dictionary or a vocabulary list), you have to find the answer yourself, through exploration. Richard will draw students’ attention to the target language (from a text or through a dictation). He then encourages the learners to spot patterns in the language and ask them to think about how the words are used. You can do this at home by reading a newspaper article or listening to a podcast, identifying new words and trying to work out their meaning before you reach for the dictionary.
Write it down
Effective note-writing is one of the most useful study skills for learning English. Having clear notes will allow you to review the words at home and to refer back to the language to recycle it when needed. Richard insists that all students have a notebook on their tables at the beginning of the lesson. During the lesson, he will write up useful vocabulary on the board and encourage students to write down the new language in their notebooks, with meaning (definition, example sentence, and synonyms), form and phonemic script. Independent learners can do this when they encounter a new word in a book, film, or conversation.
Take time to reflect
A good language student should be aware of why they are doing activities and what their expected outcomes are, because this will increase their motivation. Richard always ensures to write lesson aims on the board at the beginning of the class. During IELTS lessons, he will often tell students how an activity correlates to the examiner’s criteria. At the end of the class, he will also ask the students how confident they are at using the target language, compared to how they felt at the beginning of the class. Reflecting on your aims and progress will enable you to identify problem areas, but it will also allow you to see how far you have come on your learning journey, and this will only encourage you to keep working towards your goals.
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