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Noticing language

Noticing language
In this step, we’d like you to create an online activity to help the children in your classes to notice features of language like form, meaning, and pronunciation. First, watch these teachers talking about how they help learners to notice language in online reading and listening texts. A good way to do this is to utilise the chat box in online classrooms so students can answer a question and then you can ask them to look at the language again that they used, to focus on maybe if the target language was used correctly or if it wasn’t quite there. Also, you can type in your answer to the chat box and ask them to contrast and compare.
Another method is to use test teach test so you can ask them a question and not expecting that they will have a perfect answer. Then you can give them your answer, again, ask them to compare, and then focus in on the language that you want them to use. And then, of course, ask them to do the task again. I found that good old concept check questions and guided discovery method work really well in the online classroom too, to help students notice new language, new patterns. When I use concept check questions, I collect answers either in the chatbox or students take turns to give their answers or both at the same time.
What trick I use, I spotlight the student who’s speaking at that time, and I make sure that whatever is in the chatbox gets reported to the class. I do that myself because not every student has their chatbox on open at that very moment, and it is important for student engagement that everybody’s opinions, responses are shared. As for the guided discovery method, I turn each step into small projects, very short small projects, and I put students in breakout rooms. When they complete it, they give feedback to the whole class or to different groups. It depends on how we proceed. And so far, they both work well.

After Krashen’s focus on the importance of exposure, Schmidt (1990) argued that for second language acquisition, teachers need to help learners to notice features of the language, like meaning, form and pronunciation. Watch teachers talking about how they do this online.

Nora gets her learners to use language first (for example in the chat) and then analyse it. She mentions the Test-Teach-Test approach.
Pelin talks about guided discovery and checking understanding using concept checking questions (she also uses the chat for this).

Here are ideas from two other teachers:

With a written text in a face-to-face class I would sometimes use the interactive white board and ask students to highlight examples of the form we’re considering. This can be replicated online using the Annotate feature and getting them to underline in different colours. It could be made into a race where the student who finds the most examples wins.
Tashya, Sri Lanka, secondary learners

I often display language, use different colours, guiding questions etc. to help learners ‘notice’ patterns in a grammar or in a functions lesson rather than explicitly stating it, whereas when it comes to lexis and pronunciation, I like learners to choose elements that they want to analyse and work on in a text (apart from what I highlight for them). I don’t think this is very different online, except that it might not be as easy to see their quizzical looks which is an important indicator for teachers.
Primary and secondary teacher


Option 1: create a noticing task
1. Choose one of these reading or listening activities, or another reading or listening text your learners would like.

Primary Secondary
Listen to a story – Dark, dark wood Watch a video – Music festivals
Reading – Say no to bullying Reading – Earth quiz
Listen to a song – Flying from the moon to the stars Listening – Favourite things
  1. What online noticing activities could you ask your learners to do to raise their awareness of meaning or form or the pronunciation of some of the language in the text?
  2. Post your response, for example:
    PRIMARY SONG – I would play the song in a live class and get learners to sing along with the chorus. Then we would play it again and stop after each line to get the children to notice the rhyming words (e.g. stars and mars).

Option 2: Adapt a noticing task
Alternatively, tell us about a noticing activity you have done with your learners in a face-to-face class. How would you adapt it for online learning?

Find out more

Read about a selection of homework choices you could give your learners, some of which involve noticing (for example, Language Detectives, and 3, 2, 1.)

Read more about key ideas in second language acquisition in this article from Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT blog.

If you teach very young learners, you might also be interested in this TED talk about first language acquisition

Read Schmidt’s original article where he introduced his noticing hypothesis: Schmidt, R. (1990). The Role of Consciousness in Second Language Learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158. (pdf)

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Teaching Young Learners Online

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