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Noticing language

Noticing language

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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