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Promoting fluency and accuracy through planning, telling, transcribing and noticing by Scott Shelton


In my proposed experiment, I plan to take into the classroom the ideas of the monologue, planning time, focus on form through both peer and teacher feedback and take it one step further in the feedback stage. Asking the students to record, transcribe and analyze each other's speech and reflect on how it could be improved upon through discussion and negotiation. As a group of four learners listen intensively to a classmate's story, transcribe and suggest areas for improvement, I hope to not only raise awareness of language form and lexical appropriacy, but also place the emphasis on learners doing the noticing themselves, thus encouraging learner autonomy. The ideas here draw from an article written by Tony Lynch (2001) in which he states:

Collaborative transcribing and editing can encourage learners to focus on form in their output in a relatively natural way.

This particular form of transcribing appears to offer a productive route to noticing, in which learners are encouraged to externalize their thoughts about the formal correctness and semantic precision of their own input.

It is also suggested in this article that transcribing in itself is a valuable learning tool which draws on a long tradition of dictation and recently, dictogloss. Dictogloss is a process in which learners partially transcribe what they hear then later re-write the original text by using collective grammatical and schematical knowledge. Lynch (2001) cites recent research evidence that learners can benefit form transcribing whether it be in the form of dictogloss (Swain and Lapkin 1998) or of interviews with native-speaker informants. In his experiment, he suggests taking this idea further and having students transcribe themselves.

This is something I would like to try as well, but due to the limited resources available, I have devised instead a learner-centered 'peer' approach that will allow the class to work in two groups, on the speech of one of the members of the other group. I hope that this will prove equally as instructive for the students involved as if they were transcribing themselves. In fact, I think that errors will be easier to detect and it will be less difficult for the person being scrutinized if this is done by a different group. Like Lynch, I have questions that I hope to have answered in the process of the experiment.

• Will the students be resistant to first of all being asked to repeat the task with another partner, and second to being recorded?

• Will they be cooperative in sharing one tape player as they work together to transcribe their classmate's speech?

• Will they all be motivated to be involved in both the process of transcribing and noticing?

• How much will they notice in the way of language errors and how much will they over correct?

• In which areas will they notice the most (lexis, grammar, phonology, and so on)?

• What sort of amendments will they make; only corrections of errors, or improvements and refinements of what they think the speaker wanted to say?

• And finally, how much would they want to depend on the teacher and how much would I have to step in?


It appears obvious from recent research and experimentation that allowing planning time before speaking tasks and repeating the task benefits the learner in both developing his or her language system and can also encourage the use of more sophisticated, complex and accurate language. It also encourages practical real world strategies and skills, as planning is something we often do as native speakers. However, it is also clear that to gain full benefit from such an approach to developing speaking and language skills, attention needs to be given to form in the way of feedback and analysis if the learner is to learn from his or her mistakes. Focus on form through noticing activities may prevent fossilization and encourage a move towards improving not only fluency, but accuracy, appropriacy and complexity of language use and interlanguage development.


Kay, S. (2001) Anecdote activities. English Teaching Professional issue 19. April, 2001

Howarth, P. (2001) Process speaking 1. Preparing to repeat yourself. MET Vol. 10 No. 1 2001

Johnson, H. (1992) Defossilizing. ELT Journal Vol. 46/2 Oxford University Press 1992

Skehan, P. (1994) Second language acquisition strategies, interlanguage development and task-based learning. In Bygate,et al (eds.), Grammar and the Language Teacher (pp.175-199). Prentice Hall

Batstone, R. (1994) Product and process: grammar in the second language classroom. In Bygate et al (eds.), Grammar and the Language Teacher (pp.225-236). Prentice Hall

Cook, G. (1993) Repetition and learning by heart: an aspect of intimate discourse, and its implications. ELT Journal Vol. 48/2 Oxford University Press

Bygate, M. (1996) Effects of task repetition: appraising the developing language of learners. In Challenge and Change in Language Teaching et al (eds.) Willis. D & J. Willis. Heinemann

Foster, P. (1996) Doing the task better: how planning time influences students; performance. In Challenge and Change in Language Teaching et al (eds.) Willis. D & J. Willis. Heinemann

Lynch, T. (2001) Seeing what they meant: transcribing as a route to noticing.

ELT Journal Vol. 55/2 Oxford University Press

Leiguarda, A. (2001) Making it Memorable. English Teaching Professional issue 20. July, 2001

Wilson, R. (2000) Learner centered, teacher centered. English Teaching Professional issue 14. January 2000.


Scott Shelton has been involved in EFL teaching since 1991 and has taught adults from all over the world. Scott has taught multilingual groups at St. Giles College in San Francisco, California and monolingual groups at International house in Madrid, Spain. He was awarded his CELTA teaching certificate from St. Giles College and also holds the Cambridge Diploma (DELTA) having followed the course at the British Language Centre in Madrid. Scott is currently teaching in New Zealand.

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