A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 79

The lesson
Independent approaches
Dewi Sant

The lesson




We've looked briefly at what makes a good learner & what makes a good teacher:
Promoting a healthy profile:
A teacher is...

This week it's the turn of the 'lesson'. What kind of things make the core of an 'effective' lesson. See what you think of this list:

The teacher is friendly, supportive & professional.
The students are friendly, supportive & motivated.

In the lesson:

  • the students are actively involved ie. mental effort is incorporated into the lesson.
  • some skills development - speaking, listening, reading & writing - takes place.
  • the skills are integrated in a natural way.
  • some aspect of language, which is useful to the students, is focussed on.
  • this aspect of language is practised in interesting & appropriate ways.
  • there is a variety of pace & activities.
  • there are changes of focus & interaction.
  • the teacher handles classroom management efficiently, giving clear instructions, checking them when necessary.
  • the students know where the lesson is going & why they are doing the different tasks.
  • some previously viewed language & skills are recycled.
  • students are given opportunities to use their store of language in a natural & spontaneous way - they are given 'fluency' practice.
  • the students are given feedback on their language use, as well on activity content.
  • there is a relaxed, positive & fun working atmosphere.
  • the teacher is flexible & adapts to the changing needs of the classroom.

This could be a useful checklist when planning a lesson or reflecting on a lesson just given. The points are the backbone of a language lesson & I don't think it is expecting too much for these all to be present in each lesson.

Back to the contents

Independent approaches





Developing learner autonomy is an attempt to make our students more independent with their learning. This is usually reduced to how we can help them inside & outside the classroom. Here is another way of dividing up what autonomy can be, taken from Teaching & Researching Autonomy in Language Learning by Phil Benson (Pearson)):

Approaches to the development of autonomy: six broad headings.
1. Resource-based approaches emphasise independent interaction with learning materials.
2. Technology-based approaches emphasise independent interaction with educational technologies.
3. Learner-based approaches emphasise the direct production of behavioural & psychological changes in the learner.
4. Classroom-based approaches emphasise learner control over the planning & evaluation of classroom learning.
5. Curriculum-based approaches extend the idea of learner control to the curriculum as a whole.
6. Teacher-based approaches emphasise the role of the teacher & teacher education in the practice of fostering autonomy among learners.
(Benson 2001:111)
To get an idea of the differences between the sections, match up these following ideas with one of the sections:
a. The teacher discusses with the students what to cover in the next unit from the coursebook. The students give their preferences & the teacher omits texts that the students find uninteresting.
b. The students visit the self-access centre & choose to work on developing certain areas.
c. In class, the teacher looks at characteristics of the 'good language learner ' & asks the students to reflect on how they go about their learning & how they might be more effective in their approach.
d. The students complete the next section of their learner diaries, writing about their impressions of the last few classes; what went well for them & what they still need clarification on - in effect, assessing themselves. For more on learner diaries:
e. The teacher attends a seminar on developing autonomy in class.
f. The students use software or the internet to improve their English.

There are many ways of helping learners to become more independent in their learning & as a starting point, it is useful to see which avenues there are to point them in the right direction. In future tips, we'll look at the different approaches in more detail.

Back to the contents

Dewi Sant

March 1st is St David's Day, the patron saint of Wales, as good an excuse as any for a lesson centred around the often overlooked country of Wales. For information on the country, check out these links:

Welsh Tourist Board

'Wales on the Web' is a subject gateway to high quality websites about all aspects of Wales

The two sites would be enough to use in a small project. If your students have internet access, ask them to design a week's holiday in Wales. After giving them an overview of the country; geography, history & culture, they use the sites to design a seven day itinerary. A pair or small group activity would possibly produce more interesting routes, as well as language use. They come together & explain their choices.

There is a very nicely told story of St David & the Day from the BBC at:

From this material, for a warmer or part of a lesson on St David's Day, here's a matching task for quite low levels & up:

Match the headings up with the appropriate paragraph. The paragraphs are in the order they appear in the text

1. The Legend of his Baptism
2. Before his Birth
3. David's Early Life, and another Legend
4. The Legend of his Birth
5. St David and the Spin Doctor
6. David Escapes Poison
7. David the Monk
8. What Was St David Like
9. St David Fact File

There aren't many facts about St David; but here are the only undisputed ones.

  • He really existed
  • He was at the heart of the Welsh church in the 6th century
  • He came from an aristocratic family in West Wales
  • His mother was a saint, Saint Non
  • His teacher was also a saint, St Paulinus
  • He founded a large monastery in West Wales
  • He was one of the early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of Western Britain
  • He became Archbishop of Wales, but remained in his community at Menevia (now called St Davids)
  • He was active in suppressing the Pelagian heresy
  • His shrine became a great place of pilgrimage; four visits to the shrine at St David’s was considered the equivalent of two to Rome, and one to Jerusalem!

The most famous story about Saint David tells how he was preaching to a huge crowd and the ground is said to have risen up, so that he was standing on a hill and everyone had a better chance of hearing him.

St David's Day has been a national festival in Wales since the 18th century, and is still marked with gusto.

Many people will wear either a daffodil or a leek, which are both symbols of Wales.

The other Welsh symbol, Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon, Wales's national flag), will be flown on many more buildings than usual.

Concerts are held to mark the occasion, particularly male voice choirs.

Most information about the Saint comes from a biography written by Rhygyfarch in the eleventh century. But because it was written so long after the Saint's death, it isn't likely to be very reliable.

Anyway, Rhygyfarch was a bit of a spin-doctor, and slanted his book to make the case for the Welsh church being independent of Canterbury. One writer describes Rhygyfarch's book as "chiefly a tissue of inventions".

So most of what we know about Saint David is really legend; and none the less inspiring for it.
The first legend is set 30 years before David was born when an angel foretold his birth to St. Patrick.
St David's father was a prince called Sant, son of the King of Cardigan.

His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftain (and possibly the niece of King Arthur).

But David wasn't the child of a love-filled marriage. He was born after his father either seduced or raped Non, who went on to become a nun.

Non left her family and gave birth by the sea. So intense was the birth that her fingers left marks where she grasped the rocks.

As David was born a bolt of lightning from heaven struck the rock and split it in two.
St David was baptised by St. Elvis of Munster, and it is said that a blind man was cured by the water used for the baptism.
David was schooled at the local monastery, Hen Fynyw, which is south of present day Aberaeron, and was taught by Paulinus, a blind monk.

David cured Paulinus of his blindness by making the sign of the cross. Realising that David was a special and holy person, Paulinus sent him off as a missionary to convert the pagan people of Britain.
In the course of his travels, David is said to have founded twelve monasteries.
At one of his monasteries David became so unpopular with his monks for the life of austerity he made them live, that they tried to poison him.

David was warned about this by St Scuthyn, who travelled from Ireland on the back of a sea-monster for the purpose.

David blessed the poisoned bread and ate it; and came to no harm.

St David is often shown with a dove on his shoulder. The bird symbolises the Holy Spirit which gave David the gift of eloquence as he preached the Good News of Christianity.

But although he was a great preacher, the message by which St David is most remembered is not a flowery piece of preaching but a simple statement about simplicity. It comes from his last sermon...

In his last sermon David told his monks to "do the little things, the small things you’ve seen me doing".


For a language focus, apart from vocabulary, there are a few
passives you could pick up on.

For the very young learner there are instructions for making a St David Doll, plus template, & some colouring pages.

Back to the contents

To the Past Teaching Tips

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing