Learner’s strategy and key steps of teaching new strategy of sara cotterall and Hayo Reinders to 1st year students of English

Abstract. This study attempts to present what the author has experienced and applied in teaching new strategies to 1st year students of English at HNUE with an example of application into reading strategies for example reading for main idea according to five key steps by Sara Cotterall and Hayo Reinders (2004). These briefly introduced key steps are: (1) raising learner’s awareness of the strategy, that is to make them see the importance and the need to study the strategy; (2) modelling the strategy, the step in which a teacher tries to show how to use the strategy as they read the text for example; (3) trying out the strategy: at this stage a teacher has to design several activities for students to practice using the new strategy; (4) evaluating the strategy to see if the students find the strategy useful or if they have any difficulties in using it to solve all arising problems; (5) encouraging transfer of the strategy to new contexts: regular practice and revision should be given to make students work independently in any situations they may have in their lifetime learning process.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE 2011, Vol. 56, N◦. 1, pp. 138-143 LEARNER’S STRATEGY AND KEY STEPS OF TEACHING NEW STRATEGY OF SARA COTTERALL AND HAYO REINDERS TO 1ST YEAR STUDENTS OF ENGLISH Hoang Thi Giang Lam Hanoi National University of Education E-mail: gianglam76@yahoo.com Abstract. This study attempts to present what the author has experienced and applied in teaching new strategies to 1st year students of English at HNUE with an example of application into reading strategies for example reading for main idea according to five key steps by Sara Cotterall and Hayo Reinders (2004). These briefly introduced key steps are: (1) raising learner’s awareness of the strategy, that is to make them see the importance and the need to study the strategy; (2) modelling the strategy, the step in which a teacher tries to show how to use the strategy as they read the text for example; (3) trying out the strategy: at this stage a teacher has to design several activities for students to practice using the new strategy; (4) evaluating the strategy to see if the students find the strategy useful or if they have any difficulties in using it to solve all arising problems; (5) encouraging transfer of the strategy to new contexts: regular practice and revision should be given to make students work independently in any situations they may have in their lifetime learning process. Keywords: learner’s strategy, learning strategy, language learning 1. Introduction In the last fifteen years, the concepts of teaching strategies for language learn- ing have gained a great deal of interest from many educators and trainers worldwide because of its practicality. By teaching students about strategies, teachers are stim- ulating them to share more responsibilities for their learning progress since their learning is actually done by students not teachers. Vietnamese children have been deeply attached to very traditional ways of teaching and learning for 12 primary years at school, i.e. the teacher is the person who decides everything to teach, the learning methods, etc. and pupils just simply keep following without much under- standing of what and why they are doing it. Hence, entering the university and 138 Learners strategy and key steps of teaching new strategy... knowing little about self learning strategies, many of them face quite a few difficul- ties in adapting into a new learning environment where learning usually continues outside the classroom. Especially for those who are studying at university to be- come future teachers in general and teachers of language in particular whose job requires regular study and non-stop knowledge improvement, the need of how to manage their independent learning is far more necessary than ever. Therefore, this independent learning should be formed and encouraged right from the first year of students at the university to promote their motivation, their learning efficiency, and help them take control of their own learning in their lifetime study. And obviously, the very first step in forming students’ independent learning is providing them with learning strategies so that they can confidently and flexibly adjust themselves in any circumstances. 2. Content 2.1. Learner’s Strategies What are learner strategies? Learner strategies have been defined by different writers in different ways. Rebecca Oxford’s [3;8] definition emphasizes the benefits of learner strategies: Specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more en- joyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situations. Anita Wenden [4;6,7] believes that strategies include three elements: - Language learning learners actually engage in to learn and regulate the learn- ing of a second language; - What learners know about the strategies they use; - What learners know about aspects of their language learning other than the strategies they use. O’Malley and Chamot [2] divide learner strategies into three main types: cog- nitive strategies, meta-cognitive strategies, and social/affective strategies. 2.1.1. Cognitive Strategies There are two groups of cognitive strategies: strategies for learning target lan- guage and strategies for using the target language. The first group includes rehearsal and elaboration. The rehearsal strategy involves saying or writing something over and over again. Learners often use this when they are trying to learn new words, etc. The elaboration strategy involves making links between new information and what you already know, or between different parts of new information. 139 Hoang Thi Giang Lam The second group is the cognitive strategies which help learners bridge gaps between what they know and what they want to say, so these can be called communi- cation strategies. Students may use approximation when they choose a more general word than the target word to express their meaning. Or they may use paraphrasing when they don’t know a word in the target language. 2.1.2. Meta-cognitive Strategies These strategies help learners manage and monitor their learning. O’Malley and Chamot [3] state three reasons why meta-cognitive strategies are essential in successful language learning. Firstly, by using meta-cognitive strategies such as planning, students can prioritize their needs and focus on the most important things. They have sense of control of what should be done first and plan their own learning effectively. Secondly, these strategies allow learners to individualize their learning. As the learners can set up their learning goals, they find it easier to identify tasks which help them achieve their goals. The third reason is that by applying meta- cognitive strategies, learners can develop their independence, measure their progress and learn to eliminate their errors. 2.1.3. Social/Affective Strategies Social/affective strategies are things which learners do to manage their feelings or to manage their interaction with others. These include cooperation, questioning for clarification, and self-talk. Students use cooperation when they work together to solve a problem, share their recourses and produce a joint response. When asking questions to help them understand, learners are using the social strategies of ques- tioning for clarification. The name self-talk refers to the way that some learners talk to themselves (either silently or very quietly) to boost their confidence and reduce their anxiety when they are in a stressful situation. Many people use this strategy when they have to give a speech in public, saying to themselves over and over: I CAN do it! I CAN do it! This is a very effective strategy. 2.2. Steps for teaching new strategies According to Sara Cotterall and Hayo Reinders [1;25], there are five key steps in teaching new strategies to language students which can be applied practically for different skills as the followings: - Raise awareness of the strategy; - Model the strategy; - Try out the strategy; - Evaluate the strategy; 140 Learners strategy and key steps of teaching new strategy... - Encourage transfer of the strategy to new contexts. In the first year at university, students at HNUE are provided with alot of new learning strategies for various language development skills like reading, writing, listening, speaking, and pronunciation. Following this basic procedure, new strate- gies have gradually been introduced and taught to them which promotes a great deal of their motivation and independence in their lifetime learning. In this paper, these five keys steps in teaching students new strategies are briefly presented with an example of application and experience of how to teach reading strategy for first year students of English at HNUE. 2.2.1. Raising students’ awareness Before teaching new strategies, teachers should ask our students how they normally solve problems to raise interest in the strategy and to persuade our students that it can help them. For example, in reading lessons we can ask them how they usually do if they have to read long texts with alot of new words. You can ask them to discuss in pairs or groups to stimulate their involvement in talking about their real experiences. Normally, they try to read and understand in detail for the first time reading. After listening to what they typically do, you could explain that it takes time and good readers should summarize the main idea and understand the organization of the text in their heads as they read. However, the problem is how to get the main idea and understand the organization of the text quickly. This is another question that students need to discuss again, and this activity makes them more interested in new strategy they are going to learn and become aware of the importance of knowing the right strategy to follow. That is to read the first paragraph and very first sentences of other paragraphs to build up the whole picture of the text. Tell them that, however, sometimes the topic sentences are in the middle or at the end of the reading text. Many students feel really excited to learn new ways to read fast and effectively. 2.2.2. Modelling the strategy The next step aims to show students how to use the strategy as you read the text together. So it is very important to choose an appropriate text to use for the strategy instruction session because your aim in modelling the strategy is that it helps your students see learning processes which are normally invisible. The key procedure you use here is to think aloud. Think aloud means you say out loud what you think when you use the strategy. During the think-aloud process, ask yourself questions like: What is the first sentence telling me? What is the main idea that it discusses? What are the next sentences trying to explain or support? So by watching 141 Hoang Thi Giang Lam and listening to your construction as you read, students can understand the main idea and how the sentences are linked to support each other in the text. They will know what you expect them to do when it is their turn to try out the new strategy. If necessary, try to model several times until students understand clearly what and how they have to do. 2.2.3. Trying out the strategy This stage will give you feedback of the efficiency of new strategy, so design the activity so that your students have chance to practice using new strategy gradually from the very easy task to more challenging ones. The easy task is the reading text which is not so long and contains not so many new words, so students can find it easier to understand and apply the new strategy more quickly. Once they have understood the strategy, we can give them longer texts with more new words and phrases for them to practice. Firstly, ask them to practice in pair or group to make sure that they fully understand the procedure by themselves before they work alone later. At this stage, cooperation makes students feel more confident and learn from each other a lot. Students may need any help at any time, so walk around the class to give them feedback on what they are doing. Once they have sufficient practice in group, give them more individual practice and ask volunteers to explain their way of reading and discuss with the whole class if they are on the same track. Further practice could be delivered as home tasks. 2.2.4. Evaluating the strategy Sara Cotterall and Hayo Reinders [1;28] rank the fourth step the most im- portant one in the instruction procedure. It is necessary to ask your students after several practices if they found the new strategy useful or not, and whether they had any difficulties in understanding and practicing it. If they still struggle with it, waste time and even cannot follow your instruction to get the main idea of the text for example, find out why and provide help. Encourage your students to speak out their difficulties honestly, and discuss with the whole class the solution to each and support their friends. If the students feel shy, you can ask them to discuss in groups first and then report back. Quick-minded students or maybe it is the teacher who should share their experience and give advice to others. 2.2.5. Encouraging transfer of the strategy to new contexts Practice makes perfect, so provide students regular practice opportunities like revision sessions to help them revise the strategies they have learned before they start to learn the new ones. In these sessions, several reading texts with questions 142 Learners strategy and key steps of teaching new strategy... of all types are mixed to challenge students to identify quickly the most appropriate strategy to use to deal with each question. The aim of this revision is to help students have continuous practice and ability to work independently, effectively and accurately when dealing with various reading situations. Therefore, a well-planned syllabus for your teaching is a must. 3. Conclusion Learning is a life long journey which never ends if the traveller is always full of energy and interest as he/she confidently knows the key to success. Hence, providing the learners with strategies to learn is to equip them with this key to study by themselves as far as they still feel motivated. Above discussed steps are the principal processes that help teachers not only in teaching reading skills but other skills as well. For different subjects or in different situations, always make sure that your students are aware of the need of obtaining the new strategy, understand how to use it and make it effective. We have studies, then applied these key steps in teaching the 1st year students of English at HNUE and the results are quite satisfactory. In this paper, the author would like to share her own experience and initial success with the hope to get further contribution and advice for better learner autonomy processes in language learning in particular and in other educational settings in general. Further researches may focus on the ways to monitor learner’s self study and progress, the materials or the sources that can support them to study independently outside the classroom effectively. REFERENCES [1] Cotterall, S. & Reinders, H., 2004. Learner Strategies A Guide for Teacher, RELC Portfolio Series 12. SEAMEO Regional Language Center. [2] O’Malley, J.M. & Chamot, A.U., 1990. Learning strategies in second language acquisition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [3] Oxford, R.L., 1990. Language learning strategies, What every teacher should know. Boston, Mass: Heinle & Heinle. [4] Wenden, A., 1987. Conceptual background and utility. In Wenden, A. & Rubin, J. (Eds) Learner Strategies in Language Learning, pp. 3-14, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 143
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