ELT Experiences

Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Scaffolding Emergent Language

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Scaffolding at my language school

More explorative and experimental teaching methods, such as Dogme ELT, with a focus on authentic interaction with students and teachers, in my limited experience, tends to be geared towards developing and scaffolding emergent language when is appropriate. However, what should teachers and students do with emergent language which has been scaffolded?

Hopefully the immediacy and relevance with emergent language will assist in the remembering with learners but occasionally there maybe a small number of students who need reminding. As a side note, a few days ago, I scaffolded ‘bad memory’ to ‘a memory of a goldfish’ and a few days later the student in question who helped raise this language mis-remembered the idiomatic expression and said “Sorry, I have a fish memory”. We made a small joke about the expression and kept the class involved as I poked fun at the forgotten expression and the students memory but made sure the student wouldn’t forget the expression. It was jovial and lighthearted with the class being involved and laughs exchanged. Nevertheless, we do need activities to help students memorise and remember expressions and grammar points which have emerged in the exploratory and humanistic classroom.

The first idea is to get learners to purchase a notebook so that they can write down and record language as it emerges. If your students are anything like mine, they are probably already doing this. But to help this, you could create a Wordle of vocabulary from the previous lesson and handout or upload to the class blog. This Wordle could be used for the teacher to keep a record of language emerged during the week and then be used alongside a last lesson activity (like ’20 questions’ or ‘back-to-the-board’) to recycle or review vocabulary from the week.

Another activity is to ensure emergent language, which has already been noted, is actively being used during natural interaction to ensure it sticks. This could be done by the teacher or students. For example, the other day I scaffolded my examination class the term “chop chop” to mean “hurry up”. I made an effort for the remaining part of the lesson to keep repeating for all learners. I then noticed that learners were starting to reuse this phrase during the lesson. Mission success! Thus, repetition and recycling (whether orally or in writing) is key for getting learners to remember language.

A third activity is getting learners to write a learning diary or a blog post on the terms or phrases learnt during the day in class and then getting learners to review the post or adding vocabulary that they had learnt. This will naturally get learners to reflect on lessons and language which had emerged. To assist this process, it’s good practice to get learners to take a photo of the whiteboard. They can keep a digital copy of the whiteboard and then upload for blog posts. Furthermore, I always find a good sense of achievement when learners decide to take a photo voluntarily.

Finally, it’s a good idea to create wordsearches or crosswords to be used as a follow up class activity. So, what are you waiting for?  Why don’t you keep a notebook yourself or take a photo of your whiteboard and start creating your own puzzles for emergent language?

So how do you deal with emergent language? What do you do to recycle emergent language? How do your learners react to language that you scaffold?

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Author: Martin Sketchley

I have been an English language teacher for over 10 years both abroad and now currently in the UK. I am highly interested in teaching to young learners, professional development and curriculum development.

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