As teachers our goal is to create students who are autonomous (self-directed independent) learners. We want our students to think for themselves, to ask questions and solve them using whatever resources, tools, plan or methods (strategy) they seem fit to accomplish a task. As teachers we can offer an assortment of different strategies that they can use that can motivate and engage students to learn English more. Given whatever task, autonomous learners will selectively use whatever strategies best effectively and can explain the process of their approach of doing so.
Providing the strategies to students, there are two strategies which overlap or work together.
- Language learning and Communication strategies
- Cognitive and Metacognitive strategies
Language learning and communication strategies is straight-forward in listening, speaking, reading and writing discussed earlier in 3. Integrating Skills which encompasses cognition which is the actual learning, knowing and manipulation of what is being taught. Metacognition is the monitoring and awareness of the cognition process. Think of it as the breakdown and understanding of the learning and knowing. Cognition and metacognition strategies we can think as mostly ‘invisible’ mental processes when we are practicing language learning and communication strategies. We can speak, listen, read and write but to fully learn and know takes a set of cognition and metacognition strategies to help the actual overseeing, monitoring, understanding and underlying of what is being taught in English.
To help develop and provide strategies to a student, teachers can:
- First identify the strategies that best work for a given student by giving tests, surveys, and interviews.
- After identification, help the student understand and use the strategies that best work for them.
- Develop a set of strategies for the student that work together. Remember that we are selecting strategies from both language learning and communication and cognitive and metacognitive strategies that work together for the student. There are also social and affective factors that play into learning strategies too. So create an encouraging comfortable classroom environment that draws from the student’s background and each other.
As teachers our ultimate goal to do develop students who are self-directed language learners who possess the following characteristics:
- Eager to communicate in English
- Try to to communicate in English without being embarrassed or shy to make mistakes
- Able to recognize language and communication patterns and rules
- Able to guess and predict strategies
- Able to pay attention to meaning
- Able to monitor and self-correct their own speech and writing
- Practice the language whenever they get the chance
- Think and dream in English rather than translate
- Transfer strategies to new learning situations
- Learn language outside the classroom
This module is a broad task to master as teachers we have to develop independent strategic students who are successful language learners. The list of strategies is long, overlap and build on one another in combination.
- Strategies such as visualization, verbalization, associations, chunking, questioning, scanning, underlining, accessing cues that can be verbal or visual, mnemonics, sounding out words, self-checking, monitoring.
These strategies and many more must be taught to student how and when to use them so students develop their own learning schema; individualized set of strategies that they develop to learn. The end goal is to be able use a set of strategies to think and communicate in English.