Introduction to CEFR LevelsA Framework of Reference for Teaching Oral English at Sias • Shawn Boyd • 27 August 2013
Session Goals • Understand the Oral English context at Sias • Introduce a research-based framework of reference for understanding language learner abilities. • Common European Framework of Reference • Begin to understand what different levels are capable of and how teachers can best teach different groups.
Today • The content of today’s session is foundational • The applications sessions later this week. • All of your lesson planning and teaching. • If you are unable to accurately assess the levels of your students and have a clear understanding of what those levels mean (their abilities and needs), then you won’t be able to: • Create/select/adapt appropriate goals and objectives • Design appropriate tasks/activities • Provide level-appropriate input for optimal acquisition
Continuing Training • Friday, September 13 • All OE faculty • More on levels, lesson planning and activity design.
Oral English at Sias • All Freshman and Sophomore students (except Japanese majors) • Cohort system → No pre-assessment of student abilities • Mixed abilities in all classes • Typical patterns but always exceptions • False beginners and anxiety/shyness complicate things further • Not integrated with other English skills classes
Oral English at Sias • Until 3 years ago, OE Program had very, very little structure. • Program overhaul • Needs and situational analysis • Comprehensive Training Program • Curriculum construction
A peek into the classroom • Listen to this clip and try to understand what’s being said. • Try to identify any mistakes that are being made. • Think about each speaker’s overall communicative ability.
Explaining English Ability • How can you describe a language learner’s ability? • High? Mid? Low? • What do each of these mean? • What can a ‘High’ do that a ‘Mid’ cannot? • What techniques are effective for one level, but not another? • ...
Frameworks of Reference • ACTFL • ALTE • ILR (FSI) • CEFR • many specific to a single language (e.g. HSK)
CEFR • Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching and Assessment • Developed by the Council of Europe as a universal reference within the multilingual context of Europe.
CEFR Leveling System • As easy as A, B, C! Pre-A1 A1 A2 Basic User Independent User Proficient User A B C B1 B2 C1 C2
Pre-A1 Level - What can they do? • - Virtually no spoken English ability. • - Can use some isolated, memorized phrases to respond in the most familiar contexts. • - Classes at this level are generally taught by Chinese faculty.
Teaching Pre-A1 Level • Level: Pre-A1 • What can you teach them? • Primary Task • Simple, Factual Socialization • E.g. Responding to simple questions: “What is your name?” “Where are you from?” • Secondary Tasks • Communication Repair – most basic form • Learning How to Learn Oral English
Example: • “The following descriptors relate to simple, general tasks, which were scaled below A1, but can constitute useful objectives for beginners: • can make simple purchases where pointing or other gesture can support the verbal reference; • can ask and tell day, time of day and date; • can use some basic greetings; • can say yes, no, excuse me, please, thank you, sorry…” (CEFR p. 31).
A1 Level- What can they do? • Able to carry out simple social exchanges regarding factual information with a patient and helpful interlocutor. • Has a very basic repertoire of words and phrases related to personal details and particular concrete situations (CEFR 7). • Can manage very short isolated, mainly prepackaged utterances, with much pausing to search for expressions… (CEFR 7). • Has very basic strategies and functions to learn English through communicative exchange rather than translation. • E.g. “Pardon?” “Can you please repeat?” “Again please” etc.
Teaching A1 Level • Level: A1 • What can you teach them? • Primary Tasks: • Socialization (Increased Complexity) • Basic information exchange • Obtaining goods and services (very basic) • Secondary Tasks • Factual Narration- recounting very simple events • Developing Opinions- in the most basic form
A2 Level - What can they do? • “Can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself” (CEFR 6) • “Uses basic sentence patterns with memorized phrases, groups of a few words and formulae in order to communicate limited information in simple everyday situations” (CEFR 7). • Able to “make him/herself understood in very short utterances, even though pauses, false starts and reformulations are very evident” (CEFR 7).
Teaching A2 Level • Level: A2 • What can you teach them? • Primary Tasks • Creative, Independent Production- providing support • Goal-Oriented Cooperation/Problem Solving • Obtaining Goods and Services • Secondary Tasks • Abstraction • Structuring Multi-Party Discussion—topical & opinion-based
B1 Level - What can they do? • “Threshold level” - “Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst traveling.” • “Can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life.” • “Has enough language to get by, with sufficient vocabulary to express him/herself with some hesitation and circumlocutions on topics such as family, hobbies, and interests, work, travel, and current events.” • “[He/she] can keep going comprehensibly, even though pausing for grammatical and lexical planning and repair is very evident.”
Teaching B1 Level • Level: B1 • What can you teach them? • Practicing fluency • Increased range of topics • Refining grammatical control • Strategic competence –circumlocution etc. • Facilitating others' use of the language • Intro to debate • Formal v. Informal Registers • Basic Discourse Structuring
B2 Level - What can they do? • “Can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views” (CEFR 6). • Has sufficient range of language to be able to give clear descriptions, express viewpoints on most general topics, without much conspicuous searching for words, using some complex sentence forms to do so” (CEFR 7). • “Can produce stretches of language with a fairly even tempo; although he/she can be hesitant as he or she searches for patterns and expressions, there are few noticeably long pauses” (CEFR 7).
Teaching B2 Level • Level:B2 • What can you teach them? • Socio-cultural knowledge and appropriateness • e.g. slang, idioms, colloquialisms • Basic implicature, intonation and non-verbal cues • Adapting to an audience • Structuring Discourse/Rhetorical Devices • So much more!
Diagnosis • Students and classes are not going to fall neatly and clearly into one level. • First Week: Diagnose the general level of your classes. • Constantly assess your students abilities, challenges and progress and adapt what you are teaching to meet the level of your students' appropriately. • You can always reinforce competencies from lower levels, but don't stagnate when your students are ready to move on.
General Guidelines • General level of a class. Always exceptions. • Many incoming freshman are basic users (Pre-A1, A1, A2) • By sophomore year some classes are (nearly) B1 • Many individuals may be B1 or even B2
Teaching Lower Levels • Key: Don’t overwhelm them: • Use simple vocab, phrases, sentences • Use lots of repetition and a slower rate of speech • Don’t demand too much of their language abilities • Teacher’s Role: Responsibility for initiating (“carrying the class”) is more on the teacher, but… • More teacher-centered is OK; but not always! • Still use pair and group work • Ensure that they are using language for meaningful exchange (not simply repeating or memorizing) • e.g. “What is your name?” “Where do you live?” “How much is it?”
Teacher Talk: • Teacher input is absolutely vital • Provide clear, standard input at a slower rate • Caution: Don’t allow it to become unnatural! • Can use the native language for a short period of time, if there is a “distinct advantage” • Some classroom management issues • Brief explanations of directions for an activity • Brief explanations of meanings of words AFTER students try to explain in the L2 • Cultural notes • Brief grammar points
A variety of short, simple techniques and activities should be used: • Some mechanical practice is ok • Choral repetition, drills • All activities should be well structured • Clearly defined objectives • Plenty of linguistic support • Linguistic demands on the learner are reduced • E.g. Answering “yes”/ “no” questions vs. “why” • Providing sentence frames • Questions provided etc.
Fluency and Accuracy: • Working on fluency is very important • Fluency will be in short utterances • Work on phonological aspects of fluency… (stress, intonation, rhythm) • Allow learners to practice without worrying about making mistakes; focus on free communication • Accuracy is also important; need balance • Focus on some specific aspects (grammar, discourse, pronunciation etc.) • Provide some corrective feedback
Teaching Intermediate Levels • Teacher’s Role: Teacher is Facilitator: • No longer sole/primary initiator of language and interaction. • Learner-centered classroom • Students can initiate interaction in pairs, groups, class as a whole • Aim to maximize interaction and real communication among the students • Encourage them to develop autonomy as learners
Teacher Talk: • Can speak at a fairly natural pace; however, must clearly articulate • Teacher talk time should be limited; student talk time should be maximized • Should use less of the native language; although there may still be a few situations where it’s beneficial.
Teaching Techniques, Activities and Tasks: • Increased complexity due to increased language ability. • Wide variety of techniques, activities, and tasks • E.g. survey, interviews, role play, chain stories etc. • Try to promote the authentic use of language • Aim to prepare them for unrehearsed situations beyond the classroom context
Fluency and Accuracy: • Be looking for students on either end of the spectrum: • Obsessed with grammatical correctness • “Complacent” – satisfied with grammar; becomes quite fluent, but difficult to understand. • Fluency exercises are VERY important • Help them to focus on free expression • Provide just enough correction to promote growth
Teaching More Advanced Levels… • Teacher’s Role: A Director and Facilitator • Maintain student-centered classroom. • Continue to promote student interaction and authentic use of the language. • Direct student interaction to keep class “on track” and maximize effectiveness for all students. • Be careful not to simply respond to students and allow your plans to fall by the wayside. • Provide ample feedback to students about language use.
Teacher Talk: • Very important to speak at a natural rate of speech. • Challenge students with language—idioms, vocab, structures, more cultural knowledge etc. • Balance teacher talk with student talk depending on activity type • Refrain from lengthy explanations; promote student interaction and communication • Very little use of the native language is justified • Classroom management, explanations etc. should all be int English. • If a student is really “stuck”, one or two words (definition) in English is ok.
Teaching Techniques, Activities, and Tasks: • Focus on the full range of sociolinguistic and pragmatic competencies • E.g. register, appropriateness, more complex “rules” governing conversational interaction (topic nomination, termination, turn-taking etc.) • Aim to make all techniques/activities/tasks relevant to the real world; promote creativity • Keep student’s individual goals for learning/using English in focus • Example of activities at this level: • Debate, complex role-play, argumentation etc.
Fluency and Accuracy: • At this level your students are “fluent” –in the sense that they can produce spontaneous language and enter unprepared into conversations on familiar topics. • Providing systematic feedback is still important • May be their last chance to get that feedback • To continue to raise awareness to promote growth • Focus can shift from simply structural feedback to all aspects: providing feedback on sociolinguistic and discourse aspects of language use
Sources: • Erica Enns-Fennell, Sias International University, 2012 Pre-semester training. Presentation • Council of Europe. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment—Structured overview of all CEFR scales. • Brown, H.D. (2007) Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy (3rd Ed.). White Plains, New York: Pearson.