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Teaching and learning strategies

The teaching and learning strategies provide teachers with models for developing learning materials for their students, which can be adapted and used in other contexts and curriculum areas.

Card games

Card games are excellent language learning tools because they provide opportunities for repetition without becoming boring. While the cards need to be durable they can be hand-made. Students enjoy making them. It is also relatively simple to produce large clear lettering using a word processor.

You could use:

  • two sets of 20 identical vocab cards from the student worksheets
  • two identical sets of letters of the alphabet
  • one set of upper case letters and one set of lower case letters
  • one set of pictures and one set of words that name the pictures
  • one set of numerals and one set of the written form of the numbers.

Kim’s game

A memory game for one or more players.

  • Place some word cards face up on the table.
  • Let the learners look at them for a minute, then cover the cards.
  • Learners try to remember all the cards. For pronunciation benefits, have the students say the words. For spelling, have them write them.


A game for two or more players – the aim is to find matching pairs of cards.

  • Deal out the cards.
  • Players do not look at the cards.
  • Players take turns to put their top card face up on the table.
  • This continues until a pair is turned up and a player calls ‘snap’.
  • The first player to call ‘snap’ picks up all the cards.
  • The game continues until one player has all the cards.


A game for one or more players – the aim is to find matching pairs of cards.

  • Place the cards face down.
  • Each player has a turn at turning over two cards.
  • If the cards match, the player keeps the pair and has another turn.
  • If the cards do not match, the player puts them back in the same position face down and another player has a turn.
  • The players say the words, letters or numbers as they turn up the cards. It is useful to have a phrase such as ‘I’ve got a… I need another…’ to ensure maximum language use.
  • Play continues until all the cards are correctly matched.

Commercial games

Most children’s games such as Happy Families or Donkey are useful as they involve the use of polite everyday phrases in play. There are also language teaching games available from most publishing houses. Check them carefully for enjoyment and language learning value before buying.

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Cloze is a technique in which words are deleted from a text, and students are asked to fill each blank space with a word or words. Texts may be single sentences or longer passages. The choice of words to be deleted depends on the purpose of the cloze. Spaces may be a single line of standard length or may be a series of short lines, one for each letter in the missing word, or there may be just an omission that students must identify.

Cloze as a test of reading ability

Words are deleted in a regular way from a passage that students have not seen before. Give the first sentence complete, then delete words regularly, for example, every fifth word. Students can be given marks for any acceptable word or only for words that are exactly the same as the original passage. Using this type of cloze, a teacher can get an indication of the level of difficulty of reading material for any student. If a student scores below 40%, the text is too difficult to be used for learning.

Cloze for teaching

Words are deleted in an irregular pattern. Useful choices for deletion are:

  • words that have been the target of vocabulary teaching
  • words that occur before or after target words so that students gain understanding of the environment the word occurs in
  • grammatical forms that have been targeted in teaching, for example, past tense verb forms
  • words or phrases that are essential to the story line of a narrative text.

Supply the words or phrases in a box near the text. Add extra words as distractors so that the students cannot do the task without thinking. They will benefit from working in pairs or as a small group.

When students are more confident, make the task more demanding by:

  • presenting the text without supplying the words or phrases
  • leaving out words or phrases without leaving a space – if you choose to do this, it is important that you give an orientation to the topic of the text.

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Developing fluency and confidence in spoken language

Students should be given plenty of opportunities to develop fluency and confidence in speaking. The best classroom techniques for doing this involve repetition.

Vanishing cloze

  • Construct a story of five to seven sentences on the board with the students. Base the story on a topic they are currently studying. The story must be grammatically correct and use known vocabulary correctly.
  • Students read the whole text aloud from the board, then you rub out every fifth word.
  • The students read again and say the missing words.
  • Rub out every fifth word again and have students read and supply the missing words.
  • Continue in this way until the whole text has been rubbed out and the students can recite it or until they are unable to supply any more words.


The aim of this technique is to develop fluency in speaking by giving students the opportunity to talk about the same topic three times. Each time the talk is repeated, students gain increasing control of the topic and the language and organisation of the talk. As they do this, they are able to reduce hesitations and deliver the talk with more confidence, clarity and speed.

  • Students work in pairs – one student is the speaker and the other is the listener.
  • The speaker gives a talk on a familiar topic to the listener. The speaker talks for 4 minutes, then the teacher tells them to stop.
  • The speaker then moves to a new listener and gives the same talk. This time they talk for 3 minutes, then the teacher tells them to stop.
  • The speaker then moves to a third listener and gives the same talk for the third time. This time they talk for 2 minutes, then the teacher tells them to stop.
  • Then the listeners become the speakers and the procedure is repeated.

The times can be reduced to 3, 2 and 1 minute, but it is important that whatever time limit is decided is strictly adhered to.


  • Sing songs often.
  • Supply students with the words of popular or traditional songs to sing.
  • As a group, write your own words to familiar tunes to practise recently learned language features and vocabulary. Record the songs for less confident students to sing along.

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Extensive reading

Extensive reading is essential to the development of reading fluency.

Provide opportunities for students to read widely:

  • Provide easy factual reading materials. Use commercial publications or use Journal Surf to locate specific material from Learning Media.
  • Select suitable websites.
  • Use readers with factual texts such as those from publishers like Sunshine, Ashton Scholastic, Shortland, Gilt Edge Publishing and Macmillan.

Provide opportunities for students to read often:

  • In addition to topic-related reading, set aside a time each day when students choose their own material for recreational reading.
  • Encourage students to read as often as possible in their own language.

Provide opportunities for students to share their reading experiences:

  • Help them to keep a record of their reading and make time for them to talk with others about their reading.

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Extensive writing

Regular opportunities for personal writing such as keeping a diary or 10-minute writing help to develop fluency. The emphasis in this type of writing is on self-expression, not accuracy.

It provides the opportunity for students to experiment with recently learnt language in a non-threatening situation.

10-minute writing

  • Give students a list of starters or topics that will elicit the text type and vocabulary you want them to practise.
  • Students select a topic and write as much as they can about it in 10 minutes. It is helpful if the teacher writes at the same time.
  • The teacher reads the work from time to time and comments on the content. The work is not corrected.

Encourage students to write often in their own language.

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Information transfer

Information transfer activities involve learning the transfer or change of information from one form to another. It is an excellent learning technique because it requires learners to understand information and process it in a different way.

In a receptive information transfer activity, learners transfer written or spoken information into any of the following: table, grid, chart, map, plan, diagram, picture, timetable, diary, form and so on. For example, learners listen to a description of an object such as a plant, animal or machine and label its parts.

In a productive information transfer activity, learners transfer information from any of the forms listed above into a written or spoken text. For example, learners write a description of a plant, animal or machine from a chart listing its parts, their appearance and their functions.

Information transfer activities can be used to focus learners’ attention on:

  • the details of the information (content)
  • vocabulary
  • grammatical features
  • the way information is organised within a text type.

The level of difficulty of any information transfer activity can be controlled by the amount of information that is given in the table or diagram.

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Using dictation

Dictation is a technique in which students are given some spoken input that they hold in their memory for a short time and then write what they heard.

Dictation helps language learning by making students focus on the forms of words, phrases and clauses. It gives them an opportunity to get feedback on the accuracy of their listening, their understanding of the language’s grammar, spelling and punctuation, and their ability to hold what they have learnt in their memory.

Dictations should always be on a familiar topic with words and language patterns that are familiar. Students should be prepared by general discussion of the topic and given any specialist vocabulary that is not familiar. They should also be advised of any special focus for the dictation such as verb endings, prepositions, articles.

Traditional dictation

Focus: Accuracy in writing grammatical forms, spelling and punctuation.

  • Tell students not to write while you read the whole passage once at normal speed.
  • Tell students to write while you read the text again in chunks of three to seven words. Read at normal speed and pause after each chunk to allow students plenty of time to write. The words should not be repeated.
  • When the passage has been completed, give students time to check their work.
  • Read the whole passage again and have students give their work a final check.
  • Take in the students’ work and mark it, giving a score for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, or write the passage on the board or OHP for correction by students of their own or a partner’s work.

Completion dictation

Focus: Accuracy and fluency in written English.

  • Give students a printed text with selected words deleted.
  • Read the text and have students fill in the spaces.
  • Students can self-mark, mark one another’s work or mark in pairs from a complete copy of the text. Encourage discussion of any differences.
  • Variation: Have students cover their previous work and give them a copy of the same text with more words deleted. Read the text and have students fill in the spaces then mark as above. Continue with more words deleted until students have written the complete text.

Word dictation

Focus: Spelling, sound recognition, collocation.

Options include:

  • say and spell the word – students write with support of letter lines
  • read the word – students write the word they hear
  • students have pairs of written words – read one word of the pair and students tick the one they hear
  • students have a list of target words from a text – read the text and students write the word that comes before or after it
  • self- or peer marking to encourage discussion.

Picture dictation

Focus: Processing of target language for production in another medium.

  • Tell students in general terms what they are going to draw. They may start with an incomplete outline or a blank page.
  • Give instructions at a normal speed. Students listen to instructions or descriptions, then draw. Instructions should not be repeated.
  • Self- or peer marking using a model drawing.
  • Variation: Have students dictate pictures for other students to draw.

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Using word cards in teaching vocabulary

Use vocabulary cards to build up a vocabulary box as a resource for teaching and revision. Cut out the cards as students complete each subtopic (you could use different colours for different topics).

Hold up a card and ask students to:

  • pronounce the word
  • give its meaning
  • give a rhyming word
  • give a word with the same stress pattern
  • give a word that could come before or after the word
  • spell the word – you can remove the card quickly to increase the level of difficulty.

Put cards face up on a table for sorting into categories such as:

  • words that start with the same letter
  • words that rhyme
  • words with the same stress pattern
  • parts of speech
  • words that go together, for example, animals, things to do with water.

Put cards face down on the table and ask a student to:

  • pick up a card and pronounce it
  • pick up a card and use it in a sentence or question for another student, focusing on recently learnt language such as past tense verb forms
  • pick up several cards and try to use them all in a sentence
  • get another student to guess word by giving clues about it: ‘It starts with…’. ‘It is a verb’, ‘It sounds like…’

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Published on: 08 Jan 2018