Signposting                                            Nikue Gardner

by Teaching Temple (TESL/TEFL) (find ‘Teaching Temple’ on Facebook for regular classroom ideas, links, teaching vacancies and more)!/nikue


Over the course of a TEFL programme, trainees generally learn a lot about staging and how to order lessons to most effectively achieve the aims they laid out during planning and this is a critical step towards a successful lesson. However, while staging can appear logical and effective to the teacher (who has the whole picture), it is not always so to the students (who only see each stage as it happens and connect them in hindsight, but not foresight). This can result in a situation where students are presented with what appear to be discrete, isolated components that only come (maybe) to a coherent whole at the end of the lesson. Picture for instance, a lesson with these stages:

  • Lead-in discussion in context
  • Pre-teaching vocabulary
  • Reading in context
  • Language clarification with items from reading text
  • Discussion on reading text using clarified language items

This is a classic lesson framework, with each stage supporting the next. However, this isn't always evident from the students' perspective without explicit signalling from the teacher. Do the students know that the vocabulary (often pre-taught to prevent difficulties with reading tasks) being presented will be helpful for the coming reading task? Or is it just presented as an isolated stage? "Let's study some words!". Are the students made aware that the language studied after reading comes from the text? Are students directed to discuss the content of the text during the follow-up speaking stage? All of these points can be signalled explicitly by the teacher to connect the stages in the students' mind as well. This has the benefit of increasing motivation for each stage (i.e. "There's a reason we're doing this, even though it may appear pointless or tedious in and of itself). A simple sentence, e.g. "In a minute we're going to read a text about the environment. To help with that, let's study a few important words", can be immensely clarifying in these situations and is well worth the relatively small increase in time and teacher-talk.

appeared in the Spring 2011 newsletter