Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Summary of #eltchat on 11/6/2013: Does CLT place more focus on learners that are more confident? What about the quieter students in the classroom?

An #eltchat took place Wednesday, 6 November 2013 from 12-1pm UTC time. Two questions were debated by 11 participants: whether CLT places greater focus on more confident learners; and CLT's effect on quieter students. Early in the discussion it was clarified that the questions pertain to speaking.


This topic drew a wide range of comments.
Several reasons for quietness were mentioned: less confident learners prefer speaking 1:1 (hence there is lots to be said for students choosing their own groups), they are unsure how to say something, not aware of taking turns in conversation, or the teacher does not know the quiet students' interests.

Strategies teachers use with quieter students:
  • Roleplays,
  • Speaking chips (when the chips run out you can not speak anymore)
  • Engaging topics that make students forget their inhibitions (but @Marisa_C said personally she finds engaging topics frustrating because she can not express her ideas fully in the target language) 
  • Fostering a supportive atmosphere, and being non-judgmental during error correction,
  • Think-Pair-Share 
  • Pre-task writing, post-task work, 
  • 'draw' your weekend/show a smartphone photo taken on the weekend and talk about it. Very good for clearing out personal issues that may make students quiet.
  • Teachers also can reduce their talk time
  • Group loud students together and let them shout.

Variations among age groups, for example with teenagers, the issue of whether it's cool to do what the teacher says. For both adults and teens it is very important to know why they are doing the task, something teachers frequently neglect. Here a checklist of can-do's is helpful. Possibly adults are the group that feels less confident speaking in class.

Useful linksSlides for a talk about the difference between homework and home learning can be found here: Strategies for improving student writing are at this link 


It may not mean just because someone talks a lot, he or she is confident. However, it is possible that the more extrovert a student is, the more communicative confidence he or she has.


Participants agreed that CLT does not focus more strongly on more confident learners. Quieter students can benefit well from CLT in the classroom.

CLT naturally strives to bring in quieter students, and there are lots of strategies for encouraging them. Learning can happen even in a silent student, however fluency requires practice. 

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