Learner Training: Tips For Your Classroom

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Are you struggling to get your students to take responsibility  for their own learning?  Do your students feel stuck, unable to make progress and waiting for you to wave that magic wand?

This is where Learner Training comes in.  The overall aim is to produce effective, independent language learners, engaged in learner autonomy, where students take control of and responsibility for their own learning, both in terms of 1) what they learn and 2) how they learn it:

(by Nadine Early)


  1. What students learn:

Although your school’s syllabus might describe recommended content to be covered in class each week, encourage your students to think about what they want to learn, individually, from week to week.

If possible, allow some space on your lesson record where you can add lesson content that has been requested by your students. Make it clear to your students that this is an option, as students often believe it should be the teacher who decides what is covered in class, and therefore they can be slow to request content.  Obviously, individual requests for content to be covered during lessons needs to be negotiated with the whole class, but if a student requests content that you feel the majority of the class don’t want to focus on during lessons, you can advise them on how he/she can go about covering it outside of class time.


  1. How students learn:

Learner training involves helping learners find out how they learn most effectively. It means encouraging learners to take responsibility for learning and helping them to develop learning strategies and study skills. Most importantly, it asks learners to reflect on how they are learning.


Train your students to become pro-active, autonomous and accountable learners:


accountable_252262378Learner Training Activities:

  • Awareness-raising on how to use self-reference materials effectively, such as English-English dictionaries, for example the Oxford learner’s Dictionary. (http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/). Use this online learner’s dictionary regularly in class and discuss terms that might appear in it such as ‘synonym’ ‘antonym’ etc.; utilize the sound tabs which allow you to hear a word spoken in both British and American English; and (importantly) refer to the phonetic script.
  • Train your students in the use of the phonetic symbols, and use them regularly in your teaching of new vocabulary.
  • Look at different ways of recording new vocabulary in their vocabulary notebooks.
  • Encourage students to think about the type of learners they are (What works for them? What do they do to help them remember new things? Are they visual learners? Kinaesthetic learners? Etc)
  • Draw attention to collocations in reading and listening texts, and encourage students to jot down collocations in their vocabulary notebooks, and then to search for further collocates. This can be done at any level and should be encouraged from the start.
  • When new language is looked at in class, encourage students to go home and search for other examples of this new language when they are reading or listening.
  • Help learners find suitable ways of organising their ideas and planning structure/content when doing a writing task in class.
  • Help learners review and edit their writing for language, style, structure and content.
  • Help learners see the importance of reflecting on their learning, keeping track of their progress, and setting learning goals. This can be done with the help of a Self-assessment checklist and an Assessment Portfolio.
  • Give them their assessment tasks the day before and discuss with them how they are going to revise.
  • You could make a ‘Study Skills’ poster with ideas from the students about how they revise for tests, how they do their homework, how they check their work, what they do to learn English in their free-time and so on.
  • Occasionally, at the end of a lesson/week ask students to note down what they thought the main point of the lesson was, what they learned from the lesson, which exercise helped them the most/least and what they found easiest/most difficult. Collect in their papers. This will give you an idea of what they want to focus on.

Do you have any other ideas that work for you?

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