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Implementation of autonomous learning English in the EFL classroom

 It is very useful nowadays to speak a foreign language as it gives people many opportunities to development and career growth. Learner autonomy in language learning is nothing new, but in the last twenty years it has had significant influence on English learning, be it English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

The massive increase in the availability of knowledge online and the mass expansion of access to autonomous  education means a fundamental change in the role of schools and teachers as keepers of knowledge who play the conductive role in the teaching process (“student as an active object” of the education process is not a new phenomenon in pedagogical science).

The teacher’s work in the EFL classroom is very difficult process, especially when it concerns the process of autonomous learning. It is obvious that nowadays the need for English teachers in schools or universities is higher than its prestigiousness. This all is connected with particular difficulties that teacher faces in the Educational organizations. The teachers’ activity assumes not only creativeor learner-centered approach, but the usage of the principles, techniques and individual characteristics that are necessary for autonomous learning English.That is the main difficulty of the teachers’ occupation. We cannot teach our pupils to be autonomous by themselves but we can do it through the process of it. That’s why the general aim of the teachers is to bring up character of the students, their wish and persistence in assimilation of knowledge. We have to teach our students to listen to what teacher says, to observe what teacher does and to do the selection of the given information.

Over the last few years the educational system of the Republic of Kazakhstan passed through the essential changes. It has been investigated that the identity of the student is the main subject of the learning process. Learner’s interests, tendencies and skills are regarded as the paramount importance. That’s why the teacher’s role is to be the assistant urged to direct the learner, to help him to achieve the objectives that are necessary. In other words the educational system has become the personally focused. According to this fact there is a difficult and complex problem that teacher faces in the learning process: the application of own cross-cultural adaptation skills in order to make the students’ knowledge in the sphere of English language the personal purpose of each ones. The result of such changes has reflected to the learning in the EFL classroom in development of new teaching techniques for effective autonomous usage in learning process.

The process of autonomous learning is connected with the formation of the skills and abilities to solve the difficult communicative tasks for speaking and reading. It can be visualized in these examples: to play role dialogue without preparation; to prepare the information for the particular theme individually; to listen to the part of the text and to give own attitude according to its contents; to read the text and to answer the questions; to interpret the main idea of the text to stimulate the formation of the informative educational motives.

Nowadays there are a lot of techniques for autonomous learning English that teacher can use in the EFL classroom, but at first teacher must know all of the problematic aspects in studying English in order to apply the appropriate one. Let’s investigate the theoretical side of this question.

A technique is a detailed list of rules or a guideline for teaching activity. It is based on the description of steps, and can often be linked to a method or strategy. For example:

  • With mind mapping you apply guidelines for devising content in a holistic way. This is a technique that can be used in an individual working situation, in a group work, or by the teacher as a means of demonstrating something;
  • Brainstorming is a group centered interaction method. The brainstorming technique describes a way of collecting ideas or information in a creative and uninhibited way.

It was said earlier, that before applying the certain technique teacher must understand the particular problematic aspect his student has. Problematic aspect in studying means the set or category that is difficult to understand, to solve or to fix. Such learning difficulties certainly impact on the learners. Learning difficulties often affect people of normal and above-average intelligence, who simply struggle to do those things most of us take for granted. But teachers as the main part of the learning process can introduce learners with learning strategies and techniques that student faces while learning.

We worked out fourmain aspects in the course of learning the foreign language that are used to be the most problematic in studying:

  • Speaking;
  • Reading;
  • Writing;
  • Listening;

Let’s look at each problematic questions students face duringlearning English autonomously:

  • Speaking:

Sometimes when students are speaking English, they miss two or three important vocabulary words, so it becomes difficult to say what they are thinking;

When students try to learn English language, the biggest problem is they start thinking in native language and then they try to translate it in English;

When students speak English, they try to pronounce the words before they learn how to pronounce English sounds correctly.

  1. Lack of confidence.

During speaking English the biggest problem is when students feel nervous about what they speak and they are afraid of making mistakes.

  • Reading:

The most popular mistake is when students are trying to pronounce the certain word when they really do not know how to read it correctly;

The problem in understanding of the text is one of the typical problems during reading in English. When students are reading in a foreign language most of them do not pay attention on the context of the sentence. The wrong thing they do is translating every word;

When students read loudly they take away their intonation trying to understand what they have already read.

  • Writing:

When students are writing in English, the common mistake is in missing letters, putting the letters in the incorrect order, changing the way of writing the certain word, using slang and mixing of American and British spelling;

It is well-known fact that most of learners make one or two mistakes during writing. The most common punctuation mistakes are: the missed apostrophe, the use of comma, tenses and the quotation mark.

  • Listening:

As for foreign language learning, listening is of paramount important since it provides the language input. Without understanding input appropriately, learning simply cannot get any improvement. As for that, language learners, especially those who learn English as a foreign language in a non-native setting, find it difficult to acquire good listening skill.

In order to avoid these problematic issues teacher should organize the lesson in that way, learners do not make such mistakes more. We introduce the techniques that can help students in learning English and teachers in promoting of autonomy in EFL classroom.

Speaking.

  • Vocabulary:
  1. Learner can remember a word if he/she takes the time to look it up. In fact, discovering a new word in the context of a book may be one of the best ways to remember it, since he/she will be able to remember it in light of the sentence in which it was founded;
  2. Learning new vocabulary words by studying a new word each day may also be a great technique for learning new vocabulary;
  3. When students in school learn new vocabulary, they often do so by writing the words in sentences and writing out the word and the definition several times. This process of memorization through writing can help learners commit large lists of words to memory;
  4. It is good when learners play with the idea of learning words by writing sentences containing a new vocabulary word and then another sentence containing the opposite word. This way, students can learn two

words at once and remember both because of the association between them. Learners can do the same with synonyms;

  1. Flash cards may also be useful. Learners should write the word on one side and the definition on the other. They can even make this into a game if learners have friends or relatives who also enjoy learning vocabulary words;
  2. Learners should use the context that is the surrounding words, phrases, and sentences. Hints provided by the context sometimes give us clues to what an unknown word means. Such hints include: punctuation marks (helping words and phrases such as «for example,» «that is,» «which means»), a sentence that tells the opposite of the unfamiliar word a following or preceding sentence that explains the new word, a sentence written expressly to define the strange word;
  3. A word’s meaning is made up of both de notation and connotation. Denotation is the literal (dictionary) meaning of the word. Connotation is the emotional impact of the word, the reaction to the word that a reader or hearer has. Learners can read a word according to its connotation in order to other in the classroom understand it;
  4. Organize vocabulary learning: if learners are not happy with their present method of noting down vocabulary and find that there just become too much to cope with, with longer and longer lists of vocabulary to learn as each week goes, organizing vocabulary learning would be useful for them;
  5. Word bag. This is to get the students to write down new words they hear in class. At the beginning of the term/course it is necessary to divide students into groups of five and give each group a number (from one to six). At the beginning of each class teacher gives each group about 10 cards on which they write the number of their group and the new words they hear in class. At the end of each class they put their cards into the «word bag» and every two weeks teacher checks whether they still know those words and which group has the most cards. In the end there are two winners: the group that has the most cards, and the one that knows more words;
  6. List of words. The teacher prepares a list of words. Each student gets one word which is prepared especially for him or her. The trick is that each student gets a word whose initial letter is the same as the initial of the student’s first name (Linda gets listless). Each student must look it up in the dictionary during the class and after a few minutes report to the class. For example: «My name is Linda and I’m listless. That means that I am (definition)» For homework students can do the same using their surname;
  7. Word tour. Instructions for the students: To think of a town or city they know well. To imagine that somebody organizes a sightseeing tour. To think of five places included on the tour and to write down the order in which the tourists would visit. To learn the tour off by heart so that

        learners can picture it in their minds. Whenever learners have five new English words to learn, it is good to imagine these words are the tourists on the tour and to picture the words in the places. Tour: Trafalgar Square; Buckingham Palace; Houses of Parliament; Westminster Abbey; Downing Street. Words to learn: apron; dustpan; vacuum cleaner; broom. To imagine Nelson on his column in Trafalgar Square wearing an apron, the queen brushing the floor in Buckingham Palace and using a dustpan.

  • Translation:
  1. Such a view, however, takes no account of individual learning styles. Some learners appear to need to be able to relate lexis and structures in the target language to equivalents in their mother tongue. This also gives them the opportunity to compare similarities and contrast differences. Put simply, they need the reassurance of their mother tongue in order to make sense of the way the target language operates.

An illuminating exercise is to divide the class into two groups, give each group a short text (three-four sentences) to translate into the target language. Then get the groups to exchange papers and ask them to translate the other group’s translation back into the mother tongue;

  1. One other way of getting students to avoid native language is role-playing. Students pretend they are in various social contexts and have a variety of social roles. In role-play activities, the teacher gives information to the learners such as who they are and what they think or feel. Thus, the teacher can tell the student that “You are David; you go to the doctor and tell him what happened last night, and so on”.
  • Pronunciation:
  1. For students’ good intonation and pronunciation, interviews on selected topics with various people should be conducted. Conducting interviews with people gives students a chance to practice their speaking ability not only in class but also outside and helps them becoming socialized. It helps students to pronounce different questions and answers in correct way as people do in English speaking countries. After interviews, each student can present his or her study to the class. Moreover, students can interview each other and «introduce» his or her partner to the class;
  2. In order to improve pronunciation skills children can practice in using radio programmes, videos on pronunciation that are frequently used in the Internet;
  3. Activities such as speech rhythm exercises help students to be fluent and give them the chance to practice stress, intonation, pitch, duration and volume. In order to understand what rhythms mean, it is necessary to listen to them carefully. It can be introduced in the sentence: “The human compulsion to talk with a pulse!” (The letters are in bold; it refers to the rhythm used in this utterance);
  4. Student repeats a word or phrase two or three times. This technique began is used in the direct or audio lingual method, where student repeats after the audio or video.
  • Lack of confidence:
  1. The way to promote learners confidence can be introduce in simulations. Simulations are very similar to role-plays but what makes simulations different than role plays is that they are more elaborate. In simulations, students can bring items to the class to create a realistic environment. For instance, if a student is acting as a singer, she brings a microphone to sing and so on. Role plays and simulations have many advantages. First, since they are entertaining, they motivate the students. Second, they increase the self-confidence of hesitant students, because in role play and simulation activities, they will have a different role and do not have to speak for themselves, which means they do not have to take the same responsibility;
  2. For students confident speaking a discussion can be held for various reasons. The students may aim to arrive at a conclusion, share ideas about an event, or find solutions in their discussion groups. Before the discussion, it is essential that the purpose of the discussion activity is set by the teacher. In this way, the discussion points are relevant to this purpose, so that students do not spend their time chatting with each other about irrelevant things. For example, students can become involved in agree/disagree discussions. In this type of discussions, the teacher can form groups of students, preferably four or five in each group, and provide controversial sentences like “people learn best when they read or people learn best when they travel”. Then each group works on their topic for a given time period, and presents their opinions to the class. It is essential that the speaking should be equally divided among group members. At the end, the class decides on the winning group who defended the idea in the best way. This activity fosters critical thinking and quick decision making, and students learn how to express and justify themselves in polite ways while disagreeing with the others. For efficient group discussions, it is always better not to form large groups, because quiet students may avoid contributing in large groups. The group members can be either assigned by the teacher or the students may determine it by themselves, but groups should be rearranged in every discussion activity so that students can work with various people and learn to be open to different ideas. Lastly, in class or group discussions, whatever the aim is, the students should always be encouraged to ask questions, paraphrase ideas, express support, check for clarification, and so on;
  3. Language learners who lack confidence in their ability to participate successfully in oral interaction often listen in silence while others do the talking. One way to encourage such learners to begin to participate is to help them build up a stock of minimal responses that they

        can use in different types of exchanges. Minimal responses are predictable, often idiomatic phrases that conversation participants use to indicate understanding, agreement, doubt, and other responses to what another speaker is saying. Having a stock of such responses enables a learner to focus on what the other participant is saying, without having to simultaneously plan a response.

Reading.

  • Pronunciation:
  1. Using mirrors is a strong self-correction tool for students to modify or imitate sounds. In order to pronounce material well, students should take out mirrors to do peer-correction or self-correction while approaching some problematic sounds;
  2. Mother tongue. This is an added bonus if students find some way to apply their mother tongue to some English sounds. For example: “e” sound can be applied to Russian as “и” in an expressive situation. Examples can be found successfully in class or in students’ notebooks;
  3. Tongue twisters. Tongue twisters are also an interesting way to practice and contrast similar sounds, to have fun at the same time. But there is a huge challenge for the teacher and students to do it well. Students should practice their speaking every day, so this exercise will help them. Examples: “It made me laugh to see a calf go down the path a mile and a half to take a bath”;
  4. Song lyrics. Students should read some popular song lyrics aloud to practice final consonants. Then students omit final consonants often or pronounce them too lightly to be heard. For example, they pronounce student as «studen». Therefore, they should read the marked song lyrics of «Silent Night» in which the final consonants in each sentence have been underlined, and then to listen to the song to notice how the singer produced final consonants;
  5. Besides song lyrics, numbers can be a good aid in helping students put final consonants on. For example, teachers can set up some particular numbers to have students practice final consonants. For example: What is your telephone number?(some numbers are highlighted);
  6. Visual effects. Emphasize the stressed syllable by using visual effects: thicken, capitalize, underline, circle, or color the stressed syllable. Using visual effects can help students notice the place of stress in each word and avoid misusing word stress;

To conclude, autonomous learning process is the main mean of learners’ potential opportunities actualization. It conducts to mobilization of learners’ psychological development; The process of cultivating autonomous learners is an important goal of education. During it, students will become more inspired to explore and to think independently so the best teaching effect will be achieved.

Қасымова Арайгүл

Еуразия Ұлттық Университеті

Филология факультеті

Шет тілдерінің теориясы мен тәжірибесі кафедрасы

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