Tips on Learning to Learn

by michelle (2013)

Learning to listen

This year you need to develop the HABIT of listening to English EVERY DAY.

You can work on your English in various different ways as you listen. Print my checklist on this, at talkingpeople.net – Enter – How to learn: Learning to Listen – Ways of Listening.

If you increase your hours of listening to the language, you will be helping your mind to learn unconsciously too, which also means that you will tend to reduce the amount of literal translation (eek!) that you do, which reduces the risk of you making grammar mistakes, too! Translating from Spanish literally is terrible for your English because you transfer the syntax (word order) of Spanish into English instead of using English syntax.

You should use the same audio material in different ways (never before doing the classroom listening activities, but always after this!). Try to learn as much Useful Language (chunks of language, or sentences) as possible. Then underline it in the transcript. Finally, underline a sentence you were not able to figure out from just listening and then try to learn it by ear.

In class, take notes in English, of course. Develop the habit of reviewing your notes (reading them aloud in your mind) to check for mistakes and to remember what you learned. This will also allow you to know what questions you have for me, and which you can solve by your own means — by using the internet, reference books, asking someone… Use your notebook as effective support for your learning.

Learning to speak

You need to listen to English a lot to be good at speaking.

You need to do a lot of Listen & Repeat (L&R) with all kinds of audios and audiovisuals. Use your textbook audios for this, on a daily basis, as well as two or three different podcasts. But then, you should also be watching at least a TV series episode a minimum of twice a week, to learn sentences from it! And every now and then, a documentary, a movie, an interview, the news…

  • Practice re-telling after your listening activities.
  • Learn poems and stories by ear by heart! (Check out my podcast at talkingpeople.net, get audiobooks!)
  • Learn lines from movies and TV series by heart!
  • Learn the lyrics of songs you show the teacher first! (songs are tricky)

Improving your range: Brainstorming on Language

For the productive skills, writing and speaking, you should learn to make your range richer. Pay attention to the kind of language you are using and see which other items are missing and which you can add, anyway. For instance, if you are narrating in the past, avoid just using the past simple ALL THE TIME! Make sure you use a past continuous here, a few modals in the past…

Brainstorm on language before speaking and writing. Think: How many tenses can I use? How many modals, and which? Any compounds, irregular plurals, collocations or expressions? Am I using clauses? (conditional clauses, relative clauses, time clauses, clauses of result and contrast…) Is my vocabulary repetitive? Can I use a synonym now to avoid repetition? Am I always using the same structure?

Don’ts for your Writing

NEVER write your piece twice: the draft and then the clean copy. Don’t! This year practice this:

1. THINKING BEFORE WRITING (brainstorming on language and on ideas)

  • taking notes based on your brainstorming on language (chunks of language)
  • doing an outline
  • jotting down some more language chunks that you want to make sure you use

2. WRITING YOUR PIECE in the school template

3. EDITING/PROOFREADING IT in at least three readings, one checking for spelling and grammar mistakes, another checking for things making sense and reference, another for punctuation (connected to intonation, so learn to read out loud in silence! Read aloud in your head).

Don’t use white-out liquid. Just get used to crossing out what’s wrong. Learn to cross out neatly. Crossing out is OK in exams.

Do’s for your Writing

Writing has three consecutive stages: before (think), during, and after (proofread). If you become a good proofreader, you will correct the mistakes you can actually avoid by paying attention!

Each written text has a structure. As an intro, read this: http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/skills/writing/talleres_michelle/textualanalysis/intro_TA_01.html,
a job-application cover letter written as an informal letter!! 0_0 Notice tone, register too

Do’s for your Speaking

Learn to listen to yourself as you speak and fix your mistakes when you hear them! (Record yourself, to learn to listen to yourself.) And as you listen to yourself, practice correcting your mistakes on the spot. When we communicate with people and we make mistakes, we HAVE TO fix them if we actually can! When we don’t, communication is a disaster. So learn how to do this! It takes some practice.

Oral texts have a structure. Remember this. Both your presentations and your interactions. Read my notes on the Structure of dialogs at Speaking on talkingpeople.net

Lists of Mistakes (LoM) / Oral Drilling / Useful Language

You should put together an LoM with material from your Writings (my, your corrections, peers’ corrections) and Speakings (my, your feedback; peers’ feedback). A LoM is not about independent words: you need to copy your mistake in context, cross it out in red, and then copy the complete thing correctly, underlining the corrected item. More: you can add more sentences (Useful Language) where that mistake is not made (taken from your listenings and readings) and you can do some oral drilling around the mistake. We’ll talk about all this in class.

Some LoM’s on talkingpeople.net: http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/howtolearn/errorcorrection/error_correction.htm

Communicative Strategies

These are things you do to succeed in communicating! You can L&R to these 3 episodes: http://www.talkingpeople.net/tppodcast/?s=communicative+strategies+part&x=0&y=0
to overcome communication problems. Imagine different scenarios, e.g. need time to think, you can’t find a word, you need to clarify a misunderstanding…


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