Category: Lanaguage Teaching Approaches

Do You Know What ECRIF is?!

ECRIF stands for five phases of students’ learning: Encounter, Clarify, Remember, Internalize, Fluency.

ECRIF is a framework for understanding learning, looking at how people learn rather than prescribing what teachers should or should not do.

ECRIF framework focuses on the learning process that students go through as they work with the target skill or knowledge rather than what the teacher is doing during the lesson.

This framework can provide a tool that help teachers see student activities and content from the perspective of student learning. In this way, ECRIF is connected to how teachers think about what is happening in their classrooms.

Who developed ECRIF and where is it being used?

ECRIF framework was developed by Josh Kurzweil and Mary Scholl between 2004 and 2005 as they wrote the book Understanding Teaching Through Learning

This framework has been used in a variety of workshops given for governmental and non-governmental organizations. Although it was originally developed for English language teachers, it has also been with content teachers teaching other subjects such as history and math as well as vocational instruction such as using computer software and operating construction equipment.

Benefits of recognizing the ECRIF framework.

ECRIF can be used by the teachers to:

  • plan lessons and adapt course book materials = (reflecting for action).
  • assess where students are in their learning process during a lesson = (reflecting in action).
  • reflect on student learning after a lesson = (reflecting on action).
  • determine what kind of corrective feedback would be useful for the learner.

The phases of ECRIF framework.


The encounter phase of learning is the first time a learner encounters new material or information.  It is the presentation of new language.  In the ENCOUNTER phase, the learner’s background knowledge is activated and what they already know is found out.

Methods of ENCOUNTER:

  • Inductive or deductive presentation.
  • Storytelling with or without realia, role play, pictures, recordings, etc.
  • Matching exercises
  • Categorizing, sorting, predicting


Clarify is something that happens inside the learner when the learner can determine, for example, certain meaning or pronunciation of a vocabulary word or use certain grammar construction in certain situation.  Teachers of course assist in clarifying and check or assess learners’ understanding of material.  One way that teachers check comprehension is with comprehension checking questions.

4 kinds of comprehension checking questions.

  1. Non-verbal affirmation – “Point to the supermarket.”
  2. Positive/negative – “Is this a supermarket?”  “Can I buy bread at the supermarket?”
  3. Discrimination – “If I want to buy bread, do I go to the pharmacy or the supermarket?”
  4. Short answer – “What is the name of a local supermarket?”

Some notes about comprehension checking questions (CCQs): 

They are used to check the understanding of anything that learners have encountered or been presented:  vocabulary, grammar, appropriateness, etc.  They are also to check if students understand instructions for an activity, project, or assignment. It is helpful to write them out at first in your lesson plan.


This is the first step in putting new material in memory.  It is usually characterized by repetition, drilling, and referring back to support materials using models or prompts.

Typical activities for remembering:

  • Drilling.
  • Gap filling or cloze test.
  • Information gap.
  • Searches.
  • Scrambled words or sentences.
  • Guessing games.
  • Matching.
  • Reading scripts and dialogues.

Note about remembering: 

The activities for this stage of learning are also called “controlled practice”.  Controlled practice means that the learner has lots of support, and little or no choice in how to successfully complete the activity or exercise.


When a learner internalizes material, it is transferred to long-term memory. Continued practice is needed to help internalize new language or information. Kinds of practice here differs from the remembering stage in that it will be freer and less controlled. In this stage learners make more choices in how they are using the information and relying less on outside support.

Typical activities for internalization:

  • Guessing games.
  • Information gaps.
  • Storytelling/role play.
  • Short answers.

Notes about activities to remember and internalize:   

Learners go through a process of putting target language into short-term memory and then longer-term memory in order to prepare for later communication by practicing the language in various ways moving from “teacher-controlled” to “learner-initiated” activities.


In this stage of learning, learners are using new material and information fluidly, in accordance with their current understanding and internalized grasp of the material.  It is the stage where they freely test internalized knowledge and spontaneously produce the target language creatively in a personal, real-life communication tasks.

Typical fluency activities:

  • Guessing games.
  • Fluency lines, circles.
  • Debates.
  • Role play.
  • Information gap.
  • Discussions.

Note: While corrective feedback is useful at the practice stages of language learning, no corrective feedback is offered during fluency activities, because it interrupts the flow of language production.

Remember: ECRIF is not a linear framework. Learners find themselves practicing fluency before they have internalized target language. They go back to clarify something that is not fully understood, then double back to drill or practice fluency. After learners have internalized the meaning of a structure, they encounter a new meaning or use of the same structure which again leads them to clarify, remember, etc.

Since ECRIF is not linear, the teacher orders the stages of the lesson based upon student learning and chooses to start lessons with fluency practice, or returns to pronunciation drilling based upon the assessment of learner production in the internalization or fluency stage of the lesson.

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Five ELT Approaches Working From the 20th Century Up Till Now

Approach is a broad term that reflects a certain model based on a research or theory (e.g. Communicative approach) while a method is a set of procedures compatible with an approach (e.g. Silent way method). A method is more specific than an approach, but a technique is the narrowest term which refers to learning activities in the classroom used in one or more methods (e.g. Using cooperative leaning activity).

Here are the five English language teaching approaches that prevailed in the 20th century and are still working up till nowadays.

1. Grammar Translation Approach:

  • Instructions are given in native language.
  • Using English is little.
  • Focusing on grammar rather than English language functions.
  • Setting difficult texts for reading from the beginning.
  • Doing translation from English into mother tongue is frequent.
  • Using English for communication is not encouraged.
  • English is not spoken by the teacher in the classroom.

2. Comprehension Based Approach:

  • English acquisition appears when learner comprehends meaningful input.
  • Listening comprehension is very important besides speaking, reading and writing.
  • Listening to meaningful speech is very important.
  • Speaking is postponed until students are ready.
  • Error correction is unnecessary, understanding is most important.
  • Native teachers are preferable in teaching.
  • Audiotapes and videotapes are also used in the classroom.

3. Cognitive Approach:

  • English is rule governed not habit formation.
  • Individualized instruction is done.
  • Grammar taught both deductively (rules first, practice later) and inductively (rules after practice).
  • Pronunciation isn’t emphasized.
  • Reading and writing are developed as well as listening and speaking.
  • Vocabulary instruction is important especially in intermediate and advanced levels.
  • Errors are inevitable and useful for learning.
  • Teacher must have general ability and proficiency of English language.

4. Situational Approach:

  • Spoken language is primary.
  • English is practiced orally. After an oral base in lexical and grammatical forms reading and writing comes.
  • English should be used in situations.
  • Most general and useful lexical items are to be ensured.
  • Grammatical structures are graded from simple to difficult.
  • Lexical and grammatical items should be given in situations.

5. Communicative Approach:

  • The goal is learner ability to communicate.
  • purpose of language is communication.
  • Content of language and social functions are mainly focused not just linguistic structures.
  • Transferring meaning in pairs and groups.
  • Adjusting the use of English in different social contexts by role plays and dramatizations.
  • Authentic materials are used.
  • All skills from the beginning are developed.
  • Teacher primarily facilitate the communication secondarily correct errors.
  • Teacher uses the target language fluently and appropriately.

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Teaching Listening to ESL/EFL Learners

Teaching Grammar to ESL/EFL Learners

Teaching Beginning Reading to ESL/EFL Learners

Teaching Reading Comprehension to ESL/EFL Learners

Useful Printables to ESL/EFL Teachers

ESL vs. EFL in Learning and Teaching

There’s a difference when learning & teaching English as a second language (ESL), and learning & teaching English as a foreign language (EFL).

Learning ESL versus learning EFL:

In learning ESL, the learner is learning English within an English environment. In this case, English is spoken outside the classroom. The learner here learns English to understand and speak it outside the classroom. The situation is different in EFL learning, the learner learns English inside a classroom, but continues to speak her/his own language when leaving the classroom.

An example of an ESL situation is a Japanese boy who immigrates with his family to America; he speaks Japanese at home with his parents, but during the rest of the day and at school, he must speak English. He needs to learn enough English to be able to keep up with his schoolwork and communicate well with his schoolmates.

On the other hand, the Egyptian girl learning English in an Egyptian school learns English as a foreign language. She must understand and speak English only during her English lessons – perhaps 3 times a week. The rest of her day in school and at home, she will speak her own language. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t know much English or if she learns slowly; this will not affect her day-to-day life in and out of school as it would for the Japanese boy.

Teaching ESL versus teaching EFL:

Teaching ESL is different from teaching EFL. This difference influences the content and methods used to teach English language.

At ESL Schools, students learn:

* General English that helps them feel comfortable in school and communicate well with their new friends.

* Most importantly, they are also taught the kind of English language and skills that will help them to be successful in their other classes, history, mathematics etc. which are all in English. This is typical of most programs in ESL situations.

In many EFL classes on the other hand:

* English is often taught in a traditional way; i.e. based on step-by-step learning of a number of grammatical structures in a graded order of difficulty.

* As the learner has to master the language in his class and has no chances to practice English outside his class, the methods and techniques chosen should allow him/her to use the language both fluently and accurately. These techniques should ensure maximum exposure to the language

ESL teacher versus EFL teacher:

The difference mentioned above between teaching (ESL) and (EFL) requires the teacher to approach English classes differently.

* In ESL setting, the teacher should focus on personal reasons to learn English. Whether students want to learn English to communicate with a variety of people from other countries or they want to learn the language for professional reasons, perhaps to get a better job. The teacher, then, can choose the suitable approach to teach the language according to each reason.

* By contrast, many of EFL students lack the opportunity to experience English in their daily lives. They may be required to study English for a test or because it is a compulsory part of the curriculum. In addition, EFL settings often involve large classes and limited contact hours, which makes learning English a challenge for students.  And although they may want to learn English for the same reasons as those of ESL students, their motivation level can be low since English is not part of their daily lives and the English course simply does not offer enough exposure to the language. Consequently, the EFL teacher should try his/her best to overcome these challenges and expose students to as much authentic English as possible. In addition, he/she should create real-life situations for students to practice the items of English.

Selecting ESL classroom activities:

Information gap activities are ideal in ESL classroom as the students come from different countries. Some students have information that others miss. Information gap activities can be a variety of question-and-answer and discussion activities about the students’ countries. They can also do presentations to teach classmates about their culture. Students are often quite eager to participate in such presentations. In fluency practice activities, the teacher can rest assured that the students will not resort to their native language because they speak to students who do not understand their language. Task-based problem-solving activities are also useful in this case because they engage the learners linguistically and cognitively and require them to negotiate a solution entirely in English. This classroom scenario also gives the teacher an opportunity to sometimes focus more intensively on accuracy in speaking because many of the students have good opportunities for English fluency practice outside of the class.

Selecting EFL classroom activities:

In an EFL context, the teacher must deal with the fact that the students are probably not receiving any significant exposure to English outside of the classroom. Because of this lack of opportunity to speak English, teachers need to maximize fluency practice, getting the students to use the language as much as possible in class and reducing emphasis on accuracy. To achieve these goals, teachers need to select suitable speaking activities to ensure that students will use English. Activities that lack structure or which fail to generate student interest will lead most students to abandon English. Also, an activity that is interesting but too cognitively challenging to manage in English will cause most students to resort to their native language.

Criteria for selecting EFL classroom activities:

The best activities that encourage students in EFL classroom to produce English ought to:

  • have a clear, measurable and suitable objective.
  • achieve progress in English use.
  • easy to manage in English.
  • be interesting to the students.

EFL teachers should integrate fun with work by carefully designing activities to achieve the specified instructional objectives. This includes setting a time limit, clarifying the rules, sometimes giving prizes, and generating enthusiasm to play and use English in communicative situations.

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