Teaching Language Functions


Language functions define what the person should say or write in communicative situations. The best way to present these functions is in context, in a conversation.

A conversation lesson plan:

1. Start with reading the whole conversation while students listen.

2. Then divide it into mini dialogues; a stimulus and its response.

3. Draw students’ attention to the choice of particular words or expressions to express a meaning and talk about the speaker‘s intention; i.e. presenting the function.

4. Then ask students to generate sentences of their own to practice this function.

* This keeps the learning process simple and gives students tools to build on.

5. Next Students are given a situation or task with individual roles allotted. They extend practice by asking one another or engaging in role-play.

* The focus here is on a certain function and that function is taken as the cue for the grammar taught in the lesson. Such practice provides opportunities for students to practice a range of real-life spoken language in the classroom.

Most typical language functions are:

1- Inviting

2- Suggesting

3- Promising

4- Apologizing

5- Requesting information

6- Agreeing

7- Disagreeing

8- Offering

Two basic ways of presenting a language function:

1. Inductively: give the learners different examples of the function and ask students to identify it:

What is the speaker’s intention here?

What language or expressions did he use to express his intention?

2. Deductively: present a situation in which the function is needed and ask students to respond to it. You may ask comprehension questions to check understanding.

Two basic ways of practicing language functions:

Receptive practice.

It aims at familiarizing students with a range of examples of the functions. Possible activities for receptive practice include:

– Finding a function in a dialogue or text.

– Classifying a list of functional language. ( which would you use to say  ……..? )

– Classifying a list of sentences according to their precise meaning.

Productive practice.

It may be relatively controlled practice. Possible activities for it include:

– Transformations between different examples of a function

– Question and answer work.

– Situational cues (what would you say in these situations?)

Tips for teaching language functions:

– Create a situation and direct students in a certain activity progressively.

– Learners should conduct the activity to its conclusion

– Make sure that learners understand what they are required to do in an activity.

– Demonstrate the activity with learners.

– Select activities which need comparatively light demands on the learners’ linguistic and creative abilities

– Equip learners with expressions and language forms they need for their activities.

Teach Pronouncing English Individual Sounds

teach phonetics

General Overview:

Individual sounds include mainly the following:

1. Consonant sounds ( voiced or unvoiced )

2. Consonant clusters or blends.

3. Vowels ( short or long )


1. name the letter(s) and write it(them) on the board in uppercase & lowercase form.

2. say the sound of the letter(s) showing students clearly how to pronounce it with your mouth.

3. say some words that include the sound clearly.

4. use word and picture cards to point to the letter(s), say the sound and show the meaning.


1. ask students to repeat after you: the letter(s) and the corresponding sound.

2. ask students to repeat the words that include the sound.

3. write words that include different sounds on the board, say a sound and students circle the word(s) that contain that sound.

4. students match the similar sounds.

5. students give more words that contain a certain sound.

6. ask students to write a word that contain a certain sound.

Teaching Intonation

General Overview:

* Phonology is the whole sound system of a particular language. It deals mainly with the pronunciation of individual sounds, intonation and stress.

* These aspects should be taught in context to encourage students to communicate and understand what is being said.

* A teacher can indicate to those features to highlight them when students examine other aspects like form and meaning.


* It is the variation in volume and pitch in a whole sentence. It is important in language functions and expressing emotions or feelings.

* There are three patterns of it:

1. rise/fall intonation:

* the pitch rises first then fall right down at the end of the sentence.

* it indicates that the speaker finished what he wants to say and nothing more to be said.

2. fall/rise intonation:

* the pitch is low at first then it rises at the end of the sentence.

* it indicates one of the following:

a. surprise or disagreement.

b. the speaker wants the person to whom he speaks to respond or confirm.

c. the speaker hasn’t finished yet what he has to say.

3. flat intonation:

* the pitch is in the same level along the whole sentence.

* it indicates one of the following:

a. the speaker doesn’t really have much to say.

b. the speaker doesn’t want to communicate.

Techniques for indicating to intonation:

1. Using nonsense words:

Ask students to utter nonsense sentence to convey a certain attitude or feeling ( e.g. pride, indifference, anger, boredom, ….. etc ) and get them speak with expressions.

Then repeat the exercise with real sentence.

At last show them how to utter the sentence with the suitable intonation according to each attitude or feeling. Talk about different patterns.

2. Using gestures

Use your hand either up or down in order to indicate the general direction whether the sentence starts with a high or low pitch. Ask students to imitate you when saying the same sentences and other ones of their own. Talk about different patterns while using your hand.

3. Using songs:

By singing some sentences or verses you can refer to intonation without the need of producing every single word.

4. Using the board:

Make marks on the board using arrows up or down on sentences to show the direction of the intonation.

13 Tips you should consider in listening & speaking lessons

listen and speak

1. plan & organize your talk clearly and use vocabulary precisely.

2. use gestures, tone and facial expressions so that your talk becomes interesting.

3. organize your ideas and give them in a logical order.

4. express your thoughts clearly.

5. talk confidently and fluently.

6. simplify your language to suit your students’ level.

7. make regular comments and ask questions.

8. listen carefully to other views, accept all suitable and relevant ideas even if they are opposite with yours.

9. concentrate on the main points of the lesson.

10. make notes of common errors.

11. involve as many students as possible.

12. check students’ comprehension all the time.

13. care for giving and receiving authentic language.

Ten Skills a Primary Language Teacher Must have.

primary teacher

A Primary Language Teacher Must have the ability to:

1. understand well the characteristics of young learners whom he works with.

2. link his understanding of young learners with the teaching method and assessment procedures that he uses in the classroom.

3. adapt or create the most suitable learning environment for young learners.

4. use, adapt or create the most suitable resources and materials for young learners.

5. encourage children all the time and give them support and a feeling of achievement.

6. give them a good model for everything that happen in the classroom.

7. create a friendly classroom atmosphere in which children are encouraged to interact and express themselves freely without fear of making errors.

8. act, tell stories, sing, dramatize conversations, correct errors, praise high achievers and encourage lower ones.

9. use, adapt or create meaningful and purposeful language activities in which most children are involved.

10. manage the classroom well following a specific system.

Now it’s your turn, tell me one more ability that you consider it’s a must for primary language teacher.   

Teaching a listening activity

Presenting a listening activity goes in three stages . In each stage there are some steps that should be followed:

#1. Pre-listening stage: 

 * Prepare pupils for the listening activity by:

1- Introduce the topic of listening; say the title of the topic.

2- Activate pupils’ existing knowledge; lead discussion around the topic to elicit what pupils already know about the topic and what they need to know or what information they anticipate to listen to.

3- Build prior knowledge; provide appropriate background information about the speakers, the topic, concepts and vocabulary embedded in the text and motivate pupils’ interest to listen.

4- Define a purpose for the listening activity; ask a pre-question pupils think of its answer while listening or identify a task for pupils to complete during listening.

#2. During listening stage:

* Pupils listen to the text at least twice:

1- The first time allows pupils to answer the pre-question, get a general idea about the topic and verify the accuracy of their predictions.

2- The second time and subsequent times help pupils to derive the information they need to complete the tasks identified in pre-listening stage.

* Examples for some tasks to be done during listening:

1- Answering some questions on specific information in the listening text.

2- A map chart/graph pupils complete as they listen.

#3. Post-listening stage:

* Pupils act upon what they have heard to give evidence that they understood the text.

* Examples for some post-listening tasks:

1- Summarize the main ideas of the listening text either orally or in writing.

2- Write a composition based on the material acquired during listening.

3- Outline the material they listened to in writing using charts, diagrams, etc

Teaching reading comprehension

The importance of teaching reading:

Teaching reading in the English language course should include the following set of learning goals:

1- enable students to read a wide range of texts in English.

2- develop awareness of the structures of the written English texts.

3- develop the ability of criticizing the content of texts.

4- practice different types of reading according to the purpose of reading.

5- exposing students to different types of texts to build solid knowledge of the language and to facilitate reading in the future.

Four types of reading:

1- Skimming: reading for the gist or the main idea of the text.

2- Scanning: reading to find specific information.

3- Extensive reading: reading for pleasure and general understanding.

4- Intensive reading: reading for getting the details.

A good reader:

Reading research shows that a good reader should:

1- be able to read extensively as well as intensively.

2- integrate information in the text with existing knowledge.

3- be able to use the two models of reading in processing a text.

4- be able to skim or scan a text depending on what he reads and the purpose of reading.

5- read for a purpose. His reading serves a function.

Why a person reads? A person may read in order to:

1- gain information.

2- verify existing knowledge.

3- criticize the writer’s ideas or the writing style.

4- enjoy oneself.

5- get specific information.

Three models of reading:

1- A bottom-up model: it emphasizes part-to-whole processing of a text. According to this model the readers should:

* identify sounds.

* recognize letters.

* link sounds.

* combine letters to recognize spelling patterns.

* link spelling patterns to recognize words.

Then proceed to sentence, paragraph and text-level processing.

2- A top-down model: it suggests that processing of a text begins in the mind of the reader by driving the meaning. According to this model the readers should:

* comprehend the text even though they don’t recognize each word.

* read primarily for meaning rather than mastery of letters, letter/sound relationships or words.

* use the whole meaning and the grammatical cues to identify unrecognized words.

* use meaning activities rather than a series of word recognition skills.

* read sentences, paragraphs and whole texts.

* gain the most amount of information through reading.

3- An interactive model: this model emphasizes the interaction of bottom-up and top-down process simultaneously through the reading process.

Three stages for teaching reading comprehension:

1- Stage One: Before reading ( pre-reading ):

* establish a purpose for reading ( e.g. answer a pre-question )

* activate prior knowledge.

* present new concepts and key vocabulary.

* ask students what information they predict to be included in the text.

* preview the text.

2- Stage Two: During reading:

* students read, comprehend, clarify,  visualize and build connections.

* students integrate the knowledge and information they bring to the text with new information in the text.

* pay attention to the structure of the text.

* read to achieve the purpose for reading.

* think about answers for certain questions.

* determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and concepts.

3- Stage Three: After reading ( post reading ):

* students expand prior knowledge, build connections and deepen understanding.

* students show their understanding of what they have read by answering some comprehension questions.

* evaluate the value and quality of the text.

* respond to the text by discussing its main ideas.

A helpful guide for types of questions to be asked before and after reading:

Bloom’s Taxonomy: reading activities and questions should take into account the six-level hierarchy of skills that Bloom suggested in his taxonomy. They are as follows:

1- Knowledge: includes recall or recognition of information.

2- Comprehension: includes explain, describe or rephrase the text.

3- Application: apply the information learned in the text.

4- Analysis: make inferences or derive generalizations.

5- Synthesis: combine several ideas.

6- Evaluation: judge the value or importance of the text.

Using native language in the English class

Use native language in English class when:

* translating abstract words like “love” or “hate”

* checking that pupils knew the meaning of a word after presenting it.

* explaining a difficult grammar point so that pupils can understand a difference between English and the native language.

* explaining a cultural reference so that the context is clear.

 Insist on using English in primary or low-level classes so that:

* Pupils will have more reason and opportunity to use English, too.

* Pupils receive listening practice.

* Pupils learn and practice common or repeated classroom language or routines in English. (e.g. Please open your books on page ___.)

 Encourage pupils to use English in the class by:

* asking common and useful questions. ( e.g. What does X mean? How do you spell ____?)

* keeping a list of useful and common statements and questions on a classroom wall or having pupils keep this list in their notebooks.

* allowing pupils to demonstrate their understanding by doing an action also counts as using English in the classroom.

A pupil can use native language in the English class when:

* explaining to his partner how to do an exercise, he is trying to help his partner to learn. pupils often do not have the English skills necessary to explain in English.

* discussing a grammar point with his partner, they are helping each other to understand something in English.

* doing a speaking activity, a pupil may use a word in his native language when he doesn’t know the English one. He is still trying his best to communicate in English.

Giving classroom instructions in English

Pupils can understand classroom instructions in English:

# If you use English in classroom instructions, it gives your pupils a good chance to develop their listening skills in a context as English is used for real communication.

# It is true that some pupils may not be able to understand all the words when instructions are given in English at first but this is a similar situation to what happens when young children learn their own first language. If parents support children’s understanding, children usually understand the meaning, even if they don’t understand all the words.

# So do you, you can also help your pupils to understand your instructions in English by:

1- giving them clearly,

2- supporting them,

3- checking your pupils’ understanding of them.

 How to give clear classroom instructions:

* Firstly, make sure you get everyone’s attention. Wait until everyone is looking at you.

* Speak clearly, but not too slowly.

* Try to use sentences which are not too long.

* You can write instructions on a piece of paper to help you if necessary, but make sure you keep eye contact with the pupils.

How to support classroom instructions:

* You can help pupils to understand by supporting your instructions with gestures, facial expressions, your hands, and intonation.

* You can also use pictures or real objects sometimes.

* You can also write key instructions on the blackboard if this helps.

4. How to check your pupils’ understanding of classroom instructions:

* Don’t ask ‘Do you understand?’ pupils may think they have understood when they have not, or may say just ‘yes’ to please you.

* One alternative is to ask pupils to explain in their native language what they have to do. This is a clear and economical way for you to see if pupils have really understood.

* As pupils’ English develops, you can ask them some questions in English to check understanding:

( e.g. will you work in twos or fours? Will you speak or write? Have you got five or ten minutes for this activity? ….. etc )

Some ideas about correcting pupils’ speaking mistakes

Making mistakes is actually a very natural and necessary part of the learning process.

Pupils may make mistakes when:

  • They are tired,
  • They haven’t understood a part of the lesson,
  • They think in their native language,
  • They have some kind of confusion especially with vocabulary.

Making mistakes is a positive sign as it:

  • provides information about what progress the pupil and the class are making. If many of the pupils are making the same mistakes, You may decide to review part of a lesson.
  • shows learning. It is natural for language learners to overgeneralise rules. It is like an experimental process. We try something to see if it works. If it doesn’t work we try something else until we get it right. Mistakes can be a part of the experimentation.

You don’t need to correct each mistake:

  • More correction does NOT lead to fewer mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on accuracy, focus some attention on correcting mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on fluency, focus more attention on successful communication and less on the mistakes that occur.
  • If you correct too much, it could affect negatively the pupils’ willingness and motivation to participate in class.
  • Too much stress on mistakes correction may lead pupils to silence.

Some ways to correct your pupils’ speaking mistakes:

  • You can show that a mistake has been made by giving a surprised look.
  • Sometimes simply shaking your head is enough to indicate a mistake.
  • Hand gestures are also an effective way to point out mistakes.
  • You can note mistakes and write them on the board at the end of the class and ask pupils to correct them.
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