Course Unit 2 - Developing speaking skills through 'noticing'

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Course Unit 2 - Developing speaking skills through 'noticing'

Post  Jason Renshaw on Sun Mar 09 2008, 23:04



2.1 The concept of “noticing”

To “notice” something is to see it, in a way that draws particular attention to something that in turn becomes memorable.

In language learning, a crucial first step in natural-style acquisition is for learners to observe other speakers engaging in different kinds of communicative acts, and to notice what is said, for what purpose, in what situation, and for what outcomes.

This also ties in with the theory of a “silent period” in language acquisition. As babies and young children, human beings spend a considerable amount of time just listening to and watching speakers without any pressure to emulate or produce their own language. This gives them the time and environment they need to “notice” what is being said, why it is being said, and what eventuates as a result. Eventually, developing children will find a time and place to try this language out for themselves to achieve their own outcomes, and through such trial and error develop the ability to use it well on their own.

Thus, for the purpose of noticing how speaking works, it is important that the learners get initial exposure to conversations and speech acts, without the immediate pressure of having to “produce” it on their own.

While native speakers of a language (that they have learned since birth) have the obvious advantages of time and exposure, there are strengths that foreign language learners have that can be drawn on to facilitate “noticing” in the second language classroom:

  • They are older, have developed more cognitively, and have experience with their first language to draw on;
  • Materials can be manipulated in ways to allow them to both listen and read, increasing the opportunities to notice how the language operates in use;
  • Noticing activities (where the learners are encouraged to actually “do” something with what they have listened to and read) can be deliberately geared to help the learners “notice” specific things (sounds, words, structures, expressions, etc);
  • Learners are often stressed at the prospect of having to “produce” language on the spot, and are likely to appreciate and benefit from the opportunity to simply listen and take their time to notice things about the language input.



2.2 Through listening to, reading and thinking about example speech acts, learners can be encouraged to notice:

  • The specific situations in which speaking is being applied
  • Relationships between speakers
  • The words and structures used to communicate messages
  • The way words and sentences are enunciated (including things like pronunciation, syllable stress, word stress, rhythm and intonation, emphasis, etc.)
  • Particular skills and strategies being used by speakers to communicate efficiently
  • Particular skills and strategies being used to create specific kinds of communication
  • The way discourse happens in the second language and how people interact using that language
  • How they themselves can start to use language to achieve communicative goals



2.3 Listen to some example spoken interactions and speech acts and refer to the textbook pages from Boost! Speaking 1 below. Look at the prompts in Part B on each page and think about how they are encouraging the learners to “notice” things about spoken language. What other actions or activities could teachers use here to promote the noticing skill?











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