Learner Autonomy

For the past few years I have been reading alot about learner autonomy but how easy is it to actually achieve? Well, in the UK, learner autonomy is a BIG deal, in Greece it is getting there , I guess. So here I am reading methodology gurus go on about how your learners need to take their learning into their own hands and  that you should not spoon feed your learners all the time so I thought “Eh, Let’s try this out a bit” So I did. Well, sort of did : ).
Dictionaries. Do you actually use them in class? I do. I tell my sts to open their dictionaries. Well it is more like “Hey guys, you gotta use your dictionaries cause I will not be around all the time to help you out and I am NOT a walking dictionary!” So, my learners do use their mobile phones and look up words in their online dictionaries (I hope they are looking up words and not facebook statuses) and I am happy cause well, my learners are autonomous and I am a great teacher!
A couple of weeks ago I had my first delta diagnostic observation lesson. So I thought to myself “What do I do well? I get my learners to look up there own words” So, I will try this out and see what happens here.
The Lesson
It was a speaking/grammar lesson. The focus was on the function of agreement/ disagreement. I had found all my materials, made my lesson plan. I had figured everything out. I was really proud that I was going to include the “learner autonomy state of the art task”-the use of a dictionary.
I walked in. Started my lesson. I was having fun, my learners were having fun. It was a pleasant class and most of the lesson was going as planned. So,we were on task 5. I had given them two restaurant reviews taken from tripadvisor. Since my learners were intermediate level sts, I had adapted the language a bit and made it easier for them to understand. I explained the procedure and then said the magic words ” You should use your dictionary to check any unknown words”. Great classroom management skills, great instructions, I know…. I showed them the dictionaries, which I had placed on their desks prior to the lesson and went on to monitor this task. My learners read the restaurant reviews and then one of them raised her hand and asked ” What does…. mean?” I said, “Well, why don’t you use your dictionary?” and smiled. She looked at me, then at the dictionary and then asked her clasmate in Greek. They mumbled something, agreed on it and no dictionary was used or talked about after that. The sts went on to talk about which restaurant they would have liked to go to and then the class ended. My learner autonomy-dictionary task turned out to be a flop!Urgh!
What I should have done:
1. Discussed and explained why they should start using dictionaries. Maybe even get them to have a little debate about it. Get them to think about it more critically.
2. Searched for a word in class with them. Displayed the use of dictioanry. Give them a visual representation.
3. Given them a purpose to use it and make them record/organise any new words they wanted to look up.
4. Have some sort of follow up activity with this new langaueg item. What else? Any other ideas?

I am sorry dictionary. I had the best intentions but poor execution. I will do better in my next class, I promise, and learner autonomy will shine 🙂

See you next week!

More on learner autonomy-dictionaries:


2 thoughts on “Learner Autonomy

  1. You can recommend certain Apps for their IPHONES – to ensure their phone dictionary software is credible (like Cambridge learner dictionary)

    Get them to find words related to their own hobby/interest -they could construct their own lexical set based on their own interests/hobbies and look at word families more closely.

    To check what they have learnt they could do a little presentation on their new word – see if they have grasped the info – what the dictionary said, its different forms, pronunciation – they can tell the rest of the class something interesting about their own word – take ownership of the task (and the word!)


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