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Worked examples in the Language classroom

One of the most effective teaching strategy for languages classroom are worked examples. As a type of instructional method, they provide students with a clear and structured way to learn new language structures i.e., grammatical concepts, fulfil tasks and they can support them in the development of all 4 language skills (receptive and productive). 

Worked examples are essentially step-by-step model demonstrated by the teacher guiding the students through the process whilst explaining each step as well as the reasoning behind it in order to solve a problem or complete a task.

What are the benefits of worked examples? 

Here are mine …

  1. Improved comprehension: Worked examples provide my students with a clear and structured approach in terms of understanding new and complex structures, in terms of completing certain tasks and development of their language skills, making it easier for them to comprehend the process.

  2. Reduced cognitive load: By breaking it down (chunking it) into smaller steps, my students are able to focus on each step individually without being overwhelmed.  For us, the teachers, this is important; being aware of the limitations of the WM as well as taking into account that some of our learners might need more time to embed the new knowledge into their LTM (SEND/lower prior attainers).

  3. Increased problem-solving ability: They provide my students with a model that they can apply to similar scenarios and contexts in the future, thus fostering/supporting their metacognitive strategies.

  4. Increased confidence: Seeing how concepts/tasks are tackled step-by-step helps my students to feel more confident in their own ability to approach and complete similar tasks, hence nurturing their self-efficacy along the way as well.

There are different ways how I model worked examples to my learners depending on the concept/skill or the type of the class that I teach. However, one of the most useful investment for my classroom has been my visualiser and I cannot recommend it strongly enough!

Examples of step-by-step model (writing)

Here are some examples of how I use worked examples in my own classroom:

  1. Grammar: I often use worked examples to teach grammar rules and concepts, such as verb conjugation, sentence structures or word order, which can be tricky in German. For example, I provide my students with a worked example of a sentence using the present, past or future tense of a verb, and then ask students to apply this rule to create their own sentences.

  2. Speaking and vocabulary: Worked examples can also be used to teach speaking skills and new vocabulary. For example, I show students a worked example of a conversation in German (also providing scaffolds where needed), highlighting key vocabulary words, chunks, and their meanings. My students then practice using these chunks/words in their own conversations. Where scaffolds are used these will be removed gradually as students become more confident and independent.

  3. Writing: Worked examples can be particularly useful for teaching writing skills. For example, I prepare a worked example of a well-written piece of writing (WAGOLL), highlighting the key elements such as the variety of languages, vocabulary, structures – we analyse it together. I often show my students 2 or 3 examples and they have to rank them from the most developed response to the simplest one. After we have worked extensively with the examples, students then practice their own pieces of writing independently using this model.

  4. Reading/Listening: In the context of reading or listening skills, using a worked example shows my learners how to approach a reading comprehension question i.e., by identifying the main idea, looking for supporting evidence (I get my students to highlight/underline where they have found the answer), and summarising key points. By seeing this process modelled, my learners can better understand how to approach similar questions on their own and in listening tasks, they can improve their ability to listen for and understand important information in spoken target language.

Worked examples of the 80-90 word writing task

To use worked examples effectively in the classroom, I …

  1. start with simple examples and gradually increase the difficulty.

  2. provide plenty of opportunities for my students to practice tackling similar concepts/tasks on their own.

  3. encourage my students to ask lots of questions and provide feedback during the guided practice/modelling process.

  4. use a variety of examples to show how the same concepts/ideas/structures can be applied in different contexts.

In conclusion, worked examples are a valuable teaching tool in modern language classrooms. By providing our students with clear examples and opportunities to practice using these concepts/structures and language on their own, we can help our students develop strong foundations in the target language.


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