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Taxonomy of teaching/learning techniques

This list can give you some ideas about the many ways classroom learning can be organized to create variety and encourage learner involvement. But we do not expect you to use all of these! We merely attempt to give you as many alternatives as possible as you write your lesson plans.

Some of these techniques are freer than others, but all of them can be used in a competency-based curriculum. Simply match the language skill you are preparing to teach with an activity from one of these categories, according to your sense of the most effective, natural way to introduce that skill. When a technique involves several modes, we list it under the one that predominates in the technique.



Listening (Aural)

1. Listen and mark/draw a. Instructor says a number or word; learners circle that number or word on a multiple-choice answer sheet. b. Learners mark pictures or circle multiple-choice word answers in response to instructor's utterances which contain that word. c. Learners mark pictures or circle multiple-choice or true/false answers in response to spoken questions. d. Learners draw pictures following spoken directions.

2. Dictation (listen and write) a. Instructor dictates words or sentences and learners copy them. b. Instructor asks questions and learners write answers. c. Learners write words dictated by instructor, spelling them correctly. d. Learners write answers to oral questions about a picture.

3. Cloze dictation a. Learners fill in the blanks of a partially completed written text by listening to the text read orally.

4. Oral story a. Learners indicate silently on a multiple-choice answer sheet (pictures or words) which of several items were included in an orally performed story. b. Learners answer oral questions about an orally performed story. c. Learners answer written questions about an orally performed story. d. Learners give an oral paraphrase of an orally performed story. e. Learners write a paraphrase of an orally performed story.

5. Total physical response a. Learners silently observe and listen to actions performed and spoken by the instructor. b. Learners silently perform actions following commands made by instructor. c. Learners silently perform actions following commands by other learners.

6. Identifying words and stress patterns a. Learners count the number of words in a phrase or sentence spoken by the instructor. b. Learners mark the major stresses in a written sentence as instructor reads it. c. Learners mark strong stresses of long single words. d. Learners clap to reproduce the stress patterns of words or sentences spoken by the instructor. e. Learners pronounce words or phrases following a pattern of clapped stresses by instructor.

7. Recognizing vowel reduction (when applicable to language system under study) a. Learners mark locations of reduced vowels as instructor reads sentence. b. Learners mark locations of reduced vowels in single words.

8. Structure/grammar comprehension a. Learners indicate recognition of difference in grammatical patterns (singular/plural, adjective/noun, nominative/genitive case, etc.). b. Learners indicate which aspect of a grammatical pattern (singular or plural, adjective or noun) is contained in the word, phrase, or sentence instructor says.


1. Repetition

a. Learners repeat words, phrases, or sentences spoken by instructor

1. chorally

2. in small groups

3. individually.

b. Learners repeat words, phrases, or sentences recorded on a tape

1. chorally

2. in small groups

3. individually.

2. Transformation

a. Learners transform phrases or sentences spoken by instructor according to the model (change tense, person, individual words, etc.)

1. chorally

2. in small groups

3. individually.

b. Learners transform phrases or sentences recorded on a tape according to a model

1. chorally

2. in small groups

3. individually.

3. Reading aloud/reading and looking up

a. Learners read aloud from a written text modeled by instructor.

b. Learners read aloud from a written text.

c. Learners read a written phrase or sentence silently, then look up and say the phrase or sentence to the instructor or another learner.

4. Scrambled sentences

a. Learners put a sentence whose words were scrambled into correct word order and say it.

5. Dialogues

a. Learners read aloud two sides of a dialogue

1. with class split in half

2. in pairs with class split in pairs

3. in pairs in front of the class

4. with instructor and one learner

5. with instructor and whole class.

b. Learners perform an original dialogue.

c. Learners reenact a written dialogue in their own words.

d. Learners say the missing half of a dialogue whose other half is

1. written

2. spoken.

6. Question/answer

a. Learners orally answer oral questions posed

1. by the instructor

2. by another learner, in full class

3. by another learner, in pairs.

b. Learners orally answer questions

1. in an exercise book

2. in a handout written by instructor

3. written by other learners.

7. Interviews

a. Learners ask and answer questions about themselves

1. with another learner

2. with instructor

3. with a guest.

b. Learners ask questions and record answers in note form, then write up and present orally a summary of the interview.

c. Learners ask questions and record answers in note form, then orally summarize the interview without writing it up.

8. Reports/lectures/presentations

a. Learners present an unscripted talk on a topic to the class.

b. Learners read to the class a prepared text they have written.

c. Learners present an oral paraphrase of another person's report to class.

9. Problem solving/games

a. Learners are presented with a problem and asked to solve it in

1. pairs

2. small groups

3. individually

4. as a full class.

b. Learners play a game involving use of language.

10. Values clarification

a. Learners are presented with a situation requiring them to take a stand or express an opinion. They discuss process of judgment

1. as a full class

2. in small groups.

11. Contact assignments

a. Learners are given out-of-class assignments requiring interaction with native speakers and report results back to class.


1. Ordering or Grouping Pictures

a. Learners arrange set of chronological pictures in correct order.

b. Learners arrange a set of pictures in order of preference, size, speed of activity, etc.

c. Learners group pictures into known/unknown vocabulary, animal/mineral/vegetable, natural/manmade, etc.

2. Lineups

a. Learners place themselves in a row according to some rating system:

1. month/day of month born

2. height

3. number of sisters and brothers, etc.

b. Learners place themselves into group according to

1. astrological sign

2. decade born

3. signs on the wall indicating favorite foods, topics of discussion, leisure activities, etc.

3. "Simon Says" a. Learners command each other in game "Simon Says."

4. Total-physical-response activities

5. Mime activities

a. One pair of learners pantomimes a situation while a second pair verbally enacts the dialogue the first pair pantomimed.

b. The Verb Game: One learner mimes a verb while the others guess what it is.

6. Games with game pieces.


1. Learners read unedited passages from

a. textbooks

b. readers

c. newspapers and magazines.

2. Learners read from instructor-prepared work sheets.

3. Learners read handwritten letters or messages from

a. the instructor (dialogue journals)

b. another learner

c. a pen friend.

6. Learners read the content of forms from

a. the bank

b. customs

c. the police

d. the library, etc.

7. Learners read tables and charts.

8. Learners read captions below pictures, cartoons, comics, etc.

9. Learners place strips of a story in the correct chronological or other reasonable order, and then read them.


1. Learners write a descriptive composition from one phrase to six sentences about

a. a photograph

b. a picture from a magazine

c. a postcard

d. a picture in the textbook

e. a poster on the wall, in the museum, etc.

2. Learners in groups of four combine and order their short writings on a picture, etc., into a unique "poem."

3. Learners write a summary of-a. a guest lecturer b. a movie, concert, or other cultural event c. an oral interview with another learner.

4. Learners write a description of-a. a place b. a procedure c. a person.

5. Learners write the missing words or phrases-a. from a cloze dialogue b. from a cloze paragraph c. from a song played on a tape recorder.

6. Learners write a story from the past.

7. Learners express written wishes for the future.

8. Learners express opinions on a subject after-a. class discussion of the subject b. readings discussing a subject.

9. Learners write a procedure-a. of an activity they have seen performed b. of an activity that is orally described to them c. of an activity that is explained in a reading.

10. Learners write captions below pictures or a cartoon in a story.



Many successful language classes have been given without having even one of the following items. However, many instructors may not be aware of all the resources they have at their fingertips. Here is a list of possible materials, to get you thinking about what you might draw upon.

Realia (items from real life)

1. Food or drink

2. Forms from business or government

3. Articles of clothing

4. Tools

5. Consumer goods

6. Toys

7. Games

8. Charts

9. Catalogs

10. Signs inside and outside buildings

11. Directions on packages

12. Documents (identification, passports, etc.)

Visual and Audiovisual Aids

1. Photographs

2. Pictures

3. Transparencies

4. Audiocassettes and videocassettes

5. Filmstrips

6. Films

7. Slides

8. Overhead transparencies

9. Colored chalks

10. Maps and charts

11. Catalogs

12. Signs

13. Directions

14. Puppets, dolls, marionettes

15. Felt boards


Class organization

1. Independent study

2. Individual peer tutoring

3. Pair work

4. Interactive pair work

5. Pair work witnessed by full class

6. Small-group work

7. Full class

a. Circle seating (group centered)

b. Seating in rows (instructor centered)