The following two instructional techniques support not only reading and writing, but also language learning in general:
- Provide opportunities for differentiated learning to benefit students at all levels.
Encouraging students to work at their own level presents effective challenge and thereby supports the development of skills (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, 2014; Egbert, 2004, 2005). Differentiated learning does not, however, imply that students should always work alone. The needs of individual students can be provided for in many ways while they work with groups or the whole class. Teachers can begin by assessing student needs in a variety of situations, as Mr. Gilchrist in the opening scenario does continually.
2. Let students, not the tools or texts, determine authenticity.
In recent years, the second language literature has advocated using authentic materials for teaching, which typically means using materials made for a native-speaking audience. The idea behind using such texts is to motivate students to study and to expose them to real language. However, this definition of authentic materials sometimes contradicts the definition outlined in chapter 1; authentic is whatever materials, topics, and processes the students perceive as useful for their use of the target language outside of class. If students do not believe that a local newspaper (usually considered authentic material) is useful to their lives or their learning, the fact that it was written for a native-speaking audience does not make it authentic to those students.
In the chapter’s opening scenario, Mr. Gilchrist’s language learners have the opportunity to work on tasks that they chose based on their interaction with the teacher. Although this is difficult to accomplish in large, teacher-fronted classrooms, it is still possible to provide students with feedback through computers and/or design computerized tasks to support the learning process. Students in Mr. Gilchrist’s classroom were motivated because they were working on areas that they found personally relevant (authentic) and challenging.