Framework Materials – The Perfect Invention for the Well Intentioned

As teachers we are full of good intentions, most of the time anyway, but often there is a gap between our intent and our ability to implement. This often seems to be down to either a lack of information on exactly what our students need to learn, a lack of time to prepare appropriate materials or a lack of knowledge on how to best go about creating genuinely bespoke lessons. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions but framework materials can be a powerful compass to keep us on the path towards the angels.

What are framework materials?

Essentially they are scaffolding,which can give structure and support to learners’ interaction or to produce coherent discourse. They provide a framework within which learners can place ideas, content or language.

How can they be used? 

In this A2 lesson on customer complaints, instead of using impersonal published resources, we used framework materials in the following personalised way:

  • listen to dialogues and complete the ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ boxes(figure2)
  • discussion on similarities with their jobs
  • in pairs decide typical procedure of a customer complaint in their company, completing notes (figure 3) so as to establish their role, in this case calling the client back after an initial complaint had been lodged
  • write the typical sequence of that phone call in pairs along with possible language exponents (figure 4, first part)
  • act out the role play
  • learners complete the second part of the framework with ‘ideal’ language established in feedback (figure 4, second part – blank in this example)
  • repeat the roleplay

In summary, we used framework materials to harness an authentic listening clip; to personalise the lesson and its content to the complaints they commonly face; as a diagnostic tool to see how much of the necessary language they already knew; as scaffolding for a roleplay; and as a repository for new language.

figure2

figure3

figure4

How can they help learners?

Personalise to their context maintains motivation
Appeal to their experience maximises relevance
Appeal to what they already know minimises possible sense of inadequacy and raises awareness of lacks
Can receive highly focused language input provides a model for outside class use
Focus on organising thoughts, critical analysis, self-awareness stimulates and develops transferable skills
Appeal to certain learner types schematic, visual, comfortable with uncertainty

How can they help teachers?

Easy to create and reuse flexible in terms of level and class type and can harness the potential of authentic materials
Student centred learners provide context, aims and language input
Scaffolding allows focus on language mistakes are likely to be genuine as opposed to performance slips

How about methodology?

Non-prescriptive on language aims in line with Task Based Learning and Powell’s ‘just in time vs. just in case’
Excellent platform for reformulation in line with Test-Teach-Test and Scrivener and Underhill’s ‘demand high’
Material light in line with a Dogme approach and allows for spontaneous learning opportunities

Worth a try?

Frameworks are not a panacea. They could easily become repetitive with overuse and their very responsiveness requires a teacher to be able to mould emergent language on their feet. Unfamiliarity can also initially cause negative reactions in learners (‘What are these strange circles?’, ‘Where is the language you want me to learn?’).

But in a world of limited time and high client expectations I really believe that fortune favours the framework. They can be easily integrated into lessons and are an excellent way for you to try something new.

If you would like to access a variety of framework templates, please click below.

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