6 Simple Ways to Strengthen Independent Learning Skills

Sarah Lynn

Sarah Lynn

To become independent learners, students must know how to locate and utilize learning materials on their own. There is no simpler way to develop these skills than with your classroom textbook.

Locating Learning Resources

Treasure Hunt
List sections of your textbook on the board. Have students look at the Table of Contents and locate the sections in the book. For example:

Word List:    page 214 
World Map: page 245
Verb Chart: page 230

Look it Up!
ESL textbook indexes are usually organized by language skills. Ask students which skills they want to practice (grammar? pronunciation?). Have students look at the Index and locate the skill practice exercises in the book.

True or False?
Have the class examine one unit of their textbook. Make statements about the unit and have students find out whether the statements are true or false. For example:

The Review Section for this unit is on pages 45 and 46.
The answers for page 37 are on page 231.
The vocabulary skill in this unit is about using a dictionary.

Developing Study Strategies

The Answer Key
The answer key can be a wondrous learning tool if students learn how to use it responsibly. I have students practice using it responsibly in class with the following step-by-step instructions.

  • Write your answers on a separate piece of paper. (This way you can do the exercise more than once.)
  • Test yourself! Finish the whole exercise before you check the answers.
  • Mark your answers with ? or ?. Never copy answers from the answer key.
  • Study your errors. Look for explanations in the book.
  • Flip your paper over and do the exercise again. If you don’t get 100%, circle the errors and bring them to class for discussion.

The Audio Script: There are different ways students can use the textbook audio script in their independent study.

  • Reading fluency practice: Listen and read along at the same time. Repeat several times.
  • Pronunciation practice: Listen and read along a line at a time. Press pause and say the line. Underline the words/phrases that are difficult to pronounce. When you finish all the text, repeat the process again.
  • Focus on vocabulary: Circle unfamiliar words or phrases. Look them up or bring them to class for discussion.

Problem Solving

Discuss simple case studies of English language learners. Have students brainstorm how the fictitious student in the case study could use the textbook to improve his or her English. For example:

Case 1: Reading in English is easy for Elsa but she has a hard time understanding what people say. What can she do to improve her listening?

Case 2: Jean is very good at speaking English but he has a hard time spelling words. What can he do to improve his spelling?

Case 3: Lee understands English vocabulary and grammar very well, but people don’t understand him when he speaks. What can Lee do to improve his pronunciation?

How do you get your students to use their textbook for independent study? Share your ideas on my blog http://teachertwoteacher.wordpress.com/.