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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Examining the Social Participation Structures and the Subject Matter Task Structures of Class Activities in an Adult ESL Classroom

  • Author(s): Nguyen, Mai-Han
  • Advisor(s): Schumann, John
  • et al.

Face-to-face interaction is a social ecology in which everybody on the scene is continuously active and interactive. That is, speakers are continuously doing verbal and nonverbal behaviors and so are listeners, all addressing one another in varying kinds of ways. These include the alignment of embodied actions, facial expressions, eye-contact, tone of voice, and gestures (Erickson, 2005). Since classroom interaction is an interaction in which co-present individuals work on a common task or share a common attentional focus, it is should be examined in the context of social interaction (or social ecology). By looking at how these individuals incorporate talk, the body, gaze, and aspects of the material surround into their communicative intent, it helps us understand how they form coherent courses of action for teaching and learning. This study examines how a teacher uses talk and embodied movements to facilitate student engagement in an adult ESL classroom, and how he fails to do so. The teacher and students were video recorded 10 hours out of 48 hours of classroom participation-observation period. Data analysis revealed that when teaching new vocabulary items, the teacher's uses of humor, gestures, facial expressions, dramatic sound production, and emphatic speech facilitated student engagement. Student disengagement occurred when: a) they were involved in a playful and nonverbal underlife act during a homework checking activity, b) they were reluctant to answer the teacher's questions during a grammar practice exercise, and c) and they failed to comply with the teacher's directives during a pair work activity. Also, there were unsuccessful attempts at repair or correction due to the teacher's misunderstanding of what the student was trying to say. These findings were discussed in relation to the teacher's talk and embodied practices. This suggests that verbal and nonverbal behaviors are two inseparable components in teacher-student interaction, and they deserve equal attention in second language classroom research. The findings were then discussed in relation to pedagogy.

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