logo ELT Concourse: a free training course for TKT: modules 1, 2 and 3
The Concourse

TKT Core Module 3:Teachers' and learners' language in the classroom
Identifying the functions of learners' language


Teachers, of course, have to able to communicate lots of ideas and express functions in the classroom.  The last two guides were about how to do that.
Learners, too, need to be able to function communicatively in the classroom.


Key concepts in this guide

By the end of this guide, you should be able to understand and use these key concepts:

  • functions learners need: classroom metalanguage and exponents
  • helping learners acquire the language they need
  • class callouts

Look out for these words like this in the text.
There will be tests at the end of the guide for you to check that you understand the ideas.


What do learners need to be able to do in the classroom?

If learners are to get the most from your classroom, they need to have some control.  Controlling what happens to you is mostly to do with using language appropriately.
In the classroom, this is called metalanguage because it only has a classroom function.  Most of the exponents can, however, be used in other settings.

think Task 1: What kinds of things do learners need to get done:
– with each other?
– with the teacher?
When you have thought of a short list, check here.

At more advanced levels, most learners are able to do all of this quite appropriately most of the time.  However, especially at lower levels, these functions and their exponents need to be taught.

think Task 2: What exponents of these functions should you focus on with lower-level students?
Think about each function and then click on eye open for some ideas.  Your ideas will probably be different (but not too different!).
There are, of course, many ways to say all these things but we are considering elementary students here.
Function Possible exponents
telling and explaining
eye open
  • It means not easy
  • It is the opposite / a synonym of ...
  • The it stands for ...
  • It's like ...
  • It's the same as ...
starting a task
eye open
  • Let's begin with ...
  • Who's first?
  • You go first.
  • I'll start.
  • OK.  Do you want to start?
asking about / giving opinions
eye open
  • What do you think?
  • Tell me what you think.
  • I think it's ...
  • I don't think it's a good idea to ...
agreeing and disagreeing
eye open
  • I agree.
  • Yes, that's right.
  • Good idea!
  • I don't think it's ...
  • I'm not so sure.
  • Are you sure?
eye open
  • Come on.  Let's start.
  • You do one.
  • It's your turn.
  • We can do this!
  • That was good!
asking questions
about: meaning, form, pronunciation
eye open
  • What does ........ mean?
  • What's' the opposite of ...
  • Can you give me a synonym for ... ?
  • Can I say ... ?
  • What's the past tense of ... ?
  • Is it irregular?
  • How do you spell it?
  • Where's the stress?
  • How do you pronounce it / this word?
asking for clarification
eye open
  • I didn't understand.
  • Can you explain again, please?
  • What's the difference between ... and ...
  • Is it the same as ... ?
asking for repetition
eye open
  • Can you repeat, please.
  • Can you say that again?
eye open
  • I'm sorry I'm late / I didn't do the homework etc.
  • I'm afraid I didn't listen / don't remember etc.
eye open
  • I thought it was ...
  • I didn't have time to ...
  • I didn't understand enough to ...
  • I haven't finished.
  • We haven't started yet.
asking permission
eye open
  • May I ... ?
  • Is it OK if I ... ?
  • Can I ... ?
  • Please let me ...


Teaching the exponents

This can't all be done at once.
Before you set a task in pairs or groups, check that the learners have the metalanguage to be able to negotiate with each other and ask questions.
Nearly all of these exponents can be taught as language chunks without spending time explaining the meanings of all the words or the structures involved.

One good idea is to have a classroom poster which is permanently on display and which you can use to practise polite intonation and other pronunciation features.  Like this (they are called class callouts, by the way):


self test

Self-test questions

Before you go on, make sure you can answer these questions.  If you can't, go back to the sections which give you trouble.

If you are happy with your progress, go on.


Tests and practice for TKT

This is a short, simple guide so there's only one practice test.

Test 1 A matching task

Now you can return to the Module 3 index: arrow
or go on to the next guide which is to categorising learners' mistakes.