View Content #25246

Content Type4
TitleCommunity Exploration Technique

This activity is designed to engage language learners in community-based learning of language. It is appropriate for all levels of language learners, though some steps may require scaffolding in the L1 for less proficient learners. Ideally, this activity would be repeated throughout a course of study.

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Collect evidence of a targeted language function in a target language community
  • Analyze evidence to understand a particular language function
  • Practice the language function

Modes: Any (Depending on the language function at hand)

Materials: A tool (e.g., journal, digital file repository, or field notebook) for documenting observations


  1. Before teaching, establish an evidence collection repository for learners in which they can document their observations of target language functions with words, images, and any other media as appropriate. Ideally, they will choose their own tool(s) for documentation, but some educators may find it more appropriate for their classroom contexts to require a specific tool such as a composition notebook or a Google Drive folder.
  2. Provide explicit instructions to students in which you explain that their goal will be to gather evidence related to a target language function in a specific community, analyze that function, and then practice it. If appropriate for your context, explain that this process will be repeated throughout the school year.
  3. Identify the first language function that students will observe and/or the targeted community in which they will observe it. The language function might be greetings, leave takings, storytelling, or anything else that fits within your classroom curriculum. The targeted community could be a local community within a specific context, like restaurants where the target language is spoken, or an online community like a social media platform or gaming community in which the target language is used.
  4. Model evidence collection of a targeted language function for the class by searching online sources like YouTube videos, massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), or simulating observation techniques in a local community and documenting what is observed with screen shots, videos, images, and notes regarding observations.
  5. Allow learners to conduct and document their own observations. This might require internet search time, gameplay, and/or a field trip to a local community.
  6. Model evidence analysis for learners by highlighting distinct analytical approaches. These might involve thinking routines (, comparative analysis techniques (like Venn Diagrams), or even color coding transcripts to find and highlight language patterns.
  7. Allow learners to practice evidence analysis with the artifacts they have collected. Use this time to have learners get into groups and analyze together and give one another feedback on their conclusions regarding the target language function in the target community.
  8. Model practice with learners. Engage in the target language yourself and document that engagement with recordings, photos, or screen shots.
  9. Help learners practice and document their engagement as well. This step might involve a field trip to the local community or could involve engagement in an online community or in a community via video conferencing or other communication platform.
  10. Protect time for reflection in which learners consider their ability to understand and engage in the target language function and set goals either further refinement and exploration or for acquiring additional language functions.


  • As this activity highlights, it is necessary to model the evidence collection, analysis, and practice of the language function practice for learners. As such, most teachers will likely want to specify both the language function and community/context in which the language is used. After modeling, however, it is recommended that learners be granted as much autonomy as is possible and allowable within the curriculum. For example, while learners may absolutely have to study how to describe one’s self and cannot choose the targeted function in that case, their choice of community and context could lead to an incredible depth of understanding for the class as a whole provided that individual learners explore the function in a breadth of contexts/communities (describing one’s self is very different in a social media profile than it is when someone meets a classmate for the first time, for example).
  • As learners continue their explorations, remind them to engage in language functions in a variety of modes.
  • Allow learners to explore the targeted language functions in the communities that they find most salient. Such autonomy will likely increase the relevance of language learning and promote retention in language coursework.
SourceCASLS Activity of the Week
Inputdate2018-06-07 09:27:14
Lastmodifieddate2018-06-11 03:45:54
ExpdateNot set
Publishdate2018-06-11 02:15:01
Displaydate2018-06-11 00:00:00