Commented Action/alx

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Commented Action
Contributors Christian Köppe, Mariëlle Nijsten
Last modification May 15, 2017
Source Köppe and Nijsten (2012)[1][2][3]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Also Known As: Think Aloud Protocol (Think Aloud Protocol), Show and Tell (Show and Tell).

Often in courses or lectures you show or demonstrate some content-specific activities. You are aware that you are a Language Role Model (Language Role Model) and have identified the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language) of your course. Students do not yet know these language constructs or were just introduced to them.


If the students only see the activities done by the teacher, they might be able to execute them themselves, but will have difficulties describing in the foreign language what they are doing. Their vocabulary and expressiveness will not increase.

Limited Vocabulary. If all people would only use the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) of a domain, then communication would be fine. But different people in the domain have different ways of expressing things, which increases the chance of miscommunication because of expressions unfamiliar to the students.

Language Misunderstandings. Students might have wrong interpretations of some parts of the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language). If they do not recognize these misunderstandings they cannot correct them.

Tell vs. Show. If the meaning of language expressions is only told to students, then it is hard for them to really grasp the meaning completely.


Therefore: Do not only show or demonstrate complex abilities but give a spoken description of the steps you are taking. Use the earlier identified language terms when you show their meaning..

This solution provides an excellent opportunity for using Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language) in the right context. Thus students can be exposed to relevant language parts and may use this input for language acquisition as well. The teacher should make conscious use of it, also exposing the students to language variations using e.g. synonyms or different language constructs for describing the same action. Important is that actions and spoken descriptions are in sync, one should express exactly what one is doing at the moment.

Using spoken descriptions may benefit students who have difficulties grasping the content, as the additional explanations provided help them get a better understanding of the matter at hand.

Be aware that the actions and the used language constructs should match the language of the students. It does not make sense and would be counterproductive to use a language which is too complex for the students, which are in first place trying to understand the content of the activity. If the amount of language expressions you want to introduce in the course is high then make use of this pattern iteratively by using a small subset of the language expressions first and, when these are grasped by the students, move on with some more complex expressions.

It is not easy to apply this pattern for the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language), as there is a chance that teachers fall back to standard terms when actually presenting the action live. Applying this pattern therefore requires experience with using different language constructs for the same actions and also good knowledge of the earlier identified Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language).

One implementation of this pattern could be to Expose the Process (Expose the Process)[4], which helps in general for a better understanding of the content but, if applied in a foreign language, also with the learning of this language.

This pattern was applied by the first author during the explanation of a possible implementation of a design pattern. He not just sketched the possible implementation diagram, but also talked aloud while doing it, stating e.g. ”Lets first paint a rectangle, which is the style for drawing classes in UML, and then the two lines separating the different sections of the class representation”, ”Let’s describe the attributes now, which are written in the second section, the one below the name. Which potential members can we include here?”, ”Lets first draw the visibility here. As it is not publicly visible, it can not be seen and used by another class, we cannot use the plus sign as this stand for private visibility”, etc. These comments included many terms and synonyms (like e.g. members and attributes) of the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language)


  1. Patlet first mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). Towards a Pattern Language for Teaching in a Foreign Language. In Proceedings of the 10th VikingPLoP 2012 conference. Saariselkä, Finland.
  2. Patlet also mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). A pattern language for teaching in a foreign language: part 1. In Proceedings of the 17th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2012) (p. 10). New York:ACM.
  3. Pattern published in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). A pattern language for teaching in a foreign language: part 2. In Proceedings of the 19th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2012). New York:ACM.
  4. Bergin, J., Eckstein, J., Völter, M., Sipos, M., Wallingford, E., Marquardt, K., Chandler, J., Sharp, H., and Manns, M.L. (2012). Pedagogical patterns: advice for educators. Joseph Bergin Software Tools.