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Contributors Christian Köppe, Mariëlle Nijsten
Last modification May 16, 2017
Source Köppe and Nijsten (2012)[1][2][3]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Students understand the content and are using the foreign language, making use of all four leaves of the Lucky Language Clover (Lucky Language Clover), but the language competences of the students still vary


Students are not aware of their foreign language shortcomings and keep using incorrect language constructs and terms.

Hands-on activities. It seems common sense that hands-on activities are of benefit for students when learning new information and language expressions[4]. But this is rather based on general pedagogical principles. But the pure fact of hands-on activity does not necessarily stimulate language learning.

No self-reflection. Students often just apply the foreign language, but do usually not reflect on their language use.

Insufficient feedback. As teacher there is not enough time to correct all occurring incorrect language uses of students, either because the number of students is too large or the teacher is not present when students use the language. The students are therefore missing sufficient feedback needed for correction and improvement of their language use.


Therefore: Stimulate foreign language learning by including exercises or other appropriate course parts which require a collaborative reflection on language usage.

Westhoff[5] explains that language learners often do not apply grammatical rules they have learned in grammar classes, even though they understand them. It appears that in language learning, people in fact apply grammar rules they deducted from input they were exposed to. They have all kinds of assumptions and hidden knowledge in the back of their minds, which become clear the moment they try to express themselves in a foreign language. So even students who passed their grammar tests and did their vocabulary exercises, will not immediately use this knowledge in actual communication. However, when talking or composing a joint text, they will become aware of their lack of knowledge, by themselves or as pointed out by others. When given frequent corrective feedback, either by peers or by teachers, students’ accuracy, correct use of expressions and grammar rules will improve[5].

The usage of language to indicate an awareness about their own, or their interlocutor’s, use of language is called Metatalk[6]. Metatalk helps in acquiring Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language), as students discuss different ways of saying something and therefore broaden their vocabulary and means of expression. This helps students in making use of foreign language learning strategies.

It is important that metatalk is encouraged in contexts in which learners are engaged in making meaning. One way of implementing this pattern could be through a dictogloss task[6], where the teacher reads a short article — or some other text from the course material, for example the description of a pattern — to the students, let them write down familiar words and phrases and afterwards have them reconstruct the article based on their shared resources. These can then be compared with the original text. Another possibility is a jigsaw story construction task: give some pictures in unsorted order, let students sort them, and write the story down.

If one student in the group is really good, chances are that all the others are following this student, omitting discussions on language usage. So you have to be aware of this when forming groups of students which are to work together. Encourage all members to participate in applying Metatalk (Metatalk).

This pattern makes use of Lucky Language Clover (Lucky Language Clover), as discussions are mostly done orally and the results are manifested in written form. These written results could also be used for the Language Monitor (Language Monitor).

Metatalk (Metatalk) can also be stimulated in a Peer Feedback (Peer Feedback)[7]situation, as also suggested by De Graaf et al.[8]. The artifacts feedback is given on should be made using the foreign language.

In a course on Model Driven Development, Christian Köppe let students document a problem that students experienced during the implementation of their assignments. These assignments were done in pairs. The students had to prepare a joint presentation of the problem. The requirements for this presentation were an accurate description in proper English of the whole problem including context and other relevant information, as well as possible solutions they had already tried. The preparation also required the students to not only discuss what their problem actually was, but also how to describe it in correct English. This process promoted Metatalk (Metatalk) in combination with the Lucky Language Clover (Lucky Language Clover) and led to good presentations.


  1. Pattern first published 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.
  2. Patlet mentioned 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.
  3. Patlet also mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). Towards a Pattern Language for Teaching in a Foreign Language. In Proceedings of the VikingPLoP 2012 conference. Saariselkä, Finland.
  4. Leung, C. (2005). Language and content in bilingual education. Linguistics and Education, 16(2), 238-252.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Westhoff, G. J. (2008). Een'schijf van vijf'voor het vreemdetalenonderwijs (revisited). NaB-MVT.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Swain, M. (2001). Integrating language and content teaching through collaborative tasks. Canadian Modern Language Review, 58(1), 44-63.
  7. 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.
  8. De Graaff, R., Koopman, G. J., & Westhoff, G. (2007). Identifying effective L2 pedagogy in content and language integrated learning. Vienna English Working Papers 16,3, 12–19.