In episode 133, Stacey presents several approaches to organizing our instruction in order to help give shape to our lesson, enable more efficient decision-making by the instructor, and ensure that students get everything they need out of a lesson. Stacey first references lesson organization by Lance Piantaggini, Meredith White, and Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, then goes on to explore in depth the experiential learning cycle and its applications in the language classroom. Stacey shows that many useful methods and techniques are already aligned with an inductive, experiential approach including the PACE model for teaching grammar, the IMAGE model for teaching culture, TBLT (task-based language teaching), and multiliteracies pedagogy.


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Show Notes

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Outline with links…

Three approaches to organizing instruction

  1. Talk & Read by Lance Piantaggini who was on the podcast last year for episode 108 recently wrote a blog post where he summarized his “talk & read” approach to organizing instruction. The first half is dedicated to talking activities, and he lists a bunch of them, then a brain break, then the second half is dedicated to reading activities, and he has lots of those as well.
  2. Meredith White, who has also been on the podcast, very briefly, back in episode 80, organizes her daily instruction around the IPA (Integrated Performance Assessment) with what she calls “Everyday IPA”. For more information straight from Meredith, read this post or watch this video.
  3. Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell uses a brain-based approach to lesson organization. Check out her blog post “Is your lesson plan out of whack?“.

If you are looking for more information and examples of brain breaks, check  here for a post by Annabelle Allen and here for another of Sara-Elizabeth’s gems.


Experiential Learning

Kolb’s experiential learning model, is a very simple, 4-step format that describes the ways that people make sense of their experiences.

  1. Concrete Experience-which is just the thing that happened or the thing we read or the interaction we were a part of. It’s the data we collected and the experience we had.
  2. Reflective Observation-which I like to call the stage in which we mine our internal resources. This is when we look back on the original experience, parse it, process it, thoroughly engage with it. We connect that experience with our other lived experiences, with our thoughts and feelings, and with our own intellectual ability to make sense of it.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization-this is the stage where we connect the experience with ideas outside of ourselves. I call this stage mining our external resources. We connect experience to theory, to other people’s experiences, to the wider world. We give the experience context and connection outside of the our limited perspective.
  4. Active Experimentation-we re-enter the experience but with all the knowledge we have gained along the way. We try it out for ourselves. We make the experience our own in some way.

Deductive vs. Inductive:

  • A DEDUCTIVE approach starts with the rules and asks students to apply that rule in specific cases. The classic model is PPP which stands for Present, Practice, Produce is the ultimate in deductive approaches. It starts with the abstract, then asks students to experiment with that abstract concept in concrete situations. However, I happen to believe, and the research tends to support, that language is learned inductively. So, the question becomes, how can we give students more meaningful experiences with language, and how can we walk them through the steps that will help them fully make sense of those experiences?


  • The experiential learning cycle is an INDUCTIVE approach to learning. An inductive approach starts with specific examples and asks students to work their way up the broad rules and generalizations.That’s where the experiential learning cycle comes in.

You might already be using some techniques in your classroom that are based on an inductive, experiential model. I’m going to mention four here:

-The PACE model for teaching grammar: learn more from the Kentucky Department of Ed here, or on this SUNY Cortland webpage here, or go straight to the source and read the original paper here: Adair-Hauck, B., & Donato, R. (2002). The PACE Model: A Story-Based Approach to Meaning and Form for Standards-Based Language Learning. The French Review, 76(2), 265-276. Retrieved from

-The IMAGE model for exploring culture: learn more from Rich Madel’s (also a past guest from episode 36) NECTFL presentation here.

-TBLT or task-based language teaching: learn more at the Intl Association for TBLT website or search for any one of literally hundreds of research papers that have been written on this approach.

-Multiliteracies pedagogy: Dr. Kate Paesani (episode 49) wrote this paper, Kate and and Dr. Heather Willis Allen (episode 55) wrote this paper, and Kate and Heather co-authored this book along with Dr. Beatrice Dupuy.

Its not a coincidence that many of the techniques that we find so effective in the classroom all seem to be connected to the experiential learning model. They are connected because they rely on an inductive approach to instruction, and Kolb’s experiential learning cycle describes, in its most basic form, what that process looks like for most learners.


In the language classroom: concrete experience=INPUT. Reflective observation=PROCESSING. Abstract conceptualization=CONCEPTUALIZING. Active Experimentation=TRY IT OUT!

Here’s a link to a video I made for my students (which gets updated and improved every so often!)

Here’s a link to my presentation on the experiential learning model and professional development.

I also wrote about how I use the experiential learning to organize hybrid/online language teaching in my 2015 book with Dr. Berta Carrasco Hybrid Language Teaching in Practice.





If you want to cite this episode, our suggested APA reference is:
Johnson, S.M. (Producer/Speaker). (2020). Organizing our Instruction and the Experiential Learning Cycle [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from



6 thoughts on “We Teach Languages Episode 133: Organizing our Instruction and the Experiential Learning Cycle

  1. Excellent episode Stacey, you have inspired me to read your book (which I finally did) and revisit some of my current practices that need revising, especially brain breaks and loading both ends of the hour with the important stuff. Bravo! Charged up to get to class tomorrow!

  2. Hi! I appreciate your exhaustive show notes and links. Thank you for your commitment to quality and excellence. This episode, which I took copious notes on and followed several links from — was too academic for me. I’m a lowly high school teacher not an academic. It was barely comprehensible and barely useful. I need more concrete examples. Your theory was helpful. It provides me with a framework to work from. But this episode reminds me that I’m not your audience. Just an FYI.

    1. Hi Lessie, every episode isn’t for every person, that’s true. But if you are my fellow language teacher, then you are my audience. If you are interested, I also want to point you to a couple of blog posts where you can get more of a practical picture of what the experiential learning cycle looks like in practice.

      1) Here is a blog post written by my colleague Jose. he is a graduate student in my department and has been experimenting with applying experiential learning in his classes.
      2) And here is blog post I just wrote a couple days ago and just now updated that shows how I would use the experiential learning cycle to organize online teaching.

      I hope these help and please reach out if we can be supportive in any way!


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