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Shallow and Deep Learning

Deep and shallow are two different levels of processing since they have
different purposes and forms. Shallow processing takes two forms:
structural and phonemic processing whereas deep processing involves
semantic processing. The level of processing depends on the activity
and type of language you teach.
There are some areas when shallow processing is more useful than
deep processing. To clarify, after exposing learners to deep processing
strategy, the shallow process is needed to help them practice the
target language. For example, teaching grammar structures like the
third person does not require deep processing, but it requires shallow
processing as learners need to practice the structure to get use of it.
Another reason for the need of shallow processing at some points is
that learners need to move on and do more practice to be able to use
the language for other purposes, such as writing with correct grammar.
Additionally, shallow processing would be more appropriate when
teaching phonics. The reason is that shallow processing focuses on
how the word looks or sounds and this is more needed while teaching
phonics. In other words, shallow processing includes maintenance
rehearsal which is repeating the word many times to know how to
pronounce it. Therefore, it is important to decide when to use shallow
processing or deep processing regarding the needs of learners and
language acquisition.
Deep processing is crucial in acquiring new vocabulary and it could be
done through different activities. There are many ways to create
orientating tasks for vocabulary to help learners have a long-term









associations between words that supports learners with a chance to

long-term memory recall. The following are examples of different
activities that can be used for the purpose of deep processing:


Explaining new vocabulary in their own words: students can use


Mentor: Christine Baldwin









Matching words with pictures: students can match the word with
its picture and this helps them memorize the word and focus on

Creating pictures for new words: students can use different ways

to create pictures that represent the new vocabulary.

Relating words to phrases: teachers can come up with phrases

and ask students to find the appropriate word.

Semantic maps or word walls: students can create mind maps

through having the word and writing down the related words.
Synonyms and antonyms: students can look for the synonyms
and antonyms of the new vocabulary, so they will be able to
memorize the target words.

As a final point, in the past, I had a reading test with comprehension

questions based on the reading passage which was about air pollution.
In fact, the test required shallow processing as we had to look at the
passage and answer the questions. However, this test can be changed
to require deep processing. To clarify, students can be asked to analyze
the topic more through assigning a little research about identifying the
reasons for air pollution. This technique needs more deep processing
as learners will go deeply in the topic and look for more information.
After doing the research, learners can exchange their information and
evaluate each other. Offering activities and tests that require deep
processing results in a more strong memory recall while shallow
processing produces short-term memory.

Rasha Alzaabi