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Teaching Tips 1

Vocabulary in Reading Texts
Providing a Communicative Purpose
Working with the Board 1


Vocabulary in reading texts
What do you do when a student asks you a question about vocabulary when everyone is doing a silent reading task?
There are several options:

a.you could explain directly to the student.
But then you've got to ask yourself whether it is necessary for the task at hand? If it is then someone else may ask as well & you could then find yourself explaining the same word ten times! (If you had predicted beforehand that it was necessary you could have pre-taught the item - along with any other items you pre-taught. Careful with pre-teaching though - if there is a large number of unknown crucial words that the stds don't know then perhaps the text is not suitable in the first place.) If the std who asked the questions is lacking in confidence or a weaker member of the group then you might quietly explain.

b. you could stop everyone reading irregardless of where they are & explain to everyone.
This might be necessary if you suddenly realise that you hadn't anticipated very well & all will need to know the meaning of the word . However, it is very distracting for everyone - for those who have not yet got to the section in the text where the word is or for those who have passed that point because they already knew it or decided it wasn't necessary for the task at hand. You do want your stds to be able to cope with texts on their own as you won't always be there to explain words when they have a problem. They need training in dealing with the unknown - in this case either by ignoring the word or working meaning out from the context. A meaning from context activity could come after the reading tasks.

c. you could ask the std to ignore it & carry on with the task at hand.
The std might feel frustrated but do explain why you take this approach - this policy towards vocabulary whilst the stds are on-task. Explain your policy on vocabulary before beginning the activity. Don't forget to pick up on the word at the end of the activity/stage. At the end of the reading you could ask the stds to find a couple of interesting-looking words that they don't know the meaning of & do a dictionary activity or see if anyone else can explain - if not then you can then explain. It could go on though - possibly give it as a task for homework.

Try to anticipate your stds & then decide on courses of action - look hard at the vocabulary in the text & decide which items need pre-teaching, which will be known, which can be ignored & which you'll look at in the meaning for context activity. The preparation will pay off.
The message here is to be consistent & principled, and explain your policy to the stds.

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Providing a communicative purpose
Imagine this scenario: The stds are working in pairs exchanging information on charts, that they keep secret from each other, through questions & answers - an information gap activity. The language area is the present simple for talking about daily habits - What time does Peter get up? etc.. There are a list of people & their habits to talk about. Std A asks, listens to the answer & then writes it on their charts. Then it is Std B's turn.
When they have completed filling in the missing information the activity is finished. The teacher has been round listening in & correcting. All are happy & on to the next stage/activity.

How about taking it a bit further? Ask yourself why they are filling in the charts. OK, to practice the target language. But what about providing a 'communicative purpose' - a 'real/pretend' purpose to the task. This is like a jigsaw activity - bring the parts together to discover the whole. In this case the purpose could be to find out who is the laziest in the list of people discussed i.e. by working out how long they spend in bed through the time each goes to bed & gets up. (This could also be made even more interesting by using the stds themselves & discover who is the 'laziest in the class - the stds mingle & fill in a chart -Name/Time get up/Time go to bed - for each std - personalised practice!) Another purpose might be to find out which of the people are similar - a kind of dating agency.

Don't forget to tell the stds the aim - the purpose - before they begin the activity! It all adds more interest & motivation to a practice activity. It certainly requires a bit more thought from you the teacher to think up the 'pseudo-communicative' purpose & then design the activity but it is worth it. And hang on to the activity to use another time!

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Working with the Board 1
Have you ever wondered how you could tidy up your board work? Stand back & take a critical look at it. Do you plan what you're going to put on the board when you write your lesson plan? Why not ask your students what they think? After all, they're the ones it is designed for! And also ask a colleague for thoughts.

At the beginning of each lesson put a line down the left-hand side of the board & use that space for all the vocab & language that 'crops up' during the lesson. E.g. a std asks you for a word unconnected to the lesson or you correct a language point that isn't the main concern of the lesson - write up the correct version in the left-hand column. Use the main space for the boardwork that you have planned at each stage - & don't forget to clean the main space at the end of each stage if it isn't necessary later on. At the end of the lesson go through the 'crop up language' in the left-hand column.

The say 'Garbage in, garbage out!' & that's very true here. If the board work's messy then it will probably be twice as messy in the stds notebook. If your stds are copying something from the board don't forget to go round & make sure they've got it down correctly - it can be surprising what they have copied! And if you can get a range of colours to use .catch the eye & reach the brain!

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