One of the great things about my job has been the flexibility afforded to me that allows me to teach what I want and how I want. This has allowed me the space to experiment with different approaches, one of those being the teaching of vocabulary and expressions. So, now I’m coming to the end of my time teaching in public schools I thought it would be nice to share how I tackle introducing new vocabulary to students and, hopefully, getting it to stick. I figured the easiest way to do this would be to run through the activities I used in last week’s lesson.
This lesson was about ‘World Festivals’.
Stage 1: Choosing the Language
This stage might be easy, the language could be given to you in a textbook or pre-made syllabus. I have to select the language myself so I decided to scowl short videos on different festivals around the world that were:
- Not too difficult
- Contained language that would be useful for students to learn
- Were interesting and gave the language a context
- Provides enough context for low level students to understand, yet pushes the high level students.
It isn’t always possible to get all three but in this case I managed to videos that hit at least two of these goals.
Below is one of the videos I selected.
Stage 2: Introducing the Language in Context
The first thing I like to do is give my students the chance to either hear or see the language being used within a context. By doing this it helps students to link a mental image to the new language. In this case, it was easy for me as I had selected four videos the students could watch that contained the target language. I start off by doing some pronunciation drills with the new language so that students would know what to listen for in the next activity. Then, I created a simple listening for details activity that involved students matching sentences containing the key language (underlined) to the correct festival.
Stage 3: Confirming the Meaning of the Language
The students have now seen the language in the context of a sentence and heard the sentence being used in context along with a visual reference. If the materials were selected properly the students should already have a pretty good idea as to the meaning of the language. The next stage involves helping the students to confirm the meaning of the new language. There are a number of simple activities that can do this, in this case I went for a simple match the words to the meanings activity. If students weren’t sure, I referred them to the context or asked them to guess based on what they saw in the video. Almost very student was able to do this (I have 440 students).
Stage 4: Putting the Language into a New Context
I this stage I like to give the students an opportunity to put the language to use in their own context. In this case, I had the students
work in groups of four to create their own festivals. Each group had to produce some supporting material (such as a poster, pamphlet, rule book, flyers etc.) which had to contain the new language items. This stage is key as it gives the students a chance to engage in peer led meaning negotiation and error correction without even knowing it. If, for example, a student uses some language incorrectly on the poster, their group members will instinctively correct it. The role of the teacher is to monitor for any mistakes that slip through. It is worth noting them down and coming back to them at the end of
class or for a review next class.
Stage 5: Using the Language
The final stage gives the students chance to both use, and hear their peers use, the new language in context as many times as
possible. In this lesson, I created an activity whereby the students had to sell their festivals, and students decided how much they would pay to go. The group with most money wins. I organised this by splitting every group of four into two. Two students would stand around the outside of the room with their group’s poster. Their job was to sell the festival. The other two members from each group had to walk around the room, visit each festival and decide how much they would pay to go after talking to the students selling the festival. The key rule is that the people selling must use all the new language items before they can get the money.
So, with eight groups, each student heard or used each new piece of new language seven times (they don’t visit their own group).
Stage 6: Error Correction
Finally, the last few minutes of class are spent correcting common errors that have been picked up over the course of the lesson.
Note: I have found repetition to be extremely important. Throughout this lesson the students encountered the new language once out of context, and a minimum of ten times in context.
Do you have any special techniques you have developed for teaching new language? If so, I’d love to hear them!