A Vocabulary lesson is a way of teaching new words to students. When introducing new words it is a mistake to resort to long boring lists of words and simply having the class read them, the teacher to translate them and have students memorise them. This process of teaching new words can be dull and tedious for both teacher and students. This approach is also limited in its impact and allows for very little student involvement.
When dealing with new vocabulary ‘visual strategies’ can be very effective. Students will associate words with pictures and is a common and very successful technique. However, it is not the only technique available to teachers. There are many such devices available to teach new words in an effective way.
Students should be guided into the following:
- Students can be encouraged to interpret the meaning of the word.
- The shape of the word can be taken into consideration.
- The pronunciation of the word.
- The utility of the word.
The more ways the teacher can get the students to look at a word the better the chance they will have to remember it and retrieve it later if and when the need arises.
A simple set of procedures can be applied when teaching new words:
- Place the list of new words on the board for all to see.
- Invite students to group them in categories of their own making.
- Find rhyming or similar looking words.
- Find words they like the sound of.
- Find strange looking words.
- Vote on the most difficult to spell.
- Find synonyms and antonyms.
There are two basic types of Vocabulary class and these are known as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ lessons. In ‘passive’ the teacher encourages students to recognise words on a given text and it normally applies to reading and listening. In the ‘active’ style which is related to writing and speaking English the vocabulary is taught to students who are then invited to reproduce it.
Corpus research advises us that over 2000 words are used in everyday English conversation and these are sufficient for most ordinary conversation. Such research can help educators at all levels of English teaching. It demonstrates how words are organised into patterns which students can learn by understanding combinations of words. These combinations are known as ‘Collocations’ and ‘Chunks’ which come in patterns of 2, 3,, 4, 5 and 6 word sentences. (For example; “If you know what I mean?”).
Active And Passive Vocabulary Lessons.
1. Sample ‘Active’ Vocabulary Lesson.
The most common method of ‘’active vocabulary lesson’ is to show a detailed picture (poster) in relation to the words being taught and to have students select details from the picture and relate these concepts in English. With the poster in full display a series of leading questions can be asked to encourage conversation. As in this example where the aim is to teach words related to building and construction:
The words being taught in this lesson are:
- Construction Site.
- Hard Hats.
Additional words will inevitably crop up n the duration of the class as students try to establish the English name for something they recognise in the picture. The teacher will remain in full view of the class and encourage such contributions by elicitation of questions.
1 How many CRANES?
2 How many WORKERS on the nearest building?
3 How many BULLDOZERS?
4 How many HARD HATS do you see?
5 Which one is the FOREMAN?
6 What colour is the WHEELBARROW?
7 How many TYRES do you see?
8 How many men are DIGGING?
9 What colour is the DRILL?
10 Why is there FENCING around the SITE?
Students would also be invited to make observations about the picture and to exchange views and opinions on detail. Conversation is encouraged to increase maximum use of English throughout the lesson. It is further necessary to inspire students to ask questions related to their own lives but connected in some way to the picture. These questions are more ‘academic’ than ‘visual’ based and as such allows the students to use the information they have acquired from the lesson. Such questions can be as follows:
Additional Conversational Questions:
- How many people have a friend or relative in construction?
- What is your favourite building in this city and why?
- Do you like modern or old architecture?
- Do you live in a nice building?
- Where is the ugliest building in the city?
- What building would you most like to live in?
- Compare Churches to Museums and Office Blocks?
- Which are the oldest buildings in the world?
- Are ‘Pyramids’ buildings?
- Have you ever been on top of a skyscraper?
2. Sample ‘Passive’ Vocabulary Lesson.
Once Upon a time there was a PRINCE making his way through the FOREST. As he rambled slowly he seemed sad and confused. He found a small STREAM and went to drink some water from it. Having sipped the water he sat back on a small rock and began to weep. As he sat alone weeping he failed to notice the GURU approach him.
The GURU paused for a moment and touched the PRINCE on the shoulder. “Why, asked the GURU, do you weep?” The PRINCE shook his head and said, “I have travelled the world, walked every city, looked in every FOREST, searched every street but nowhere can I find Love.
I weep now because in this world there is no Love for me so I must venture through my life and not experience the magic of true Love and for this I am sad and I shed the tears of a heart-broken man.”
When the PRINCE finished speaking the GURU smiled and whispered, but loud enough to be heard, the words ‘What a silly Man you are my friend to think such foolish thoughts.’ The PRINCE was confused and offended at the GURU’s reply and insisted that his sorrow should not be ridiculed without some further explanation.
The GURU sat down on the bank of the STREAM and told the PRINCE to listen carefully. “Can you see the BUTTERFLY in the flowers on the other side of the STREAM?” the GURU asked. The PRINCE looked across and saw a big beautiful yellow BUTTERFLY hovering over the yellow daffodils. “I see him, yes!” the PRINCE replied. “Well, said the GURU, Love is very much like a BUTTERFLY, my friend, when you chase it, it shall fly away, but if you stand still, it shall land on you”.
Students are presented with this text (on projector and/or as a hand out). They are not expected to understand the text but are invited to collaborate on piecing it together like a jigsaw. With the help of the picture students can look for clues as to the meaning of the story and the characters, locations and sentiments expressed.
The teacher can get the discussion going with such questions as:
- What words are familiar here?
- What ‘chunks’ and ‘collocations’ are in action?
- What ‘basic’ words are in most use and what does this tell us?
- What are the meanings (guessed) of new words?
- Where can we find streams, rivers or oceans?
- Are there any slang words or idioms?
- How can we use hyponyms, synonyms or antonyms to assist us in translating this text?
- Is the old man right?
- What contextual (past, present or future) tenses are at work in the text?
10. What other observations/conclusions can be drawn from structure and layout of words and sentences?
Vocabulary teaching is necessary for teaching core English words. When teaching vocabulary it is best to focus on Form, meaning and usage. ‘Form’ focuses on pronunciation, spelling, inflections and derivations; ‘Meaning’ includes basic and literal meanings, derived and figurative meanings and semantic relation and connotation. Finally, Usage will focus on sub categorization, collocation, sociolinguistic and stylistic restrictions and slangs and idioms.
Teaching Vocabulary relies on presentation; definitions should be clearly demonstrated using examples (eg; hyponyms), illustration, demonstration, context, synonyms, opposites (antonyms), and translation and associated words (collocations and chunks). Incidental vocabulary acquisition should be encouraged for further lexical and semantic development of the words learned through explicit instruction and for learning additional vocabulary.
Including role-play into the classroom activities adds diversity, a change of pace and occasions for a lot of language production. It can be an essential part of the class and used for a wide variety of learning procedures.
Simply put; Role-play is any speaking activity when a student either put themselves into somebody else’s shoes, or when they stay in their own shoes but put themselves into a make-believe situation.
With role-play students can ‘become’ anyone they like A film star, a pop star, a sports star or some such celebrity they care to be, the choice is entirely their own. Role-play can also be used by splitting the class into two and creating ‘for’ and ‘against’ teams and given a statement, non-political (preferably humorous) and as harmless as possible, which they have to support or refute.
Some Sample Statements Are:
- Coffee should be banned.
- Smoking in public bars and cafes should be allowed.
- Couples holding hands in public should be banned.
- People under 50 should not be served alcohol.
- Women would make great Builders.
- Police should all dress in pink Kilts to stand out more.
- Learning ‘English’ is very easy.
- Babies should not be allowed in public places.
- Watching Television is a waste of time.
- Men should wear dresses if they want.
In a one-to-one situation Students can take on the opinions of someone else. The purpose here is to create a realistic situation or environment where the student is forced to use English to negotiate a target solution to a given problem.
Harmer On Role-Play.
Jeremy Harmer advocates the use of role-play for the following reasons:
- It’s fun and motivating.
- Quieter students get the chance to express themselves in a more forthright way.
- The world of the classroom is broadened to include the outside world – thus offering a much wider range of language opportunities
In addition students are placed into English-speaking situations and are given a chance to prepare their English in a safe environment. Real situations can be created and students can benefit from the practice. Mistakes can be made with no harsh consequences.
The Teacher (During Role-play) Becomes:
- Facilitator – students may need new language to be ‘fed’ in by the teacher. If rehearsal time is appropriate the feeding in of new language should take place at this stage.
- Spectator – The teacher watches the role-play and offers comments and advice at the end.
- Participant – It is sometimes appropriate for the teacher to get involved and take part in the role-play.
Rules Of Role-Play Scenarios:
- Regalia and props can really bring a role-play to life; For example, using props such as trays with cups (for a coffee shop ordering situation) can be useful because they allow greater material for discussion.
- Rearranging the furniture can also help: In a coffee shop scenario tables can be moved to create an environment similar to that of a coffee shop. Counters, tables and, if possible, cups and saucers etc.
- Keep it real and relevant: it is necessary to ensure that all given scenarios are realistic and possible situations students could find themselves in if they travel to English speaking countries. There is no point in a student pretending to be, for example a ‘Brain Surgeon’ because the language necessary is not relevant. It is best to have students look for directions, order food or explain an illness or pain to a listening Doctor. Such situations can and do happen on a regular basis and as such are more appropriate for students to learn.
Further Points To Consider:
It is also a good idea to record role-plays, if possible, and allow the students to listen to themselves communicating. They can learn how and where they went wrong in the process.
Fellow students should be instructed to make notes as the role-play proceeds and document newly learned language (phrases or words) during the role-play.
The teacher should ensure to ‘correct’ in a friendly and informative way and not create embarrassment for the student. It may be best for the teacher to make notes as the role-play progresses and then, at the end of the session, discuss rather than correct errors.
Sample Role-Play Scenario:
The following role-play is a customisation of a game outlined by BBC (British Council For Teaching English):
Visiting A Restaurant In Ireland.
- Make “menus” for a restaurant and choose foods, that are not familiar to students and not in their native language.
- Make some fake money to make the situation more realistic and demanding of greater interaction between students.
- Separate students into groups of 3 or 4 and have them sit around one table per set as if they were eating together in a real restaurant. Pass out the menus and have students look them over.
- The teacher becomes the server and goes around each table and takes the students’ food and drink orders. Each student should be allowed to ask a set amount of questions about the items on the menu.
Sample questions are:
- a. Is it spicy?
- b. Does it have Onions?
- c. How much is it?
- d. Is the coffee (wine) part of the meal?
- e. Is tipping allowed?
- It is also a good idea to have the person pay for the meal using the fake money. The use of Monopoly money is perfectly acceptable as it is a currency most students will be familiar with but not too sure how to use.
Alternative Role Play Game Strategy (Scenario):
It is also interesting to have one group of 4 or 5 students come to the front of the class at a pre-constructed counter (from classroom desks) to ask the teacher (now Waiter or Barman) any questions they may have about ordering a meal or drinks. In this scenario it is helpful if one of the students should be a spokesperson for the others, who may speak their native language (if possible) and have the spokesperson translate it in English with the assistance of other members of the group.
Note: When choosing who should come out to the front of the class we need to be careful not to choose the shyest students first, and we need to work to create the right kind of supportive atmosphere in the class.
Given the scenario of this ‘Restaurant’ example of role-play it is necessary to make some adjustments to the lay out of the class using existing furniture. One should create tables for diners, a counter for restaurant ‘staff’ and a number of menus (one for each table). Any other props that are available and can be used will assist in creating new language situations for the students.
There is no question that role playing can provide powerful and significant learning opportunities. These advantages are as follows:
1. Creates greater involvement in the learning process.
2. Teacher can observe and identify ‘problem’ areas.
3. Provides opportunity for practise without consequence.
4. Class can be segmented and students learn from each other.
5. Students can be encouraged to take an opposite standpoint to their own point of view in order to enhance the learning experience.
Other Sample Role-Play Scenarios:
- Student in a Taxi looking to go to Dublin City Centre.
- Student with no passport trying to buy alcohol.
- Student lost in City and wants to find hotel.
- Student feels ill and wants to find Doctor.
- Student wants to know Train/Bus Times at a Depot.
- Student wants to find an Internet Café.
- Student has lost his/her passport at Hotel.
- Student wants a cheap room in a B&B.
- Student wants to find a good Bar or Nightclub.
- Student wants to exchange currency at a Bank.
Sample Questions For ‘Restaurant’ Scenario:
1. Can I see your menu?
2. How much for a sandwich and coffee?
3. I do not want Onions in that.
4. Can you recommend a good wine?
5. Is there a discount for groups of four or more?
6. Is the cheese/meat local?
7. Is the Chef Irish?
8. Can we take some away if we don’t finish it here?
9. Do you have any (condiments) Garlic or Herbs?
10. What is the tipping policy in this restaurant?
There is a popular belief that learning should be solemn in nature and if one is having fun then it is not learning. This is a misconception. It is possible to learn a language and enjoy oneself at the same time. One of the best ways of doing this is through games and role-play.
It is vital that the teacher be creative when producing games. Daring to deviate occasionally from routine and do something refreshing in the class is very important in the learning process. It requires little effort, and the rewards are plenty and the enthusiasm generated is dynamic. Finally well conducted role-playing and games show that the teacher is totally committed and enthusiastic.
 BBC http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/role-play (Accessed 02.04.2012 Gerard J. Hannan)
 The Practice of English Language Teaching – Jeremy Harmer (Longman 1989)
 Role Play – Gillian Porte Ladousse (Oxford 1987)
(Accessed On 03.04.2012 Gerard J. Hannan)
The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘teacher’ as the function or position that somebody has or is expected to have in an organization, in society or in a relationship. It further explains that a teacher is a person whose job is teaching, especially in the school. Teachers have two major roles in the classroom firstly, to create the conditions under which learning can take place; this is known as the social side of teaching. The second role is to impart, by a variety of means, knowledge to their learners; the task oriented side of teaching. Both roles complement each other and are difficult to separate from each other. The role of the teacher varies with the nature of the classroom activity at any given moment. The role can vary from controller to facilitator. The teacher can have many roles and these include; controller, assessor, organizer, prompter, participant, resource, tutor and observer.
We should now look at some of these roles in greater detail. The teacher is the controller of what is said and done; when students speak and the language student’s use. As an assessor the teacher will check student’s performance and progress. We must distinguish between two forms of correction; the first of these is direct correction or on the spot correction for example pronunciation or grammar. The second of these is organized correction which consists of general feedback on essays, reports and assignments. The next role of the teacher is that of the organizer in which the teacher organizes the class, in every sense, and this is one of the teacher’s central roles. Success in this role underlies one’s overall success as a teacher. Examples of organizational aspects of the teacher’s role include giving clear instructions, organizing and setting up activities, managing the class in terms of seating and ensuring the teacher is visible and can be heard at all times. In the role of the prompter the teacher will encourage students to participate in all activities and the teacher is responsible to provide this encouragement. However, it must be noted that too much encouragement can sometimes be aggressive or can cause overreliance on the teacher. As the participant the teacher would become part of the class in activities. Care must be taken not to be over dominant.
The next role to consider is that of the resource; for language students, the teacher is a walking resource on language. Very often, the teacher is called on to explain a new word or grammar point or give a translation. By allowing the students to get on with the activity, the teacher is free to move around and be available to anyone who needs consultation. As tutor the role is similar to that of resource. For example, when doing a project students may need some specific advice and guidance. As the observer the teacher, even when in other roles, needs to observe what is going on in the classroom at the same time. It is necessary to be alert at all times to the effects of our actions and student interactions. Through constantly observing and questioning our procedures and looking out for what leads to successful learning [and what does not], we can develop as teachers. The teacher becomes a performer “sage on the stage” and would have to perform at different levels at different times in the classroom. The teacher can therefore assume a role and act out that role. For all teachers the challenge is to go one developing into the teacher you most want to be. And there are many things a teacher must be responsible for.
These areas of responsibility include organization, security, motivation, instruction and encouragement. Further responsibilities are modelling, guidance, information, feedback and evaluation. It is important to understand teacher-student role relationship as this relationship is at the heart of the classroom process and the role of the teacher or student is influenced by many factors including institution, learning tasks, motivation and physical setting. An understanding and awareness of the intricacies of the social and psychological processes of the classroom is central to effective teacher development. The teacher has to be many things including friendly, approachable, flexible, fair but firm, was prepared and sensitive to individual needs. The teacher must also be respectful, encouraging, motivating, resourceful and willing to explain and offer rationale.
Learning styles in the classroom can vary from group to group and individual to individual and it is the teacher’s responsibility to include as many learner styles as possible. It is necessary to do this in order to facilitate all the different learning styles of the students and to draw out their individual strengths. This can be achieved by varying teaching methods and techniques and especially by using teacher roles as best as possible.
Click On This Image To Listen To The Full Documentary (15 Mins)
About ‘Being Mature’
The documentary entitled ‘Being Mature’ is designed to encourage adult learning in third level institutions in Ireland. The documentary sets out, first and foremost, to talk to students currently going through the system of re-education then it introduces some high-level academics and teachers to hear how they think and feel about having mature students in the classroom and at tutorials. It also canvases the opinions of younger students in relation to mature students and asks a number of significant questions such as are mature students a help or a hindrance in academic life. Finally, we have an in-depth discussion with Dr. Caroline Healy who is assigned to The Learner Support Unit at MIC and is furthermore one of Ireland’s foremost authorities, having conducted extensive research, on Mature Students.
From the outset I knew that the only way this documentary could work is by ensuring as much human interaction as was possible in the given timeframe [15 Minutes]. The initial task of interviewing random mature students proved a little more difficult than anticipated. Mature students were amazingly shy about speaking up there educational desires or giving reasons as to why they had returned to college life. I wanted an equal mix of both male and female students and interestingly, females were more forthcoming. I opted to interview each person in a natural environment and so, over three days, I randomly selected students on campus as MIC Limerick. I also made arrangements with a number of academics at MIC. My interviewees were Dr. Liam Chambers, Dr. Eugene O’Brien and Dr. Caroline Healy of MIC LSU department. Finally, I randomly selected younger students at numerous locations on campus.
The entire documentary aims to answer five basic questions as follows;
- What made you decide to become a mature student?
- How do academics feel about mature students?
- How do young people feel about mature students?
- Is academic life more challenging than anticipated?
- Are mature students in any way different to younger students?
All interviews were conducted over a two-day period and recorded on a Sanyo Pro Voice Recorder and the iTalk application on iPad. I also selected to use a hand-held microphone in my one-to-one interview with Dr. Caroline Healy. On completion I had conducted a total of 33 interviews consisting of students, academic staff and administrative staff at MIC.
At my own home studio I used the Cool Edit Pro suite for editing. I have been using this software for a number of years and find it extremely satisfactory and totally professional. I had a total of 44 audio clips to choose from but the background noise on some of these clips rendered them unusable. I was left with a total of 20 perfectly audible sound bites. I further recorded a small collection of sound effects including atmospheric recordings of lectures, canteen and corridors with heavy student traffic between lectures. My idea was to create an intimate college life experience for the listener. I am satisfied that I accomplished this in the final edits of the piece.
During the editing process I discovered that in the course of normal conversation many interviewees used irrelevant interjections that might be acceptable in casual conversation but sound nonsensical for my purposes. I spent a considerable amount of time editing out these extraneous sounds. The absence of these sounds makes the listening experience far more enjoyable.
I selected two pieces of ambient music to use throughout the documentary as a continuous music bed. My first choice was a gentle piece of music by Zamphir entitled ‘the lonely shepherd’ which I felt was relevant because all lecturers are a type of Shepherd. The second piece I selected was by Enya and entitled ‘The Celts’ which is an inspirational piece of music that implies success in the face of adversity. Perhaps a metaphor for mature students who have decided to take on the challenge of returning to education and succeeding in the process.
My objective was to produce a quality radio documentary using only original material consisting of voice, ambient sounds and music. I must admit that I have the advantage of extensive experience in live broadcasting but little or no experience in radio documentary production. For this reason, I found this project extraordinarily interesting and a very necessary learning experience for me while also introducing me to the art of radio documentary production.
This 15 minute documentary on the subject of Mature Students uses music, interviews and ambient sounds and is structured on a format based on a number of home produced Irish radio documentaries available from RTE, Ireland’s national broadcasting service. I have attempted to offer the information available on this documentary at a gradual and increasing momentum to bring the listener to the ultimate conclusion that a return to education is entirely possible for any listener regardless of past experiences or educational background.
As presenter of the documentary I tried to take into consideration my key role of introducing the various locations voices and facts at a steady pace, the mode of address I implied was upbeat and friendly. I further attempted to keep the piece lively, informative but most of all entertaining. While my subject matter could just as easily have been presented in a more serious manner I felt that my approach rendered the information contained in the documentary more relevant to a broader, less highbrow, wider audience.
As this was a one-man operation I was very conscious to ensure that all elements of this production were to the absolute best of my own ability. I am very proud and satisfied with the results of my endeavours. The project has been a vital learning experience for me and has further shown me that my past experiences in live radio are a serious asset to me in the production of radio documentaries. From this aspect of the course I have learned that this is an area I am very interested in exploring further.
Click On This Image To Listen To The Documentary.