2. EFL Series: Vocab Rehab

Poor vocabulary and lack of motivation to read the written word are some of the principal causes for slow progress in oral and written comprehension in English.  This is the case for most levels and all ages.  Teachers are constantly trying to devise new ways or to create beneficial lessons that enrich vocabulary, while captivating the attention of their learners.  Not an easy task you say, but I look at it as an ongoing challenge throughout the year.  There are no right or wrong ways to proceed.  The main goals are to not expect the learners to acquire more than ten words per lesson and principally to keep it fun and interesting.  This doesn’t mean they can’t see more than ten words.

Here is the lesson plan I used in my workshop that I do in my daughters’ school for a small group of French students in 5ème (that’s 7th grade for US).  Firstly, I explained that they would see a video which contained only music no speaking.  They seemed to be reassured by that.  Their job would be to observe carefully, not writing and not speaking.  I then allowed them to watch a second time.  After, I gave them mini white boards so that they could write anything that they could name in the video in English, absolutely anything i.e. tree, man, chair and so on  I also allowed them to write words in French if they didn’t know them in English.  So, finally we arrived at the third viewing of the video.  I periodically stopped the frame so that they would have time to visualize and to write the words they knew.

This video is simple and has quite a lot of things they should know in English at this level.  Of course, this is where the difficulty begins.  The learners and I suddenly realize all the words they don’t know, but as the teacher I try to keep them focused on what they do know for the moment.  After we’ve completely viewed the video for the third time we spend a few minutes talking about the video.  I try to illicit responses in English by asking some general questions:

Where is the young man?

What is he doing?

What is he going to eat for breakfast?

Where does he go?

Then we look at the words they wrote on their boards in English first.  I try to focus on what words seemed to come up on all the boards and which ones didn’t, especially easy words that they should know like postman, mail, pool, women…Then we look at the words they wrote in French.  I first ask aloud if anyone knows what the word is in English.  Surprisingly enough others know but didn’t put it on their board.  It’s great when the kids can help each other.  This gives them confidence and encourages team work.  As for the teacher,  it’s a chance to go over spelling, plurals, and to spell in English.  Spelling aloud in English is still a bit challenging for them at this level because they confuse the E and I and G and J.  They also forget how to say X, K, R and Y.

By the time this part of the lesson is finished I’ve already made a list of the words they don’t know on the board.  I then give them a worksheet with statements about the video.  They have to decide if the statements are true or false.  I verify they understand what true and false mean and then we continue the lesson.  I have each learner read a sentence and they say whether they think the statement is true or false.  The others can agree or disagree.  They must say why they disagree even if the language is simple, but it must be in English.  As we go along if they aren’t so sure of the answer, I open my laptop and put on the video so that they can verify the images for the correct answer.  They really do love this part and it allows them to reuse some of the vocabulary we went through before because it’s on the board.  Not to mention, they really do have very good memories.

At the end of the lesson the learners have to write the list of vocabulary words they didn’t know on paper.  Their homework is to choose ten of those words and write a sentence with each one.  When they come back for further workshops in the year I will have time to work on the other words on the list gradually.  So, there you have it!  Give it a try using any type of video.  If you can’t find one that is silent or that just has background music just turn the sound off.  Your learners will love it and so will you.  Look below for the link of the worksheet and video used for this lesson.

Breakfast Prepositions Video worksheet

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH8gZYH3vrU&feature=player_embedded]

1. EFL Series: What a dollar can do!

I have learners of all ages but this lesson came to me after surfing the net looking for things to put on one of my Pinterest boards.  I ran across a picture of a ring made from a dollar bill.  I then set out to find a clear and precise video explaining how to make this ring dollar bill ring.  I just knew that this would be an interesting successful lesson to motivate three students that I teach in a group.  Finally after a thorough search on You Tube I found someone explaining how to fold a dollar bill into a ring.  I’ll link the video below.

Firstly, I made a list of important words needed to follow the instructions to fold the dollar bill.  Keeping in mind these key words can be used to fold origami as well as be used to express other everyday ideas.  Since these students are 12 and 13 I tried to make the list of words short and sweet.  Here’s the list I used:  crease, fold, edge, tuck, lift up, corner, faint, layer, pop outward.  The last word pop outward is a little complicated but it was better to show them what it meant to avoid any comprehension problems.  I made a definition worksheet which contained these words and their meanings in English that they could keep for future use. You can also illicit other ways we use these words and maybe your learners will ask what they mean like mine.  One asked “What does you’re living on the edge mean?” You can explain what it means to be tucked in at night.  you can ask your learners if they have ever felt faint, etc.

After the explaining the key words, the learners watched the short You Tube video and then I gave them a dollar bill so that they could follow along the second time they watched the video.  Before starting the video, I explained to the students that thy were to watch the video and that they couldn’t ask me any questions until the task was completed.  They could help each other in English and ask me to backtrack the video as needed.  I paused the video at times to give the learners a chance to do the folding.  During this process I didn’t speak.  I didn’t want the learners to be distracted from the video.  Once finished they had a ring and a dollar bill as a souvenir of the class; really cool for them.  Evidently, you’re not going to give all your learners dollar bills to do this lesson.  What I suggest is to get some nice decorative paper ie. gift wrapping paper or just plain white paper.  Cut it to the size of a dollar bill, which is approximately 15,5cm x 6,5cm.  If you decide to do it with white paper you can get your learners to decorate the rings themselves.  In the end you get…

Lots of fun this lesson.  You can then carry on by dictating how to fold an origami bird, the crane.  Give out some white paper cut into squares or use origami paper which can be bought in a local craft shop.  Don’t worry it’s affordable. The crane is one of the easiest animals to fold and then you can see how much your learners have understood of the different commands.  You can even make it into a competition of who folded the neatest bird.  At the end of the lesson you give the learners the definition worksheet and a copy of explanations on how to fold the

crane, which you can see below.  Voilà, you have an easy, fun, original, and certainly entertaining English  lesson.  For a longer lesson you can replay the video and go over what was said and explain any vocabulary or expressions not understood.  Give it a try and have fun teaching while your learners are having fun learning!

How to make an origami dollar bill ring

Enriching EFL Teaching in 2012

It’s 2012 and we’re all back to teaching full-time.  This is the chance for us all to do our teaching in an even more efficient way.  Some expert teachers with many years behind them would say try teaching differently.  For example, if you teach with a book teach without one.  If you always make lesson plans try not making them or vice versa. I’m going to suggest one particular thing which has helped me tremendously in the past 4 years.  I heard someone suggest this in a conference a while back but I never could seem to make the time.  What is it you ask?  It’s simply learning to do something that you don’t know how to do.  It could be learning a foreign language, learning to play an instrument, taking drawing or painting lessons, learning to cook or to make pottery.

Concert Emile Jolie

It’s amazing how much more you learn about this new activity but as well about yourself and your students. The learning process becomes even more clear.  Four years ago, I picked up the violin.  I like to say it like that because it makes it sound so easy.  Actually, it’s the instrument I desired to play the most when I was a child but wasn’t allowed to.  We had a piano.  So, at the age of 41, I decided to enroll in the local Conservatoire here in   my city where I study music side by side with young children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17.  This has been the most enriching experience for my personal development and especially for my teaching.  It’s made me see things from the learners point of view.  I can equate better with the moments of low enthusiasm, confusion, and the ups and downs that learners experience quite often in EFL or any other learning experience as the level becomes more challenging.  Self motivation, consistency, and desire are needed by both students and teachers to carry out this endeavor.  One is not dominant over the other because it’s a joint effort for the common goal of acquisition.  It can only work out well if both put forth an honest effort.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun in the process.

At times, the learner may need a big push up the hill or a bit of a carrot to get from one level to another. Notice I said a push not pulling.  Pulling would show an all out refusal to go any further.  This is just an idea for those teachers out there who feel as if they are always doing the same thing and feel as if they are not reaching their students the way they would like to.  Taking risks in teaching and trying new things can always teach you something new. Try to get out of your comfort zone.  This is what teachers usually say to their learners.  Are you ready to?  So get out there and learn to do something new.  Doesn’t matter what it is!  You might be surprised by the amount of new lessons you’ll come up with and how innovative they’ll be. Good luck with it!

Concert Emilie Jolie