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.