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Listening to Stories While You Read Them: Supporting ELL’s

17 Mar

Supporting English Language Learners through their comprehension and engagement in a text is vital if they are to come to a love of reading in English.betty white

In preparing for a presentation on Supporting the ELL’s in our Ontario Classrooms, I was looking for current Canadian resources teachers can easily incorporate into their language arts curriculum for ESL students.  One such resource I wanted to share right away was StorylineOnline.   Storyline Online is a fabulous website that has popular English children’s picture books being read aloud by celebrities!  How interesting.  Not only can children experience a range of pronunciations by listening to books read aloud, they can increase their engagement in a text either in the class on the computer or at home.

I recommend choosing a text with a student and doing a “picture walk” with them through the book.  Discussing the pictures helps students to make predictions, and it activates the schema they already have for the topic making learning more meaningful.  You may want to ask them to share any experiences they have with the topic either orally or in writing.  Go over any challenging or new vocabulary, idioms, slang, and cultural references in the book.  Next, read it along with the student and let them have some time alone to read through it at their own pace if they’re able to do this.  You can then pull up this resource Storyline Online and have them listen to the book alongside reading it.  They may wish to do this a few times.  Finally, choose a consolidation activity you feel will best match their learning goals and needs.  This could be drawing pictures and describing their favourite part.  Identifying parts of the story such as the main characters, plot, setting, etc.  And one of my favourites is to have them change one of these parts and re-tell the story aloud.

Definitely check out this free online resource and let me know your thoughts! 🙂

One of my favourites?  Harry the Dirty Dog ready by Betty White

Speaking Journals: A Step-by-Step Guide

9 Dec

An advanced ESL student asked me this week about how she can polish her speaking (and listening) skills while studying solo.  Her goal is near fluency, and I think it’s quite achievable for her – and quite formidable since she’s only ever lived in Seoul.

Already, she listens to American dramas and reviews the content with a script she’s purchased.  She also plugs into English radio while she’s working or studying, keeping a notepad handy for any new words or phrases.  Yet, she wants more practice speaking!   The few hours a week we have together is fantastic, she admits, but eagerly wants more chance to talk.

What are my suggestions?   I wanted to pinpoint ways she can speak outside of our lesson time, and learn from it  – by using a speaking journal.

A SPEAKING JOURNAL – This is great for smartphone users, who already have (or can download easily) an app for voice recording.  I suggested for her that instead of writing a journal, which she has done extensively in the past, she should “speak a journal.”  And to keep it interesting – don’t just make it about what you’ve done today or plan to do tomorrow, even though that is very great practice.  Because of her advanced English functioning, I suggested she change the topics – which focuses vocabulary, expressions, context, tone and so forth.

Here’s a step-by-step plan to get started with an ESL Speaking Journal:

  1. Find the app on your smartphone, or get one – iphone or android.   I have an android phone which came with a voice recorder, but you may want find one with more functionality.
  2. Try recording a small clip – introduce yourself – and see if you can email it to yourself.  The voice files should be able to be sent using a variety of social media popular in your country.  In South Korea, my students and I send and receive voice recorded files using email, SMS, and KakaoTalk.
  3. Now, prepare to speak!  Daily.  I recommend 5 minutes of continuous talking with only minor pauses in speech.  Pushing yourself to speak without stopping is a great way to strive for ESL fluency.  Think fast! 🙂  For the first time, talk about whatever comes to mind – about your day, what you’re doing, plans for dinner, etc.   Try to flow from the past to the future, which ensures you use at least a few verb tenses.
  4. Grab a companion journal (or a few pages from your current ESL Writing Journal^^) to write in.  In this journal, start a list of potential topics to discuss, so that you can refer to it on days when you don’t know what to talk about.  This is also a great place to add new vocabulary and expressions that comes up with this activity.
  5. Day 2 – First, speak about  a topic that interests you, for 5 minutes continuously, little pause in speech.  For example, I love tea, so I could talk about tea for 5 minutes.  In a second language that may be difficult because there is a lot of topic-specific vocabulary.  Great!  Along with speaking practice, “rounding out” your ESL repertoire is what you’re striving for.
  6. Day 2 – Second, listen to yesterday’s speaking journal recording.  By reviewing each recording a day later, it gives you some time to separate from what you’ve talked about so you can listen with a more objective ear.   With pen and companion journal in hand: Listen for errors in grammar;  Look up vocabulary words that would have been good to use; Write down expressions you liked using or would have liked to say;  Think of, or look up, some idiomatic expressions on the topic that you could have used.
  7. Once you’ve been actively keeping a journal for a week, ask your ESL Teacher if you can send her a file for a listen.  She or he may be able to give a listen and offer some advice!
  8. And most importantly, have fun.  Learning a language is difficult, takes time, and there is no point in time where you can say “I made it!”  Keep ESL a learning adventure and you’re bound to enjoy yourself.

If you have been keeping a Speaking journal, have tried it in the past or are eager to give it a whorl – please leave your advice and comments below!

Developing ESL Vocabulary with Clusters

30 Jan

There are many strategies to consider when wanting to teach or learn vocabulary.

Hands-on vocabulary learning seems to be the most effective that I’ve found, as having students use multiple senses when learning a new word seems to increase retention.  Although, with this method the word gain is slow and it’s not always practical in the common classroom setting.  Instead, I often try teaching vocabulary that is related to eachother, together – clusters!

Clustering, or using semantic clusters, basically means learning words around one theme  or idea.  These themes or ideas can be quite large such as “the world” (learn: countries, ocean, continent, to discover …) or can be more focused such as “coffee” (steam, espresso, to roast …).

A few ideas on how to teach using clusters:

  • use theme-based ESL lessons instead of grammar-based.  Grammar can be “snuck” into the lessons along with vocabulary that is related on a particular theme.
  • use brainstorming charts where one word branches to another with visible cluster-like appearance.
  • challenge students to find appropriate synonyms (words that have the same meaning).
  • play Scattergories or Scrabble with a theme.
  • If teaching reading, try to use a variety of resources – news articles, journals, dialogues, stories, podcasts – but with the same theme.  This will increase the kinds of vocabulary that students are exposed to (expressive vs. written, for example).
Take advantage of some online resources! ^^

Cluster/Cloud Graphic Organizers and more Vocabulary graphic organizers – free printables

Teaching and Developing Vocabulary article by Houghton-Mifflin Reading.

Dictionary.com Word of the Day to help you increase your own vocabulary.

 

Challenge Yourself with English Vocabulary from Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’

9 Sep

As part of my recent “Literacy Project” – I’m encouraging my advanced ESL students, to join me in reading all the books on Modern Library’s 100 Best Books List.   This extra-curricular reading project was inspired when, after browsing the list and realizing I had only read a mere 17, I felt quite embarrassed with myself!   So, I’m catching up.

Number 18 was Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina.  And although it’s a long read it remains interesting and engaging throughout.  I feel some of the context must have been lost through translation.  How I would love to read (and understand) it in Russian! 🙂

This seems a very academic book, with clear themes threaded from start to finish, and strong characters.  The themes of spirituality, meanings of life and death, and how one creates and responds to adversity, were enjoyed.  But, I also love highlighting great vocabulary words with my Kobo eReader Touch!  Here are some words I loved and wanted to challenge you to see if you know the definitions:

Do you know the words pecuniary, laconic, loquacity and coterie?  If so, you may be a word master!  If not, play a matching game, download flashcards, or enjoy a crossword with my 25 Challenging Words from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina on WORD DYNAMO.  

Or, if you’d prefer, you can download a copy of my free 25 Vocab – Anna Karenina on these words

And, because I’m curious…. How many books have you read from the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels?   The Board’s List or the Reader’s List?  Please share your answers and comments below.

 

Transitional Words and Phrases for Essay Writing

16 Aug

Transitional words and phrases are very important when writing papers for academia, business or English proficiency exams.

Transitions help the reader to follow along with what you’re writing,  to make the points of your essay flow, and to show the relationship of your ideas to one another.  Transitions can go at the beginning ( Therefore, we ate at a restaurant.) or in the middle (We ate at a restaurant instead of at home) of a sentence.  When used properly, transitions can showcase your command of the written English language and get you top marks!

I’ve compiled a list of good transitions for you to use in your essays.  One of my favourite places to look for ‘transition inspiration’ is at Smart Words, have a look if you’d like.

Remember – not all transitions can be used in each instance.  You need to find the correct transition to express what it is you’re trying to say.  For example, you cannot use  “On the other hand, …” when you’re trying to compare two things that are similar as this phrase is for things that are contrasting or dissimilar.

When adding a thought or point:

  • also, moreover, as well as, in addition, furthermore, often, similarly, likewise, as expected, then, next, along these lines
When contrasting and comparing:
  • in comparison, instead, instead of, on the other hand, consequently, therefore, in contrast, similarly, yet, but, with this in mind, instead of, in place of, rather than, as a result, comparatively, likewise, correspondingly, however, still, rather, opposite, besides, conversely, on one hand
When giving examples:
  • for example, for instance, as you can see, as expected, namely, in this case, basically, often
When generalizing:
  • generally, often, typically, usually, in general, basically, mostly, in essence, at this time, nearly all
When outlining consequences:
  • consequently, therefore, finally, otherwise, so then, as a result, accordingly,
When sequencing your thoughts and points:
  • also, next, in addition, while, at first, first of all, next, soon, then, later, in time,
When restating a thought:
  • as mentioned, namely, that is to say, basically, as mentioned, to restate, in other words
When giving emphasis to a thought or point:
  • especially, particularly, above all, singularly, most importantly, primarily, as outlined, nearly all
When summarizing:
  • in conclusion, in essence, finally, in summary, on the whole, all things considered, to conclude

OTHER RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT:

Smart Words – List of transitional words for writing

Study Guides and Strategies – Transitional sentences

Writer’s Web – Transitional words and phrases

Does poetry help ESL students learn English?

29 Jul

Poems are expressions of how the writer sees the world around them.  They’re rhymes and cadence, tongue-twists and lyrics.  They can be haiku, stanzas, plays or songs.  Poetry is so many inspiring and motivating things, that if you’re not using poetry to learn English as a second language, you’re not embracing the culture from English-speaking countries.

Poems are temporal – they describe the poet’s feelings and their environment in which they live, looking at the world through their own eyes.  And one’s view of the world is influenced by the culture.

I love including poems into my ESL Classroom.  They’re so FLEXIBLE!  You can use poems with any other topic of discussion.

How can I use poetry to learn English

Whether you’re learning English by yourself or taking classes, it’s good to challenge yourself once in a while.  There are countless ways to learn English through poetry.  Any good TESOL teacher would already be employing many different ways to incorporate poetry into learning.   Importantly, you want to feel comfortable when with poems.  Remember, there really are no rules!  Just try to have fun and enjoy the challenge of learning.  Don’t be discouraged.

Try these suggestions yourself or with your ESL Teacher:

  • Do poetry theater, having students act out short plays.
  • Introduce children’s books.  You’ll find rhymes and rhythms, the words often sound pleasing and sing-song when read aloud by parents and educators.  This is a perfect approach for ESL Learners!  Of course, you don’t want to insult adult learners with children’s books, but bringing these concepts into the classroom through the pondering of poetry is a wonderful way to promote language learning and literacy.
  • Song clozes.  These can be of any kind of music and with varying degrees of difficulty.  A great cross lesson for learning slang.
  • Write haiku style poems about the weather or class.
  • Teach rhymes, riddles and tongue twisters and then have the students make their own.
  • Write a poem together as a class on a topic you’re learning about. Include key vocabulary.
Please leave a comment for discussion!
Have you tried some of these suggestions?  Which one was your favorite?  Thanks for sharing.

Create a daily writing plan to improve your English

16 Jul

For English learners, writing can really be a great way to study when you’re not in class or with a tutor.  Committing to write every day helps your vocabulary, spelling, grammar and even your conversation abilities (because often people write something as they would try to say it!).

I suggest my students keep a notebook and spend about 30 minutes each day writing.  It doesn’t matter what you write about, it can be anything, it’s the act of writing and committing to the process.  Writing by hand is better than by computer, as it supposedly activates more memory retention.

Daily Writing Log Plan:  Spend 15 minutes writing about anything.  (below are some ideas to motivate your pen^^).  Don’t take a break and keep your pen moving for the whole time.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or making mistakes – simply write.  At the end of your writing time, spend another 15 minutes correcting some of your spelling mistakes, adding in vocabulary words that you need to look up in a dictionary,  and fixing grammar.  Don’t worry about correcting it all, just do what you can in 15 minutes.

Writing topics to get you started:

  • Describe the weather
  • Talk about how to cook your favourite food
  • Tell about your last vacation
  • Describe your dream wedding/vacation/date
  • Talk about your family’s history
  • Describe a school subject
  • Tell about your study plans for the next year
  • Outline the plot and characters of a book you just read
  • Describe your surroundings – especially good in a coffee shop!
  • And in case that’s not enough, here’s 1000 ideas for writing.

The Daily Writing Log is a tool that my students have found helpful.  If you’d like to join in one of my classes or have private tutoring lessons here in Mok-dong, Seoul, please contact me for more information.

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