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How to illustrate meaning

An alternative to translation and an obvious choice if presenting a set of concrete objects such as clothes items is to somehow illustrate them. This can be done either by using real objects (called realia) or pictures or mime.

Visual aids take many forms: flashcards (published and homemade), wall charts, transparencies projected on to the board or wall using the overhead projector, and board drawings.

The use of pictures or objects as prompts for vocabulary teaching can be enhanced if some basic principles of memory are taken into account, including the principle of distributed practice. In teaching a set of, say, ten clothing items, it is important to keep reviewing the previously introduced items, preferably in a varying order something like this:

present shirt
present jacket
present trousers
review shirt

review trousers

present dress




Here, by way of example, are some activities using flashcards:

The teacher shows cards one at a time, and either elicits or says the word it represents. As a rule of thumb, about ten unfamiliar words is probably sufficient. Periodically the teacher backtracks and changes the order (see above). Finally, stick all the cards on to the board, and write the words alongside (or ask learners to come up and write them).

Stick a collection of picture cards (e.g. clothes) on the board and number them. (If you are working round a large table, place the cards face up on the table.) Invite learners to ask you about the words they are unfamiliar with. For example: What's number 6? Check to see if someone else knows before giving the answer. When students are sufficiently familiar go through them all, asking, What's number 8? etc. As a check, turn the cards around, one at a time, so that they can't be seen, and again ask What's number 8? Finally, write the words on the board alongside each picture.

Stick a selection of cards on the board and allow learners to use bilingual dictionaries to find the words they represent. They can then write the words adjacent to the pictures.

Give pairs or groups of three a selection of cards each. They can use bilingual dictionaries to find out the word for each picture. Then, representatives from each group can 'teach' the rest of the class the words they have discovered, using the visual aids.

Show the class a wall chart or a large picture containing many different items (e.g. a street scene or an airport) for a short period of time, say ten seconds. Individually or in pairs, the learners then have to write down as many words - in English - as they can remember having seen represented in the picture. Allow them to use dictionaries. Show the picture again for another few seconds, to let them extend their lists of words. Reveal the picture for the checking stage: the individual or pair with the most correct words is the winner.

How to explain

Of course, reliance on real objects, illustration, or demonstration, is limited in meaning It is one thing to mime a chicken, but quite another to physically represent the meaning of a word like intuition or become or trustworthy. Also, words frequently come up incidentally, words for which the teacher won't have visual aids or realia at hand. An alternative way of conveying the meaning of a new word is simply to use words - other words. This is the principle behind dictionary definitions. Non-visual, verbal means of clarifying meaning include:

  • providing an example situation
  • giving several example sentences
  • giving synonyms, antonyms, or superordinate terms
  • giving a full definition

All of the above procedures can be used in conjunction, and also in combination with visual means such as board drawings or mime. Although a verbal explanation may take a little longer than using translation, or visuals or mime, the advantages are that the learners are getting extra 'free' listening practice, and, by being made to work a little harder to get to the meaning of a word, they may be more cognitively engaged.. Obviously, it is important, when using words in order to define other words, that the defining words themselves are within the learners' current range. Doctor Johnson's definition of a net in his famous dictionary is an example of what not to say in the classroom: Anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances with interstices between the intersections!



Date: 2015-12-11; view: 877

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