In the interests of sharing good practice for anyone who struggles or wants to improve on this. One of the things I do which was specifically commented on yesterday is help develop students’ vocabulary. The learners don’t know I’m doing it, it’s just something I decided to do as a little ‘aside’ when I first started teaching.
I think that literacy is really important and am shocked at the level it has deteriorated to. Being a linguist anyway language is something which interests me and which I’ve enjoyed studying throughout my life. I don’t always get everything I write or say grammatically correct. We all pick up bad habits and I rattle my typing out at 100 words a minute so sometimes I’m just letting my thoughts out and not paying that much attention to grammar. BUT it is something I try to instill in my students.
Being able to speak clearly, the articulation of words and thoughts, vocal projection when presenting and a half decent vocabulary are all part of literacy and communication and so any effort I can make to improve any of that with any of my students is worth it.
It can be something as simple as asking students to speak up when answering a question or contributing to a discussion in class or presenting. It can be done very subtly “Can you just repeat that a little louder so everyone can hear please”, “Could you say that again as clear as possible so that they can hear you at the back please”, “Repeat that a little louder I don’t think everyone was listening”, it doesn’t have to embarrass anyone and can coax a louder, more confident voice out of a timid student.
A method of helping students to develop or use their existing vocabulary I use is asking something like “How else could you say that?”, “What other words/terms could you use to describe that?”, “Is there another way of saying that which you can think of?”, “Can anyone think of another way we might say that?”, “If we were using more professional language what might we say instead?”
When extending learners’ vocabulary I think of the words I’m using when teaching. If there are any which I think some of the learners may not understand I will stop and find out.
This is an example from last week (student names have been changed of course).
Me: “Of course this list is not fully exhaustive… do you know what exhaustive means?”
Me: *writes word on board “Does anyone want to have a guess at what it means?” *pauses “what does exhaust mean?” *circles the root of the word “John, you look like you’re feeling pretty exhausted, what does it mean?”
John: “Worn out”
Fred: “All gone”
Rosie: “Used up”
Me: *writing responses on the board “Yes, well done, all of those, so what do you think we mean by exhaustive? When I said this list IS NOT FULLY exhaustive?” *underlining word “Ronald?”
Ronald: “Erm… not all used up”
Me: “Yes, now think of how you might explain that better in this context”
Rosie: “Oh, I get it, it means that you haven’t used all of the things you could have used so there are more of them”
Me: “Yes exactly well done. So can someone put exhaustive into a context for us?”
John: “Like if I had loads of music on my phone but I had more on my laptop could I say the music collection on my phone is not exhaustive?”
Me: “Excellent. Well done, so remember this word” *underlines it “it’s a good word to use in essays and assignments when you want to give a few examples of something but want to indicate that you know there are other examples you could have given. It shows you have further or wider knowledge of other options which you could have added without adding a huge list and making your writing less professional”
It’s easy really but something I was commended for and something not every teacher does so worth giving a try if you want to nudge your mark for embedding literacy up a bit.