Enhancing Vocabulary Skills
Alejandro R. Robles, Mexico
Alejandro is a teacher at the Secundaria Tec de Monterrey, Campus Zacatecas. He teaches English, World History and People and Nations at this bilingual junior high school.
The most common problem with the ESL Latin American student
The following activity is intended for the ESL students. The importance of enhancing vocabulary skills can be a key factor in the progress and confidence of the student. This activity tries to break the monotony of the learning of new vocabulary in three simple steps. As the students infer what the new word is, they will interact with each other and if possible depending on the level of English of the student they will write at the end a short story.
One of the problems Latin American students often face when trying to learn a foreign language are set down on two perspectives:
- There is a frustration of not understanding vocabulary, emphasizing on the lack of memorizing such vocabulary, aside from not understanding the content of the lesson plans.
- Relentless thoughts of incompatibility towards the foreign language and all that it implies: language barriers, teachers, the possible mocking of the more advanced students and vice versa.
We have to acknowledge that students from Latin America have a tendency of grouping, comradeship taking place not only in the classroom and in the school but outside as well.
When having students from all levels (basic, intermediate, advanced) there's bound to be a positive leader and just like all places there's also a negative leader. The challenge is to not to segregate them but to place them as equals so that a balance can be obtained.
My experience with adolescents has been great, but my conclusion is that most Latin America students lack the understanding of how important it is to have a profound commitment with the learning of English as a second language. This is unlike other cultures from Europe and Asia, where learning a foreign language is a subject of the school and they can take up to six languages depending on the country. In Latin America, most governments don't necessarily appoint this subject as relevant in public schools. Therefore, public institutions are not obliged to enforce the learning of English in elementary schools.
Thus some private schools take this as an opportunity of enhancing their school programs and benefit from the ESL programs, nevertheless, some students with knowledge of English, still struggle to communicate. The main problem being the lack of interest of some students to practice their verbal skills outside the classroom in most Latin American schools.
This activity is planned for a 1:30 min. class
- Prior to the class the student will be given a subject on which to search for a determined number of words. The student is asked to search using technological tools, as well as, dictionaries and other sources such as magazines, newspapers and libraries.
- Students are paired with a partner. The students will speak aloud the words in his vocabulary. His partner is asked to draw the words that his partner is reading on a separate sheet of paper. When the first student finishes reading, he then will be asked to draw the words of his partner. This activity on a 10 to 15 words will take about 25 to 30 min.
- The students will paste the drawings on their partner’s notebook. They have to match the correct image with the correct word. Each student will bring a different set of words. So when they have finished the activity they will not only have learned their vocabulary but his partner’s vocabulary as well. This activity will take 10 to 15 min.
- Students have to repeat each other’s words for at least three times, then they will time and mark the number of hits they have. When asked to repeat without reading his or her notebook. This activity will vary depending on the level of English L-1 will usually take longer. But is measure to last from 20 to 25 min.
- The students are asked to make a story with the words learned in the activity. Students
L-1 can replace the story with a brief acting story. L-2 and L-3 are asked to write the story.
This activity will be made individually with their own vocabulary. After which they will be asked to read aloud their story to the rest of the class. This activity will vary depending on the students’ level. Average time rounds from 20 to 35 min.
Students have the opportunity to further enhance their vocabulary by adding words that they find interesting to their notebooks, while other students are reading them aloud.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.