Archive for Tag: vocabulary activities

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Do You Get It?

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, Texas.

The word “get” is hard to get.

It does not have a set definition. It frequently embraces new meanings as technology requires, expanding and enveloping to absorb new semantical shapes, much like a boneless sea creature manipulating its form to acquire a new source of food.

Its ubiquitous use proves how flexible the word is. Not only does the word “get” have multiple meanings by itself, it is also used in a variety of phrasal verbs. An ESL/EFL student trying to communicate with native speakers in authentic settings can become confused when native speakers use “get” instead of solid verbs, or those with firm meanings.

As usual, this post is prompted by a recent discussion with a student. The student specifically requested help on how to use the word “get.” Since she was in a low level class, shape-shifter words like “get” were not covered. I told her I would compile some information for her, and we would discuss the material after class.

I realized “get” has at least three possible definitions, not counting phrasal verbs (which I was not going to address since phrasal verbs are like the fantastical Kraken—a beast of its own nature). This is what I came up with. *Disclaimer: I am not saying these are the only definitions, just the ones I gave my student.

Get: Acquire. Perhaps one of its most elementary usage since we often ask “Did you get my email?” I

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Games for Vocabulary Development

Tamara Jones is an ESL Instructor at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland

One of my all-time favorite ELT quotes comes from Keith Folse’s 2004 book, Vocabulary Myths. He is summarizing Lewis (1993) when he points out that “[w]ithout grammar, little communication may be possible; without vocabulary, no communication is possible.” (25) This quote always reminds me of when I lived in Korea and wanted to buy rice at the little corner store. I knew the word for rice when I ordered it in a restaurant, bap, but I didn’t know that Koreans use a different word for a bag of uncooked rice. The shopkeepers kept saying they didn’t have bap. I did not believe that a corner store in Korea did not sell rice, but because I didn’t know the right word, I eventually left frustrated, perplexed and empty handed. Clearly, words are absolutely necessary for language learners.

Unfortunately, however, there is often precious little time in class devoted to vocabulary development. In fact, one of the eight myths discussed in Folse’s (2004) book is Teachers, textbooks, and curricula cover second language vocabulary adequately. Research clearly shows that if we are to help our students become more capable communicators, we need to provide them with more exposure to and practice with new words. In a previous blog, I summarize one of Folse’s TESOL presentations on the topic (Words, Words, Words) that contains some practical suggestions for helping students build their word banks. However, I also wanted to share a couple of fun games I’ve used with great success in my classes.

Joanne’s Line Up Game

Years ago, I used to work with a woman named Joanne, and I was observing a lesson of hers once in which her students played this game. I loved it so much, I’ve been using it ever since.

Before the Class

  1. Write target vocabulary (at least 1 or 2 words per student) on the board.
  2. Make sure you have several colored markers.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What Modifications Would You Make for ELLs in Mainstream Classes? – Part 1

Tamara Jones is an ESL Instructor at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland

One of my best friends in the whole world recently sent me a message asking for some help with a job application she is putting together. She is a mainstream teacher; her work experience has always been with “regular” primary school classes in English-speaking countries. However, interestingly, one of the application questions she was asking about was a distinctly ESOLy question. I suspect that is because the make-up of public school classrooms in North America is changing and teachers, even mainstream content teachers, are increasingly expected to adjust their lessons to accommodate and include English Language Learners, or ELLs.

Her question was: What modifications and adaptations would you make for ELLs in your classroom?

This question really got me excited. Although my day job is as an administrator and teacher in an English language program for adult students at Howard Community College, for fun, I teach in the MA TESOL program at Notre Dame of Maryland University one night a week. My MA students are usually public school teachers who want to specialize in ESOL or who are seeing more and more international students in their classrooms and want to learn how to best support them. So, yeah, I had some ideas to share with my bestie on the topic of accommodating ELLs in mainstream classes.

Here is my first piece of advice:

Words! Words! Words!

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tools for Talking about Natural Disasters

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

When 2017 began 10 months ago, I doubt many people predicted this year would be plagued by so many natural disasters. Daily news broadcasts report tragedies and upheaval that many of us thought unimaginable. Because of these calamities, people around the globe have found ways to help those affected, whether the victims are local or international.

We know that vocabulary acquisition is more successful if the words are meaningful to students. Even if our students were not personally affected by any natural disaster this year, it is easy for students to sympathize with others. Students may also have had past experiences that may relate to this year’s turmoils.

Below is a list of 65 terms that give students the building blocks to express themselves. I gleaned these terms from various news reports over the last few months.

aide
aftermath
avalanche
crisis
communicable diseases
contaminate
contribution
damage
debris
demolish
desperate
destroy
devastate
donate
earthquake
epicenter
epidemic
evacuate
FEMA
flash flood
government agencies
hail
heroic efforts
housing
hurricane
insurance
intervention
landslide
loot
needed supplies
pollute
posttraumatic stress syndrome
potable water
precaution
rebuild
recovery
refugee
relief
rescue efforts
resilience
restore
restrict
Richter scale
risk
rubble
search and rescue
severe damage
shelter
short-term aid
sinkholes
supplies
support
survivor
tornado
tremor
tragedy
trauma
tropical storm
tsunami
victim
volunteer
warn
wildfire
wind speed

As you discuss terms with students, it may be helpful to use graphic organizers to compare and contrast vocabulary words for different catastrophic events. For example, “wind speed” may not but used with earthquakes like it is with hurricanes, but “aftermath” could be used for both. The word “victim” can be used for anyone negatively affected by any situation, regardless if the event is natural or man-made. Word maps may also help students connect already-known words to new ones.

Sentence stems provide shape for students’ thoughts. Below I have included 8 sentence stems or stem groups that may be springboards for class discussion or journal entries.

I experienced a/an ____ (natural disaster). First, ___. Then ____. Finally, ____ (student describes her experience).

Before the ___, I was ____.
During the ____, I ____.
After the ____, I ____.

When I heard about the ____ (natural disaster), I felt _____ (emotion).

I saw pictures of the ____ (natural disaster) on the news. I saw ____ (specific details).

In ___ (year), there was a ____ (natural disaster) in _____ (place). This caused ____(results).

I wonder if…

I can prepare for a/an ___ (natural disaster) by…

I can help the people in ___ (place) by…

As I mentioned before, natural disasters may bring out the worst in Mother Nature, but they bring out the best in people. Below are two NPR reports of how people performed small acts of service that had huge impacts. Listening to these with your students may provide a chance to discuss human resilience and offer a hopeful note to an otherwise dismal topic.

Nick Fountain tells of Mexican teenagers delivering supplies on their bicycles after the earthquakes: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/23/553204495/packs-of-teens-on-bikes-join-volunteer-effort-after-mexico-earthquake

Kelly McEvers, host of NPR’s Around the Nation, reports how amateur ham radio operators were able to help Puerto Ricans who could not reach relatives in the United States: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/29/554600989/amateur-radio-operators-stepped-in-to-help-communications-with-puerto-rico

In an ideal world, we would never need to cover these topics in our classrooms. However, we live on a planet rife with dramatic events, natural or otherwise. We can help our students increase their abilities to communicate their ideas and experiences if we give them the tools.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Ideas for Technology in the Classroom

Jenny FettersJenny Fetters is an ESL instructor at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland.

As teachers, we have a love/hate relationship with technology, don’t we? We’re always on the lookout for tools that will push language production in our students. However, what often happens is that the very technology we seek ends up making our students passive receptors of language rather than active users of it. Here are two fun ideas that provide opportunities for students to put all that English learning to good use!

A New Way to Use Cell Phones in Class

Running out of new, engaging ways to get your students to practice that vocabulary or grammar structure you just taught them? Are you frustrated with how often they’re looking at their cell phones instead of speaking with their classmates? Use some of your class time and send them outside of class! This past summer I asked my Vocabulary and Idioms class to grab a partner and their cell phones and look for examples of what they learned in class. The task was to take snapshots all over campus, either of places or objects, that represented an idiom they had learned. The students could place themselves in the photo interacting in the situation if it helped explain the idiom. After they had collected at least 5-6 examples, they were to text all of them to me and be prepared to present their photos to the class.

I know what you’re thinking:  I would never give out my personal cell phone number!  Fortunately, Google Voice has made it easier by allowing you to choose your own phone number. When students text that

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Amazing Adjectives

TamaraJonesBy Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, Howard Community College
Columbia, Maryland
jonestamara@hotmail.com

Descriptive adjectives can make students’ speaking and writing richer and more interesting. However, my students tend to rely on the same, worn out adjectives time and time again: good, fine, nice. You might have heard responses like this before if you also teach English and/or have teenagers.

Azar’s Basic English Grammar does a great job of introducing students to adjectives in a couple of places. In Chapter 1, Using BE, there is a section in which students are introduced to the “be + adjective” combo and in Chapter 14, students get more practice with the syntax associated with English adjectives. However, some students need to spend a little more time experimenting with using adjectives in order to use them accurately.

A Lot of Adjectives

For many students at all levels, using a wide variety of adjectives in speaking or writing is less of a grammar problem and more of a vocabulary problem. In other words, once students learn the words old and young as beginners, they may not be motivated to learn substitutions like ancient, elderly or mature and youthful, juvenile and fresh. After all, there are so many words to learn in English, why waste time learning synonyms when the original word will do?

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