Teaching ESL
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pictures versus words in conversational English
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Author:  jackie.crews [ Fri May 28, 2010 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  pictures versus words in conversational English

I'm teaching conversational English to beginning adult students in a very small church based class. It's fairly easy to present nouns , verbs and prepositions using flashcards, but how do you present non- pictured concepts except by using a flashcard of the word itself? For example, the use of "a" before a consonant noun and "an" before a vowel noun? Then you have to explain vowel versus consonant, and that to beginning students. Do they just pick it up from conversation?

Author:  mesmark [ Mon May 31, 2010 8:23 am ]
Post subject: 

I guess it depends on what the grammar element is, but in general the best way to check understanding of rules is a worksheet. Since your example is the particle "a/an" let's go with that.

Actually, I stress this right at the beginning. I start with animal flashcards with students and they have the "a" right up in the top left corner, to signal it comes before the word. I point to it and stress its use prior to the words, nouns. I don't bother with rules about nouns and the singular plural aspect, because they are generally young children and I want them to work out patterns for themselves. However, later we move to plural nouns and that has the "s" in the lower right corner, to signal that it comes after the word, or is added on to the end. Then, I'll work with some worksheets to make sure the understand the two.

Here are some a/an worksheets I made and some plural 's' worksheets that I use to verify understand.

Understanding the rule and acquisition in spontaneous speech don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. Generally, a person can understand the rule, but continue to make the mistake when speaking. It takes a lot of input, use and noticing to get these patterns down for adults. Sometimes these things never get fully acquired with adult learners.

I take the time to point out the omissions or missed usage, and I will go over them with the students trying to point out the rules. However, I have a lot of perfectionist students that need to be encouraged to speak rather than encouraged to be more accurate. That's where the cards work better than worksheets.

Also, these grammar points are confusing so I try not to mix them into a single lesson. First let's get "a/an" down. Then let's get plural nouns down. Once both of those are OK, then I might mix them together to solidify understanding. (On a side note, this particular example is very difficult for speakers whose L1 doesn't mark for plurality.)

If you can give us another example of something you have difficulty with when using the cards, we can offer some more suggestions.

Author:  jackie.crews [ Mon May 31, 2010 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Using flashcards versus word cards

Dear Mark, Thank you, thank you, thank you for the help. I hadn't been watching the posts since I finally had found your grammar sheets and they are excellent. They answered my questions before you replied. Since we are on Summer break I don't have current questions or examples. We start up again the first week in September, so I will have many more questions then. I like the idea of using "a" in the upper corner. I didn't know why you did it that way. Adding "s" at the lower corner is also a good idea. I hadn't even thought about the difficulty of "es", and "ies" as plural endings. This will help so much.

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