Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to teach synonymous words

 The Distinctive Usages of ‘Examine’, ‘Explore’, ‘Investigate’

English language is known as the abundance of synonyms. As an English teacher, it is required to introduce students on how to treat and learn synonymous words. The grade transition from beginner to advance is much relied on the acquisition of word knnwledge. The beginner students have limited vocabulary either on word recollection or knowledge. Most teachers treat synonymous words as identical words both in meaning and usage. This merely means for practicality. At the first stage, such decision can be accepted, but later it will confine students.

Having knowledge of word usage is more important than word meaning. On the basis of this, treating synonyms by looking into the usage is helpful to discriminate the word usage within the synonymous meaning.  The following is my example on how to discriminate the synonymous verbs (‘examine’, ‘explore’, and ‘investigate’) by using concordance – word string analysis.

The results of my study shows that ‘examine’, which has more various meanings, is frequently used by speakers for whom English is their first language. On the other words, speakers whose English is not their first language but as foreign language rarely use the verb, they prefer using ‘investigate’, which only has 2 senses. This means that words that are very polysemous verbs are considered difficult to understand and even to use.

The difference uses of ‘examine’, ‘explore’, and ‘investigate’ based on my corpus study shows:
-          Here, ‘examine’ implies the meaning of evaluation, as in the following corpus:
1. This article uses quantitative and qualitative data to examine the relationship between aspiration, social class, and attainment. Boudon’s theory of secondary effects is considered together with Bourdieu’s influential ‘value’ theory of social and educational reproduction. (Educational Practice and Theory, 14/2001). àIt finds good/significant relationship.

2. …that one can only examine whether and to what extent cognitive representation is changed when stringent criteria are used to assess the effect of training. (Educational Practice and Theory, 15/1996).

3. We conducted a second investigation to examine learning outcomes on the basis of users' perceptions of CELP utility, CELP satisfaction, affective reaction to CELP and the actual CELP usage (UGE)… The second investigation identified potential factors that contributed to the differences in UGE between two groups of high-INT learners. (British Journal of Education Technology, B/2009)

- ‘explore’ means to find out the best among other components/things being searched, as in:
1. In this paper we explore the relationship between learning gains, measured through pre-assessment and post-assessment, and engagement in scientific argumentation. (International Journal of Science Education, 72/2008). à It finds the best relationships among others.
2. This paper presents two South African case studies designed to explore the influence of subject matter knowledge on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).(International Journal of Science Education, 72/2008).
3. This study aims to explore these attitudes in secondary education… we found four interpretable clusters representing different groups of students. (International Journal of Science Education, 35/2  2007).

- ‘investigate’ has a meaning of finding something unknown before, as in:
1. The purpose of this study was to investigate Korean children's environmental literacy levels and the variables that affect their environmental literacy…. it was found that gender, parents' school background, and the source from where students obtain environmental information affect all categories of environmental literacy. (International Journal of Science Education, 35/2  2007). à The unknown aspects are gender, parents' school background, and the source.

2. The purpose was to investigate how teaching a year-long curriculum using SSI affects science learning outcomes. (International Journal of Science Education, 63/2009).

3. ... to investigate the relationship between task-types and mother tongue use. (ELT, 61(1-2)/2008).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Easy and engaging activities in a reading class

Having a reading skill is much emphasized during school times. Students are expected to master skills relating to reading. In this global era, anyone has equal chances to grab the world, but it requires skills which are much related to the ability of decoding information in the form of printed or written resources. Because of this, being good and strategic readers will bring great benefit to them. They can move faster and farther ahead. As a teacher, however, it is not an easy job to do. Many teachers have difficulties in teaching reading. Most students are reluctant to participate in reading class. They get bored easily in a reading class for they have seen the activities monotonously.

It is true that a reading class is very potential to rise up problems since most teachers are trapped with the reading media which are in the form of textbook and any other written sources. This will bring to the activities focusing on answering questions and doing many worksheets, which have been the favorite activities in the reading class but turn down students’ interest and engagement.   

The following activities are worth trying to begin engaging and easy ways:
1.  Pre-reading activities
a)      Show several pictures to students relating to a topic of reading subject and ask them to provide words or sentences about the pictures.
b)      Make one or more simple sentences about a topic, but not too many or complex that will stimulate students responds. Drive them to explore everything that will reveal any important information relating to the topic.
c)       Ask students to list words, verbs, nouns, adjectives or phrases as many as possible relating to a topic.
d)      Ask students to write or say something about what they expect or like and dislike about a topic.
e)      Provide an animal or human picture with enough space to put sentences in the head for the subject and the body (neck to feet) for the predicates of sentences.

2. While-reading activities
a)      Give students charts or tables relating to a topic and ask them to complete or fill.
b)      Spot some mistakes or irrelevant information in a text and ask students to identify and then make some corrections.
c)       Provide main ideas as many as paragraphs and ask students to match, or do the other way around.
d)      Do the activity like “pairing up word”. To do this, you just delete verbs, nouns or adjectives which have strong collocation with the words and ask students to guess what the appropriate words to put in given gaps.
e)      Ask students to make some logical connections by drawing circle and straight lines to connect a word or phrase in each sentence.

3. Post-reading
a)      Ask students to rewrite the text by modifying some words or phrases or sentences as they like. For example, they might change “One day” into “In a beautiful morning”, and so on.
b)      Ask students to paraphrase or make a different form of the original sentence since they think it has a unique form in comparison with their native language sentence form  and find out whether it is  acceptable or not.
c)       Ask students to find other texts whose topics are similar and ask them to list the similar words, phrases or values among the texts.
d)      And ask them which text they think better and why.
e)      Ask students to guess what texts are trying to say, the writer’s purpose of writing the text.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Designing Various Activities for Each Unit in English Text Books

Most textbooks are written and compiled in the same models and components or monotonous within all units of a book. With style like this, there are many weaknesses found, though it also has advantages. The advantages of this style are that students can quickly get used to understand and follow the activities which are in that book. However, this benefit does not last long along with the increasing meeting frequencies. First, students will get bored and lose of a challenge because every time the meetings are conducted, they always face them with the same pattern and model.

The second weakness is the lack of need adjustments to the topic being discussed. The discussion topic requires its own patterns as typical features. If all units are treated in the same activities or models, it will narrow the discussion topic in each unit. What it is meant by the narrowing topic of discussion is the nature of the context of discussion. For example, when a teacher discusses 'Jobs Description "and he uses an activity like a guessing game, then this will be fun. But this is no longer fun when used in the discussion topic of "Conversation on the phone".

Third, it is true that every unit in a teaching and textbook must have the same basic components and teaching chronologies. However, it does not mean that there should be no variation or development in it. Even, if there is no variation, boredom and lack of interest of students will continue to haunt teachers. Most of every unit demands a brainstorming or warming up stage, but when it is treated in the same way for all meetings or units, then it will not run properly. Thus, the need for variation in the brainstorming or warming up stage is much needed. In addition, in each unit there are always listening, speaking, reading, and writing. What will be the concerns for each unit is that they should be designed in various activities.

Here are the ways how to create various activities in listening: 1) finding and collecting all available activities, 2) looking back at the topic discussion, 3) choosing the activities suitable with the topic discussion.

For example:
There are several pre-listening activities as follows:
  • looking at pictures, maps, diagrams, or graphs
  • reviewing vocabulary or grammatical structures
  • reading something relevant
  • constructing semantic webs (a graphic arrangement of concepts or words showing how they are related)
  • predicting the content of the listening text
  • Make a list of possible problems that might have happened to him before you start the listening.
  • going over the directions or instructions for the activity
  • doing guided practice
The next step is to look at the topic. Take for example, the topic is Talking on the phone, then the last step is to choose the available appropriate activities with the topic. Looking at the list of the activities above and considering the topic, it can be said that the appropriate activities that might best suit are looking at pictures, reviewing vocabulary or grammatical structures, view films or photos.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Designing Creative Teaching in each Period

The Rhythmic Teaching

Every process has a rhythm as in a process of making a food. In a certain time quick and skillful actions are required, while in another time slow and careful treatments are necessary to make. This process is also true in teaching English. In a certain condition a teacher needs a quiet class that charges students with attention and concentration, while in other situations cheerful and engaging activities are desired to create.
This rhythmic management is meant to avoid boredom and lost interest of students in learning. If it is applied properly, the stirring atmosphere of learning will be created and maintain that a learning process can be smooth and the internalization of a lesson is established unconsciously to students.
Properly implementation of the rhythmic management, however, is not an easy task to do. It needs creativity and experience of teaching. But In the beginning activity, at least, there are three things to consider in managing the rhythmic teaching:
  1. Input (material to teach)
  2. Internalization of the material
  3. Application of the material

The input includes material or lessons to teach. If the material have lots of things discussed and is considered to be the hardest part, then it requires breaking into smaller and simpler parts that students’ achievement progress can be controlled and detected clearly, or in other words students do not feel the material difficult and get frustrated. At this stage, lots of instruments such as pictures, animation, maps, columns, and etc. must be supplied in that students will not feel burdened in comprehending the material.

Repetition, reading and pronouncing distinctly will be the first step as the transition to the next stage, that is, the internalization of material. At this stage, automatic skills can be the emphasis in which various forms of exercises are needed to train and measure how far students get the material a teacher gave. The crucial part of the stage is that how well a teacher designed the exercises reflecting the achieved skill from a simple to complex component. When the exercises are not design well, confusion, mess and uncertain result will come up and it will spoil the material, which has just been introduced at the first stage. In addition, it will bring unsatisfactory to students who have already grabbed the material faster than others, while those who are still struggling will be confused for there is no logical management of the material.

At the last stage, the application of the material reflects more on how far and well students have achieved the automatic skills. If at this stage students do not have any difficulties, it means that they have mastered the material well. But if the opposite things happen, a teacher needs to review the material in different methods and strategies on the basis of the problems found. At this stage not only as a reflection but also an activity confirming the enchanting comprehension of the material, which has not been conducted at the previous stage.

Friday, October 14, 2011

CREATIVE ENGLISH TEACHING: simple and applicable warming up or brainstorming phase for every Senior High School teacher and every class condition.

Learning English should be exciting, stimulating and empowering. Why should it be exciting? Students will not be able to absorb a lesson if they are in a boring atmosphere, or an insecure condition. To deal with this condition, a teacher’s creativities are needed to design an exciting class. Teachers can start the creative teaching from the crucial phase – Warming up or Brainstorming.

a. A passive and unmotivated class needs to be activated physically. One of the successful engaging techniques in dealing with this class is asking students to write some words on the board relating to the present topic discussion. This activity will work and engage students if those whose vocabulary is limited are asked to write the words in the native language, and the translation session will be done together later. The benefit of this activity is that the students are easily able to recall lots of words relating to the topic, which are missed in the textbook. Even, their recalling of the words in the native language will be much useful and enriching vocabulary if those words have similar uses to their context. The next step is the translation session, which is carried out to help them find out the meaning and the use of the words in English, can be done in the following ways: providing them with standard bi-lingual dictionaries, or making the examples of the use of the word with the familiar words in that they can guess what is the meaning of the target word. This activity should not be done too long.

b. Telling the funny and ridiculous stories, which are caused by the lack of knowledge on the topic being discussed. This warming up activity is more intended to give the meaningfulness of learning a lesson. Learning will be felt meaningless for students if they do not know specifically the reasons underlying their learning. The stories should be better based on the true experiences even if teachers can tell anticipative stories. The reality stories will bring much more sparkling into the student’s spirit, for example, what is going to happen if one of the students is invited to eat at a restaurant where there are many unfamiliar menus (international menus) and they, the students, have no ideas how to order a food or a drink. Being in the situation, the students will be confused and could do some ridiculous manner for they might order in the same way they usually do in their own culture, which are not always properly suited to the international or English culture. It is true that preparing such stories is not easy, especially for the teachers who do not have many experiences of the stories. Fortunately, in this modern age teachers can easily find and collect the stories from the internet.

c. Showing a couple of pictures relating to the topic being discussed. Pictures can stimulate students’ imagination and eagerness in learning. The pictures can be in the series activity that create a story, or separated activities without any texts in it. The emphasis of this activity is to activate students’ skill in making sentences through the stimulating pictures. The first step of implementing this activity is to ask students to list all the verbs, adjectives, and adverbs describing the pictures.

d. Giving challenges to students through the words guessing that relate to the topic being discussed. Teachers should be aware that they must tell students the topic, which will be learned in that students can direct their imagination to the target word that will be guessed, not drifting away from the context intended. For example, the words that will be guessed are make a phone call, and then teachers provide a sentence with the gaps in the sentence as in If you want to buy a ticket in the busy days, you must ___ _ ____ ____ to make a reservation. This activity will be felt engaging if students have already masterd most of the words around the target words. This will help students as a tool to strengthen their memory on the key words of the topic. In addition, it will be an exciting challenge for students if it is allocated in the beginning of teaching.

e. Engaging sleepy students in the first hour of the class by inviting them to come forward bringing a piece of paper with a letter written on it – the paper is prepared by the teacher. The number of the students invited depends on the number of the letters for a word. A student may have A, while others may have H, N, O, P, E, so that those letters will form a word saying a phone. When the students are invited forward, the rest of the students can make some instructions addressed to the students in front of the class. The instructions can be like Andy, would you please move to the right side of John! Or Budi, please, move to the right end!