Tuesday, March 4, 2014

TESOL Teaching Tip #49 - ESL Students Need Real Life Experiences to Learn Vocabulary

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students are English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers are living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #49 - Use regalia and videos to help your esl or ell students understand vocabulary. Find specific tips on how to do this at my blog post - Raki's Rad Resources

ELL Teaching Tip of the Week: Use Regalia and Videos
I have had lots of teachers tell me that their English Language Learners don’t “get” the vocabulary they teach.  The first thing I ask them is “How many senses have your students used to understand their words?”  This generally gets me a puzzled stare as often teachers only “explain” the meaning of a word, meaning that students have used their sense of hearing only.  Additionally, they have heard probably 10 – 12 words, or which they truly understand 5 or 6.  This does not lead to good understanding of a vocabulary word.
Let’s use the example of the word wrench.  A student who doesn’t speak English well doesn’t know what a wrench is.  So you explain to them. “It’s a metal tool used to tighten nuts and bolts when you are building or fixing things.”  The underlined words indicate the words they probably DON’T understand if they don’t understand the word wrench.
ESL tip:  Students need to use all of their senses to learn new vocabulary words Hmmmm…… So what is a more effective way of teaching students what a wrench is.  In all of my ESL Vocabulary Packets, I include a suggested daily routine for teaching vocabulary.  On Monday, it includes introducing students to the words with as many REAL WORLD examples as possible.  So, when we are working on the Tools Vocabulary Packet – Monday is the day to bring the toolbox to school and pull out the real wrench.  Don’t have a real wrench?  What about a video showing how a wrench works?

 ESL tip:  Students need to use all of their senses to learn new vocabulary words Using either of these two methods, students have now touched, seen, heard about and maybe smelled a wrench.  Additionally, they have hopefully connected the word wrench to the corresponding word in their home language and noted it down on their vocabulary sheet for further reference.  The possibility that they will remember this word has gone up exponentially.
While it is more prep work to ensure our ESL students have these real world examples, you will find that the more real life examples they have, the more understanding increases, allowing them to connect what they know with knew knowledge and increasing the spiral of learning.

Successful Strategies for English Language Learners by Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad ResourcesDo you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Would you like to view an hour long presentation on this topic? I recently presented on Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo. Now you can grab the presentation for just $3.95 from Teacher’s Notebook.

esl Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!