Jun 21, 2017 Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (T 942 Views
~~What knowledge are you using to read this? One thing you are using is your knowledge of the grapho-phonemic relationships of English, i.e. the links between written letters and the sounds they represent. You’ve also had a lot of practise with English spelling conventions. You’re using your knowledge of English grammar and quickly take in the morphemes of English, the grammatical units of meaning such as the –ed ending we use to make the regular form of past tenses. All these skills took a while to build up. It’s also going to take our learners a long time to build up these same skills.
Let’s start by considering the basic skills you need to build up to become literate. Reading can be seen as decoding different pieces of information. We use visual information when we recognise written symbols. We use phonological information when we connect these symbols to sounds. Finally we use semantic information when we use these symbols and their sounds and connect words to meaning. Phonics teaching helps our young learners make these basic connections between letters and sounds.
The smallest unit we use to read is letters. Letters become syllables, syllables become words and so on through sentences to paragraphs, but it all starts with letters. We need to make learners aware of three important aspects of a letter: its name, shape and sound. Many young learners can chant the alphabet but often they can’t recognize the individual shapes of the letters and don’t know the sounds commonly associated with the letters. Phonics teaching starts with the individual letters of the alphabet and associated sounds and moves on to help learners sound out words. Teachers can draw learners’ attention to the regular patterns of English spelling. Phonics teaching can seem very time-consuming but this information is invaluable in helping learners to read. Short regular activities should be used in lessons to present and practice phonics these can be done at any point but can be either at the beginning with a quick game that could review vocabulary from the previous week or at the end of the lesson using words that you’ve used that day.
Another useful reading skill to build up is whole word recognition. Young readers will know some sight words, i.e. words they are able to read because they recognize the shape or length. This is a valuable skill as it is motivating for the learner as it pays off much more quickly than phonics teaching and also helps them read sentences as they will usually use this method to read common words, such as is, the and do. Whole word recognition has its limitations as there are only so many sight words a learner can remember but it can provide a useful resource of words they can read that you can later use to practise phonics and learners can see how letters build up into syllables, and then words.
Young learner texts generally introduce several new items of vocabulary every unit. A useful time to focus on increasing learner’s sight vocabulary is after this new vocabulary and the grammar structure for the unit has been presented. Many games that provide speaking practice of the new structure can be adapted to focus on the written form of the new vocabulary and then put the word into the target structure. Naturally learners will struggle to read so many new words in one go, so allow them to refer to picture prompts e.g. flashcards with both pictures and words. They are still working on word recognition skills as they are matching the shape of words.
Below are some activities to help young learners improve their reading. These are mostly variations on games you’ll know already, adapted to focus on the following skills:
• Practising alphabet and phonic value of letters
• Focusing on the whole word
• Focusing on spelling
• Focusing on reading sentences
Activities to practice alphabet and phonic value of letters
Slap: with alphabet cards for the first letter instead of pictures.
Sliding Slap: Present the phonic values you want to practise. Slide one card across the table to a learner and indicate that you want them to slide it back to you. As they slide it back, slap the card and say the sound. Do the same with another learner. Then refuse to take a card back and indicate that you want the learner to slide the card to another person. As they slide the card between them, slowly add some more. You can control the mayhem by adding or removing cards.
Sticky Ball: Write some letters on the whiteboard, learners throw the sticky ball and say the sound and a word beginning with that sound.
Bingo: Deal out four alphabet cards to each learner. Before the class, prepare the magnetic letters so that you have the same cards and letters. Put the letters in a bag or box and pull out the first letter. Say the letter or phonic value and the person who has that card puts the magnetic letter on it. A learner pulls out the next letter. When someone has covered all their cards they shout bingo and win.
Phonic Telephone Numbers: Draw a 3 by 3 grid of squares on the board and add another square above the top centre. In the corner of each square write the numbers 0 to 9 in sequence. In the middle of each square write a letter. Add a telephone receiver and wires to the diagram. Ask, “What is it?” and elicit, “It`s a telephone.” Put learners in pairs. Give one learner a telephone number, the other learner asks “What`s your telephone number?” The first one replies, “My telephone number is /b/, /d/, /t/,” etc. The second person writes down the number that corresponds to the phonic of the letter in the square with that number. This activity requires very careful setting up and demonstration. Whole word recognition can also be practiced using it, “My telephone number is “cat”, “dog”, “fish”,” etc.
Alphabetical Order: Give learners some picture flashcards and they have to put them in alphabetical order. They can use an Alphabet poster if necessary.
Alphabet Stepping Stones: Scatter some alphabet mats on the floor. Explain that this is a shark-infested sea. Demonstrate that learners have to cross this sea to the safety of the other side. Learners take turns. Shout a letter and the first person has to jump on that letter. They then have to say the phonic value and a word that begins with that letter. Continue with the second person. If a mistake is made then a shark will bite off a limb, so that person will have to hop or hold an arm behind their back.
A variation of Alphabet stepping stones is to say a short word (e.g. hat) and students have to jump from h to a to t. This involves spelling so is more difficult.
Blindfold point to the letter: Ask a learner to close their eyes. Stand them in front of an alphabet poster, say a letter (or a word that begins with that letter) and the learner points to where they think the letter is.
Find the letter: Hide some letters around the room. Learners must find the letters and give them to the teacher, encouraging them to say the correct sound. If they already know some sounds, the teacher can say a sound and the learners can race to find that letter.
Phonic stations: Start with a standard stations game with the vowels around the room. The teacher can say the letter and the learners run to the correct card, say the sound or a word beginning with the sound.
To extend the activity, put some consonant cards on a table and call out syllables, pa, do, ip, ed or simple three letter words, cat, sit, dog. Learners have to grab the correct consonant(s) cards, run to the correct vowel sound and say the syllable or word.
Focusing on the whole word
Slap Variations: Slap with word cards instead of pictures.
Double handed slap: One hand on the picture and the other hand on the word.
Action slap: Place some word flashcards around the edge of the table. Have a couple more flashcards than learners. Shout an action (e.g. jump) and everyone jumps around the table. Shout stop and learners have to slap the nearest flashcard to them and shout the word. Take away one flashcard after each turn. After a few times, there won’t be enough flashcards for everyone and the person who doesn’t slap a card is out. They can nominate the next action and shout stop. Continue until you have a winner. Flashcards could have picture prompts on one side and words on the reverse.
Pelmanism: Make pairs between the picture and word.
Dice Game: Write 1 to 6 on the board and put a word next to each number. These words need to belong to the same word group. Learners roll the dice, read the word and follow the instructions. Some ideas:
Colours: learners roll the dice to decide which colour to use in a picture
Actions: learners do actions
Prepositions of place (on, next to, under etc): if you have a small object and a box, learners have to read and put the object on the box or next to the box.
Animals: learners pretend to be the animal.
Parts of face: learners draw in the parts of the face as they roll each number.
Nouns: use the target vocabulary of the lesson which learners have to put into the target structure.
Noughts and Crosses: Write words in each square, learners throw a sticky ball. They have to read the word and then also say it in the structure that you’re focusing on that lesson.
Musical Chairs: Write the target vocabulary on cards. You should have as many words as there are learners. Get learners to turn their chairs around so they’re all facing away from the table. Put a word on each chair. Play a song and learners walk around. When you stop the music learners have to sit down, then read the word and put it into the target structure for the lesson. Take away one chair and continue until there’s a winner. Play this game at the end of a lesson as it can get boisterous.
Find the Colour: Choose three colour flashcards with the colour on one side and the word on the other. Show both the colour and the word and drill. Line them up in a row with the word facing up. Choose one colour and show them which one it is. Then quickly move them around several times. Ask a learner to show you which card is the colour you chose. They can check by turning it over to see the colour on the other side. Learners can do the same for each other or for the teacher.
Simon’s Game: Put three or four colour word cards on the table or write them on the whiteboard. Drill the words. Give a learner a plastic hammer. Say a sequence of 3-5 of the words e.g. “red, yellow, blue, yellow, yellow.” The learner has to remember the sequence and strike the card or word with the hammer repeating the sequence. This works just as well for number words or nouns you want to practise reading.
Word Recognition Boules: Spread a set of word cards evenly around table. Give one person from each team a “ring”. A word is selected that the team members need to find, then learners gently try to throw the “ring” onto that word. The closest to the word wins the point.
Focusing on Spelling
Slow Reveal: Use word flashcards and reveal the word a letter at a time. Only use this for words you’ve been studying that lesson. To make it more difficult, start from the end of the word.
Shark Attack: A variation of hangman. Have a shark flashcard and move it closer to a swimming flashcard/picture. When the shark lands on the swimmer, he gets eaten. Have learners ask “Is there a b?” Lower levels can use the picture dictionary to help. If it’s a bit confusing the first time you set it up, you can try using the magnetic letters. Hand out the whole alphabet and encourage one person to ask “Is there a b?” or a letter they actually have. If there is you can put the magnetic letter in the right place in the word. If there isn’t you can put the letter next to the swimmer (or whatever your scoring system is). This means the learners don’t have to `guess` a letter, but use what’s in front of them until they understand the game better.
Missing Letters: Write some target vocabulary in a list on the board. Rub out one letter in each word. Show the picture, learners have to race to find the word and fill in the missing letter.
Spell Relay: The teacher says a word or shows a picture and the first two learners run to write the first letter on the whiteboard. They pass the pen to the next person in their team, who rushes to write the second letter. Continue until the word is completed. For lower levels, you could have the words you want to practise written at the top of the board, or place a relevant poster with the words on it under the board. Private classes can also play this game – instead of passing the pen to another person, they run and touch the door or table in between writing each letter.
Broken Telephone: Choose a short word and whisper the phonics one at a time and the last learner writes the letter on the board. If teams can guess the word before the end they can get a point if they can finish it correctly. Instead of whispering the sound they could write the different letters on the back of the person in front. Alternatively, spell the whole word in one go and the last learners have to write the word on the board.
Run, Choose and Write: Write the target words, e.g. some basic nouns, in a line at the top of the board. Write the target structure of the lesson, leaving a blank for the noun. E.g. It’s a _______. You’ll need to write it twice to do this a team game. Put corresponding flashcards for the nouns on different chairs against the wall. The teacher says the target sentence, e.g. It’s a pencil. Learners run to write the word – you can play it as a spell relay like a previous activity – the last learner has to sit on the chair with the correct flashcard and say the sentence.
Battleships: This is good for private or very small classes as it can be quite time-consuming. Once you’ve set it up once though, learners get the idea and it doesn’t take as long. You need an 8 by 8 grid with letters at the top and numbers down the side. Before the class write in four words in one grid and four different words in a second grid. Learners will need a grid with words – demonstrate that they need to keep it secret – and an empty grid. Read out a grid reference (e.g. 3D) and encourage learners to say “no” if it’s an empty square or “yes” if there’s a letter and then tell you what letter it is. It’s a good idea to draw a small grid on the board and demonstrate there first. You can teach “hit” or “miss” if you want. Once learners have understood, they take it in turns to ask about different grid references and fill in the answers on their empty grid, then answer their partner’s question. This game should encourage prediction of spelling as learners race to guess what word they’ve uncovered.
Stand in Line with Letters: Hand out the alphabet cards to learners. Say a word or show a flashcard and learners have to find the letters they need and stand in order to spell the word. If you have a big class, you could play this in teams or you could time a smaller class for each word to make it more challenging.
Spelling with Numbers: Get a learner to write the alphabet across the board and another to write numbers underneath.
a b c d e f g h …
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 …
The teacher says a word, e.g. cat and learners race to write 3 1 20
Anagrams: Anagrams are possible if you give learners choices. For example: cat dog hat look ogd
Make the Letter Shape: The teacher shows a letter or says it and learners have to form or make that letter. So for a t a learner can extend their arms. Learners could work in pairs or teams to make letters.
Focusing on Reading Sentences
Connect the Sentence: This is good for private classes, but could be played competitively with a group. Scatter words from target sentences around the board. You can do it with a question and answer. When you say the sentence, learners find the first word, join it to the second word and so on. Remember punctuation. You can also use this game for short answers. Scatter the words “yes, it is” and “no, it isn’t” several times around the board. Use the contracted from of “isn’t” instead of “is not”. Show a flashcard and ask a question. Learners race to connect the correct answer.
Round the Board Reading: Split a dialogue up into the individual words written randomly around the board. Drill the dialogue whilst pointing to the words on board. Pairs of learners recreate the dialogue bashing the words with a plastic hammer whilst rest of class call out words.
Stand In Line with Words: This is similar to the connect the sentence activity above, but this time the learners have cards and have to stand in line to make a correct sentence. If you’re teaching “He likes/she likes …” then prepare some cards with the words:
He chocolate . (remember the full stop!)
To make it more difficult, you could include I like or She doesn’t like.
Obviously the length of possible sentences depends on the size of your class. If you have a big class, you could play this in teams or you could time a smaller class for each sentence to make it more challenging.
Cut Up Sentences: Use sentences from the lesson. Learners try to put words in the correct order. To build co-operation in the class learners can arrange the words in teams. This also helps learners recognize regularities in English, such as the reversal of word order in questions and short answers.
Letter Dictation: The teacher dictates in sequence the letters of a sentence, question or phrase individually. Learners write the letters down in sequence and when finished have to race to decipher what the sentence is. e.g. “W”,”H”,”A”,”T”,”I”,”S”,”Y”,”O”,”U”,”R”,”N”,”A”,”M”,”E”.
Clearly teaching someone to read is a complicated and time-consuming process. However, when the effects of your teaching start to pay off and your learners start reading it is an extremely motivating experience for both teacher and learner. Week by week, do some activities that build up these skills and your patience will be rewarded.