COMPREHENSION AND PRODUCTION IN ADVANCED CLASSES
Several times in these chapters the point has been made that a word is most likely to be learned when the learner feels a personal need to know it. Sometimes a learner feels the need to learn certain words because those words hold essential keys to understanding something interesting or important. At other times the feeling of need induced by the desire to express something, to produce phrases and sentences that accomplish the learner’s own purposes.
The following example will show how the desire for comprehension can lead to vocabulary learning. Suppose someone reads a horoscope that states, “People who were born on July 3rd are generous and extravagant. They are usually very popular with members of the opposite sex; it is easy to love them. Although artistic and creative, they have certain faults. They are sometimes obstinate and often gullible.” If the reader of the horoscope was born on July 3rd, and unfamiliar words it contains (such as extravagant, obstinate, and gullible) will almost surely be looked up and learned.
At the Advanced level of instruction, the sense of need for a word is often induced by reading. Vocabulary is learned through reading something that students really want to understand, or something they know they must understand for some reason important to them. When most of the material is understood ─ when the proportion of unknown words is not discouragingly large ─ students generally learn those unfamiliar words.
Chapter 8 stressed the importance of showing students how to deal intelligently with the unfamiliar words found in their reading. In that chapter we emphasized the need to show students how their acquaintance with a word (enjoy, for example) can lead to the learning of new words (like enjoyment, enjoyable, and enjoyably) where endings such as –ment, –able and –ly signal different grammatical functions for members of a word family. Such endings, which are sometimes called derivational suffixes, deserve attention, especially in Advanced classes, for two reasons. One is that students’ comprehension of English can be greatly strengthened by recognizing familiar elements within words they have not seen before. The other is that their production of English sentences often depends on knowing correspondences between word forms and grammatical functions (or parts of speech). Without that knowledge, the learner tends to use the wrong member of a word family ─ to say, for example, “That was a very enjoy party.”
As we seen, new words which have been formed by adding suffixes to familiar vocabulary are introduced in simple sentences like the following:
1. He is kind (adj.) and good (adj.).
We appreciate his kindness (noun) and goodness (noun).
2. Schools educate (verb) children. They provide education (noun).
3. There is dirt (noun) on the floor. The floor is dirty (adj.).
4. He is careful (adj.). He works carefully (adverb).
It is wise to begin with just a few suffixes which are very commonly used and to combine them with words that the students already know. Once the students have formed the habit of looking for familiar elements within longer unfamiliar words, they will go on to discover other suffixes for themselves.
In addition to teaching suffixes, we show our Advanced students how their vocabulary can be expanded through acquaintance with certain commonly used prefixes. When the words happy, important, and pleasant have been learned, the class can quickly acquire unhappy, unimportant, and unpleasant. Having learned that the prefix un- means not, the students can learn that in-, il-, im-, ir- also represent not in words like incomplete, illegal, imperfect, and irregular.
As with suffixes, we do not attempt to teach all existing prefixes. We show how a few of the more common ones can be added to known words, and we put the examples into sentences like these:
Small- group Activities Related to Prefixes, Suffixes, and Word Families
Like Intermediate students, Advanced students benefit from opportunities to work in small groups on tasks involving cooperative effort. For each task there should be a leader, who holds answer card that has been prepared by the teacher. Here are some small-group activities that provide practice with prefixes, suffixes, and word families.
One of the listed words is needed for completing each sentence. The underlined prefix will tell you which word is needed.
across again poorly before below
Here are noun forms that correspond to the underlined adjectives in the following sentences. Fill each blank with the appropriate noun. Then copy each completed sentence.
death, depth, height, pride, strength, warmth, width, youth
The words in parentheses before each of the following sentences all belong to the same word family, but only one of those words belongs in the blank. Decide what kind of word belongs there: verb, noun, adjective, or adverb. Then take the right word from the parentheses and copy the completed sentence.
Their new helper is very___.
He has completed the work___.
Everyone admires goodness and___.
When do they___ the mail?
Her niece is very___.
The fire produced terrible___ everywhere.
How can we express our___?
Your reasons are not very___.
What is his___?
Sometimes ____ helps us.
In stressing activities that relate new words (and word forms) to words already learned, we draw attention to the need to expand Advanced students’ vocabulary ─ particularly by showing them how they will be able to discover word meanings for themselves when there is no longer a teacher to help them. Activities which are designed to develop independence among students do take time. Some readers may think, “It takes time to train students to use dictionaries. And how can we find time for group-study or discussions by members of the class? After all, there are so many words to be taught in the Advanced class. How could there be time for anything more?”
The fact is, however, that we cannot possibly teach all the words a student must know. Even in classes where most of the time is used for explanations of vocabulary, the teacher can never give students a command of all the words they will need. Each student must be responsible for much of his own learning. Consequently, the teacher’s chief task is to show students how to use the tools available to them. When students have been taught how to deal intelligently with words they need, they can continue to learn vocabulary for the rest of their lives.
LEARNING ADVANCED VOCABULARY FOR USE
Much vocabulary in the Advanced class is learned for comprehension of what is being read. However, there are also words to be learned for the students’ own use (or production) in speaking and writing.
Here are some class activities which require the use of English words for communication:
Paraphrases and Summaries
Students are asked to express ─ in simpler and briefer from ─ the main ideas of an article or an essay, orally or in writing. (To do so, students must learn words from the original article and also obtain other words for expressing the ideas in sentences of their own.)
The class is organized into small groups. All groups are assigned the same topic (some topic that makes use of the students’ own experience, like “Bicycle Safety,” or “How to Study for an Examination”). Working together, the members of each group compose a paragraph or two on the assigned topic. One member writes the composition as the others dictate it. Two or three of the compositions are then copied on the blackboard. They are chosen by the teacher, who has walked around observing the work and given help as requested.
Letters to Speakers of English
The very best way to learn vocabulary is to have a friend with whom it is necessary and interesting to use English. In many places where English is studied, there is no easy way to arrange for friendships between language students and speakers of English. However, it is often possible to arrange for an exchange of letters. Fortunately, there are responsible organizations which provide names and addresses of young persons interested in becoming pen pals. One such organization is World Pen Pals (1690 Como Avenue, c/o International Institute, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108). Individuals who use this service pay approximately $1.00; special rates are available for groups.
In some ESL classes, the students and the teacher together compose a letter to be sent to a class in an English-speaking country. Sometimes several of the students have their own pen pals, whose letters are shared with members of the ESL class.
When such an exchange of letters is possible, it has many uses. ESL students can obtain from their English-speaking correspondents’ everyday lives. (Appendix D lists questions that can be included for this purpose in letters to pen pals.)
Most of all, the exchange of letters has the value of encouraging ESL students to express their own thoughts and ideas by means of English. In attempting to do this, they will learn many useful English words.
A Wall Newspaper
Members of the class contribute articles and other items to a “newspaper” which is taped to the classroom wall. The newspaper should have a name (such as The Classroom Times) and an editor and several reporters. It should be “published” at frequent and regular intervals. In addition to news, various sections of the paper might include sports items, pictures, cartoons, social notes, advertisements, editorials, recipes, advice on teenage problems, letters to the editor, and other features commonly found in newspapers intended for speakers of English.
Situational and Functional Dialogs
Whether or not there are opportunities for using English with native speakers of the language, the class can be engaged in imagined or simulated experiences that require the use of English. Students should be asked to write and then to present to their classmates various kinds of dialogs.
Some should be related to situations: at the post office, in a restaurant, at the airport, in a bookstore, in a hotel, and so on. (In most classes, there are a few students who are particularly imaginative. Those students may find it interesting to act the part of tourists who speak English. Working with one or two classmates, they prepare dialogs that might take place in various situations; then the dialogs should be read aloud to the class.)
At other times, students may be asked to write dialogs in which the speakers use English for performing such functions as the following:
Teachers who are native speakers of English can show students how to express ideas more idiomatically. But the teacher who is not a native speaker should also encourage students to write situational and functional dialogs.
Whether or not English is the teacher’s native language, the students should be told that their dialogs will not be “corrected” in detail. The chief aims of the activity are
1. to encourage students to discover how much they can say in English, and
2. to show students what remains to be learned.
When students have confidence in their ability to use English, they find ways to continue learning beyond the Advanced course.
1. Write sentences (similar to those on page 95) which could help your students relate the new words: cruelty, generosity, poverty, and necessity, to the adjective forms they already know: cruel, generous, poor, and necessary.
2. Write an exercise like Task 2 on page 97. Use the same instructions, but list the following nouns in place of those listed in Task 2: breadth, comfort, curiosity, difference, difficulty, permanence, poison, sincerity. For each of those nouns, write a sentence like the ones in Task 2, where the underlined adjective gives a clue to the choice of the noun for filling the blank.
3. Suppose a student who has just joined your class seems to be confused about the uses of the words arrive, arrival; choose, choice; and advise, advice. Write illustrative sentences that could help that student understand how each of those words should be used.
4. We can encourage students to look for familiar words within unfamiliar longer ones by asking them to complete such sentences as these:
Add seven more sentences like these to show students how the prefix contributes to the meanings of the words unafraid, unattractive, incomplete, indefinite, impossible, illiterate, and irresponsible.
5. Mention three topics that could be used for group compositions. (Like the topics suggested on page 99, your topics should make use of the students’ own experience.)
6. Write a short letter which your students could use as a model for letters to pen pals. In the letter, include five questions from Appendix D, “Questions for Conversations and Correspondence with Native Speakers.”
7. If your students are interested in horoscopes, plan a lesson in which horoscopes (in English) are read as a means of making a few unfamiliar words seem interesting and important to the individual reader