Teaching Compound Nouns In The Classroom English Language Essay

1630 words (7 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Language Reference this


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This essay will discuss the way of teaching particular compound nouns in the classroom through the context of Libyan classes. The first part of the essay deals with the learners and the learning context in Libya. The second one is about the analysis and arguments of the lexical set of compound nouns according to their use, form and meaning. Part three describes the approach that has been used in the teaching procedure within the Libyan context. The last part of this essay shows some errors and feedback and suggested corrections and suggested methods for improvement in proficiency. The lesson plan and materials used to teach the classes have been attached as appendices outside the main body of the essay.

A brief profile of the learners and the learning context:

The students in the class are aged between 14 and 17 years and they study in a private school in Libya. Their English language proficiency level is intermediate. They study English as a second language for four classes in a week with each class being about 35 minutes in duration. The students’ native language is Arabic and the class is monolingual. The students started studying English at the age of around eight in primary school.

English is considered a second language in Libya; although it is a compulsory part of the educational curriculum. The English syllabus material in this level corresponds fairly closely to that of the degree in “New Headway” courses, but there is a wider choice of classes during the week. In addition, students are sometimes required to study other supplementary material in English in order to acquire optimum language skills.

Analysis of the language point for this essay:

The topic of this paper is about teaching concept and lexical uses of compound nouns. The word “compound” has several meanings in the English language. A compound is a combination of two words or more to form a new word with a different meaning: Compounds may be classified into three types; compound nouns such as “toothpaste”, compound verbs such as “spin-dry”, and compound adjectives which are usually hyphenated such as “long-haired”. Most compound nouns in English are formed by nouns modified by other nouns or adjectives. Sometimes the two words are joined together (e.g. tooth + paste = toothpaste), or they are joined using a hyphen (e.g. check-in), and sometimes they appear as two separate words (e.g. full moon). The language point that will be highlighted in this essay is the teaching of compound nouns.

Compound nouns consist of two or more words combined together to form a new word with a different meaning. Graver (1986) points out that compound noun can be created like phrasal verbs by adding an adverb + verb; for example, outcome, takeaway and inlet. He says that there are two different ways to compound these elements. One of these ways is to place the verb and the particle in reverse order to form a compound noun or verb. For example, take over changed to overtake (verb), and put out to output (noun). Generally, to compound two words or more is a productive process in terms of word-formation (Schmitt & McCarthy, 1997).

Compound nouns can be written as one word, e.g. policeman; as two words joined together by a hyphen, e.g. easy-chair or as two separate words, e.g. air space. Compound nouns are usually made up of two parts, the first part tells us about the object or person or what the purpose of the object is, simply put the first part answers the question what is the purpose or what type it is? The second part tells us what or who the object is. For instance, in the word policeman, the second part of the compound noun tells us what or who the object is, in this case its man and the first part then identifies what kind of a man this noun is, so we know that he is a police man. A list of examples and a related practice exercise is added in appendix 2 for the purpose of giving the students some practical experience of joining words to form compound nouns.

Explanation and description of the teaching approach in this context:

The needs and the level of the students have been taken into consideration, and the method is suitable to their abilities and communicative style. Harmer (2007) says that students should be exposed amply to the language in use, in order to improve their skills and knowledge so that they are able to interact efficiently in real situations. Advocates of Task-Based Learning (TBL) approach argue that learners must learn the target language to be able to express themselves and be understood. Engaging in real language situations is one of most effective ways of learning the target language.

To make the class interactive and allow for more student interaction the teacher encourages the students to interact in the most natural possible ways. How does one normally use language? We use language in a number of ways: to respond to questions, to explain or describe things, to ask questions, to tell stories, to talk about events and for many other purposes. So to reduce teacher-talk-time and allow more student interaction a task-based approach has been adopted here. A task-based lesson usually has a preparation and planning stage called the pre-task; then the task phase is followed by a post-task phase where the teacher facilitates discussions and the students can practice their skills.

Pre-task activity involves eliciting some examples of compound nouns to make the students understand what a compound noun is. Teachers can use teaching aids like hand-outs, texts, flash cards, audio-visual materials etc. so that students can familiarize themselves with the concepts learnt. The teacher can then elicit information from the students pertaining to the text or audio/visual clip provided. The elicited compound nouns are collated and written on the board. The learners are asked to recognize and specify them in the text and to use these compound nouns in suitable sentences of their own in the in-task activity. Students work in pairs to come up with some compound nouns related to the task, and then each student in the class is asked to suggest another different compound noun and try to pronounce it correctly.

In the post-task stage, students are asked to practice what they have been taught and to be more fluent. The students are engaged in activities where the whole class is expected to participate. The activity uses a set of compound nouns and utilizes these words in sentences in real life contexts. The teacher facilitates small group discussions, question-answer sessions, pop-quizzes, individual or pair work so that the students have ample opportunity to practice the newly learnt compound words in varied contexts. The teacher supervises the discussions and moves around the class and corrects mistakes wherever necessary.

Some expected errors and feedback from teacher with suggestions for improvement:

Non-native English speakers like the Arab students of this class may confuse or misuse lexical terms particularly complex ones like compound nouns. This confusion can occur especially for speakers of Arabic because of the influence of their mother tongue, which has a different grammatical structure from English. For example, truck driver is the right form of the English compound noun referring to a person who drives a truck. However, due to grammatical composition in Arabic the name of the doer (object) “driver” is placed before the name of the machine (purpose) “truck” which will make the word driver truck and will not convey the same meaning as truck driver. Another difference between English and Arabic is that Arabic does not have hyphenated words like break-out or passer-by and the students may be confused when they see or hear this pattern until they become familiar with it.

To overcome such situations, the teacher needs to spend a significant amount of time in designing activities like role-plays, story-telling and use audio-visual clips that will help minimize language barriers and reinforce the positive learning outcomes.

To be able to develop fluency and a moderately grasp of the language, learners must use every opportunity outside the class to practice their skills. The more they use the language in multiple contexts the more chances will they get of receiving feedback and have the opportunity to rectify their mistakes and learn to adapt themselves to the lexical and grammatical differences between their native tongue and the target language. Pica (1992 & 1994, cited in Ellis 2004) suggests that negotiation provides learners with feedback on their own use of the target language. When more competent interlocutors respond to less competent speakers they frequently reformulate their statements according to the proficiency of the listener.


The objective of teaching English as second language to non-native speakers is to be able to help students to reach a fair level of competency in the target language so that they are able to make sense of lexical and grammatical structures and concepts that may be different from their native tongue. Exposure to the target language is important as is the motivation to practice and master the language. The teacher can only provide guidance and facilitate learning. The level of adaptability and use of more complex lexical and grammatical structures will be determined by the amount of practice that is put in by the learner.

It has been the endeavor of this paper to suggest ways by which learners are motivated to achieve this level of competence.

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