Grammar teaching in schools is usually approached from a rule learning perspective and this leads to lessons that are boring. In the past, the teaching method that was adopted was mainly teacher-centered and this lead to the “drill and kill” type lessons, especially when it came to language and grammar. There is a common misconception that all learning should be serious in nature and that if one is having fun while learning, it is actually not learning (Lee, 1995). In fact, “many experienced textbook and methodology manuals writers have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value” (Uberman, 1998). Most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms (Lee, 1986). There are many advantages of using different techniques such as games, pictures, group work etc. in the classroom. These techniques can lower anxiety which makes the acquisition of input more likely and in a relaxed learning atmosphere learners remember things faster and better (Uberman, 1998). They are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings (Uberman, 1998). Different techniques are an excellent way to break the usual routine of the classroom (Lee, 1995).
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In this essay different techniques to teaching language structure and/or vocabulary will be explored. To illustrate how these different techniques can be used examples will be given. The language structure which will be focused on in this essay is homophones. Homophones are words which sound the same but are spelt differently and have different meanings (homo = same, phone = sound). Due to this it is a language structure that many learners misuse and misunderstand. Homophones can be taught in a number of fun and exciting ways. This essay will explain how to teach homophones to a grade three class over four 45 minute lessons. Each lesson will act as a follow up of the previous lesson.
This will be the introductory lesson to homophones. The purpose of this lesson is to introduce homophones to the learners in a fun way that will keep the learners interested. This lesson involves group work. Group work is good technique as it involves the learners themselves and all learners participate, giving everyone an equal opportunity to aid in their and their peers learning experience. In this lesson the teacher acts as a facilitator which means that learners are not merely given the answers but need to find them for themselves.
The teacher will introduce the lesson by handing out a flash card to each learner in the class. These will be handed out upside down so learners cannot see what word they have received. Once all the learners have a card the teacher will ask learners to look at their word. The teacher will then ask learners to find the person in the class that has the same sounding word but that word means something else (i.e. homophone). This activity will be noisy but the teacher must keep it as controlled as possible. Once the learners have found their homophone partner learners must sit on the mat with their partner. The teacher will check that learners are partnered right and if not they must keep looking. A time limit of five minutes should be kept in order to keep control. Once all learners have found their partners and are settled on the mat the teacher will call one pair up at a time. The learners will show their words to the class and say them out load so they can hear they sound the same. The learners will then be asked to give the meaning of their word so they can see that even though the two words sound the same they have different meanings. This activity can be done with bigger classes by adding pictures to the word pairs. This will mean that four learners will need to find each other. For example: the word son/sun and a picture of a young boy with a parent and the sun in the sky.
To conclude this lesson the teacher will explain that in each group/pair the words that they have matched up are called homophones and this will be explained to the learners.
This lesson will make use of pictures as a technique. “Pictures are versatile and useful resources for teaching aspects of grammar that require a structure-meaning match” (Celce-Murcia & Hilles, 1988). Pictures add fun and enjoyment and make the understanding more solid as learners can see the actual object being discussed.
To introduce the lesson the teacher will recap what a homophone is. The teacher will show a blown up picture to the class. This can be a picture of the beach, for example, where a lot of activity is taking place. Some examples of this could be a picture of a bear on a beach ball and a bare child. The homophones in the picture will not be obvious to the learners which will pique their interest and make them think. The teacher will then ask the learners to draw up a table listing the different homophones they can find. A time limit can be placed in order to create a little competition for the stronger learners. Once learners have completed this, the teacher can go through some of the answers the learners came up with. After the answers have been discussed, a worksheet will be handed to each learner which they will need to complete. See appendix 1.
This lesson will make use of stories as a technique. “Stories are traditional in almost all cultures … [which] provides a realistic context for presenting grammar points and holds and focuses students’ attention in a way no other techniques can” (Celce-Murcia & Hilles, 1988). Learners are inclined to listen to stories more inventively and therefore remember the story and knowledge learnt long after the lesson has ended (Celce-Murcia & Hilles, 1988).
The teacher begins the lesson by reading the story from appendix two to the learners. The teacher will then handout the worksheet to the learners (appendix 3). The teacher will then read the story with the learners again while the learners follow. The learners will then be given a few minutes to read the story again by themselves. Once the learners have read the story they must follow the instructions on the worksheet. The second part of the worksheet requires learners to continue the story some of the homophones provided. Learners “are marvelous storytellers” (Celce-Murcia & Hilles, 1988) and this creativity should be encouraged. As a homework activity, appendix 4 will be used. This will consolidate what was done in the lesson.
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Due to the fact that this is the last lesson on homophones for the week it will be more of a relaxed lesson as games as a technique will be used. Games “enable learners to acquire new experiences … which are not always possible during a typical lesson” (Uberman, 1998). It has been said that games are “a good way of practising language, for they provide a model of what learners will use the language for in real life in the future” (Uberman, 1998).
The game that will be played is called “Homophone Hop”. This game has been taken from Primary Resources (2010). This is how the game works:
In pairs or small groups learners work their way around a board using a dice and counters. When they land on the star squares they have to pick up a homophone card. One of the other children will read out the card which will say, for example, “Which spelling is required for ‘their’ in this sentence? ‘The children rushed to get their coats?’ Move an extra 5 spaces if you got it right”. The child must identify the correct homophone by spelling it aloud to their partner. If they get it correct, they will move 5 spaces. If they do not, they stay where they are. The object of the game is to reach the finish line first.
This game is a great way to consolidate all the homophone knowledge that was learnt during the week. It gives learners a chance to have use the knowledge that they have dealt with and can use it in real life terms.
As seen from the above activities there are many different ways to teach homophones. This therefore means that other language structures and/or grammar can also be taught using these different techniques. By using these techniques, lessons will not be boring and learners will be more interested in learning new things. Language is very complex and often not an easy concept to get across. If teachers plan ahead and take the time to think of new ways to teach language, they will find there are many reasons to why language teaching does not have to be from a rule learning perspective, but rather from a interesting, and appealing perspective.
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