ESL Journal is moving with the trends of the times (unless they change again tomorrow morning, sigh). New professional articles will now appear in summary form in the Web Log, and the full contents will be available as downloadable PDFs linked from the summaries. This creates a more maintainable structure and reduces the preparation time needed for publication, so we can evaluate more articles. Hooray!
The communicative activity being introduced here has been designed for Japanese L2 intermediate level learners in mind. The emphasis is on the most frequently encountered grammatical problems that students face. The activity centers on a specific grammar point, which is clearly explained using examples and is included in the Teacher’s notes. The idea proposed is not new, but it is unique and will present grammar in a fun and interesting way. As stated by Ma Carmen Perez-Llantada (2007), if the goal of an instructor is to get students to use grammatical structures in a meaningful and constructive way, then we as teachers need to provide students with sufficient opportunities to use the grammatical structures in intriguing, thought provoking activities.
One of the most common mistakes teachers encounter with beginner level university students is with their inability to use the simple past tense correctly. This lesson addresses that issue and it also gets students to use WH-question words correctly. It is called Yumeijin (Famous person). It is best to provide and use information gap activities whenever possible because it brings students together to accomplish a specific task. In this activity, students are presented with information about the lives of two famous Japanese celebrities and in pairs they will work together to determine the missing information. The missing information will elicit responses using the simple past tense and the use of WH-question words. A more detailed description of this activity is listed in the Teacher’s Notes.
The grammar activity is flexible and can be used in classes of all sizes. In the Teacher’s Notes, there is an indication of how much time should be spent on this activity. However, it should be up to the teacher to determine how thoroughly they want to exploit it. The exercise can be used as a warm-up in the beginning of a lesson or at the end as revision. It can also be used as the main focus of a lesson if the instructor so desires. Enclosed in the Teacher’s Notes is a detailed description of what needs to be prepared before the class begins. There are suggestions on how to introduce the activity and encouragement to teachers on how to revise the grammar activities and manipulate them in a way they see fit.
With this exercise, collaborative learning is encouraged. There is a real advantage of working in pairs or groups because interaction among students gives everyone a chance to speak in a non-threatening environment. When working in pairs or groups, students can learn from each other in a natural way and are allowed to be free from the constraints of the classroom. In essence, peer interaction in activities that optimize opportunities for L2 practice, meaning, negotiation, and feedback exchange, are conducive to L2 learning.
To properly utilize this activity, the role of the instructor is to facilitate communication by spending time with each group in the class. If things are going well, students should be encouraged to move on. If things are not going well, the instructor should offer assistance and encouragement. It is wise to keep notes of the common mistakes that occur over and over again so that they can be addressed.
The activity offers an optimal environment for teaching grammar implicitly, but in order to make a lesson complete it is necessary to have feedback sessions and follow-up tasks conducted at the end of each class. It is also necessary to have some sort of evaluation process done in order to ascertain whether the students actually understand the grammar being presented. How to successfully implement corrective feedback sessions, follow-ups, and rubric for evaluating learner awareness is a topic for further discussion.
The purpose of this learner awareness activity is to introduce a grammar focus in a fun and interesting way for L2 learners. The topic is global and of interest particularly to Japanese college level students and it is organized in such a way that allows the students to feel as if they are not actually participating in a grammar activity. According to McLaughlin, Rossman and McLeod (1983), repeated practice with exercises that emphasize practical use of grammatical structures, can lead to the development of automatic routines that formulate into an innate (like?) understanding of the grammatical rules. With a heavy emphasis on interaction and implicit instruction laid out in this activity, this goal can be achieved.
McLaughlin, B., Rossman, T., & McLeod, B. (1983). Second Language Learning: An information–processing perspective. Language Learning. 33.
Ma Carmen Perez-Llantada. (2007). New Trends In Grammar Teaching: Issues and applications. Atlantis. 158.
About the Author
Originally from San Diego, Gregg Romano moved to Tokyo Japan in 1998 and lived there until 2005. He taught English at various universities throughout the Tokyo Metropolitan area during that time. Since 2005, he has been residing in Honolulu Hawaii and has been teaching ESOL courses at Kapiolani Community College. He is continually searching for new ways to increase learner performance through implicit target language instruction via the utilization of current global topics and issues. The sharing of ideas and discussions about topics related to ESL is a passion of his.
This paper discusses the results of a study which investigated the lexical difficulties faced by Korean children with regard to their writing in English. The study involved 10 children aged 12 – 13 who attended an English summer camp at a university in Seoul, in which they studied both English speaking and writing skills. In terms of writing output, the students produced a total of seven written assignments, both personal and academic in nature. Thus, 70 pieces of writing, ranging in length from a page to a page and a half, were analyzed as part of this study. In terms of the lexical problems faced by the students, I used a categorization system to help create a more systematic focus (--and word choices are categorized by clarity of meaning -Ed.).
Category one involves a word choice(s) which involves a rather unnatural style; using words which did not communicate as naturally as others might, though displaying semantic clarity nonetheless. This can be seen in using expressions such as ‘the living area’ when referring to animals’ place of residence, when ‘habitat’ would clearly be a more natural, hence better, choice.
(By Prof. V. Prakash) We cannot imagine a world without communication. At the same time, from time immemorial, communication has been the cause of worry to the civilized world. There can be no prescriptions if one decides to put across the subject matter in a clumsy manner; rather many suggestions come to the fore when a cultured way of speaking is the intended method of delivery. Innumerable strategies have surfaced depending on the needs of the changing world. The workplace atmosphere paves room for learning and handling newer ways of interaction to keep the game going.
V. Prakash argues that ESL should address the real needs of students, who primarily need English as a career skill. He points out that ESL curricula and syllabi should not but often do reflect instead the more academic aspirations of administrators and school governance entities. He argues that syllabi should emerge from the felt needs of students and the need to perform productively in the world of work.
In her new article Less can be More, Gillian James of the University of Salford leads us toward contemporary speech and writing in frequently encountered media as a spur to encourage creative use of speech exercises promoting practical outcomes in everyday use of the new language. Clear examples are presented; any teacher should be able to expand on the theme in the context of their students' actual skills and needs.
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You think English is easy? Try to explain these to a first-grader or your ESL class. Each sentence contains one word spelled the same with different pronunciation and meaning. Rules? What rules?
In a newly added article, Salma Ainy of Bangladesh Open University explores how in 'literature' has come to include advertising copy, graffiti and public notices which use literary devices like parallelism, rhyme, rhythm and metaphor. require careful interpretation and may be more relevant than the usual canonical texts which sometimes use esoteric or regionally biased language. As "literature" increasingly encompasses popular fiction, advertising and film, students need from teachers those capabilities that help them make sense of their worlds, determine their own interests, and see through the manipulations of all sorts of texts in all sorts of media, and to express their own views in some appropriate manner.
Prof. A. Majid Hayati of Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Iran, provides perspective on pronunciation issues facing Iranian students in achieving pronunciation suitable for the workplace or for very public arenas. This article includes an extensive bibilography.
Salma Ainy of Bangladesh Open University assesses the potential of poetry in building speaking skill in a new commentary and literature review. The included bibliography is a resource you may wish to develop in your own courses.
In a new article, V. Prakash of India points out that rural and urban students often take a very different view of the relative importance of second-language study. Paraphrasing, the inward looking rural students see the requirement; the urban students' outward world view lets them see the opportunity. Prakash argues that the teacher can build a curriculum that serves both perspectives and offers some structural factors. -Ed.
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Ideas, tests, hypotheses, research results, and new technology are all valid topics. Unsure? Write to the editors.
The rising worldwide popularity of MP3 sound files and the iPod makes it possible for sound files to be easily added to articles in an ESL Journal site. (Example)
A teacher can use MP3 files - which can be downloaded to a simple device called an "iPod Shuffle" - in two basic ways. UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article many additional small MP3 players have become available. Playback is not limited to a particular device. Most mobile phones are now (2013) capable of handling podcasts. It may be necessary to interpose another device such as a desktop computer as the interface between the source and the player. The most commonly used is iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes).
First, the sound file can be recorded and stored on the web server as source material. The students then download the file to their own iPod Shuffle, listen to the message, and write articles about the message in their journals.
Second, a brief article in the teacher's journal can be read aloud by the student in the laboratory, captured to a sound file, and uploaded to a web server. A link to the file is then submitted to the teacher, who evaluates the student's verbal skills. Many variations are possible.
ESL Journal uses the latest communication technology for learning by doing. Students who participate in the ESL Journal project will incorporate classroom grammar and writing lessons and computer lab skills to publish a completed work on the Internet. Teachers can monitor and observe progress at any stage, and fellow students can act as "critics" to help each other advance.
Along the way, students will make use of the Internet and basic computer skills, including using the mouse, scanning photos, finding information on the Web, sending and receiving email and learning software applications such as "Fastype" keyboard training software, a word processor (where available) and the CIP Sitemaker™ online publishing system, a web-based publishing tool that requires little or no technical skill.
Once the entry is published in a program's ESL Journal, student articles can be read by people throughout the world over the Internet.
Your school's ESL program can have its own ESL journal. See the How To information elsewhere on the site.