Vocabulary is much more important than grammar. If you know the meaning of the words you can understand a text even without knowing the grammar. If you listen to a recording and you know the vocabulary, you will understand the meaning of the message.
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If you watch a video and understand the words, you can enjoy the film. However, if you know just the grammar you will not understand much. Therefore, we should devote a lot of classroom time to teaching vocabulary.
Unfortunately, most of us don´t spend much time teaching vocabulary. Many teachers of English assign vocabulary as homework and students have to learn the words at home. It is not an entirely bad method. My research shows that 50% of students actually learn the vocabulary on their own. The bad news is that the other half of students don´t do it. They do not learn the vocabulary and after a while they are completely lost. That´s why I think that we should teach vocabulary at school.
All the best experts on teaching vocabulary, like Paul Nation or Keith Folse, agree that the best way to teach foreign vocabulary is by using translation. It is the best way for our brain to remember the vocabulary. And in this post, I would like to share with you two methods I have been using to teach vocabulary in my classes. Both of the methods are very effective.
Teaching vocabulary – Remembering Tables
In the tables on the left, the words are given in both English (in bold letter) and in MT (in this case in Czech). On the right, the tables contain only the Czech words.
At the beginning, read the words in the first table and ask the students to repeat them. Then give the students 20 seconds to study and memorise the words. After this time, they should cover the table and write the words into the table on the right. When they have finished, they uncover the table and check their answers. You go on like this with the rest of the tables, giving the students 30, 40 and 45 seconds respectively.
It is a great classroom activity, but the preparation is a nightmare. To simplify it, I asked a friend to make a word macro which would do all the work for me. And here is the result:
Download the file. Then create a text file which contains 16 lines – use Notepad for this. On each line there is the word in English the plus sign and the word in the students’ mother tongue (e.g. work+pracovat). Save the file. Then open the downloaded macro. It asks you to Select Text File Containing Words. Click SELECT and choose the txt file you have created. And bingo, your tables are finished and you just print them.
Teaching vocabulary – vocabulary books
How did we achieve this? I prepared the following vocabulary books for them.
I printed this as a brochure and then I made small books out of it. I handed them out and I asked the students to complete the tables in their free time during my lessons. In the tables with the free lines, students should copy the English words twice and the Czech translation once.
In the other tables, students have to translate the words. If the word is in English, they translate it into their MT and if the word is in their MT they translate it into English (this is 3 times as frequent as the former translation).
The preparation took some time, but the results were fantastic. Try it out and you will see for yourself.
Paul Nation in his book What Should Every EFL Teacher Know suggests that every language course should consist of four strands: Vocabulary development, Extensive input and output, grammar explanation and fluency development. By giving these four strands equal amount of time in EFL lessons, students will learn the foreign language.
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In this post, I will concentrate on speed reading which belongs into the fluency development. If you cannot use the language with some degree of fluency, you cannot claim (and feel) that you know the foreign language. Moreover, fluent reading is essential for successful comprehension. And to achieve it, you need to train it.
In this post, you will find a short game for elementary students of English to measure their reading speed. In the future, I plan to publish several more speed reading texts for elementary students, and a mobile phone app.
encourages guessing from context and ignoring unknown words.” (Paul Nation)
To practise this skill, I prepared the following game. Click the button below and start reading as quickly as you can. When you finish, click the orange button “FINISH”, and answer the comprehension questions. Answer the questions as well as you can because your score will be reduced if you make a mistake.
Read the text just once!!! If you do it twice or several times, your results will go up and they will not show your real reading speed and comprehension.
Please, share your results in the comments below. You do not have to sign your results, just write the number of words per minute, you have achieved.
I hope you find this activity interesting and useful. Please, let us know.
I have just published a new book. It is called Grammar Up.
Grammar Up is a new, holistic approach to teaching and learning English grammar.
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When you take English in school, you learn one piece of grammar at a time. After a while, you become confused by all the rules, and you forget most of them.
Native speakers don’t know the rules for the present simple or present perfect tense. They use them.
With Grammar Up, you work in the same way. The grammar points are not explained — you have to use them. And when you use the grammar, you learn it.
How to use this book?
There are 17 short texts. First you have to read the text and answer the comprehension questions. You can either write your answers on a piece of paper or you can remember them. Check your answers on the next page.
This comprehension exercise is followed by the first Grammar Up exercise. You will see the same text you have read, but this time half of every second word is deleted. The text looks like this:
You wi_____ see t_____ same te_____ you ha_____ read, b_____ this ti_____ half o_____ every sec_____ word i_____ deleted.
Try to read the text and complete each word. It is ideal to read the text aloud this time. If you are not sure how to complete a word, turn back to the original text and find the correct answer.
This exercise is followed by the second Grammar Up text. This time you see a text in which all the verbs are in the infinitive form, all the prepositions are replaced by a dash (-), and all the articles are replaced by an asterisk (*). The text then looks like this:
You SEE * same text you READ, but this time half – every second word DELETE.
Your task is to read the text again and add all the missing words and forms. It might not be a bad idea to write out the text as well.
I hope you like this book and that your facility with grammar goes up!!!
Grammar up – example text
We live and teach in the communicative era. However, the textbooks offer very few speaking activities where students could practise the language they have learnt. That is why I decided to share several speaking activities with you.
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In this post there are two speaking activities to practise describing a house using the phrases THERE IS/ARE, a simple communicative strategy that helps the learners speak more and a nice set of activities to practise the present simple tense.
Describing a house
Students work on their own and draw between 10 and 15 things into their houses. Just remind them that they need to draw things they can name or describe.
Then students work in pairs. They mustn´t show their picture to their partner. They describe their house and the things they have drawn. Their partner listens and tries to draw the things into their empty house.
When they finish the students swap roles. In the end they compare their pictures.
The other activity is called Find the Difference. Print the following worksheet.
Students work in pairs. Each gets one half of the worksheet. One has the part A and the other part B. Students mustn´t show their picture to their partner. They describe the pictures and they try to find as many differences as they can.
In the end they show their picture to their partner and they see whether they managed to find all the differences.
SA + EI
However, it often happens that students ask and answer the questions, and they finish the conversation in a few seconds. To prevent this, I found the following communicative strategy: SA + EI.
It might sound scary, but it is really simple. If someone asks you a question, you give a short answer (SA) and some extra information (EI). And the student who asked the original question uses the extra information to ask another question.
A: Where do you live?
B: I live in Brno. It is a beautiful city.
A: What are the most beautiful places there?
B: I like Spilberk. It is a castle in the centre of the town.
Using this simple strategy, each conversation gets three times longer than before.
Here is a set of questions you could use for this activity:
a) Were you on the internet yesterday?
b) Did you watch TV yesterday?
c) What are you going to do this weekend?
d) Do you like school?
e) Did you learn English yesterday?
f) Who did you speak to yesterday?
Present simple tense – speaking
Print the following worksheet once and cut it. Place the 14 pieces around the classroom.
Print the following text and give it one copy to each student. Tell them to walk around the classroom and find who each paragraph is about. They write the number at the end of the paragraph.
The correct answers are 8,3,11,1,2.
Finish this part after about seven minutes. Tell the students to turn the paper. Give each student an uncut copy of the worksheet Daily Routine Speaking. Students now work on their own and they write a short paragraph about one of the series of pictures. Ask students to use at least two negative sentences, even though they are not necessary.
Students work in pairs. They read their description and their partner guesses who they are talking about. Students swap pairs at least three times.
In the last phase,students choose a series of pictures and just say what the person does every day and their partner must guess who they are talking about. In this part they speak without any preparation.
Mobile phones are bad! Students spend hours on mobile apps and they do not learn! What can we do about it?
I tried to do something about it. I prepared a responsive website for my students to learn on their mobiles and … they didn´t come.
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But then I created my first android app and everything changed. I became a school hero and students have been showing me their mobiles with my app on them.
And I wondered: Why do they suddenly learn on their mobiles?
The answer is simple. Data is expensive and when the students decide to use the internet, they do it to socialize. And let´s be honest, my static website is no competition for sites like Facebook or Instagram.
But as the app does not require the internet connection, it sits in their mobile phones and waits for the moment when the students disconnect. And then the students start to play the vocabulary game. Several factors play their role here. First, students can use their mobile phones, second, no one blames them that they do not learn, and third, they make their parents and teachers happy by playing a mobile app on their phone.
The application – explanation
It is quite simple. There appears a word on the screen in students´ MT and they have to type the word in English. If they answer incorrectly the correct answer is shown, and the word gets repeated after a while.
There are sixty levels and students get points and stars for their performance.
You can download the mobile app at Google Play. It is called “Top 450 slovicek v aj final“.
In my application they learn 450 most frequent words in English. You can see the screenshots here:
My first mobile app – Free app for you
I will do it for free.
The only thing I want is, that I may later use the text file in any way I want.
Speaking activities are essential in a communicative approach. Most people agree that students should communicate ever since they start learning English. However, it is really difficult to design genuine communicative tasks for low-level students of English. In this post, I would like to share two communicative tasks for beginners. In the first one, students practise the verb HAVE GOT and in the second one they go shopping for clothes. I hope you like them.
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Speaking activity – HAVE GOT
Second, each student needs to cut the following picture into the pictures.
Each student places four of the machines into their picture (one machine is in the garden, one is at home, one is in the picture and one is at school). They must not show their board to anyone.
Students work in pairs and they try to guess what their partner has placed in the places. They have to ask: “Have you got a computer?” If the answer is YES, they go on. “Have you got the computer in the garden?” If the answer is YES again, the thing is removed from the game. If the answer is NO, students swap roles. Students swap roles every time they answer NO.
The winner is the student who removes the four things from their partner’s plan first.
Students love the game.
You can download the worksheets here in pdf file.
Speaking activity – SHOPPING
Print the following worksheet. Students work in pairs and each of them has one half of the worksheet. They must not show their worksheet to their partner and their task is to find out how much they have to pay for the clothes with no price tags. They should use the dialogues in the boxes. Point out that they should use the blue dialogue for the clothes in the blue square and the yellow dialogue for the ones with the yellow background.
Speaking activity – your opinion
Which of these activities do you like better:
For ESL students and pupils in Great Britain, India, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries, it is crucial to learn the parts of speech in English. In fact, this knowledge is very useful for EFL learners too, as it helps them get more information from dictionaries and grammar books. And as this topic is not difficult, it is worth spending a few minutes on it.
[showmyads] In this post there is a wonderful song by Fluency MC, an infographic and several games which will help you master the parts of speech. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead!!!
Parts of Speech – song
Parts of Speech – infographic
If you want to download the full picture, click the button:
Parts of speech – games
Let’s start with a quiz which will help your students practise the parts of speech either at school or at home. The quiz consists of two parts. In the first part, students should match the words and the names of the parts of speech. In the second part, students have to write the name of the parts of the speech behind the words. The students will be rewarded with a game after each part of the quiz they pass. The quiz is in HTML5, so it will play on all desktops and mobile devices.
[showmyadsa] The second game is called Fling the Teacher. To win the game, you have to answer all the questions by choosing the correct answer. If you answer all the questions correctly you will fling your teacher. (But I am sure, that he/she will not mind as long as you know all the parts of speech 🙂 ). The game is in Flash and it will only play on desktop computers.
To practise the parts of speech you can play the following game. Its name is En Garde. Your task is to choose the correct answer and then stop the target as close to the centre as possible. Hopefully, you will be faster and more accurate then your opponent. The game is in Flash and will play only on desktops:
The last game is called Penalty Shootout. In this game you should choose the correct part of speechand then try to score a goal. Good luck.
As the game is in Flash, it will only play on desktop computers.
When students hear the phrase indirect questions, they get scared. But actually this is one of the easiest grammar points in English. The only thing you have to watch out for is that if a sentence starts with a certain phrase (Do you know or Could you tell me etc.) you have to use the word order for an affirmative sentence. To put it simply, after the aforementioned phrases do not make questions.
To help you master this grammar there is a mind map, a video and several games in this post.
Indirect questions – video
We recommend that you watch the video and stop the recording every time there is a task and answer the task before MASA does. It is a great fun and a superb way to learn English.
Indirect questions – mind map
Indirect questions – games
The second game is in Flash and it will play only on your desktop. It is the notorious On target game. If you choose the correct option you will be given a chance to shoot the bad ducks. Moreover, you can get a bonus if you shoot one of the bottles on the sides. Enjoy.
You can learn the words connected with the environment at http://youtu.be/PbBR1sNc6C4
There is a vocabulary video introducing the Town features at http://youtu.be/5Plh_LBjwks
At http://youtu.be/c0T5j-5MEg8 you can learn some vocabulary to speak about Plants in English.
For young learners we have some names of Animals at http://youtu.be/wb6Ctlvz0Ys
If you want to learn more vocabulary on Sports you can go to http://youtu.be/14_5rLiIAm0 and learn the names of Winter Olympics sports
At http://youtu.be/9IWZb61DG1M you can learn Clothes Vocabulary
Furniture vocabulary is presented at http://youtu.be/7VOpE1n74h0
One of the most difficult parts for learners of English to learn are personal qualities.
To help you with this, you can try the video at http://youtu.be/3KisHI5O6WY
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