Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Words, Words, Words

Recently, several of the teachers in my group have come into the opportunity to participate in some  vocabulary-teaching research.  I'm very excited!  I hope my learners will benefit directly, but I also hope that my own skills will improve significantly during the course of the project (it stretches out over the next seven months).

Our program normally uses a thematic framework rather than a cut and dried curriculum. This gives teachers quite a bit of latitude when it comes to individual lesson plans.  Each month, we focus on a common topic so we can support each other, but we are free to decide independently how to go about exploring the topic with our learners.  I love this, because I can bring learners into the decision-making from lesson to lesson.  However, thanks to this project we have prepared a more formal three-month curriculum. We've chosen specific topics and texts.  Our project leader will provide particulars with regard to teaching vocabulary.  The rest -- how we interact with the content of the text -- will be defined by the teachers.

Our project leader has suggested that we read a recently-published book: Teaching Vocabulary to English Language Learners by Graves, August and Mancilla-Martinez.  I bought the text, skimmed though it, and began reading ... but at about the same time, an online book reading group formed over at ELL-U.  They were planning to read and discuss Vocabulary Myths by Keith Folse.  That seemed like an excellent opportunity to keep my focus (thanks to weekly deadlines) and to expand learning beyond the book through the discussion with fellow teachers, so I signed on.  I will follow with Graves when the discussion group ends in a month.

So, I'll probably be reflecting on vocabulary-teaching a lot over the next few months.   I don't intend to comment any more on the project itself, but rather on my own learning -- especially my questions about and reactions to the two recommended books.

It seems as if vocabulary-teaching is quite a hot topic these days.  Our local TESOL chapter recently offered a forum on the subject and I've been seeing other online opportunities as well.  Is it really the case, or am I just sensitized these days?  (Wink!)

PS: I provide links to Amazon only so that you can see what the book's cover looks like, read reviews and (sometimes) page through the table of contents and example text.  I'm not advertising on behalf of anyone.  Just to be clear!

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