Monday, June 10, 2013

Surrounding Learners with Words

It's been a pretty busy week and I haven't had a lot of time to forge onward in the book I'm reading (click "Graves" in my tag cloud for more on that), but I have been thinking about what I've read so far and re-reading parts of it.  In my last post, I reacted to the idea I found most intriguing, the notion of exposing learners to some spoken language that's above their level -- language that's not necessarily on the agenda but is appropriate to the context, not too far beyond their reach, and (perhaps) interesting.

Among other suggestions for "Providing Rich and Varied Language Experiences" are:

Read Across America Day (credit)
- Reading aloud from books that are interesting and enjoyable, helping with comprehension by  pausing to define words, asking questions and pointing to pictures.
It's easy to find pictures of adults reading stories to kids -- it's a no-brainer!  But what about reading aloud to other adults?  Hey, I love being read to (Selected Shorts, for example)! I'd like to read a book to one of my classes, perhaps in the last 15 minutes of every lesson.  I think it should be for pleasure, no worksheets or quizzes in sight.  Since we're an EL-Civics program, the topic should probably be related to American history or some civics theme ... I'm exploring historical fiction written for children.  If a story is well-written, it may hold the interest of adults.  (I may not get to try this out until winter -- when I do I will post about it!)
- Facilitating wide reading by the learners themselves, helping them to select texts that will support vocabulary growth and (presumably) are interesting.
In lieu of reading a whole book to the class, I could read part of a book and then let anyone who's interested take the book to finish on their own.  I suppose I should have enough copies to go around!
Reading outside on a sunny day. (credit)
Another person with the same idea. (credit)
Reading outdoors in Tunisia. (credit)
- Involving learners in discussion "in which real issues are considered", both casual conversation and discussion on academic topics.
Unplugged teaching. 'Nuff said!
- Promoting word-learning through writing by encouraging learners to write with a purpose and for an audience and helping them learn to choose words wisely.
Our annual SpeakOut project opens the door for this. Learners, alumni and teachers may submit writing done independently or in class and we publish a book, celebrating its release in the spring.  This does stimulate many learners to produce heartfelt work, work hard to polish it up, and practice reading it aloud (in case they're selected to read at the celebration).  I occasionally get a learner in class who has strong independent motivation to write and who is always seeking just the right words to get specific ideas across.  I'm wondering how I could encourage this kind of motivation on a day-to-day basis.  Wait!  What about the previous point regarding involving learners in real discussions?  Wouldn't that carry over to writing, too?  (*Forehead smack!*)

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