Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Lexical Approach - Chapter 8 - Lexis in the Language Classroom

So, going through the chapters of this book, which I think I'm now sick of, the reader is familiar with the concepts of language as a social institution that we participate within where language form can be better understood as being, essentially, idiomatic in character, rather than being chosen because language submits to some axiomatic and generative structures and rules. (a la Chomsky with his idea of natural competence and our innate ability to have an inherent competence over language).

So, of course, there is grammar, grammatical patterns and structures, but presenting and devoting time to these concepts doesn't aid acquisition.  Much better is for students to be able to observe the common patterns of words that are presented to them, for them use them as unanalysed wholes, and for them to then look at the form when they are familiar with using them and their structure.

So if we want to have lexis central to the TL of a class, where to begin?
First of all, here are a couple of "obviously......"

* if you're going to teach new words, teach them in context. This doesn't necessarily mean "a sentence" but pick examples that have pragmatic meaning.

*encourage students attempts, even in pidgin form (at beginner and elementary levels). Vocab and Grammar are not mutually exclusive spheres, but exist on a continuum. Don't teach them separately!

* Many common words "can, went, looked, used.." "she told me"  can be used without a grammatical analysis.

*Encourage extensive reading outside the class. The majority of students can be terrible at doing this without some specific advice or guidance. There are quite a few resources for learners. In exam classes the teacher's book often advices teacher to give various authentic texts. Try introducing these texts in an organized way: using authentic texts in all your classes in the first week of every month or something like this.

So, apart from going through texts, listenings, discussing and exploiting content, doing some sort of task or activity after learner consultation, what else?

Well, we need to decide how we want students to record new lexis and do it in such a way that makes it into students' long term memory. Students have notebooks, but, mine included, they mostly organized haphazardly, or not organized at all with great lists of random words collected together. As a Mr. Stevick stated "if you want to forget something, put it in a list".

Secondly, not all lexical units are the same, they range in informational content and therefore should be taught differently. ( I'm quite unclear on this)

How do we get students to record lexis so that it can be memorable and can be used in the real world????

*Well, first of all, alphabetizing your notebook helps as the most basic system of categorization.
*writing out example sentences.
* Currently we teach "vocab" in semantic fields. However, what is unwittingly common is to make these fields overly noun dominated. E.g. if were we to discuss "kitchen", adjectives, verbs, phrases are often ignored, to our detriment.
* Teaching collocations. Take a word, and then get students to write common verbs and adjectives that go with it. E.g. Book. I may write read a funny book, finish a depressing book, started a difficult to read book. Get students to insert as many collocations as possible.
*teach with a grammar pattern : book " I _______a book about______by_____"
*pattern displays "lets...................." and students finish off the sentence.
*drill your students in the phrases that they've noted.

Lexical Exercises
* Take 3 words - miss, bus, last - students have to predict the phrase. You write more words on the board each time and students have to predict the phrase before you've completed the phrase.
*write a 100 word story without using the same word twice.

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