A Teacher: The fine art of listening

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I would like to reflect on the attitude of teachers as listeners with regard to the classroom. It has made me think more about the person (teacher) I am. When I think about how I am in the class it makes me reflect on the attitude I should have towards students who are trying to speak in class, thus the crux of this is, am I a good listener and reciprocator?

I think that when people speak ideas begin to grow. These ideas growing within us is thinking of the students in the class with something to say and the teacher letting them speak but encouraging those students to expand on their answers. Thus, the teacher is the listener to the students expanding their ideas and their second language. The proposition is, how do we listen to others? I think people listen, the fact is sometimes this may not be attentive. Referring to a classroom setting, I think there could be a moment where the teacher doesn’t listen to the students as attentively as one should. This doesn’t mean the teacher is being rude; he or she might have their mind on completing the lesson or the fact that the student has answered the question, so the teacher can move on. I think here is where you should take a step back to think about your attitude.  I think that when you have these moments in the class where the students have a chance to speak you can expand on those junctures because you are a courteous listener who provokes the students to speak more.

It could be said that there are lecturers (teachers) out there that love the sound of their voice and do stifle people’s attitudes that stop them talking. They may be brilliant performers, but by not giving the students a chance to talk, they do not let all involved express their thoughts and expand. I think that as a teacher one could get confused that they are doing a great job teaching, but why are the students not talking? As such the teacher never realizes that it could be them (the teachers) that are the problem. I think that this creative spark from the students has got to be given time, and some teachers may not give time to let this creativity start working. Students can be given too much work that they are not sure where to start. I think with clear and modeled instruction which specific objectives the students know what to do, they then have focus, thus they know what to speak about to which the teacher can listen with captivated attention.

The formulation of ideas has to be a task that most students find difficult to complete especially with their limited knowledge of second language vocabulary as well as those that do have a wider knowledge, for them fluently remembering all this vocabulary is still a problem. For myself, I have had times when I know the word in a foreign language, but I just forget it only to find out later that, of course, I knew it. This goes along with sentences as well. I make this point because a student talking, although their language may limited at first, when they begin to think, speak and use their English language they can show their true self. For example, I had a situation in my class where a woman student was translating everything that I said. It was, I thought, stopping the students in the class from actually understanding me. Anyway, one break-time another female student wanted to tell me she was leaving after break for some reason. As the student who wanted to leave was trying to tell me her problem this “translator” woman came over, translated and tried to tell me the student’s problem. As diplomatic as I could, I explained to her that this was not her problem, and I wanted this student to tell me herself. Being a forceful woman as she was she didn’t really listen, so as she was hearing the student having problems she again tried to help. Again, I said I wanted to hear the student. Well, the student took about five minutes to tell me her problem and after trying real hard and me being an active listener, she got her point over. I think by me listening and understanding that she wasn’t proficient in English, and that I would have to take my time to let this student build up confidence to tell me made for a more relaxed situation. Thus, she was able to speak English, and her vocabulary was enough for me to understand. I felt good because some students are not listened to because at that first moment they don’t have the vocabulary or are a little nervous, but they can actually formulate what they want to say given time.

Finally, it just makes me think what relationship you have with each student. Hopefully, by writing this, it does make me think that we should be more attentive that leads to expansive language from the students.

(847 Words)

Vocabulary building in young learners

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1. In the young child, a single word may constitute a considerable degree of meaning. T/F

This is true. The ability to use words is partly tied to the young child’s ongoing cognitive development, so the use words will have a degree of meaning. Thus, for a child, a word stands for a concept, but that concept is open to interpretation in that they select a category of relatively similar objects and apply the lexical item throughout. A child can learn the word dog or as a young child puts it ‘doggy’. This refers to a four-legged animal. This word can exist for any type of dog either big or small or type of breed. For example, a dog may refer to beagles and scotties, but not to poodles. This aspect of children’s thought associates a word with an object, but they may then in future use that word to describe a number of other similar objects in their environment. The child can also use the word ‘doggy to mean ‘there is a dog’ Notwithstanding, it can mean ‘come here’ said with a rising tone. Young children tend to utilize rising intonation to signal yes-no questions.

2. Words categories and concepts normally exist in isolation from each other. T/F

This is false. Words do not live in isolation, individual words can be categorised in many ways that remove the word from the original meaning or at least a child’s only idea of the meaning. The word ‘game’ can be attached to words such as card (game), ball (game), Olympic (games) and also football (game). As such the Olympic Games conjure up thoughts of many competitors from around the world competing together, although a ball game can involve one person banging a ball against a wall. This looks at two ends of the game spectrum. Winning the Olympic Games has men and women getting gold medals; the ball game respectively has no winner or loser. Furthermore the game of poker has skills of a different kind compared to kicking a football around the football pitch as well as less physical energy.

3. Vocabulary development comprises of at least three stages. T/F

This is true. Word learning is the product of a set of cognitive and linguistic stages that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful and early emerging. Firstly the child must make sense of new vocabulary. When words are first met by young learners, there are concepts which are given labels in English may be new to the child, or only partially developed. The teacher or parent may not be merely teaching vocabulary, but teaching concepts. The labels and concepts need to be incorporated into schemas that already exist. The child has to learn this new vocabulary. Learning and retaining new vocabulary is made easier by grouping words together into families. While learning all this new vocabulary the child has to retain and recall this vocabulary for the various situation they will find themselves in. The single most effective way of helping students build vocabulary is by increasing the amount that they read. The child revisits the groups of words; adding to them and reorganising them provide ways of giving learners both the repetition and the development that is needed as they grow into English through the primary years and stages.

4. All languages have the same relationship between time and tense. T/F

This is false. Various countries of different lexis in different parts of the world that have relatively little contact with each other, will have experienced a different environment. Each country will invent words for the things in its environment that matter to it, and naturally, they find words for different things in their country. England has four seasons, other countries have three. Some countries are dark for many months. Learners from different countries don’t have some words in their vocabulary because they have never encountered such aspects of life.  Basically, the learners have to develop categories and concepts for the new words they encounter. For this situation, when children encounter new words teachers need to provide the support for understanding. New vocabulary needs to be presented in a context that helps the child understand the meanings and associations that help explain time and tense.

5. Where possible we should draw upon as many of the senses as possible when teaching vocabulary. T/F

This is true. Children learn words by seeing, feeling, tasting, listening, enjoying and experiencing. These various means at a teacher disposal bring the reality of words to the fore. For example, a child can know the word ‘apple’ but this does not show the learner every aspect of the object. They can learn that it is a fruit and other fruits are in the same family. They can see pictures of apples so they see the shapes and colours. They can eat an apple then they know the taste and feel. Is it soft? Is it hard? They can be shown that the apple starts going rotten after a while, but it is also good for your health before going rotten. An apple pie can be cooked for the child to show how apples can be used. Granny Smith apples come from England. Other apples come from other countries. They can go to a field trip and see apples growing. The child realizes they grow in trees. They can go shopping at a supermarket and buy apples. They can be shown they are bought in weight.

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