Help! Ss give meanings in mother's tongue

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Miss Lupe
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Location: Lima, Peru

Help! Ss give meanings in mother's tongue

Post by Miss Lupe » Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:50 am

Hi everybody. I teach in multilevel classes (ages and English levels). But one thing I can't deal with is students who give the meaning using mother's tongue. They read the book quickly or previously, translate it and shout the meaning. It's discouraging when at the middle of a drawing or a synonim word, there's a "dictionary kid" shouting the meaning. Any suggestions about class management? Thanks a lot!

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Post by iain » Sun Nov 11, 2007 10:21 am

Hello, Miss Lupe,

Two points emerge from your message. If you are teaching multilevel classes you are having to do a very difficult job, but by setting the same 'whole-class' activities you are bound to end up with messy consequences. Quick students are not going to be happy to wait and wait and wait, time after time. The fact that some are keen enough to bother shouting out an answer is not a bad thing - silence or snores would be worse.
Couldn't the multilevel class be divided up somehow? Pairs or small groups of students at similar levels could be given graded activities or a 'strong' student could assist 'weaker' colleagues. Ideally you could operate both strategies within one lesson to give variety and challenge.

As for students using their mother-tongue: is it such a 'wrong' thing? In the circumstances you describe it's hard to imagine people not wanting to do it, especially, as I guess the case to be, they are at a fairly elementary level. Adults learning another language are bound to make references to and comparisions with their first language. This doesn't mean they will always need to translate word for word but this cross-referencing is a natural process; a good teacher will help them learn the limitations of direct translation but can't realistically ban it or try to convince them it is a 'bad' habit.

Sally Olsen
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Post by Sally Olsen » Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:19 pm

Nicely put iain. I too am of the "if they do it naturally there must be something in it" type of teaching. I often wondered myself in school or in learning a language about the teachers who said that this or that way of learning was wrong and would lead to bad habits. Since we all learn in such different ways, input of various kinds in really necessary. It seemed to me that the teachers who said to learn it in specific way were just looking for a bit of power in the situation, not for genuine learning.

I think I would just add that it might be helpful to help the class recognize that some people didn't know the word before the translation and reinforce it with "Yes, that is what it means. Now use it in a sentence." but still keep up with drawing, using body language and writing the word on the board for those that need those types of stimulation to learn.

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