Entries Tagged as 'Learning Styles'

5 Activities to Learn New Nouns

There are several ways to learn new vocabulary, but today I’ll discuss 5 ways to learn more nouns.

  1. Group nouns into categories:  list nouns at the beach, nouns at the department store, or nouns in the car. Compete with your friends or classmates to list as many nouns in each category.  Challenge yourselves by making spelling count for higher points.
  2. If you know some basic nouns, start challenging yourself to learn new words that surround the basic word.  You know the word computer, so you probably also know keyboard, monitor, mouse, and mouse pad.  What about control panel, pixel, resolution, scroll button, tab, memory, hard drive, port, keystroke, or character?  Really look closely at things and see if you can name everything about them.
  3. Play a guessing game where you try to describe a noun without using the name of the noun itself.  For example, if you’re thinking of the word “table”, describe it’s characteristics.  It has legs, a top, and matching chairs.  If you’re trying to describe  a coat, you can say it has long sleeves, buttons or a zipper, pockets, and a lining.
  4. You can get a lot of exposure to nouns by examining your food, going grocery shopping, or preparing  a meal.  Read labels on your food to learn about vitamins, calories, ingredients, and preparation ideas.  When you need someone to pass you the ladle, the spatula, or a serving spoon, you need to know the name of it to get the right one!
  5. Find a hobby.  You don’t actually have to do the hobby to learn nouns from it.  Pretend like you’re going to become a fly fisher, scrapbooker or a chocolatier.  Do research.  Find out what supplies you will need.  You might come across some words that apply to a world that extends beyond the scope of the hobby.


African Safari Animals Coloring Pages

Here’s a link to a website with PDFs of animals you can learn about, print out, and color by Jan Brett.

A Thought on Accents

When people say they want to work on their accent, they usually say that people can’t understand them.  A lot of times, what happens is that the characteristics of your native language might seep into your new language so much that it can be difficult for someone who is unfamiliar with those language patterns to understand your spoken words.

If fact, in Spain, the guy at the cafe refused to serve me coffee unless I said the word the way they said it.  (Not cor-TA-doh, it’s cor-TAO).  I think it was because even though I knew the word, my American English characteristics were so strong that what he heard wasn’t me ordering coffee in Spanish- it was a combination of nonsense American-sounding syllables.  If I were to go to England, or watch British soap operas on TV, I might encounter a similar situation.  Even though I speak English, the characteristics of the English I would hear in England would take some getting used to.  For English learners, compound that with new vocabulary and regional colloquialisms, and you have a perfect storm.

Accents can be created by maneuvering your tongue, lip, and jaw.  Accents, however, aren’t just how our mouths are positioned.  They represent, to a large degree, our familial and regional heritage.  People take pride in their accents because they represent where they’re from and who their parents are.  Culture is very important, and should not be overlooked in the discussion of accents.  Some places might be perceived as better than others, which is why some accents might be perceived as superior to others.  There are no superior accents; only perceptions of superior accents exist.

Rather than learning an accent for its perceived superiority, start with these questions:

When you want to speak English well enough to be understood, where will you be?  What are the sound characteristics of the consonants and vowels of that region?  These characteristics vary from place to place.  What about these sounds are difficult for you to say (based on your native language).  If you work on your mouth position for these sounds, will people understand you?

Ultimately, your goal is to communicate to get your needs met.  My tips for starting on accent improvement are in the beginning stages, (1) refrain from using too many regional expressions and (2) keep your word choice and sentence structure simple.


Child’s Play and Spatial Vocabulary Development

This Science Daily article refers to research about how playing with blocks increases spatial development.  Interaction during this play time also increases spatial vocabulary.

The researchers found that when playing with blocks under interactive conditions, children hear the kind of language that helps them think about space, such as “over,” “around” and “through.”

So, is there an age limit to playing with children’s toys in the classroom to learn these prepositions?  Some classes are academic leaning and don’t allow for much play.  However, other groups might be willing to play around, especially if it helps them master prepositions reflecting spatial concepts that are often difficult to explain with words and pictures only.

Listening passively to Mozart

doesn’t make you smarter.  There are, however, things you can do actively to stimulate cognitive development. According to this article, joining a drama class or other social activity, or learning  a musical instrument has more effect on development than simply listening to Mozart.

And as far as I know, listening to Mozart while doing those other things never hurt anyone.

13 Personal Projects Ideas for English Language Students

Personal projects are on the minds of so many students:  they are great for learning new skills, building up a college application, and beating summer boredom.  If you are studying English, here is a list of ideas that will promote your academic and cognitive growth and enhance your English skills simultaneously!

  1. Develop a scrapbook.  A page of programs, movie tickets, notes from friends, and logos that you like…that’s just the beginning of scrapbooking.  If you want the English practice, annotate your entries!
  2. Create a photo journal.  Make sure you take the time to describe your pictures.  Otherwise, it won’t be very good English practice.
  3. Write book reviews or summaries of poetry from English speaking authors.  This will expose you to different styles of writing, new vocabulary, and depending on the poetry, rhyming words to help with your pronunciation!
  4. Write a children’s book in English.  In the process, you could do research by reading some children’s books and learn vocabulary for popular kids’ games.  If you’re an artist, you can also illustrate it!  Double fun!
  5. Make a cookbook!  Translate your favorite hometown recipes into English.  Depending on your location and audience, make sure the measurements are in the right measuring system (English or Metric).
  6. Keep a travel diary in English.
  7. Design a vocabulary collage that tells a story.  RSA Animate has some videos for inspiration.
  8. Keep a Funny Tumblrof jokes you learn in English.  Tumblr is easy to use.  Just remember, it’s public so everyone can see what you post.
  9. Watch movies and write summaries and reviews of them.
  10. Organize a yard sale.  The more extroverted of you can organize a neighborhood yard sale.  This involves talking to people and describing the objects that are for sale.  Go the extra mile and really try to sell something by using persuasive language.
  11. Make hand-written cards and mail them to all of your English speaking friends.  Lots of people type fast and don’t care about their errors on social networks, but when you put ink to paper, you’re committed to what you write.  You will be more likely to take extra steps to make sure you are writing and spelling accurately.
  12. Volunteer. Have you ever heard that it’s better to give than to receive?  Give some of your time.
  13. Develop a campaign to educate the public about an issue.  You could tie this into the yard sale by taking the proceeds from the sale and donating them to your cause.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope it’s a success.  At the very least, these opportunities will increase your exposure to English, and that’s the real goal!



Signs of Dyslexia

The signs of dyslexia go beyond abilities of decoding symbols. The International Dyslexia Association covers some of the other common problems people with dyslexia encounter including memorizing number facts, learning a foreign language, and correctly doing math operations.  Check out their website for signs of dyslexia among adults, very young children, and older children.

They also have a frequently asked questions page if you are interested in learning more.

6 Ways to Meet English Speaking Practice Buddies

You’ve been trying for a while now to master English.  You read books, do online grammar practice activities, read articles, comment on blogs, and tweet all the time.  So why is it that when you speak English, people still struggle to understand you?

You really need to talk…a lot…to people…face to face. You need the two-way interaction with another human being to build speaking skills.

How can you meet these people?

  1. Signing up for an English speaking class seems obvious, and I bet there are free classes within driving distance, but during group work, who are you partners with?  Not native English speakers, I bet.  Instead, sign up for an English literature or career training class where you’ll learn alongside native speakers.
  2. Sign up for any class, but preferably one where you’ll work in groups.  Business leadership, team building, or conflict resolution classes will give you the speaking opportunities you need.
  3. Join a sports team and invite your teammates out for snacks or drinks after practice or a game.
  4. Go to a social media club meeting.  Don’t just listen to the presentations;  network with other attendees during intermission. You don’t have to be clever.  Start with, “Where are you from?”  or “Have you been here before?”
  5. Get a roommate if you can.  It’s really difficult to avoid speaking regularly with someone who shares your kitchen and bathroom.
  6. Get a part-time job.  It’s only temporary, so you don’t have to love it.  You make friends immediately because of all the other employees who are in the same boat as you.  You might even be able to talk to the customers.  The best part is that it’s 10-20 hours per week of additional English practice.

The key is to actually speak.  Get out of your shell, get out of your patterns, get out of your house, meet people and speak.





One Language at a Time? Not so…

This summary of a research study by the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that when adults read in their new language, they’re recalling their first language. According to one of the researchers,

“Bilingual individuals retrieve information from their native language even when it’s not necessary, or, even more surprising, when it is counterproductive, since native language information does not help when reading or listening to second-language words,” Thierry said.

Even when it’s counterproductive?  Also of note,

Michael Chee, MBBS, of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who was unaffiliated with the study, said the findings show that even though people who learn a second language later in life are discouraged from directly translating words from their native language, they may be doing so anyway.

My takeaway for adult students of English is this: If you’re studying and you know that your brain is using your native language for translating without your conscious permission, try to incorporate study habits that intentionally avoid translation.

Some activities might include:

  • not using a dictionary…use context clues for definitions of new words
  • turn off subtitles while watching movies in English
  • ask a native speaker to explain a word or phrase instead of translating it

Basically, your brain is translating anyway, and it might not be helping you.  You can help yourself by adding some small changes to your study habits to at least cut down the amount of translating you do.

Seth Godin and Romanticizing Education

If we were tasked with teaching our future the same set of shared values and if every student valued them in the same way, then it would be a piece of cake.

But, we’re not.  In the heterogeneous society in which we live, where cultural values vastly differ in even one classroom let alone from district to district, addressing each student’s unique background is essential for their success.  For example, the value of how money is made, shared, and spent might vary from family to family;  the scientific method, while awesome, has the potential to negate some personal religious beliefs.

These contradictions can be confusing for a young person who, developmentally, is still only wired to see the world in terms of right or wrong.  If one student places more value on what is taught in the curriculum (My way is right according to this system), it puts the student who comes from a culture that doesn’t value what is taught in the curriculum at a disadvantage (My way, that my parents have taught me, is wrong according to this system).  Enter identity crisis.

That said, I don’t disagree with Seth Godin’s post titled What’s High School For?  I just think it may be a little romanticized.  It’s certainly necessary to maintain hope and to endeavor towards this business-centric utopia.  But let’s at least begin the endeavor with a list of values that considers the students’ background and interests.  Or, better yet, as a starting point, let’s use the students’ lists.

From Seth’s blog:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.