Tuesday TESOL Tip #1: Show Me The Picture! - Use These Tips to Build Neural Pathways for English Language Learners with Images and Videos
Back in 2012, when I taught English Language Learner exclusively in Morocco, I began a series called "Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tips". The series was long after a variety of website changes, so I have decided to revise it. I will be sharing one tip each Tuesday, starting with the original tips and expanding on them with the additional knowledge I've added in the last 8 years. Today's TESOL Teaching Tip is to use pictures and videos.
Teach ELL Students Tip #1: Use Pictures, Videos and Displays
One of the thing teachers are often surprised of with English Language Learners is how they can understand some difficult academic vocabulary words, but then not know basic every day words. For example, students will often know about interrogative sentences and the commutative property, but might not know what an olive is. Remember that when English Language Learners are learning, they are not always understanding every word. Additionally non school vocabulary is often not taught at all, or is mentioned in passing.
The concept of "a picture is worth a thousand words" is not new. However for English Language Learners, a picture can build vocabulary faster than hearing the word a hundred time. But of course, we shouldn't just show the kiddo a picture and move on. When we hit a word they don't know, use an image to get them over the hump. Then ask them if they know the word in their native language. This will help them build a connection. Finally, have students use the word in a sentence or in context, asking them to make that picture in their head. By helping students build these neuropathways, they are more likely to bring that picture into their head the next time they encounter that word.
Of course with verbs and more complex concepts, videos are even more effective. Stopping a lesson to watch a 30 minute video isn't ideal, but ten to twenty seconds of ballroom dancing is enough for students to understand the meaning of the word waltz.
Real Life Teaching Example:
I remember teaching using my Muslim Holiday Center Packet in Morocco. One of the activities was for them to draw a picture of words that were important to Ramadan. All of my kids could draw a picture of sunrise and sunset and pray and fast. The word that stumped them was – date (as in the fruit you eat when you break your fast.) Now, if these students lived somewhere else, I would say maybe they don’t know what a date is, but this was Morocco, and dates were a very common snack.
So, I projected an image of a date to show my students and all of a sudden they understood. We then talked about who did and didn't like to eat dates and drew a picture in our packet. All of these things allowed my students to make those connections and allow them to use that word in their writing later that week.
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