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Going Beyond Grammar
At some point when learning a second language, the student must put the textbook aside in order to begin practical practice of the actual language. As an eight-year student of French back as a child, I know of what I speak, or don't speak such as the case may be! Eight years of study, however, the French language is limited to niceties (Bonjour, Comment allez-vous? and Au revoir.) for me due to never leaving the pages of the grammar book.
Give intermediate and advanced students plenty of opportunities to practice in real-life scenarios what they have learned. Movies, writing articles for the school newspaper, traveling to historic sites with assigned tasks, are all possible examples of "real-life scenarios."
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Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing
Incorporate all the skills need in language acquisition. By doing this, the students are able to stretch their comfort zone.
Begin each class with a check in with the students. I have often begun with a writing prompt on the white board such as, "List 3 things you heard on the news yesterday. Pick one and list the key points reported on (This is the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.)" After about five or ten minutes, I ask the students to read their list, giving the class an impromptu report on the key points of the report they chose.
This simple lesson touches on all the skills, which also gives the students an opportunity to discuss current events on their own terms.
Throughout the class, find ways to incorporate listening tools such as news reports in audio and video, songs, and movies. Several websites offer special reports for students. They are:
- The History Channel
- Discovery Channel
- Student CNN reports
Depending on the listening tool, have students write a quick summary, lead a discussion or create an alternate report. Have students share these with each other. Again, all of the language skills will be practiced.
Using themes for class units, also aids in bring practical experience to students. For instance, during Women's History month, I had students research a woman in a culture anywhere in the world, a woman from their own culture and an American woman with roots in their culture. They then had to write a compare and contrast paper on these women, which they presented in class, discussing and asking question of each other.
Finally, finding opportunities for students to practice their language skills outside the classroom can really boost their language self-esteem. Trips to stores, museums, historic sites, places of interest all afford opportunities to speak, listen, read and write. Before the trip, give students a scavenger list of items to learn about or a list of questions to answer. Have them write a report on their experience for the school newspaper, or if you do not have a school newspaper, begin a class blog.
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Practice Makes Better
Provide practical practice in all the language skill areas so students will better be able to understand, speak and write the language. Lessons planned around current events, daily life experiences and themes give students the experiences they need to feel confident.
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References and Resources
Content from author's own experience.
List of practical ESL lessons for intermediate or advanced students - http://images.brighthub.com/media/D962B5_practical-lessons-for-esl.pdf