Teaching English successfully in Thailand can be a challenging experience. Let's explore three techniques that English teachers may use in the classroom to assist students to efficiently acquire language.
Instructor Edlyn Paulette Lopez, far left, and Instructor Usarat Monkhunthod, far right, begin a lesson with kindergarten students at Pongsiri Wittaya School. The teachers model Total Physical Response (TPR) for the adjective ‘big’, while students mimic the actions and speech of their teachers. TPR improves vocabulary comprehension through vocal and body movement association. MICHAEL JAY GONZALES
A primary goal in teaching any language is to help students achieve Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (Bics), or just everyday language tools. Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) techniques provide effective tools for success in teaching and learning comprehension. Let's discuss these two and related concepts.
Total Physical Response
Total Physical Response (TPR) is a simple technique that should be used routinely to increase vocabulary, specifically, verbs and adjectives. The students will engage in body movements that represent words. In a typical TPR routine, students will be speaking, listening and moving their bodies to the correct word association/position.
A typical TPR routine for adjective development would begin with the six common universal concepts: big/small, long/short, tall/short. The teacher will model, for example, the adjective "big", both orally and physically (arms and hands held out to represent something big). Students then mimic spoken English, body movement and the word in their native language. The number of words should increase weekly.
Into, through and beyond
Into-Through-Beyond is a guide for lesson planning and delivery. It is based on the idea of scaffolding. Scaffolding is the building of new knowledge upon existing knowledge.
This teaching strategy allows students to connect new concepts to ones they are already familiar with. In this way, students become active learners.
- Into a lesson. When beginning a lesson, it is good practice to review previous lessons and point out any new vocabulary that may be used in the new lesson. Don't forget to check for any prior knowledge that students may already have of the material before introducing the new lesson. Aid students in making connections from vocabulary already learned.
In teaching a lesson on schools, the teacher may inquire what students might expect to see at a school. A possible response from actively engaged students could be: teachers, students, a library.
- Through a lesson. Begin teaching the new material and modelling new concepts. Introduce and use new vocabulary. Use lots of TPR, repetitions, graphic organisers and, if possible, real objects (realia) and manipulatives. Encourage students to make connections on their own by asking questions that tap into their prior knowledge.
- Beyond a lesson. Point out real world applications to students. If the material selected relates to the students' lives, they are more likely to remember the ideas taught during the lesson. Hint towards the next lesson by asking questions that require students to use critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills and already-learned vocabulary.
For example, to go beyond a unit on schools, the teacher may ask the related question, "What might you expect to see in a city?" The youngsters may very well offer these (new vocabulary) words: a hospital, a bank, a bus, etc.
Every student is different and every student learns differently. Some students will naturally excel in some lessons or subjects, while others will struggle to understand even the most basic facet of a particular topic or subject being taught. This is only natural. Be prepared by knowing the individual strengths and weaknesses of each of your students.
One way to achieve this is by constantly assessing each student informally. Before moving forward to the next item in your lesson plan, check for whole-group and individual understanding.
Use various levels of teaching during whole-group instruction by choosing the appropriate levels of question/concept for individual students. This allows all students of various levels to experience some success.
When students experience success, they become more confident to use the new language and recently acquired knowledge. Encourage exceptional students with higher-level questions while, simultaneously, offering reasonably less-challenging options to students who may be somewhat more challenged.
These three simple strategies can be of significant use to those teaching English at any level. Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English strategies are simply good teaching methods. These strategies are not intended to be used independently, but should be woven together throughout all lessons. This article has only touched on SDAIE. There are many websites and books that explain SDAIE more thoroughly.
Michael Jay Gonzales is a US national living in northeast Thailand. He teaches grades three to six at PongsiriWittaya School. He is credentialed by the State of California and Thailand. His specialty is in SDAIE teaching techniques. You may email him at email@example.com .