Teaching Nouns

Whether you want to focus on concrete nouns (e.g., dog, car), proper nouns (e.g., London, Lucy), countable (e.g., pen, book) and uncountable nouns (e.g., water, rice), collective nouns (e.g., school, class), possessive nouns (e.g., my friend’s house, my mum’s books), compound nouns (e.g., classmate, bedroom), regular plural nouns (e.g., cars, bags), irregular plural nouns (e.g., women, men), blended nouns (e.g., glamping, brunch), clippings (e.g., flu from influenza), you could use the lesson discussed below, which has been designed to develop learners complexity, accuracy and fluency (which are interconnected), to teach any nouns you choose to be your target language. Housen et al. (2012) define complexity as the intricacies of language use, whilst Freed describes fluency as the ease and eloquence of language use in spontaneous situations. As such, by developing their linguistic complexity by exposing them to the target language in a clear context and providing them with with sufficient practice, they will begin to internalise the structures, which will lead to greater accuracy and therefore greater fluency (Skehan, 1996).

Stage 1
You could introduce the target language deductively by giving them the meaning, form and sound of the language – providing contextualised examples, then checking meaning, form and sound. Think about any problems your learners may have with meaning and form? How will you check their understanding? Are there any sounds your learners will struggle with that you will need to drill? Is it worth teaching them any particular sounds using the phonemic chart? Click here to see Underhill explaining how to introduce the phonemic chart, here for activities to raise phonological awareness, here for activities on the physicality of speech (how sounds are physically formed, e.g., tongue and lip positions), and here for specific monophthongs and diphthongs activities.

Alternatively, you could introduce the vocabulary inductively through a reading activity by first showing the language in context in a reading activity, then eliciting the meaning, form and sound from context. As mentioned previously, think about how you will check their understanding, and whether there are any particular sounds or features of connected speech, intonation, or sentence/word stress they’ll struggle with – how will you address these issues?
When doing such a reading activity, you could consider Macalister’s (2011) discussion where he notes that when planning reading lessons teachers should consider whether their lesson involves MINUS – Meaning, Interest, New learning, Understanding, Stress-Free. He also notes that teachers should be aware of the goal of each lesson and so they should consider LIST – Language Ideas Skills Text.

Furthermore, when planning a reading lesson, consider Grabe’s (2014) comments on teaching reading: it should be suitable for the learners’ level, interesting for learners, involve learners in choosing texts (if possible you could base the reading on a book or topic they’ve previously expressed interest in), include a pre, during, and post reading activity, promote word recognition and vocabulary expansion (perhaps with a vocabulary journal), raise grammatical and discourse awareness. Grabe (2014) also lists the skills necessary for reading comprehension: decoding graphic forms, drawing meaning from words/phrases/clauses, accessing meaning, networking lexical and clausal meanings, recognising discourse relationships, decoding whole text, draw on prior knowledge, motivation, and lexical and reading fluency.
Consider these skills- are there any in particular your learners struggle with? How can you support them? – consider structural differentiation (adapting the task/handouts based on learners’ needs) and differentiated support (how will you provide verbal/non-verbal support when needed) (Roland and Barber, 2016).

What type of reading comprehension questions will you use? According to Day and Park (2005) there are 6 possible question types: yes/no, true/false, alternatives, multiple choice, language transformation, pronominal (wh-).

Is it worth considering embarking on an Extensive Reading programme (where learners read a book throughout the year) with your learners (Day, 2015) whereby your learners are involved in choosing a text which is of a relevant level, and of interest to them. You could either facilitate an independent Extensive Reading project, where learners could choose different books and you do not monitor their progress. Alternatively you could facilitate a supervised Extensive Reading programme where you monitor their progress, perhaps by getting them to write chapter reviews, engage in discussions, rewrite sections, predict what’s next, etc. Or you could facilitate a blended Intensive/Extensive Reading programme where the book is used in class perhaps for adapted exam based activities, as well as at home.

Stage 2
In order to practice the target language you could get learners to do a gap fill activity, or a matching activity, or a class quiz either interactively via a game of noughts and crosses, quizlet or kahoot, or a written quiz. You could also give learners a storyboard and get them to write the narrative – this could be done as a gap fill for weaker learners.
Think about how you will structurally differentiate the activity? – How will you provide structured support for weaker learners, and meaningful additional challenge for stronger learners? (Roland and Barber, 2016)


Stage 3
You could perhaps get students to create a piece of creative writing, following an adapted version of Hyland’s (2003) writing process:

  1. select topic
  2. pre-writing task – brainstorm language, provide learners with a set of criteria to consider in their writing
  3. compose the text
  4. review – perhaps they could peer-review one another’s work, using the criteria as a guide
  5. response to review – perhaps a class discussion where they can ask any questions
  6. edit/proofread
  7. evaluate – based on review and discussion
  8. publish – share the work with the class through a paired dictation activity where students listen to their partner dictate their story and record what they heard. Then the teacher could ask stronger learners to report what their partner said in order to add an additional layer of challenge. Drill any problematic language again where necessary.

    During the pair dictation activity you could monitor for pronunciation features and provide direct verbal/non-verbal feedback on the target language. You could also consider Lackman’s (2010) list of speaking sub-skills: accuracy, fluency, relevance of length, appropriacy, initiating and responding, turn-taking, repetition and repair, discourse markers, using functions, and range of vocabulary and grammar. In this instance, as they are dictating a story they have written, you may choose to focus on either accuracy, appropriacy, discourse markers, or range of vocabulary and grammar. You might also want to focus on their listening sub-skills (Field, 1998) as they practice decoding what their partner said. You could use this to inform your feedback.
  9. follow-up task – perhaps you could then collate students’ books and provide written corrective feedback, and collate any common errors so you can do a feedback/review in a future lesson.



    Side note- Professional development:
    If you notice a consistent problem/challenge your learners face when reading and/or writing you could consider doing some action research, as Dewey notes the benefits of such an approach for improving your teaching and supporting your learners. The approach involves: planning (identifying a problem and planning a solution), acting (teaching), observing (making notes about how learners respond to the solution), reflecting (has the problem been solved? If not, try and plan a different solution. If it has, is there anything else you could improve?).

    Alternatively, you could do an ad-hoc self evaluation (Walsh and Mann, 2015) where you complete a SETT (Self Evaluation of Teacher Talk) grid. Or you could follow Lyle’s (2003) stimulated recall approach where you record yourself teaching, and then discuss with a critical friend/colleague. If you found this beneficial, you might be interested in forming a Critical Friendship Group (Vo and Nguyen, 2010) with colleagues where you could peer mark work, engage in peer-observations, and engage in problem solving discussions.

    Side note 2: feedback
    According to Chaudron (1997) feedback can be defined as any response from a teacher which seeks to transform, point out, or explicitly correct a learners’ deviation from the target norm. Hattie (2012) states that feedback should not be completely focused on language errors, but rather that it should be focused on providing learners with opportunities to improve and succeed.
    According to Li (2014) you can either give feedback in-action, or after-action. Long (2003) notes that learners want immediate, direct feedback as this immediately alerts the learner to the error and helps prevent the fossilisation of errors. Tran (2017) notes that although direct in-action feedback is somewhat beneficial for building confidence and highlighting errors, it can be problematic as it interrupts the flow of an activity, and it can impact students’ confidence and make them reluctant to speak in future activities. Dornyei (2005) notes that when learners are less stressed and more relaxed, they are more likely to learn. But Wong and Waring (2009) discuss the importance of being aware of when you give positive praise – ensure it relates to the target language, good use of emergent language and your lesson aims and overall aims for your learners.
    Therefore maybe you could trial out using different forms of feedback in action such as written prompts and corrections in the chat/on the board, and then you could ask learners to reflect on which feedback they found to be the most helpful (Robb) in order to inform how you conduct feedback in future.

Exploiting this task

See different methods of implementing dictations

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