Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Circumlocution / The World Cup

Among the many reasons I enjoy teaching using the theory of Comprehensible Input is that it has opened up the possibility of discussing current events in the classroom. This past year I found that by giving students vocabulary structures and circling those structures sufficiently, I could introduce topics as far ranging as the death of Nelson Mandela to whether or not students should be fined for arriving to school late (a resounding "NO!" on the part of the students). And, while I was content to provide the input, it was great to see the urge in my students to take part in the discussion. I also saw them struggle when they wanted to communicate an idea or concept that they lacked the necessary vocabulary to express. Anyone who has tried to communicate in a language they have not yet mastered has experienced a similar frustration. It can lead to a lot of self conscious behavior which does little to promote language acquisition in the classroom. In order to help students how to get past this particular challenge, I began teaching my classes to use circumlocution skills to use what they know to express what they want to say. Of course, I did not go it alone but instead took to the Internet and, as usual, found some inspiring work by and for teachers. The lesson shared below is based on the work of a collective of teachers found Language Links 2006. The site includes a ton of ideas for cultural lessons, staying in the target language, and, you guessed it, circumlocution! It's a great resource and really worth taking the time to explore. The lesson I'm sharing here has to do with The World Cup in Brazil and whether or not developing countries should host international sporting events because of the cost. I'm sure that my students are going to want to weigh in on this one but I'll need to get them there by giving them the skills they need to be able to approach this topic in the target language. After introducing the topic to the students, I'll start the lesson by explaining some guidelines for getting around those words that you need but don't have. Suggestions include classifying the word as either a person, place, thing, or idea, stating what the object is not, and explaining who would be using it and to what end. I then put together some pictures for students to practice describing in pairs. The idea (which came to me by way of our local high school department chair and is brilliant) is that one student sits with their back to the PPT slide and the other has student describes what they see. (Because the topic of this particular lesson is fairly sophisticated, I chose to include the English word along with the visual because I didn't want there to be any confusion as to what concept the students should be describing to their partners.) When the student with their back to the slide guesses the word correctly, both students stand up. I usually ask the students to share their descriptions in order to point out the ways in which students used their circumlocution skills to "get around" a word.

World Cup Circumlocution Edited

In the World Cup lesson below, I will follow this up with a paper version of the same activity.

Circumlocution World Cup Partner Work

Finally, I'll give the students a reading that discusses the topic in detail and provides multiple perspectives on the same issue, giving the students some background on which they can base their own opinions.

Where Should the World Play the Beautiful Game?

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