Saturday, February 5, 2011
How do we make teacher talk comprehensible?
This is a billion dollar question. What the teacher says must be comprehensible to the learners. There is no point in repeating something again and again with the pretension that repetition will enhance comprehension. How do we ensure comprehension?
The following strategies may be useful:
1. Break longer expressions into smaller ones
Consider the following story:
A Dog, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away.
There are several sentences in the story which contain more than one idea. The first sentence, for example, contains ideas such as the following:
• There is a dog.
• It holds a piece of flesh in his mouth.
• There is a bridge.
• There is a stream flowing under the bridge.
• The dog is crossing the bridge.
• It sees its own shadow in the water
• The dog thinks that there is another dog with a piece of flesh double in size
It will be better to split the longer sentence into its component sentences.
2. Include images in the story
It is not enough that we are split the long sentence into small ones. We have to ensure that we can instil images in the listener’s mind.
3. Use familiar words wherever possible
There are several English words (the so-called ‘loan words’) in the children’s repertoire of words. They may be using these words in their day to day communication without realizing that they are English words.
In lower classes the teacher can work out a concept mapping activity to get an idea about the words that children know. How do we do this? The following process may be followed.
• List down as many themes such as school, class, kitchen, road, vehicles, etc. in negotiation with the whole class
• Ask children to write in mother tongue as many words they know related to each of these so that they get a word web or spider gram of each theme.
• The teacher can contribute to the word webs by writing each word in English
• Each of these word webs can be consolidated and displayed before the whole class
• If the children cannot write themselves, they can say the ideas and the teacher can develop the word web for the whole class
• Activate these words by using them both as nouns and verbs
Teachers may have learnt about parts of speech in English. This learning may have led some of them to believe that the classification of words as nouns, verbs and so on is a foolproof one. They may not know that almost all nouns can be used as verbs or verbs as nouns. They may not realize that it is the context which decides whether a particular word in a noun or a verb.
With this understanding teachers can use these words freely in their interaction with the learners.
4. Use proper voice modulation
Articulatory features such as pause, stress, pitch and tone contribute to effective oral communication. Spoken language will be comprehended in a better way if makes use of appropriate articulatory features
5. Use optimum gestures
This is also an important component that contributes to better comprehension. While presenting the narratives the teacher has to use appropriate gestures. At the same time she should take care that she is not over-acting. Gestures are to be optimized I terms of eye-hand coordination, postures and facial expressions.