Communicative Competence and Performance: Getting Young Learners to Use the Target Language

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by Agustín Reyes-Torres, Amanda R. Bird | 06 Feb 2017
Resource Description: While writing and reading competencies are both equally important, at the young age of these learners, communicative competence through verbal interaction between teacher and peers is the more natural approach based on the knowledge and skills that correspond to these ages. The primary goal when teaching very young learners is for students to communicate using the target language. But, how can a teacher encourage communication in the classroom with young learners if their level of English is very low, almost minimal? How can a teacher plan a lesson that fosters communication in the target language when the students have only recently begun communicating effectively in their native language? In order to ensure a communication-based lesson for English Language Learners (ELL), the focus needs to be on students’ communicative competence and performance in the classroom. According to Phillips (2009), a students “performance” has to be understood as a multi-faceted concept that encompasses communicative, linguistic and social competency. These are all of the competencies that students demonstrate upon speaking in the target language in the classroom. Using children’s picture books as a base for young ELL lesson plans, students react verbally, the output, to what they hear the teacher read and what they see in the book, the input. While the teacher reads the picture book, students see the illustrations – they are able to make connections with the words they hear and the pictures they see to create their own meaning. Therefore, the images students see in these picture books are the link that helps them acquire and understand the target language. Young learners do not learn by taking notes, they learn through play and fun and to them, reading is an activity they enjoy. 
Audience: Elementary, Teacher Training
Audience Language Proficiency: Beginner
Duration: Six, 60-minute lessons
Language Skill: Reading, Grammar, Writing, Vocabulary, Speaking, Listening
Content Area: Beginner level English
Objective(s):

Using the story, students learn new vocabulary and are able to recognize that vocabulary in the story´s context and out.

Learning about different types of fruit.

Review numbers and be able to recognize numbers both in and out of sequential order.

How to be able to ask students what their favorite fruits are and to be able to respond appropriately using vocabulary from the story.

To successfully pronounce many of the tongue twisters in the story and eventually be able to read the story as a song.  

To be able to use prediction in storytelling.

Understanding grammatical structures to further story comprehension while recycling vocabulary. 
Outcome(s):

Students will know…

How to use numbers and colors to describe objects; Prepositions – under and over; The difference between all the berries and other fruits; How to recognize vocabulary from the story. 

Students will be able to…

Understand spoken language when using TPR (total physical response) and how it relates to the story; Answer essential questions about the story using proper vocabulary; Retell the story in the target language.

Procedure:

Day 1- Materials (book, flashcards, Color by Number, crayons, Mini Whiteboard )

Introduce story “Jamberry” by first showing students the cover of the book. What do they think they are going to learn after hearing the title? Do they already know some fruits in English? Do they like to eat fruit?

Here are the first vocabulary words to help students understand the story – berry, blueberry, marshmallow, hat, shoe, canoe, bread, crackers, butter, under, and over. These words will help students understand the story and talk about it even though some words may not be in the story. Teach the vocabulary words through picture recognition and hearing the word in English (no more than 7 minutes).

A fun activity to learn vocabulary is the Circle Gameput students in a circle sitting down and give them only two or three of the flashcards. Put on a song (upbeat and in English – i.e. “Happy” by Farrell Williams). While the music is playing, students pass the cards. When it stops, you ask “Where is the __________?” The student who has that card must raise their hand and say “I do”. You then ask “What is it?” They respond, “It´s a __________.” As they grow to understand the vocabulary even more, keep adding the cards until all of them are in the circle at once.

Vocabulary Circle – have students stand up in a circle and try to follow the order of the five flashcards you stick to the board. First student says “berry” and the next “blueberry”, followed by “hat”, “shoe”, “canoe”. When they reach “canoe” it´s time to start over again. If a student does not say the correct word, they sit down and wait for the game to begin again. Repeat with another set of five vocabulary words in a different order (so students are not memorizing the order, rather they are visualizing and internalizing the vocabulary).

Pictionary – Mini Whiteboards – As a class you are going to play Pictionary with the whiteboards. First you model the game for them. The flashcards are face down in the front of the classroom. Pick one. Don´t let anyone else see your card. Begin to draw it for the students. When you finish, show them your drawing. See if anyone can guess what it is by saying “Is it a …. (Marshmallow)?” Once they get the hang of it, play first as a class for 3 or 4 turns. Then split students into four groups and give each group a different bunch of flashcards to play with (bring both sets to class this day). Let them play and speak English for about 10 minutes.

Once they seem to understand and recognize the vocabulary words, it´s time to read up to page 8 of the story. As you read, elicit vocabulary from students. Ask them about the letters to see if they can recognize the alphabet from the previous unit. 

Closing Activity – Color by Number – Give each student a copy of the Color by Number worksheet. Go over the different colors with them and make sure they all have the necessary colors (and only the necessary ones) to correctly color the worksheet.

Day 2 - Materials (book, flashcards (2 sets), empty toilet paper rolls (1 per student), different colored party streamers, glue or stapler, crayons, stickers, glitter)

To begin class today, give each student a flashcard from the previous lesson and when their name is called for attendance, ask them “What is it?”

Maybe you could play memory with them? Put two sets of the flashcards on the ground face down and play as a class. The objective is for them to remember where the vocabulary cards are placed and then, once they get a pair, to say what the vocabulary word is. Another vocabulary game may be to stick the flashcards on the wall throughout the room and have all students sit in the middle or stand. You say a vocabulary word and one student runs to the correct card and then says the word on his/her own.

Sit everyone down on the rug and present more vocabulary words to them for the day´s lesson. The lesson´s vocabulary is strawberry, finger, paw, ponies, lambs, blackberry, train, banana, and orange. Complete the same form of questioning as the previous day to help students remember vocabulary. The more routine you can create every lesson, the better.

After teaching them the vocabulary, try playing a quick game with them, like the Circle Game.

Once they seem to understand and recognize the new vocabulary words, it´s time to read up to page 18. As you read, elicit vocabulary from students.

Closing activity – Streamers – You´re going to create your jamboree in the meadows just like on pages 12 and 13. Give each student an empty toilet paper roll, and bring to class any decorative items possible like glitter, stickers, paints, crayons, etc. When they finish, staple or tape colorful streamers around the ends and put on some music so everyone and dance around the room with their new wands just like in the book. 

Day 3 -Materials (book, flashcards, Fruit Bingo – 1 per student, fichas, 10 different berry baskets (from the supermarket), A3 size paper for students, paint (only primary colors – yellow, red, blue), paper bowls/paints for paint)

Sit everyone down on the rug and present more vocabulary words to them for the day´s lesson. The lesson´s vocabulary is raspberry, rabbits, elephants, skate, moon, star, cloud, sky, rockets. Complete the same form of questioning as the previous day to help students remember vocabulary.  A good way to practice may be to play Musical Chairs where you place a vocabulary card on top of the chairs that are facing outside the circle. As the music plays (any music you would like), students walk around the circle of chairs and when the music stops they sit wherever they are standing. Ask them “Where are the strawberries?” The student sitting on the chair with the strawberry flashcard raises their hand to say “I have the strawberries”.

Once they seem to understand and recognize the new vocabulary words, it´s time to read up to page 24. As you read, elicit vocabulary from students.

Fruit Bingo – Give each student a copy of the Fruit Bingo worksheet (there are 3 different copies). After giving them the Bingo Sheet, ask them which color they would like to use (red, blue, black, pink, brown, or yellow). Slowly call out vocabulary words. As you say them, students must search for the corresponding picture on their Bingo Card and cover the correct picture with a ficha. Maybe for the first two words you say, you can also show students the flashcard. The first student to get 3 fruits in a row on their Bingo Card wins some candies or stickers (provided by the teacher). Continue playing until four or five students have won.

Painting with Fruit Baskets – Give each student an A3 size blank piece of paper and put small paper plates of the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) on each table. Students are going to paint using the different berry baskets from supermarkets. As they paint with the primary colors and overlap, they´ll also get to see the formation of secondary colors (orange, pink, purple, green). Leave the paintings in the classroom to dry so students can bring them home the after the next class).

Day 4 – Materials (book, flashcards, kebab sticks and different berries (real ones or candy ones) to make patterns)

Today begin with your typical routine. Maybe by taking attendance and having each student say the vocabulary word and letters for the flashcard you show them from the previous class. Have them sit on the carpet and go through the vocabulary words as a group. Maybe you could play memory with them? Put two sets of the flashcards on the ground face down and play as a class. The objective is for them to remember where the vocabulary cards are placed and then, once they get a pair, to say what the vocabulary word is. Another vocabulary game may be to stick the flashcards on the wall throughout the room and have all students sit in the middle or stand. You say a vocabulary word and one student runs to the correct card and then says the word on his/her own.

Once you have reviewed it all, it´s time for them to learn more words (depending on what you think they can handle). The new words to add are mountains, fountains, and rain. Complete the same form of questioning as the previous day to help students remember vocabulary.

After teaching them the vocabulary, try playing a quick game with them, like the Circle Game.

Once they seem to understand and recognize the new vocabulary words, it´s time to read the entire book and see if students´ predictions from the previous class were correct. As you read, elicit vocabulary from students.

Fruit Formation with Plasticine – A fun way to practicing creating fruit is to use plasticine. Give each student a small amount of plasticine and create some pieces of a fruit as a class to begin. You demonstrate how to make them and students follow your instructions and physical movements. After, let students be creative and tell them to create a basket of their favorite fruits.

Closing activity – Fruit Kebab To work a little bit with patterns, bring enough skewers (kebab sticks) for every student, and also bring as many different fruits to class as possible. Instead of bringing real fruit to class, you can buy candies in the shape of fruit – less expensive. 

Day 5 – Materials (book, flashcards, 6 foam dice)

Begin class with an engaging vocabulary or number activity; perhaps with a “Hide and Seek” style activity. Hide flashcards before students enter and one by one see if they can find them. As they find the pictures, ask them “What is it?”

Now that you have taught students all vocabulary words from the story, take out some action specific flashcards (canoe, rain, skate, train, and hat) and hang them around the room. Put students into five different groups, but first teach them as a class, the five different actions to represent these words. When they are in their groups in five different parts of the room you say a phrase that contains the one of the words (“I am in a canoe.”) and students in that group repeat “I am in a canoe” and need to do the action you have created as a class to represent that word (rowing on both sides of the body). Repeat until all students participate and then switch groups two or three more times.  

After reviewing some words in the book, it´s time to read the entire book. Elicit vocabulary from students. Even stop after saying the first three lines and see if they are at the point where they can produce the final line of the page.

After the story, it´s time to play a fun vocabulary recognition game with foam dice. First have students sit in a circle. Put 6 flashcards on the board with the numbers 1-6 by their side. Model the activity by having your top student roll a die (they will catch on the quickest). Once they get a number, ask them “What is it?” Their objective is NOT to give you the number; rather it is to recognize the number written on the board and say the vocabulary word that is represented by the picture next to the number. A correct answer might be “It is a banana!” if the banana flashcard is next to number 3 and that is the number the student rolled. First play this as a group for 10 minutes with two students at a time. After they get the hang of it, if you think they can do it independently, put them into pairs each with a die and have them play together constantly speaking English. You can try two different rounds of this with 6 different flashcards.

Day 5 – Materials (book, flashcards, 6 foam dice)

Begin class with an engaging vocabulary or number activity; perhaps with a “Hide and Seek” style activity. Hide flashcards before students enter and one by one see if they can find them. As they find the pictures, ask them “What is it?”

Now that you have taught students all vocabulary words from the story, take out some action specific flashcards (canoe, rain, skate, train, and hat) and hang them around the room. Put students into five different groups, but first teach them as a class, the five different actions to represent these words. When they are in their groups in five different parts of the room you say a phrase that contains the one of the words (“I am in a canoe.”) and students in that group repeat “I am in a canoe” and need to do the action you have created as a class to represent that word (rowing on both sides of the body). Repeat until all students participate and then switch groups two or three more times.  

After reviewing some words in the book, it´s time to read the entire book. Elicit vocabulary from students. Even stop after saying the first three lines and see if they are at the point where they can produce the final line of the page.

After the story, it´s time to play a fun vocabulary recognition game with foam dice. First have students sit in a circle. Put 6 flashcards on the board with the numbers 1-6 by their side. Model the activity by having your top student roll a die (they will catch on the quickest). Once they get a number, ask them “What is it?” Their objective is NOT to give you the number; rather it is to recognize the number written on the board and say the vocabulary word that is represented by the picture next to the number. A correct answer might be “It is a banana!” if the banana flashcard is next to number 3 and that is the number the student rolled. First play this as a group for 10 minutes with two students at a time. After they get the hang of it, if you think they can do it independently, put them into pairs each with a die and have them play together constantly speaking English. You can try two different rounds of this with 6 different flashcards.

Day 6 - Materials (book, flashcards, Picture Graph Worksheet, crayons, glue, mini whiteboards and markers/erasers)

At the beginning of each lesson, make sure to review vocabulary in such a way that it is fun and engaging for students.

Pictionary – Mini Whiteboards – As a class you are going to play Pictionary with the whiteboards. First you model the game for them. The flashcards are face down in the front of the classroom. Pick one. Don´t let anyone else see your card. Begin to draw it for the students. When you finish, show them your drawing. See if anyone can guess what it is by saying “Is it a …. (Marshmallow)?” Once they get the hang of it, play first as a class for 3 or 4 turns. Then split students into four groups and give each group a different bunch of flashcards to play with (bring both sets to class this day). Let them play and speak English for about 10 minutes.

Instead of reading the book to students, have them watch the following YouTube video. Here is the YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJKclVRP_4s As they watch the short 2-minute video, stop it intermittently to ask them essential questions about the story, vocabulary and letters of the alphabet. Also see if they are trying to tell the story on their own from hearing it read so many times.

Closing activity – Picture Graph – Give students a copy of the Picture Graph Worksheet. Model what they have to do – student a asks “What is your favorite fruit?” and student b responds “My favorite fruit is banana.” After student b responds, student a goes get a picture of the answer (precut in the center of the classroom). They color it and stick it where it belongs on the graph. If it is the first banana, then it goes in the first box. At the end, all students sit down on the rug and talk about their findings. How many students like apples? How many like bananas? How many like strawberries?

 

Assessment: Formative Assessment - throughout each day of the unit lesson plan there are several formative assessments, ways in which the teacher informally checks for students' understandings of the content being taught. Examples of formative assessments within this unit are with the use of whiteboards and the game Pictionary. Not only does this activity provide a time for students to work together, but they are also speaking English with one another and practicing the vocabulary they have learned through play. 
Differentiation: Extension beyond the classroom - 
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TESOL Interest Section: Bilingual Education, Elementary Education, English as a Foreign Language

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