Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Importance of Context

Reading skills, along with listening, speaking and writing are important skills to have when learning a foreign language.  While reading an authentic text, many students freeze up when they come across a word they don't know.  Their first instinct is to jump into a dictionary or an online translator.  However, those tools are not always available, especially when taking an exam (AP prep anyone?).

An important skill ANY student needs (not just a foreign language student) is the ability to figure out word meaning based on context if a certain word is unknown.  The ability to use context will help students feel more confident when reading any text when resources may not be available.

One thing I stumbled across at a foreign language workshop was an AWESOME reading to practice this skill.  The reading has some excerpts from "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess.  It is in English but has random gibbersh words inserted into the story.  It is a great activity for giving students some skills and confidence in using context to figure out an unknown word.

What I did was type up the excerpt and underline all of the words that would be "unknown" and asked students to have discussions about each.  I asked them to infer everything they possibly can.  Is it a noun, verb, adjective, etc?  Is it a type of something?  Can we figure out what the actual word replaces?

After the discussion we discuss as a class.  We go word by word and talk about what we know about it and how we know it.

For example:

"My rooker trembled as I took out of my carman the little klootch I had for opening up."

We talk about the word "klootch" first and determine it is definitely a noun and likely the word "key" because we use it to open something up.  Then we talk about "carman" and determine it must be a pocket, purse or bag because that is where a key would be taken out of.  Finally we discuss "rooker" and guess it is a body part, likely a hand, because it is described as trembling.

Activities like this are very important to instilling confidence in students as they read through texts that may include words they don't know.  With this skill, students will succeed in situations where they may not have resources like dictionaries and translators.

Want a copy?  I have it for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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