World Book Day: Every Teacher is an English Teacher by @RichardJARogers

He waddled his way through the corridor like a happy duckling. Amid the giggles and cries of small children, he looked like a giant orange with tentacles as he waded through the masses on his way to the library. Mr Jones was dressed as ‘Mr Tickle’ from the ‘Mr Men’ series of books.

The outfit must have taken an astronomical amount of time to create. With orange fur and controllable arms, it was clear who was going to win the ‘Best Dressed Teacher’ competition.

I, on the other hand, tend to be a little too lazy with my outfit on World Book Day. This year was no exception. Can you guess who I am?:

James Bond World Book Day

If you said ‘James Bond’ then well done: you’re right! It’s a quick (and a little too lazy) conversion for me: change my tie to a bow, add a dinner shirt and a white pocket square and I’m ready to serve on Her Majesty’s Secret Service!

“Who have you come as?” one of my friends says to me as I walk into the staff room on Friday (we had our World Book Day a day later as Thursday is a religious holiday here in Thailand). “I’m James Bond,” I say (rather upset that I wasn’t instantly recognizable). “Is that even a book?” he says. “It’s a whole series of books, written by Ian Fleming”

“Wow. I had no idea”

Costume Capers

World Book Day is great for getting people to ask good questions. Often, the characters we dress up as are in fact movie stars which we never knew existed in books. This can really get kids inspired to read more as they gradually realize that good books are often the basis for their favourite movies or TV shows. Good examples include:

  • Harry Potter – The all-time legendary series of fantasy books written by J.K. Rowling. These books have formed the basis for a whopping 8 different movies!
  • The Hunger Games – These action-packed dystopian novels featuring stoic and passionate heroin: Katniss Everdeen, have been transformed into five excellent films.
  • Twilight – Popular with teenagers and young adults: these fantasy/romance novels were brilliantly conceived and written by legendary author Stephenie Meyer

What message does all of this send to kids when they are fully aware of the facts? That’s simple:

Books are cool! Books are inspirational. Books change lives. Read books!

Command Terms

It’s a shame that World Book Day is only once per year. In reality, every day should be a World Book Day as we should encourage our kids to read books and enjoy learning English on a daily basis.

As a teacher at an International School in Bangkok, I have the unique privilege and pleasure of working with classes where, in many cases, more than 90% of the students are working with English as an additional/second language. One of my unique missions every day is to help my students to see why English is a beautiful language. To help them notice patterns and sounds. To ensure that they use the correct language in their answers to exam-style questions.

Examination language

Try putting up a ‘command-terms’ display in your classroom (like the one below):

Command Terms Blooms Display.JPG
A command terms hierarchy display that follows Bloom’s Taxonomy

I use this display on a daily basis to teach my students how to phrase their answers. I like to turn the command terms into kid-friendly language when going through exam-style and past-paper questions. For instance:

  • Describe: Tell me ‘what’
  • Explain: Tell me ‘why and how’
  • Deduce: Work out the answer and show every step in your work

Eventually, the students can build up a long list of command terms in their Learning Journals or notebooks, coupled with their ‘kid-friendly’ descriptions. The display also follows Bloom’s Taxonomy, with command terms demanding more sophistication in written responses as you go up the pyramid.

The result: Students learn good English vocabulary and score better on exams.What could be better than that!

Command terms are so important, in fact, that many textbooks are now emphasizing them as students work through the chapters. Take this extract from a book my students were using in one of our Science tutoring sessions this week:

Command Terms Hw
Command terms emboldened in a Science textbook

As I was helping these students, I found that explaining the command term first, before tackling the question, really helped in a getting a suitable answer. The two girls who I was tutoring would say “Ah, I get it now” when the command term was made clear.

Do you think that students will use these command terms in their daily and future lives? Absolutely! Command terms come up in a range of contexts when operating through the medium of English. For example: “How can we justify this business decision?”“On the basis of the previous two-years sales, can you predict likely sales for the first quarter of this year?”“How can we determine who is the best candidate for this role?”, and on we could go ad infinitum.

Isn’t this what language-learning is all about? Getting students to learn keywords, then to enjoy using those words and then to apply them to a range of contexts?

sit n talk

In my honest opinion, command terms offer the ultimate key in cross-curricular learning and should be explored by curriculum leaders as a way to really ‘gel’ their subjects together. The result of this: deep learning and an added sense of importance attached to each subject as students see how they link together. 

Learning Journals

I have a system set up where students in Year 11, 12 and 13 (approx. ages 15 – 18) bring me a journal filled with revision notes, keywords, past-paper questions and answers every Monday. It’s such an effective way to boost confidence and performance, but it does require a bit of organisation and leadership from the teacher.

If you have identified students who could use such a journal to focus specifically on learning key words and command terms, then here are the steps to take:

Step 1: Tell the students to get a special notebook. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just a cheap spiral bound one will do just fine.

Step 2: The students should divide the first page into three columns:

  • Keyword
  • Meaning
  • Pronunciation

For example – Moment, The force applied to a lever multiplied by the distance from the pivot, mo-men-t

For an EAL student you can include a fourth column:

  • Translation

In this column, the student can write the word in his/her native language.

Step 3: The students should write down the keywords they learn every week into this journal, along with all of the other information.

Step 4: CRUCIAL! The keywords and information must be CHECKED every week. Check the words, the meaning and the pronunciation (you can even get the students to say the words to you – this reinforces their memory of the terminology).

Explaining

Don’t forget to reward students for good work too: use your school’s points/merits system, write nice comments on their work and even think of special rewards: a ‘star of the week’ for example, where you display the student’s work on the class notice board.

Use voice inflexions

Science is great for teaching kids new words. When we, as teachers, genuinely love to pronounce and say keywords then our kids will love doing that too.

I have quite a funny little system I use in class. When a keyword comes up, I’ll give it a rank:

“Precipitate. Precipitate. Such a beau-ti-ful word. Say “Pre-ci-pi-tate”

Class: Precipitate

“Excellent! Precipitate is number 3 on my ‘Favorite Words in Science’ list”

Student: “What’s number one”

“That’s a secret! One day you’ll find out! A prize to the first person to e-mail me my number one Science word when they hear it!”

new doc 27_2

Of course, my number one word will come at the end of the academic year when the suspense and excitement have been building up for two terms.

Use vocabulary jokes

I’ve recently started experimenting with this and it’s working like a treat! It does take some planning and skill though, and is best described through some examples:

Vocabulary Joke 1: ‘Formal Charge’

I recently used this joke with my Year 13 students to reinforce the term ‘Formal Charge’ – a concept in Organic Chemistry.

“I was walking to the coffee shop yesterday and Mr Davies asked me “Mr Rogers, what is your favourite F.C.? Is it Liverpool F.C.?’ And guess what?”

Class: “What?!!!”

“I said ‘No. My favourite F.C. is ‘Formal Charge’”

Class: (laughing)

I then laugh and say “This is the life of a Chemistry Teacher.  Hashtag #chemistrylife”

Class: (giggles and laughter)

This has long-term effects outside of the classroom too. Effects which fully embed the phrases. For example: when I was actually walking to the coffee shop one of my Year 13 students passed me and I said “What is your favourite F.C.?” and she said “Formal Charge”.

Chapter 5 - drones and hacking

Vocabulary Joke 2: ‘Alkali’

An alkali is the opposite of an acid, having a pH higher than 7 (think of soap, for example). I used this joke recently with my Year 10 students:

“A student of mine in Year 9 asked me: ‘Mr Rogers, do you like my homework?’, and guess what happened!’”

Class: “What?!!” (they know that a joke is coming!)

“I said I more than like your work, I ‘alkalike‘ your homework”

Class: (laughing)

I then laugh and say “This is the life of a Chemistry Teacher. Hashtag #chemistrylife”

Class: (giggles and laughter)

Clean and fun jokes can like this can be very powerful. The kids will say them to their parents and friends, and if you refer to them outside of the classroom (e.g. John, do you like my new notebook? John: I ‘alkalike’ it), then you can really embed these key terms. The result: Kids will love English, will repeat the words you say and will eventually use these key terms frequently in their written responses.

Other strategies

There are many more strategies you can use to get your learners to enjoy learning the English language. Check out my blog posts on Learning Journals and Vocabulary Values for more tips.

Conclusion

Our aim must be to get our students to LOVE English – speaking it, reading it, listening to it and writing it. Encourage good language learning by:

  • Taking part fully in English-themed events such as World Book Day
  • Using and embedding command terms
  • Creating a Learning Journals system
  • Pronouncing keywords in a funny way and getting students to repeat them out loud (elocution)
  • Making full use of powerful ‘Vocabulary Jokes’
  • Using other strategies, such as vocabulary games

The original post is found at: https://richardjamesrogers.com/

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

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About Richard Rogers 43 Articles
Richard James Rogers received both his bachelor's degree and his PGCE from Bangor University (Wales, UK). This was an excellent foundation for the steep learning curve that would follow as he pursued his career as a teacher of Science and Mathematics at UK state schools, and afterwards at elite international schools in Asia. His 11 years of full time teaching experience have seen him instruct IGCSE German, KS3 and 4 Science and Mathematics and three subjects at 'advanced level': Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. He also went on to lead a team of students to win the Thailand Tournament of Minds Championship in 2012 and has been an active educational blogger, columnist and online pedagogical content editor since 2010. His debut book: 'The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know', was rated 9.5 out of 10 in a recent UKEdChat book review, and offers an overview of what, in his experience and research, works best when it comes to engaging your learners and being happy in your job as a high school teacher.

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