Five-Day Unit Plan
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To acquire a good command of English, students have to learn not only the unknown words, but also their synonyms, definitions and collocations. However, knowing the meaning of a word is not enough, it is also vital to transfer it from a passive vocabulary into the active one. This could be achieved through reading an interesting piece of literature and while practicing. A short story chosen as the basis for the plan is called Stranded at Luigi’s and is aimed at developing proficiency vocabulary skills. In the unit students are supposed to broaden their vocabulary on a general topic. For this reason they will be suggested five strategies and assessments.
Lesson # 1. At this lesson students will get the short story. The first strategy is the new words presentation. As Blachowicz (2005) says, it is one of the most productive ways to learn new words. As the students start reading, they will read the unknown words they find in the text and their translations / definitions. One can discuss the words with the audience and suggest possible variants of their usage in everyday speech as well. This method is effective, because when they will come to the reading per se, the students will be already consolidating the material. It is possible also to highlight the words in the text. In such a way it will be easier to go back to the translation / definition when needed.
Lesson # 2. Having read the story, students can start both discussing it and using new words. This could be done simultaneously. A teacher could prepare a number of questions (Who is your favorite character and why? How would you act in the same situation?) and organize a discussion encouraging the audience to use the words from the text.
Lesson # 3. Students may be willing to gain control of their learning. Of course, many new words are given by the teacher, but student could make up a list of words and collocations they consider to be useful and then present them.
Lesson # 4. According to Blachowicz (2005), “Many studies have shown the efficacy of putting word meaning into graphic form such as a map or web or a semantic feature chart, advanced organizer or other graphic form”. During this lesson students could create a graphical representation of different semantic meanings of new words. Additionally, their discussion should be included.
Lesson # 5. Obviously, the more often the words are used, the better they are remembered. At this lesson students could try to use the lexicon while fulfilling various tasks, such as making up sentences, stories or dialogues with the new vocabulary. One of the possible tasks could be the following: students are divided into groups. They have to come up with a continuation of the short story using as many new words as possible.
To gauge the students’ progress, the instructor can observe them, noting how they cope with the material and give feedback and clarifications whenever it is needed. Secondly, a teacher could organize a small test, where students would provide definitions for the words they have learned. Thirdly, every student could be assessed by his or her group mates. For example, each of them has to present a short speech on a subject related to the short story. Others have to evaluate the performance in such aspects: the amount of new words, their pronunciation and context. Finally, students can keep their own record of a progress. To do so, they have to make a plan of desirable progress and try to follow it, noticing if there is any deviation.
In the end of the course a teacher could suggest a summative assessment to see whether the course was useful and to find its positive sides or drawbacks. This could be done in a written form when students would have to complete a number of tasks, such as multiple choices, crosswords, filling in the sentences, etc.
So, learning vocabulary through literature is interesting and effective if appropriate techniques are used. To gauge the progress, a teacher can run a number of formative and summative tests.