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New vocab - with or without article?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by TL6, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. TL6

    TL6

    Hello all

    I’m a Spanish GT trying to research an assignment entitled ‘Children’s understanding of a concept and the implications for teaching and learning’ and I wondered if any MFL teachers wouldn’t mind sharing their ideas on presenting new vocab.

    I’ve been teaching Year 7 classes since September and I’ve recently presented how to form the plural of nouns e.g. dos gomas (2 rubbers)

    I noticed that quite a lot of pupils, using their vocab lists to help them, included the indefinite article in their translation (e.g. dos una goma or dos una gomas). Possibly because that is how they had first ‘learnt’ that word and they hadn’t quite grasped the fact (or I hadn’t explained it well enough!) that un/una means ‘a’ (or 1).

    Just out of curiosity, when I introduced the next set of vocab, I didn’t include the article and they made ‘less’ mistakes when forming the plural. I also created a ‘questionnaire’ for pupils to complete where they translated English plurals to Spanish. Vocab in one section included the indefinite article and vocab in the other section did not. They were then asked which section they found ‘easiest’ to translate and the majority chose the section that did not contain the indefinite articles.

    After they formed the plurals of these nouns, I then elicited whether they were masculine or feminine based on the nouns’ last letter. Then they wrote ‘un’ or ‘una’ with the noun.

    However as a language learner myself, I do appreciate the importance of presenting vocab with articles as it clearly shows the noun’s gender and pupils are learning the article and noun together from the start.

    Has anyone noticed anything similar when teaching plurals to their pupils?

    Is it ‘best practice’ to always introduce the article with nouns?

    Your thoughts are most welcome and appreciated!

    Many thanks

     
  2. TL6

    TL6

    Hello all

    I’m a Spanish GT trying to research an assignment entitled ‘Children’s understanding of a concept and the implications for teaching and learning’ and I wondered if any MFL teachers wouldn’t mind sharing their ideas on presenting new vocab.

    I’ve been teaching Year 7 classes since September and I’ve recently presented how to form the plural of nouns e.g. dos gomas (2 rubbers)

    I noticed that quite a lot of pupils, using their vocab lists to help them, included the indefinite article in their translation (e.g. dos una goma or dos una gomas). Possibly because that is how they had first ‘learnt’ that word and they hadn’t quite grasped the fact (or I hadn’t explained it well enough!) that un/una means ‘a’ (or 1).

    Just out of curiosity, when I introduced the next set of vocab, I didn’t include the article and they made ‘less’ mistakes when forming the plural. I also created a ‘questionnaire’ for pupils to complete where they translated English plurals to Spanish. Vocab in one section included the indefinite article and vocab in the other section did not. They were then asked which section they found ‘easiest’ to translate and the majority chose the section that did not contain the indefinite articles.

    After they formed the plurals of these nouns, I then elicited whether they were masculine or feminine based on the nouns’ last letter. Then they wrote ‘un’ or ‘una’ with the noun.

    However as a language learner myself, I do appreciate the importance of presenting vocab with articles as it clearly shows the noun’s gender and pupils are learning the article and noun together from the start.

    Has anyone noticed anything similar when teaching plurals to their pupils?

    Is it ‘best practice’ to always introduce the article with nouns?

    Your thoughts are most welcome and appreciated!

    Many thanks

     
  3. Hi
    You make an interesting point. Traditionally French vocab has always been taught with the definite article. Of course with French it is far less obvious what the gender of a noun is.
    However as long as exceptions are clearly flagged there is not really any need to teach articles with new Spanish vocab. You are right of course that if a student writes dos una gomas, it is because they do not uderstand the meaning of the individual words. (Or they simply don't think it through carefully enough.)
    I know that it is not often done now, but have you tried translation exercises? The repetition of translating one rubber, two rubbers into Spanish could raise awareness of what the individual words mean.
     
  4. I recall watching a TV programme many years ago, which showed a teacher in France (i.e. native French) teaching French (native) primary school children. He introduced all new nouns together with the indefinite article and an adjective - which reinforced the gender. A French friend of mine who brought her children up bilingually in French and English told me this was quite common practice in France.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  5. TL6

    TL6

    Hi Otter
    Many thanks for your reply. Yes you're right, it could be because they did not understand each individual word. I give them simple plurals to translate but with different nouns. I like your idea of translating using the same noun in order to reinforce the meaning of each word - I think that will help some of the pupils who are finding it confusing so many thanks for your suggestion! TL6
     
  6. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    I have the same issue with my students (also putting "un le" if they've looked up words in the dictionary as they're given with le/la before them). If I'm introducing new vocab on the board, I write masculine words in blue and feminine ones in red. My pupils are used to this and know what it represents. On vocab sheets, I either put an m or f in brackets after the words or put them in two columns for m or f, whichever is most appropriate for the vocab given, and at the top of the sheet I include a reminder about what le/la & un/une actually mean, and which ones are m or f. It seems to do the trick.
     
  7. TL6

    TL6

    Hi Graham
    Thanks for your message. Interesting to hear how it's done in France! I'd not thought about that before. We haven't introduced adjectives yet in Year 7 but I will certainly give this a go after Christmas to see if it helps. Masc and fem nouns are more "obvious" in Spanish than French but I suppose adding an adjective helps to reinforce it even more! Thanks for the suggestion.
    Tracey
     
  8. TL6

    TL6

    Hi Rosa
    Thanks for your message and ideas. I like the use of colour-coding for masc / fem nouns and the reminders you put on the top of vocab sheets about meanings of 'le/la' etc. The more repetition the better! Many thanks for your suggestions, I will incorporate them into my resources!
    Tracey
     
  9. This is something that really puzzles me. Why are English children not taught the grammar of their own language? My nephew had to learn all that stuff in year 3 here in Germany, and I remember we did it around the same time....
     
  10. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I think English children are taught little grammar because many believe, including me, that you do not need declarative knowledge of your grammar system to be able to speak and write well. Englsih kids get plenty of spelling and punctuation practice though. Spelling is a majot issue in Englsih, of course. Inflectional languages may need more explicit teaching of grammar. Just my own point of view on the issue.
     
  11. TL6

    TL6

    Hello everyone
    Thanks for all your replies - very interesting reading!
    I think the relative "lack" of grammar knowledge here in relation to other countries is another can of worms! I was quite shocked the other day when a Year 7 pupil didn't know what a consonant was. (sigh)
    Have a good weekend
    Tracey



     
  12. I agree and disagree with you on that one. In theory you don't need to be able to explain the theory behind how a computer works to be able to use one. The same with language, however, it does help enormously with spelling and writing properly. For instance, I have had adult students thoughout the years (English and Spanish) who did not know where to put commas. They thought nothing of putting a comma between a subject and its verb. They were just following what their teachers in school had told them that you use commas to mark a pause in speaking, which is partically true but very confusing. If they understood how language works "subject + verb + complements" they would understand you can't chop up the subject from its verb. The same is true for other languages, German for instance has strange (for me) rules for sentence building, and commas go in places that are very different some times to where I would put them in Spanish for instance. The way you put the commas depends on the syntax... so if you don't know anything about syntax or grammar you won't be able to write properly in German. In Spanish you need to know the "ortographic" rules to be able to write properly... so, I think that yes, you do need to learn grammar and the rules if you want to write for a living as: teachers, journalists, secretaries, copy-writers...and many more.
    The point of having rules and grammar rules is not having an elite of academics who can sell books and tell us what to do, but it's to have a shared-common system that all English speakers recognize. If we don't teach grammar and rules, then we will end up with language diverging very quickly like it did before the advent of the printing press and Caxton.
    Talking is a natural human ability, writing is not, it is a learnt art. So, yes, unfortunately for those who don't like studying, we do need to study grammar and rules.
     
  13. What exactly is Grammar? It doesn't actually determine language but is a set of rules which attempt to explain the structure of language. Of course the grammar may influence historically developing forms of writing and speech i.e. from old Latin. But consider this, maybe there are other kinds of grammar which can also describe language in a manner closer to actual language use and context.
    Forget teaching nouns, verbs and adjectives separately and in isolation at first and group words into functional blocks.Three kinds of block can be defined.
    Participant: These describe the actors, objects or even ideas in a text. e.g. "A small black dog", "Stressed and dis-heartened teachers", "Introductory baking skills". The blocks will contain articles, adjectives but the NOUN plays the major role. Thus it is a nominal group.
    Process: The doing and being words. e.g. "went", "slowly got up", "started to rain", "must have been". Here the verb plays the major role although adverbs and other words may be included. Thus a verb group.
    Circumstances: These limit the scope of the actors and actions. When/Where/How e.g. "By the lake", "last week", "under the blossoming apple trees", "in a slow and determined manner". Thus an adjectival group.
    These 'building blocks' naturally contain the correct forms of articles etc. In other languages e.g. German, there will be variation according to position and role, but learners can become accustomed to the forms by exposure. Traditional grammar can be used to analyse the structure of individual blocks if required. This is much more akin to the natural process of learning a language whereby meaning and understanding come before traditional grammatical analysis. I'm sure there are many people who can write and speak quite correctly with very little formal grammatical knowledge.
    More info on alternative 'functional grammar' - http://manxman.ch/moodle2/course/view.php?id=4
    Regards

     
  14. I too do such things & even use green for plurals. (I have started correcting plurals in green too.) I 've been teaching MFL for 25 years but have only noticed this particular problem quite recently. However, I am keen to advise and get pupils to edit their own work, checking for such errors.
     
  15. You've started an interesting thread here. I'm a precisian, which I think MFL teachers owe it to their pupils/students to be. I taught EFL for decades and know that foreign students (especially advanced ones) react badly to teachers who, following the norm here, have no more than a GCSE in a FL and therefore have little knowledge of grammar (students don't understand that, as pointed out elsewhere, from about 1960 there has been opposition amongst English teachers to the study of grammar). So I'm sure you wont mind my pointing out that "less" should be "fewer": the first measures quantity or amount, the second, number, but many educated English speakers are puzzled if this is pointed out, though they never confound "much/many". Put in grammatical terms, it is a question of non/count nouns. The "less/fewer" distinction is fading in spoken English (but retained in careful writing), perhaps because the opposite is "more" for both, but also because so many people lack the capacity to analyse their own language. Similarly: He has (too) little bread, but (too) few loaves, though it would be more common to say/write "not enough" of either.
     
  16. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Yes, you'd be amazed at the amount of people that make that kind of mistake... [​IMG]
     
  17. TL6

    TL6

    Polyglossy, with regards to your unsolicited comments, I admit I made a mistake.
    It’s a shame there are people using TES forum who, whilst highlighting the grammatical errors of colleagues, completely ignore the request of the original post. In my first post I am clearly inviting comments from "….any MFL teachers who wouldn’t mind sharing their ideas on presenting new vocab."
    So I hope you don’t mind my pointing out that, whilst you may or may not be an MFL teacher (possibly not as you mentioned EFL), you offered absolutely no feedback regarding the topic.
    I have been teaching in Special Needs education for the past 6 years and I am now re-training in a mainstream school as I have a BA Hons in Spanish. Should I decide to stay in teaching for "decades" like you have, I hope to be able to support any colleagues who seek advice and not find fault. If you feel so strongly about the subject, perhaps you should start a new topic of your own.
    To everyone else who took the time to help me with this assignment and provide constructive comments, many thanks and happy Christmas!
     

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