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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 2nd, 2011, 01:29 pm
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Question 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

I give private lessons to an eight year old girl to reinforce what is covered in her English lessons at school. I use her school text book as a guide and develop activities from that.

The school syllabus is extremely intense. She has no problem remembering vocabulary but understanding and recalling sentences is a big difficulty for her. She's not ready for them yet, but we have to do what's covered in school. What can I do to help her?

I suspect she may have general literacy difficulties as she does not understand for instance that a question mark or even questioning intonation indicates a question. She learns to spell everything by rote with little understanding of letters and their sounds, e.g. she can't pick up on words where the beginning letter or sound is provided for her. She also has no concept of pronouns and whether or not they refer to herself. We use a male and female doll in the class to model other people, but the information is forgotten by the next lesson. There may simply be huge differences in the way literacy skills are taught here that I don't know about yet and need to get my head round.

I wonder if anyone here has used any techniques for teaching sentences. So far I've been teaching entire phrases, but would you recommend word order exercises? Any other ideas?

I'd really value any ideas, as I want to to do my very best for this student and help her reach her full potential. Thanks!
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Unread Mar 3rd, 2011, 04:08 am
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

Hi Roja123,
I 've just started teaching children, so I'm no expert , but here are some suggestions.
I use the Incredible English series with my classes (ages 7-10) and in the book there are grammar tiles: sentences are broken up on cards, so that the kids understand sentence formation clearly.
You could try making grammar tiles for your pupil out of the sentences in her coursebook, so she can stick them on her exercise book. That way she's got a record of things and won't forget so easily.It's a lot of work, but it does pay off. Or you could prepare strips of paper for her to write parts of the sentences on.
As for pronunciation and sound recognition, there are tons of phonetic cards for young learners on the net to help you.
Also where is your pupil from? I teach Italian children, who have problems recognising "A" "E", "I".
I hope that was useful, all the best.
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Unread Mar 3rd, 2011, 04:15 pm
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

Thanks Tinyteach, I think I'll take up your sentence tile suggestion. Another teacher recommended this to me too. I've done this as a written activity, but haven't tried physical tiles to move around. It could work well for her. Fingers crossed anyway! She's Spanish, so she has difficulty especially with sounds that don't appear in Spanish and I think she's also perplexed at the spelling of words, as Spanish is phonetically regular.
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Unread Mar 3rd, 2011, 09:34 pm
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

Definitely try hands-on activities!!! Some people are hands-on learners, and they need kinesthetic activities. I also agree that the girl needs to learn phonics.
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Unread Mar 4th, 2011, 02:21 am
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

Quote:
Quote bread_baker View Post
I also agree that the girl needs to learn phonics.
I'm really interested in this advice coming from both of you. I admit I have wondered about doing this but decided against it since there are so many phonetically irregular sounds in English.

I'd be fascinated to know if you have taught phonics in EFL lesson though and if so how you have gone about it. It could be worth a shot!
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Unread Mar 7th, 2011, 11:23 pm
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

While I agree that many words break the rules of phonics, there are many words that keep the rules of phonics. A student who is not equipped with phonics will be unable to sound out even the words that can be sounded out.
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Unread Mar 8th, 2011, 07:09 am
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

Hi again Roja.Luckily the book i use with my pupils provides songs and chants where the key sounds are highlighted. The kids learn the chant or song after seeing the phoneme on its own and after practising the sound. This way some context is provided.
I don't focus on phonics in every lesson (that bit is usually at the end of the unit), nor do I demand perfection, I don't expect the kids to recognise the symbols If the pupils manage to articulate the sound correctly enough, that's fine.
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Unread Mar 16th, 2011, 09:50 am
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

Just thought I'd update this thread to thank both of you who offered advice!

I tried used word tiles with my student yesterday and had a break-through. She loved using them and by the end of the lesson she was able to choose words from a big pile to make meaningful target sentences in our topic. She was also able to include adjectives and numbers correctly as a development activity.

She loved creating the sentences so much with the word tiles that she even started saying the words aloud as she worked and was keen to read all her sentences to me at the end. This was really great because it was the first lesson where she was so eager to talk by herself!

I feel more than ready now for the challenge of looking into new creative ways to help her understand questions, which we are moving onto in the next lesson.

Thanks so much for the advice and I hope this post helps others who may experience similar problems in the future.
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Unread Mar 17th, 2011, 05:02 pm
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Default Re: 8 year old who can't understand sentences...

This is wonderful!!! Another example of success because of hands-on activities!!
What if you take it up a level and use color-coded tiles or cards? Examples: verbs are green, nouns are blue, adjectives are orange, etc.
Also, you should look at this fantastic website for ideas and activities:
Free Printables for Teachers | flashcards, printable games, worksheets templates, phonics materials, ESL printables, conversational activities
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