Thursday, August 13, 2009

Referencing Skills

Heya.. to start every new MUET year when the new sixth formers arrive, a good thing to do is teach them referencing skills. This doesn't just mean opening up the dictionary and checking a word. There are 3 aspects of referencing you may want to have specific lessons for.

i.At the back of any good dictionary is a phonetic symbols list.. read out the various consonant, vowel and dipthong sounds to them and they repeat (can be really funny sometimes) and then get them to look up some words in the dictionary.
ii.Focus their attention on the fact that each word is separated by slashes / ... / and the syllable stress is noted using the symbol ' .
iii. Give each student a different symbol and he/she looks up 5 words from the dictionary and puts it on a coloured piece of paper.. then he/she gathers some friends around and they each teach the others the sound and how to read the words they have selected.
*Alternative task suggestions:
1. students write the sentences in phonetic symbols such as "My name is ........" and "I am ........ years old"
2. each student writes a secret sentence in phonetic symbols at the top of a piece of paper with the English alphabet sentence at the bottom of the page (fold this section twice so the answer can only be seen if they unfold it). stick on wall and get students to read the secret sentence n if they get it right, they can sign the page and draw a smiley face if it was easy to figure out, a sad face if it was too difficult to decipher! Get the students to mingle n read and sign as many as possible. I just did this in college last Saturday n it was a HIT! ;-)
"Peer Sharing Session"

In case you've never used this before, go get one NOW! It's a brilliant referencing tool as it groups words and phrases by categories. It covers all necessary vocabulary and common phrases that are related to each topic. In the example below, the girl looked up the term 'ENVIRONMENT' and from the info in the Activator, she made a mind-map. Then she shared her information with a group of friends (peer teaching is more motivating than teacher centred teaching, not always but usually).
For additional enrichment activities, you can get them to decorate the information notice board with the work they produced, or use the notes to write a composition based on the muet 350 words requirement, etc.

Well in the Malaysian classroom we can't run away from translation. It's quicker and more effective but sometimes it can be a cop out when the kids expect you to translate all the time. Anyway, I think teaching them to look up words they WANT TO KNOW as opposed to what you want them to know is more effective. So the steps are, give them a topic each or in pairs, make a list of vocabulary in their mother tongue they would like to research and then look up the translation. As the norm, write neatly on a piece of paper and ensure they have a peer-sharing session.
Get them to be more creative and graphic in their final product. Colours and pictures always help. ;-)
An extension of this activity is to get students to make their own thematic crossword or wordsearch puzzles for their classmates to have fun doin whilst subconsciously acquiring the new vocabulary.

Anyway, hope these tips are useful. Anyone has other ideas about this? If you do try them out, please let me know your strengths and weaknesses..

Hugs to all!


  1. I really like the phonetics activity a lot. Very creative and also it gets students to be interested in phonetics rather than be imposed on learning them. Well done for your dedication Audrey and I really hope that this blog will benefit others who are as dedicated as yourself.

    A suggestion for the modification of the phonetics exercise. perhaps get students to stick strips of sentences written with phonetics symbols all over the wall, ss are grouped in 5 or 6 and each time you blow the whistle, one member from each group will run and read off a strip, run back and report back to the group so that one person will write it down on the paper. tell them they only get 5 or 6 whistles (or how ever many strips there are) so they will have to memorise the whole sentence on the strip each time (no second chance). would be quite funny to see how many actually get the correct words on the strips.

    just an idea :)

  2. That's a great idea peng2. Audrey, the phonetic part is great. Oh, i have the workbook for the dictionary but i havent bought the dictionary. haha...will try them.

  3. hey great comments guys. i like the whistle activity. will try it out. ;-)

    longman has approached me to do dictionary skills workshops.. hope that will come to fruition, as i really do enjoy giving talks n spreading the knowledge. ;-) cheers guys.

  4. Give me a month or two...I'll start contributing to your blog, Audrey :) I really like the stuff you've got here, sparking ideas in my head.

  5. Phonetic symbol keyboard online

  6. wow you really hv been trawling.. hehe... :P a big compliment to me coming from u... hehe. you should think about penning your own MUET blog and i'll get my blogwalkers to click on ur link. we can be sister bloggers for muet! :P