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Here Below you can check out the feedback (for one of our units) of one of the 16.000 students that last year took an online course with ITTT!
When I first started teaching EFL courses in Japan, selecting vocabulary was one of my biggest concerns. In particular, it was difficult to decide what to teach to grades 1-4, where there was no textbook to guide me. I was totally free to choose what to teach!
As the text says, younger learners need to study very concrete, visual words. We focus most on vocabulary for things like food (especially fruits), colors, animals, etc.
Next, the text mentions the importance of a word's similarity to the student's native language, and of the word's similarity to other English words the student already knows. This has been a HUGELY important point while teaching here. In Japan, English loan words are becoming more and more popular in everyday use. So for fruits, for example, the words "strawberry," "lemon," and "orange" are all used by Japanese people -- though the pronunciation varies slightly. In a lesson on fruits, I start with these words. Students can call out the words confidently, and we can just focus on how to change the pronunciation from a Japanese-English version to a native-English version. Then, towards the end, we advance into words like "cherry" and "grape," which aren't as commonly heard here. I've found that the more I learn Japanese, the better I can plan what vocabulary to teach the students, because I can properly balance the vocabulary units to include 1) words students know but need to adjust pronunciation of and 2) entirely new challenges for students.
Teaching new grammar structures, on the other hand, can be a little bit more complicated. For younger grades with no textbooks, I try to focus on everyday conversations. The first thing students learn are things like "I'm...," which they can use to 1) tell me their names, and then 2) tell me their ages as we practice numbers. I do think frequency of usage is important in these cases, so young learners have frequent chances to put these new grammar structures to use in their daily lives.
For older grades with textbooks, the Japanese teachers typically get students to discuss a point first in Japanese. So for example, the text provides an example about books/films to review the simple past tense. The Japanese teachers here would probably have the students describe a book/film in Japanese and then have them recognize that they are using the past tense. THEN they'd transition into teaching the English past tense and doing that kind of a lesson. I'd really like to find a way to introduce grammar structures in an immersive English environment. This unit didn't go into enough detail to really give me good ideas for how to do that, but I'm hoping there will be more material in future units to help me think through that.
As a final note: In Question 7 of this test, the answers suggest that the origin of a word is not important to students when they are learning new vocabulary. However, I think in Asian languages that use picture characters and very very much focus on origins of words, it might be useful for students to learn origins (or at least etymology) of words. If they don't know the origins, many words seem overly arbitrary to the students -- and English becomes less approachable. I'd like to research more about how to most effectively teach vocabulary to students from different linguistic backgrounds.