Learning to communicate in a new language takes time. We build on what we already know and we learn from what we see, hear, read and do. We are learning to speak, listen, read and write in English at the same time as we are learning about the world in the different subjects we study at school. Our other languages and our experiences before now help us to make sense of the new learning we are doing. Building our English vocabulary is an important step in becoming confident English users.
Here is one way we build vocabulary as writers in our English classes:
Step 1: Picture Stimulus Chat
We discuss what we see, what we infer, what we think and any connections we have to the stimulus picture, film clip, song, etc. We sometimes use our other languages to explain what is going on. We use online dictionaries to translate words and phrases from our first languages into English.
Step 2: Building Vocabulary
We label the picture with words, phrases and sentences that we might use in the writing task. We use different colours for the different word types; for example, we write verbs (doing words and phrases) in green, nouns in red and adverbials in blue.
Step 3: Building Phrases and Sentences
We group the words and phrases according to their function and order in a sentence. We think about the “participants“, “verb phrases” and “circumstances” we see and infer in the picture and then we make sentences using these observations and inferences.
Step 4: Practising English Sentences
We practise saying the sentences in English before we write them down. We encourage each other to make interesting sentences that sound “right”. We rephrase our sentences with help from each other when they don’t quite make sense. We ask ourselves and each other, “Would an expert English speaker say it like that?”
We practise making more sophisticated sentences by using other types of words like connectives to sequence the story, conjunctions to show why things happened and adverbs of manner to show how things were done.
Step 5: Writing in English
Once we have done all this preparation, we are ready to write sentences and paragraphs. We write imaginative narratives, recounts about our own experiences and information reports about the world beyond.