18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 13. Guessing & Context

Can you guess? Naomi's photos
Can you guess?
Naomi’s photos

This is part thirteen of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 67: “Minimize guessing from context”

I was so glad to read this tip.

As a counselor I often explain that you can hardly expect a typical deaf or hard of hearing student to infer the new words in a text  from context when they don’t remember so many other words in the text. How can you infer what “climb” means in a sentence if you have forgotten the meaning of the word “tree” and remember that “up” refers to a direction, but you aren’t sure which one?

Now add that to the information given in the book about data collected from so-called “regular” students (and even native speakers). The conclusion is that accurately inferring the meaning of a new word from the context simply does not work very well.

Deaf and hard of hearing students are allowed to use a dictionary – let them use it! Teach them how and show them it is perfectly legitimate to use one!

It’s important to note the distinction made in the book between texts (such as independent reading in grading readers) where it is enough for the student to get the gist of  the meaning of an unknown word, compared to texts in the coursebook designed to teach new vocabulary.  Guessing the meaning in the latter situation may lead to wrong answers, time wasted and cause unwanted stress.

When reading a graded reader a student can even skip some of the unknown words..

Final note – I have found that when you do want students to practice guessing words from context, guessing verbs has a higher success rate than other parts of speech.

Have you also noticed that?

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