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Lesson content

April 17, 2008

Hello again,

To continue my ideas for teaching about the language I want to make some suggestions for lesson content. Language–based topics are a legitimate source of material for listening and reading comprehension and for various classroom ...

...activities that could, for example, help with study skills.

For reading comprehension you might try a text describing the history of English (http://www.anglik.net/englishlanguagehistory.htm). This could be used for all kinds of reading activities according to the size and needs of your group. Once the text itself has been absorbed, it provides rich discussion topics too.

For writing practice you could use the timeline at the end of that article or the one in this link: http://www.danshort.com/ie/timeline.htm. Students could use the key points to write their own simple history of English.

If you have access to good dictionaries that give etymologies as well as current meanings you could do some dictionary work to show how the meanings of words change gradually through history. For example, the words “lord” and “lady” refer to high-ranking folk today but originally they were the “keeper of the bread” and the “kneader of the bread” respectively. You could use the dictionaries to help students understand that sometimes words degenerate (look up “silly”) and sometimes, as with “lord” and “lady,” become more elevated. By looking up the word “person”, they can discover how meanings can fork so that one word eventually yields more than one meaning with a spelling variation: ”parson.”

For more advanced students you might even have fun with pronunciation. If they worry about their accent, it might reassure them to learn how fluid this element really is. Try a listening clip from Chaucer: http://academics.vmi.edu/english/audio/audio_index.html.

Explorations into the development of English seem to me a fascinating way of skills-building while enhancing students’ knowledge of the wonderful language they are learning.

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