Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Day 49: Seeking Some Advice

During the afternoons, I am teaching a beginner learner English. He has very limited experience learning English and everything seems to be a steep learning curve. He is from Saudi Arabia so that presents quite a challenge. He has not encountered the English language before and has difficulty retaining how to spell. However, he is very good at conversing in English and is able to make himself understood.

The challenge that I face at the moment is trying to improve his writing and spelling ability. I have worked solidly this week so that he encounters a range of activities to develop his reading, spelling and writing ability. I have tried everything. Memorisation games, recycling vocabulary, hangman, filling in the missing vowels from words and word search puzzles. Yet, he has difficulty remembering how to spell.

I need some help from other language teachers on what other strategies this student should do to develop his English. What should I do during lesson so that this learning is constantly recycling vocabulary and developing his awareness of spelling? At the moment he is guessing the spelling and does very little to be aware of spelling.

I suppose this blog post serves as a reminder that as teachers we are constantly looking at ways to improve and develop as professional language teachers. Never forget to improve yourself and ensure that learners are getting the best out of your lessons.


  1. I can't really comment as I don't know this learner well. But have you tried doing with him what we'll do with the young learners? I mean try phonics awareness at a very basic level. Sound-letter association and phonemic awareness is essential at that kind of writing ability (or 'inability') level. I'm not suggesting you give the learner some books from kindergarten,what I actually mean is create some fun worksheets to improve his phonemic awareness. Pay some special attention to certain problematic sounds like /f/ and /v/, /p/ and /b/ as Saudi learners have hard time distinguishing one from the other. Good luck and let me know how it goes?

  2. Hi Martin
    The description of your students sounds like many of the students I get here. Generally, I'm guessing the fact that he can express himself and probably understands a lot of what you say too, would mean he's either travelled to English speaking countries before, regularly watches movies in English or picked it up from songs. So from what I understand, he sounds like he's got trouble with writing skills and probably doesn't read much - not unusual here.
    Just a few questions I usually ask myself with my Ss in a similar situation:
    Are his spelling mistakes random? Or is there a pattern/s? Could the struggle be due to dyslexia? I've sometimes found that with some students, it didn't matter what I did, in terms of spelling and literacy in general, progress was really slow. If you can rule this out, then here are a few simple activities that might help:
    1) I start at simple sentence level in a guided discovery way. So I jot a short text and then ask loads of questions about, punctuation, caps and lower case (knowing this doesn’t exist in Arabic), subject and verb in every sentence.
    I then ask them to write a similar text and use the same questions to edit their own text.
    2) I then focus on their writing at word level. I prefer doing it top down as it seems to work better in terms of motivation and keeping them interested.
    So I look at some of the problem words with them and find words I can contrast or associate them with. They keep a record of those on the back of their note books. They usually have two types of words, high frequency ones and the others.
    3) I’m very systematic with punctuation and word formation form the beginning, it takes about a week of this and then they get the hang of it. It work well with groups as they get used to peer checking each other’s work based on the questions we worked with in the initial GD activity.
    4) For spelling, we have this game we play a couple of times a week where they work in groups and have to recall as many words from the last lesson/s as possible. They get a point per word but only if it’s correctly spelt. They check each other’s lists using only ticks and crosses. They then give the list back to the group who wrote it and they in turn have to correct their own mistakes. The whole activity lasts 10 mins, it’s a lot of fun and keeps them really focussed on spelling throughout.
    5) I don’t work with spelling rules as I don’t believe there are any (many) solid ones. I try and develop in them the habit of checking the spelling of words they’re unsure of. This seems to stick better.

    These are just a few things I do from the top of my head. Let us know how you get on.