This morning I want to offer you an exercise you can do with students who are lower intermediate up to advanced.

The exercise allows you and your students to explore the sensory power of words. Put these headings up on the board for them to copy into their note books:

I see             I hear             I feel through my body         I taste/smell

Explain to the students that you are going to dictate some simple English words to them and that you would like them to  note each word down in the column in which they get their first sensory representation of it. If you dictate the word UNCLE some people will get a picture of an uncle of theirs, some will get a picture of the word itself, some may hear the uncle's voice, others may feel the presence of an uncle, while some may have a nose sensation of the uncle. The important thing is which representation pops up first.  Dictate these words:

 soup    child      mountain   old     to go for a walk       green field     temple      traffic        rice paddy

mother     Tuesday        shoes       to dream      Obama          mosquito      cheese        Thailand

stairs         sister        feeling tired     examination      two feet         digging in the garden         happy baby

grandfather   river        knife      yesterday     God

Group the students in fours to compare their sensory repesentation of the words.

Round off the activity by asking the whole group where they placed MOTHER, HAPPY BABY, SISTER and GRANDFATHER

This activity is especially good with teenagers who are amazed at just how creatively different some of their sensory representations of the same word can be. If you have read my article on the iffiness of comprehension questions you will realise that this exercise carries the same message as the article. There is no way on earth that I can know, guess, or even hypothesise how you create a word in your head and still less how you create a story in your head.

If I want to know I'd better ask you, respectfully.

Over the next 36 hours I will be travelling from the UK on the Atlantic shore of Europe to Baki in Azerbaijan, that that stands on a peninsula sticking out into the Caspian sea. I will be back with you on Friday, Western Asian time.

Till then, goodbye.   Mario 

 

 

 

 

Comments

This is just to say thank you for sharing all your knowledge and experience.

Very intresting and makes me think....

Mercedes

Arq. Mercedes Viola Deambrosis

Directora

4D Content English

http://www.4d.edu.uy/

Hi Mercedes Viola,

                           Do you realise that whenever you speak a language you are making unconscious sensory choices of vocabulary? Suppose you explain something to me I could reply by saying I understand what you mean but I could also say:

                                          I see what yoou mean ( visual)

or                                       What you say sound really clear  (auditory)

or                                       Now I've grasped what you are saying (kinaesthetic)

We are constantly making these sensory choices and this well below the level of  conscious awareness.

Warmly yours,    Mario ( from Baku in Azerbaijan)

[quote=Mario Rinvolucri]

Hi Mercedes Viola,

                           Do you realise that whenever you speak a language you are making unconscious sensory choices of vocabulary? Suppose you explain something to me I could reply by saying I understand what you mean but I could also say:

                                          I see what yoou mean ( visual)

or                                       What you say sound really clear  (auditory)

or                                       Now I've grasped what you are saying (kinaesthetic)

We are constantly making these sensory choices and this well below the level of  conscious awareness.

Warmly yours,    Mario ( from Baku in Azerbaijan)

[/quote]

 

It is really interesting....

I can feel it.....

 

sounds very mesterious

 Hi Mario,

 This kind of sensory approach to words reminds me of a new website that I spotted recently called Wordia.com ( http://www.wordia.com/) It's an attempt to create a kind of 'by the people for the people' type video dictionary. 

In fact it's a collection of short video clips of people talking  about words and what they mean to them. As a dictionary for learners (or anyone else for that matter) it's not so useful, but what it does illustrate is some of the deep and quite personal associations we have with some words, as most of the definitions ( many given by pretty low level 'celebrities') actually turn out to be short personal anecdotes. You can (if you feel inclined) register and create your own entries.

 As I said it's not the best place for learners / students as many of the anecdotes would be inappropriate for younger students and many of the definitions deviate quite considerably from the Oxford dictionary too! I do however think it's interesting how we interpret words in a very individual and personal way, much the same as the way you have described our reading of texts.

I'd be interested to know what you think if you have time to take a look.

Best

Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
Teacher Development: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/
News and Tips: http://quickshout.blogspot.com/
Student Activities: http://daily-english-activities.blogspot.com/
My Office in Second Life at: http://tinyurl.com/ytz5go

"I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance"
e. e. cummings

Dear Nik,

             Thank you for identifying and publicising www.wordia.com. You are more and more a marvellously useful, ELT specialised, web-sweeping "spider"! Hope you don't mind my use of the technical term "spider"!

There is a real problem in helping students to make their unconscious reading and listening prcoesses conscious without distorting them in the process.

I do not claim to have solved this problem and would love help with this from readers of this blog. My worry about the material on the WORDIA site is that the way these folks are thinking about words is highly conscious. So far I have mainly used NLP thinking to delve in reading and listening processes.

Warmly yours,  Mario

Hi Mario,

 

Thanks you so much for that. I always wanted to be a superhero when I was a kid and spiderman was one of my favourites. I guess this is as close as I'll come.

 

Re: Wordia  "the way these folks are thinking about words is highly conscious." Yes they are, and yet some of their definitions still deviate quite a lot from the dictionary - accepted norms!!

 

Best

 

Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
Teacher Development: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/
News and Tips: http://quickshout.blogspot.com/
Student Activities: http://daily-english-activities.blogspot.com/

Dear Nik,

              I accept the value of conscious, individualised "definitions" of words as in the case on the "Wordia" site. I also guess that these conscious expositions will be based on the person's deep, unscionscious knowledge of the word, what Hoey would call primings. One thing I love about Hoey's vocabualry theories is that he is fully aware that each person has an idiolect ( own special way of speaking) and that this way is being subtly altered by what others say on a daily basis. When, for example, I hear that someone has been accused of committing martyrdom, ( Radio 4 UK) my priming for the word "martyrdom" begins the change.  [ In this case I was conscious of the new phrase as I am very much aware of the current UK witchhunt against Muslims, but even if I had not been conscious, the new priming would have seeped into my unconscious lingusitic mind]  [ It is worth pointing out to a world audience that, in the Christian tradition, "martydom" in UK English is traditionally associated with true Christian believers laying down their lives for their faith.  The verb "to commit" collocates normally with words like "crime," "adultery"  "treason" etc....   Using the verb COMMIT with the direct object MARTYRDOM produces a fierce clash of meanings, associations and connotations in the hearer's mind.]

The wordia site you have found allows people to make some part of their underlying awareness of a word conscious, explicit and transmissible to others. A fascinating development.

 Warmly yours, Mario

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