Monthly Archives: December 2020

Level up your language skills in 2021

3 Jan

This year has been full of challenges. However, it has given us the opportunity to pick up new skills and sharpen the ones we already have. Many of you have been working on improving your own or your child’s English too. Do you think your child has reached a saturation point in English? The feeling of getting stuck is very common and here are some top tips to help you level up your language game in 2021.

  1. Develop your vocabulary- This may sound cliched but enhancing word power is the key. Widening the range of your vocabulary is very important. Try to watch different types of content instead of watching similar types.  For example, if you like dinosaurs, don’t always watch dinosaur shows. Try to widen your horizon by watching other types of shows. For example, underwater, adventure, fantasy shows on different topics, is a wonderful supply of new ideas, words/phrases, content and so on. Use this resource from our LearnEnglish website to level up your phrasal verbs.
  2. Immerse yourself in understanding different types of accents- Almost 20% of the world’s population speak English. Since it is such a widely spoken language in the world, there are a plethora of accents. You must familiarise yourself with English in different accents. Try to watch films from different parts of the English-speaking world instead of just watching American films. So, if you were facing problems in having a conversation with someone who has a different English accent or someone who speaks quickly, you now know how to cope with the situation. Watching the cricket commentary or Masterchef Australia (junior) or even a British show like The Big Fib are some recommendations of shows with different accents. Here is a list of the top Netflix shows for kids.
  3. Keep practicing- Our tongue is a type of muscle that needs training and practice in order to speak eloquently. Try coming up with a word of the day, and then try to use it as often as possible. Try not to waste time on extremely specific words you will never actually use. Instead, focus on conversational English which is likely to be relevant in everyday life- both personal and professional. Make use of every opportunity to speak in English. Don’t be scared of making mistakes. Record yourself and check your progress. A very important tip for parents is NOT to correct their kids when they make errors.
  4. Follow your curiosity- Encourage your child to ask a lot of questions and try to find the answers together. Think about why a particular phrase is used in a particular way and what could be the other possibilities. Do your research online wisely. There are lots of resources, but it is important to go with the authentic ones. This search engine by Google is the kids friendly version and blocks sensitive content.
  5. Experiment with advanced grammar structures- sometimes we tend to take the easier way out and keep using the same sentence structures that we are comfortable with. Use of simple past and present seems to be our top choice. However, don’t be afraid to use more advanced structures like conditional statements and narrative tenses. The future aspect can be further developed by using a variety of ways to express probability.

The key is to experiment and not be afraid to try and use a higher level of language. Let the new year give you the confidence to be ok with making errors and learning from them. It’s a great time to set yourself language goals – invest a few minutes each day in enriching your English and make it count.

Wishing you and your family a very happy new year!

 -Snigdha Sinha, Teacher British Council

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Top Tips for improving your child’s body language

Sun

Actions speak louder than words.  We as parents need to help our children realize that there is more to communication than just words. Understanding the importance of eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and posture can help children make a good impression and adapt more easily to the complexities of social life. A starting point is to start raising awareness of this unspoken and integral aspect of communication that is often overlooked.

Body language is a means of non-verbal communication that is done subconsciously. Here are some aspects of body language that you can help your child develop.

1. Observe body posture: demonstrate to your child how different movements of the body can convey various feelings and emotions. Crossed arms while talking to someone, constantly fidgeting and hands on the hips; carries a lot of meaning even without using a single word. Parents can develop this sensitivity by using interactions between people in the real world or videos as examples. When dining out, draw your child’s attention to how different people are sitting and ask them to choose their favourite posture. Ask leading questions to find out why and then talk about what it means – the family is having fun, looks like that couple has had a fight. This will make children more aware of how they sit and how they are perceived by others. An upright posture makes you look more sophisticated and elegant.

2. Be aware of facial expressions: Point out ways in which they can notice these nuances to pick up on the underlying emotions and intentions of people. A fun game to play with your family is charades – act out different emotions and take turns to guess. You can get some more wonderful tips from this website.

3. Use gestures to add meaning: Gestures play a crucial role in presentations. Rather than standing with your hands behind the back, encourage your child to use hand movements to add meaning to what they say. TED talks by kids are a great way to show an example of how gestures can be better used.

4. Maintain eye contact: many of us have been taught that looking into the eyes of grown-ups can be a sign of disrespect. On the contrary, not maintaining eye contact can mean that you are hiding something, not interested or lying. Some ways to teach your child how to better their eye contact skills is by parents modelling this behaviour. Look at your child when you speak to them rather than into a laptop or phone. Make them feel that you are really listening and this conversation is important to you. Expect the same from your child when the situation demands it.

5. Encourage positive body language: Positively reinforce by saying “I really like it when you look at me when I speak to you” or “I really liked how you looked at the server at the restaurant and said thank you, it was really polite.” You can use this video to get some ideas of fun games to improve eye contact.

6. Build presentation skills: Eye contact is an important skill to develop even for public speaking. At home, when practising speaking in front of an audience, remind your child to look at them while presenting. With your eyes, make a sweeping motion from left to right and front to back; to make sure that each member feels included. This creates a bond between the speaker and the listener.

These skills will definitely come in handy when your child enters the corporate world and has to socialize with others while working in teams.

                                                                              -Ridhima Somaiya, Teacher British Council

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Say goodbye to spelling worries! Find out how.

Sun

Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.

Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember

This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.

  • You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
  • Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
  • Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
  • Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
  • Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
  • While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
  • If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
  • After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!

Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics

Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?

One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.

Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.

It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.

Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!

The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a  phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.

Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say

“Separate.

Put the papers in separate piles.

Separate.

Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”

Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.

Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.

Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.

Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:

sepArate    believe

 

When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.

These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.

Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.

Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:

  • Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
    • W – O – R – D
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
    • W – O – R – ____
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
    • W – O – ___ ____
  • Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
  • Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
  • Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
  • Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
  • Keep going until you spell the whole word.
  • GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.

Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.

 

All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.

Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.

-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

 

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Say goodbye to spelling worries! Find out how.

Sun

Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.

Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember

This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.

  • You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
  • Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
  • Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
  • Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
  • Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
  • While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
  • If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
  • After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!

Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics

Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?

One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.

Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.

It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.

Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!

The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a  phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.

Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say

“Separate.

Put the papers in separate piles.

Separate.

Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”

Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.

Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.

Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.

Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:

sepArate    believe

 

When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.

These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.

Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.

Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:

  • Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
    • W – O – R – D
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
    • W – O – R – ____
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
    • W – O – ___ ____
  • Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
  • Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
  • Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
  • Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
  • Keep going until you spell the whole word.
  • GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.

Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.

 

All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.

Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.

-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

 

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