Guessing words from context – is it a good thing? #ELTchat Summary 06/03/2013
So welcome to this summary of the rather lively chat we had on the subject of guessing from context (GFC). The topic had a slow start but built up to a lively climax, going on even after the final bell.
There were many questions asked like, is GFC a good thing? Do students need to be taught it? What is its purpose? What do we mean by context? Is it actually better that using a dictionary? Does it have a high retention rate? How do we want students to guess (L1 L2?) Answers and agreement were less forthcoming but it was a lively debate –and surely that’s a good thing.
First off @teflerinha posted a link to my recent post on the subject, here. Also a related post from @Marisa_C here and this from @englishraven.
It seemed clear that a lot of teachers, seem to use this activity such as @prese1, @englishraven, @Marisa_C and others. @jo_cummins and @BobK99 suggested it is less about actually guessing but more about getting students to think about the text more carefully and that it was also good for getting students away from dictionaries. @michaelegriffin felt it reflected real world practice. @teflerinha suggested it was a reading, rather than a vocab strategy. @TyKendall saw it as a ‘last resort’ strategy @prese1 did it once in a blue moon and @Marisa_C does it all the time.
Many folks pointed to the fact that it is often hard to guess and that a % of words should be known before this is even possible (Nation’s 94% came up). @englishraven suggested texts to showcase this skill could end up being contrived. @ebefl suggested it was a ‘dubious’ skill and wondered whether it gave teachers something to teach rather than giving students something to learn. This was coupled with queries as to whether students even need to be taught this skill, i.e. isn’t it something that they can do, and that they already do in their L1. Many like @CotterHUE thought students need to be taught this. Some wondered if it was a skill. a subskill or a strategy. Many folks thought it was a skill. There were also questions about whether ‘ignoring’ might not be just as good a strategy.
@Marisa_C wondered if the class practice carried over into real life. There was also some suggstion that the distance of the L2 could affect ‘guessability’. @EBEFL questioned whether it was effective @Marisa_C replied that her experience suggested it was. @englishraven and @teflerinha agreed.
A few people wondered when the best time to start GFC was; beginner, advanced etc?
@BobK99 felt dictionaries slowed him down and @teflerinha agreed. @englishraven suggested that dictionaries don’t lead to vocab retention. @Marisa_C suggested using a dictionary to check guesses. @TyKendall felt retention was poor from ‘spoon-fed’ dictionary words.
@Marisa_C and others suggested morpho-analysis is potentially valuable for this; Octopus/October etc. When talking about the evidence for effectiveness there were questions about the usefulness of research as a whole and its limited scope. Also lots of positive comments about he usefulness of classroom observation/experience.
It seemed at times it wasn’t always clear that we were all talking about exactly the same thing (see questions questions). It is unclear that anyone changed their position as a result of the chat but it certainly left a lot of people wanting more. There were suggestions of a “round 2” though perhaps with more well defined terms and goals. Many felt there was still a lot to discuss. If I’ve missed anything important please let me know in the comments.
@michaelegriffin makes fun of @ebefl for having to write up everyone’s praise for something he personally thinks is of limited value. -Cheers Mike 😉
- Is guessing from context a load of XXXXXX? by @EBEFL
- Words from Context: of Logic & Connections by @Marisa_C
- E-Learning Design Matters (2): Facilitating discovery learning and supporting language/ literacy needs by @englishraven
About the Author
An associate professor of TESOL in Japan, ex-IELTS examiner and EAP tutor at UoL,
Russell Maynard – @EBEFL on Twitter – enjoys taking a sceptical look at TEFL practices. This post originally appeared on his blog Evidence Based EFL