Meaningful Words Course

Designed as an enrichment course to supplement other English language curricula, the Meaningful Words Course 意义词 课 Yì Yì Cí Kè attempts to synthesize the latest research on second language acquisition – including the findings of neuroscience and psychology on learning and memory – to select content and instructional methods that optimize the acquisition of English by Mandarin Chinese speakers.

Simply put, what the course teaches and how it teaches it use research to optimally achieve desired results.

Goals

  • Create a life-long interest in learning languages.
  • Create a powerful ability to hear and be heard using English, whether speaking, listening, writing, or reading.
  • Achieve tangible desired outcomes, including high scores on standardized tests.

The current formulation of the course includes:

  1. Weekly sessions of 30 minutes each.
  2. Prior to the session, submission by each student of 3 words of meaning and interest to them.
  3. Selection by instructors of one word from each student as part of the content.
  4. Use of the most common words used in English as part of the session’s content. [Although other corpora exist, we’re using this list from Wikipedia and here’s an excerpt (.pdf).]
  5. English-only instruction using spoken words, pantomime, props, and facial expressions to convey 1) student-selected – and thus highly engaging and relevant – content, 2) a powerful set of common, core words in English, and 3) skill with problematic English pronunciation, all using the instructional methods of shaping and comprehensible input, kě lǐjiě de shūrù 可理解的输入. (To learn more about these methods, please see the video embedded in this description of Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition.)

More about the course

What?
Meaningful Words Course 意义词 课 Yì Yì Cí Kè
for speakers of Mandarin Chinese who are learning English

The course is designed to be lively, offers lots of opportunities to speak, and is conducted in English. Occasionally, brief phrases in Mandarin Chinese may be used for a quick explanation or to provide a synonym.

For whom?
To start, the course is for children and teenagers who, in the future, plan to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or other standardized exam exams. Soon, we hope to hold courses for pre-college students, college students, and adults.

For how long, when, and where?

  • Each course is comprised of four, 30-minute sessions, once per week on Sundays.
  • Each course is unique so students may enroll as many times as they wish.
  • Sundays, 5:00 – 5:30 PM Beijing Time, online via Zoom
    (5:00 – 5:30 AM U.S. Eastern Time)

How much?

一个月四节课,每节课30分钟,四节课费用160元,每节课40元。

Who is the teacher?
Anne Giles, M.A., M.S., L.P.C., is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Virginia, U.S.A., and a student of Mandarin Chinese. She holds master’s degrees in curriculum and instruction and mental health counseling, and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate. She attended the virtual National Chinese Language Conference in 2021. She has taught English at the middle school, high school, and college levels.

How do I enroll or how do I enroll my child?
Please fill in the contact form on this page. Anne Giles will forward this information to the Coordinator who will contact you with enrollment information, technology requirements, and fees.

How does the course work?

Before Session 1

By Wednesday at 12:00 PM Beijing Time, each student will submit his/her/their top three meaningful words to the Yì Yì Cí Kè Coordinator.

To decide what words might be “meaningful,” these questions may be helpful. Please select the level of question that interests you.

  1. For all ages: Right now, what are your three most favorite words?
    现在,你最喜欢的三个词是什么?
    Xiànzài, nǐ zuì xǐhuān de sān gè cí shì shénme?
    你喜欢什么词, 也常常用什么词.
    Nǐ xǐhuān shénme cí, yě chángcháng yòng shénme cí.
    What words do you like and also use often?
  2. Teenagers: In the past week, what three words did you notice you used most often? Which of these words helped you express yourself meaningfully to someone else?
    过去一周里,你最常用的三个词是什么,哪些句子可以更好地帮你表达自己的意愿?
    Guòqù yīzhōu lǐ, nǐ zuì chángyòng de sān gè cí shì shénme, nǎxiē jù zǐ kěyǐ gèng hǎo de bāng nǐ biǎodá zìjǐ de yìyuàn?
  3. Pre-college: What words on the test vocabulary lists do you most want to learn? Which words do you think would give you power with other words?
  4. College: When you read articles in English, what words occur often that you still have trouble understanding?
  5. Adults: What words do you think would be valuable for you to know and use in your work?

The Coordinator will select at least one word from each student that she believes will be most helpful for the group of students to learn together based on her experience and expertise with second language learning. Note: Not all words can be used and the Coordinator may make substitutions based on her discernment. The Coordinator will send the final words to the teacher. The teacher will prepare the lesson.

Session 1

The Coordinator will make introductions and explain ground rules in both Mandarin Chinese and English.

Ground rules:

  1. When the teacher is speaking, students are silent.
  2. When one student is speaking, other students are silent.
  3. If a student has a question, he/she/they raises a finger in a #1 sign and waits to be called on by the teacher.

The teacher will make presentations on the three words chosen by the Coordinator. The teacher will give students opportunities to use the words in various ways.

Homework

  1. Experiment with using the words you learned. Speak them mentally to yourself or to others. Consider composing a sentence or two with the words you learned. Share photographs you take or videos you make that relate to the words.
  2. Become aware of words you use often and/or are important to you. Consider beginning to make a list of words to submit for consideration for the next session.
  3. By Wednesday, 12:00 PM Beijing Time, before each subsequent session, please send your top three words to the Coordinator for consideration.

Sessions 2 and 3

The teacher will use a variety of methods to present new words and review previous words. The teacher will give students opportunities to use previous and new words in various ways.

Homework: Same as above.

After Session 3 and prior to Session 4

  1. Students will send their top three words to the  Coordinator.
  2. Students will write 1-3 sentences using as many words as they can from the previous sessions. They are asked to write sentences they think will help other students deepen their knowledge of the words.
  3. Students are asked to think about the words they’ve learned and how they think knowing them will be of value to them.

Session 4

Students will be asked to say their sentences aloud. They can read them from paper or say them with prompts from a paent. The teacher will make a presentation on the final three words for the 4-week course. Students will be given opportunities to use all the words in various ways. In the final minutes of the course, students will be asked what they learned in the course and how they think it will be of value to them.

What does the course offer and not offer?

The course offers a brief, weekly experience with learning English in a research-informed way. It is considered an enrichment course and is not a replacement for comprehensive instruction in English.

Word List

The words we have studied so far are here.

Here is a list of words commonly used in English.

Background

The latest research on second language acquisition suggests that learning can be optimized if people engage with content that is meaningful to them.

Further, if learners can gain facility with a core set of words that are meaningful to them – and use these words in ways that are important to them – they begin to create an inner knowing in their own minds and hearts about how the language works. (This inner understanding is termed an “interlanguage.”*) From this central set of personally meaningful words, learners can then add new words that also make sense to them. From hearing and reading the language, they naturally learn grammar constructions. Over time, the second language becomes second nature.

Logically, then, if students choose words for the course that are meaningful to them, learning will be efficient, maybe even exponential. Therefore, students, themselves, will choose the words we study!

Questions? 

Please feel free to fill out the contact form in either Mandarin Chinese, English, or both. The Coordinator and/or Anne will reply to you.

*An “interlanguage” is a developmental, dynamic, individualized, systematic way to use the brain’s schematic functions to organize second language information, make meaning from it, and speak, write, and create in it. If the learner continues to be willing to receive input, the interlanguage can eventually transform into bilingualism, i.e. the person is able to think, feel, and make decisions in both languages.

This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.