Teaching the verb To Be

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Mastering the verb TO BE implies an understanding of its structure, its function and its meaning in communication. Unfortunately, in the Venezuelan school system, empirical evidence seems to suggest that, when teaching the verb Presentation offered at the firt webinar organized by VenTESOL and Avealmec. October 26, 2013, 10:00 am
Mastering the verb TO BE implies an understanding of its structure, its function and its meaning in communication. Unfortunately, in the Venezuelan school system, empirical evidence seems to suggest that, when teaching the verb TO BE, most teachers focus only on its syntax through a mechanical process, having as a result,
a limited vision of this linguistic unit. Based on this situation, this webinar provides English teachers with a Critical Thinking (CT) approach to, on the one hand, enhance the comprehension of the pragmatics and semantics of the verb TO BE and, on the other, to teach it from a different perspective. First, a contextualization of the pragmatics and semantics of the verb TO BE will be provided. Second, a brief dissertation of the CT theory will be offered. Third, CT will be used as an approach to teach the functions and meanings of the verb TO BE. Fourth, a series of exercises that can be applied in class will be suggested.

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Teaching the verb To Be

  1. 1. E: B TO ch b er roa eV pp th gA ing inkin ch ea Th T al tic Cri A By Chinger Zapata
  2. 2. Hamlet To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d.
  3. 3. What is the meaning of “to be or not to be” in the story of Hamlet? What does existence mean? How can the idea of existence be expressed with the verb TO BE? What is the verb TO BE used for? How many general uses does the verb TO BE have? Are these syntactic, semantic or pragmatic considerations? Have you ever taught the verb TO BE from this perspective?
  4. 4. Teaching the Verb TO BE in Venezuela: A Brief Contextualization Syntax: Affirmative sentence personal pronoun + verb to be (am, is, are) + complement Interrogative sentence personal pronoun + verb to be (am, is, are) + Complement + ? Negative sentence personal pronoun + verb to be (am, is, are) + negation (not) + complement Language is a mechanical, rigid process rather than a flexible, social means of interaction.
  5. 5. Teaching the Verb TO BE in Venezuela: A Brief Contextualization - English is taught as a subject, not as a language. - Few people use smart phones smartly.
  6. 6. Critical Thinking is a process that implies “highorder thinking.” To put this thinking into practice, the person has to collect data, observe all the information, consider all factors, question what s/he sees, and reason logically by making inference, hypothesizing, and speculating effectively and efficiently in a way s/he can come to relevant conclusions. We can improve our teaching through questioning.
  7. 7. What type of questions can I ask? What type of questions can I ask to teach the verb TO BE?
  8. 8. What is the difference among A, B & C? A I am hungry. Tengo hambre. I am sleepy. Tengo sueño. I am tired. Estoy cansado. B I am a man. C I am outside. I am next to you. I am human. Soy un hombre. Soy humano. Estoy afuera. Estoy a tu lado. Condition: (It is a temporary stage.) State: (It is a permanent stage.) Location: (It is a place.)
  9. 9. So, TO BE implies 3 different uses: a condition a state a location A B C I am hungry. I am a man. I am at the university.
  10. 10. One activity for first-year high-school students (seventh grade) Instructions. Look at the picture carefully. Use the verbs in the box to complete the answer to the questions based on what you see in the picture. The same verb can be used several times. eat, sleep, make, speak, read, walk, sing, begin, win, fall, run, play, study, swim 1. Which verb in the box can be used to say where the children are? They _____ in the park. 2. Which verb in the box can be used to say how old Claire is? Claire _____ 6 years old. 3. Which verb in the box can be used to say if the child with the hula hoop is a girl or a boy? The child with the hula hoop _____ a _____. 4. Which verb in the box can be used to say what the boy with the red cap is doing? The boy with the red cap is _________ a book. 5. Which verb in the box can be used to say what the girl with the microphone is doing? The girl with the microphone is _________ a song.
  11. 11. One activity for second-year high-school students (eighth grade) Instructions. Match one picture with a verb form of the verb to be from column A with a word or phrase in column B. The first has been done as an example. Who is Mr. Brown? Was he a doctor when he was a child? Will he still be a doctor next year? Where is the Jackson family? Are they inside the house? Will they be always outside the house? Who are Paul and Mary? When they graduate, will they still be students? Were they students last year? Is the nurse a gentleman? Can she be a gentleman? Will she always be a lady?
  12. 12. One activity for third-year high-school students (ninth grade) Instructions. Read the following passage. Identify the use of the verb TO BE in the following sentences. Write a C if you think the sentence expresses a condition, an S if it expresses a state, or an L if it expresses a location. My son Martin is 9 years old. He isn’t at home right now. He is in a bigger room. He is with other children. The children are very loud. Martin is happy there. This is his favorite place. Can you guess what place is it? a. My son Martin is 9 years old. b. He isn’t at home right now. c. He is in a bigger room. d. He is with other children. e. The children are very loud. f. Martin is happy there. g. This is his favorite place.              
  13. 13. HelpE: For them by asking simple questions such as For A: children in silence? ¿Los niños están en silencio? Will Are the How old is Martin? ¿Cuántos años tiene Martín? How old was he last these children always be very loud? ¿Estos niños siempre serán year? ¿Cuántos años tenía el año pasado? How old will he be next bullosos? Could the children be silent? ¿Podrían los niños estar year? ¿Cuántos años tendra el año próximo? So, does My son en silencio? So, does The children are very loud indicate a Martin is 9 years old indicate a condition, a state or a place? condition, a state or a place? For B: For F: Is Martin always at home? ¿Está Martin siempre en casa? Where is Is Martin sad inestá Martin? Is he siente triste place? ¿Está enlugar? Martin? ¿Dónde that place? ¿Se at a specific Martín en ese algún Will Martin always be happy there? ¿Martín siempre estará now lugar específico? So, does My son Martin isn’t at home right feliz en ese lugar? Couldstatebe a place? indicate a condition, a he or sad there one day? ¿Podría Martín sentirse triste algun día en ese lugar? So, does Martin is happy For C: there indicate small place? a state Martín en un lugar pequeño? Is Is Martin in a a condition, ¿Está or a place? For G: outside of this room? ¿Martín está fuera de ese salon? Where Martin is Martin? ¿Dónde está be Martin’s favorite in a bigger este Will this place alwaysMartín? So, does He is place? ¿Serároom indicate condition, a state de place? siempre ael lugar favorite or aMartín? Was this Martin’s favorite For D: place when he was 3 years old? ¿Era este el lugar favorite de Is Martin alone? tenía 3 años solo? Will Martinpossible these Martin’s Martín cuando ¿Martín está de edad? Is it be with that children in the evening? ¿Estaráwhen he grows? ¿Es posible que el lugar favorite place changes Martín con estos niños en la noche? Can Martin be with other peoplecuando crezca? favorite de Martín cambie in a different place? ¿Puede Martín estar con otras personas en un lugar diferente? So, does He is with other children indicate a condition, a state or a place?
  14. 14. One activity for fourth-year high-school students (tenth grade) Instructions. Decide if the sentences below express a condition, a location, or a state. SENTENCES   DECISION a. John is a mean person.     b. Kids are naturally curious.     c. The dogs are out of the house.     d. You are late for my class.     e. To be humans is to be imperfect.     f. Paul and Mary are engaged.     FOR A: Can John stop being mean one day? ¿Puede John dejar de ser malo algún día? Being mean is something you learn or something you are born with? ¿Ser malo es algo que se aprende o es algo con lo que se nace? FOR B: Are all kids curious? ¿Son todos los niños curiosos? Is it possible to find a kid who is not curious? ¿Es possible encontrar a un niño que no sea curioso? Can kids be curious for some activities and not curious for others? ¿Pueden los niños ser curiosos para algunas actividades y para otras no?
  15. 15. FOR C: Could the dogs be inside the house? ¿Pueden estar los perros dentro de la casa? Could the dogs be at the park? ¿Podrían los perros estar en el parque? Where else could the dogs be? ¿Dónde más podrían estar los perros? FOR D: Are you always late for my class? ¿Siempre llegas tarde a mi clase? Is it possible to arrive early to my class? ¿Es possible llegar temprano a mi clase? FOR E: Are there perfect humans? ¿Existen humanos perfectos? Will humans always be imperfect? ¿Los humanos siempre serán imperfectos? Can imperfect humans be perfect people? ¿Pueden los humanos imperfectos ser gente perfecta? FOR F: Will Paul and Mary always be engaged? ¿Paul y María estarán siempre comprometidos? Have they always been engaged? ¿Siempre han estado comprometidos? Were they engaged when they were children? ¿Estuvieron comprometidos cuando eran niños? Could they stop being engaged? ¿Podrían ellos dejar de estar comprometidos?
  16. 16. One activity for fifth-year high-school students (eleventh grade) Instructions. Write 2 sentences with the verb TO BE expressing condition (a situation that can change in time); 2, location (a place where you are, were or have been), and 2, state (a situation that will never change). Example:   1. I am 42 years old. (Condition) 2. I am at home now. (Location) 3. I am a human being. (State)
  17. 17. Thank you! E-mail: chzapata@ipb.upel.edu.ve Twitter: @chingerzapata

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