Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Tomato: An Important Tool for ELT and Foreign Language Teachers

A Tomato: An Important English as a Foreign Language Teaching Tool? Really?

What has a tomato got to do with English or foreign language teaching? Try this. Take a tomato, display it prominently in front of your English or foreign language students. Now ask them to tell you about it. “Ask, “What things can relate?” If one of your learners asks, “Teacher, can I touch it or pick it up or handle it?” you should say “Yes”.

Just don’t let them eat it. No prop, no class you see.

Using a Prop For English language Teaching

The idea is to generate the use of the four basic language skills using a known prop or piece of realia. With the exception of Antarctica and possibly the Himalayas, I don’t know of any other continent or geographic region where the tomato might not be known. The learners then, must come up with as much tomato-based input as they can. From some individual learners there may not be much, but collectively, the input generated could be considerable.

Brainstormed Tomato Themes

Here are some allowable input themes my learners have brainstormed using this exercise.

• Tomato dishes
• Allergies, especially food allergies
• Cooking methods used with tomatoes
• Tomatoes in songs and movies (Remember “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”?)
• Collocations with “tomato”
• Countries where tomatoes are grown or heavily used
• Chemicals and nutrients in tomatoes
• History of tomatoes
• Tomato-colored objects
• Idioms and expressions using “tomato”
• Tomato statistics and records (world’s largest, smallest, etc.)
• Famous people who liked tomatoes (like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who reportedly put catsup on everything she ate)
• Companies that feature tomato products
• Tomato stories and anecdotes
• Words that can be made using the letters in the word “tomato”
By now I’m sure you get the idea.

Use The Power of Your mind

Try this visualization exercise right now. Close your eyes. Picture a tomato. Can you see it? In your mind, touch it. Pick it up and move it around in your hands. What does it feel like? Is it warm or cold? Can you smell it now? Describe the fragrance of your tomato. Okay, now you can take a bite. How does it taste? Do you want another bite? Would you like to sprinkle some salt or sugar on your tomato? Go ahead. Help yourself. If you’re getting hungry or otherwise reacting during this exercise, great, your learners will too. Even more so with a real tomato on hand.

English as a Foreign Language Stimulation

So try this English as a foreign language-stimulation exercise to get your learners talking and using English or another target language to actively communicate. It’s been a great help to me with my learners in generating speech and related topics during language class or Conversation Clubs. Other colorful fruits or vegetables will work too, especially if they are local or highly seasonal in variety. I’ve tried zapote, guanabana, granadilla, uchuvas, pitaya and several other exotic Colombian fruits, but so far the tomato has really worked out the best.

How about you and your English as a foreign language learners?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, prolific writer, author and public speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

No comments: