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Student Misconception Series – English (Part 6)<br />
Do your Student Learn or Mug up ?<br />Students of all ages seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to responding to any situation or performing any task.<br />As teachers, most of us go back home thinking that our students have understood every concept that we teach them. It is only when we test them that we find that some concepts have not been understood as clearly as they should have been.<br />It is this desire to understand student thinking that prompted us to examine ASSET questions of the past rounds, in English, examining the most common wrong answers to understand what could have made students select the options they did. <br />
Why was the question asked?<br />While finding meanings of words using dictionaries is an accepted way of improving one’s vocabulary, a more important vocabulary skill is deducing the meanings of words based on the context in which they are used. This skill exercises a person’s memory, reasoning, comparison and other skills used in learning. This question tests students’ ability to identify the meaning of words from the contexts in which they occur.<br />What did students answer?<br />Of the 4,211 students who answered this question, about 46% chose the right answer – Option B – debut, while about 25% chose the most common wrong answer – Option C – display.<br />Possible reason for choosing A: Students choosing this option seem to have an understanding of how the two words are related – pioneer and debut but have not been able to distinguish them. While ‘pioneer’ means a person who is among the first to initiate something, ‘debut’ refers to a person’s first public appearance.<br />Possible reason for choosing C: Students may have probably heard of the word ‘debut’ in the context of heroes and heroines in the film world and may have assumed that ‘a public appearance’ refers’ to ‘a public show’ and in that sense is ‘a display’. The significance of the word ‘first’ in the stem seems to be forgotten. They don’t seem to have made the connection with ‘debut’ being the exact answer’.<br />Possible reason for choosing D: Students who chose this probably have made a random choice, possibly because they couldn’t distinguish between the meanings of the four given words.<br />
Learnings<br />Understanding the meanings of words using context clues is a skill that will be used lifelong and hence has to be developed at the school stage. As is evident from the students who answered this question, many of them are not able to deduce meanings using contextual clues, which involve a host of sub skills too. Vocabulary is predominantly improved more through this skill than through the use of a dictionary.<br />Had students picked on cues like, ‘ focused painter, began drawing, exhibition’, they would have been able to understand that Asuka painted since the age of two and the debut at an exhibition (a public event) at Tokyo could be the first public appearance of one of his paintings. The word ‘displays’ refers to many other paintings at the same exhibition and does not necessarily refer to the first one.<br />Those who have extensive reading habits and who arrive at the meanings of words while reading habitually are better able to handle questions like this where the distinction of meanings is not easy. Hence constant practice is this skill is required to improve students’ vocabulary.<br />
How do we handle this?<br />Some strategies for improving vocabulary by understanding the meanings from the context are given below:<br />a) When starting a lesson, pick out words that are new and write them on the black board and leave it there to be seen by the students. As and when the words come up in the lesson, let the students guess the meanings and put them down against the words on the black board. Ask the students to check the meanings later in the dictionary.<br />b) Get the students to identify at least one word a day from their reading and guess the meaning from the context and share it with the class. Let them check the meanings in the dictionary at the end of the day.<br />c) The vocabulary learnt should also be practiced in various contexts by the students to ensure they internalize the words. Ask them to write a short paragraph, every week, with five of the words, they have learnt in the previous month/ lesson and list the words in their writing, which they think are clues to understanding the meanings of these words.<br />