Signs, symbols and icons: information and worksheet

21st August 2019

I actually prepared this for my top students in a Young Learners’ Level 3 (ages from 9 – 11) class; university-level semiotics. While most of the class just do the assigned work – no more, no less – others make no effort at all and are unable or unwilling to answer a question to which I have just given the answer. Then we have the top cats … I’m lucky to have two exceptional students in my class as well as two others who, with some effort, could also reach those Olympian heights.

The following is a very simplified, breakdown of everyday signs, symbols and the modern use of the word ‘icon’ as related to technology. The original categorisation into ‘icon, index & symbol’ was devised by Charles Sanders Peirce, and more information can be found on this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiotic_theory_of_Charles_Sanders_Peirce#II._Icon,_index,_symbol

The following I have printed out as a three-page activity worksheet for my top cats (who generally finish bookwork before others have even started).

A sign uses pictures to give information or to tell people what they can or can not do:

What do these signs mean ?     ///   The first sign means no smoking.

The second sign means … /// The third sign means … 

A symbol is a picture or things that represents a place, city or country.

The ao dai and non la are symbols that represent Viet Nam

What do these symbols represent ?

Icons are used on computers and smartphones. For example, this icon:

  represents a dictionary. How about these ?

Draw two more icons from a computer or smartphone.

Draw two signs that could be used in Vietnam

What do these signs from Singapore mean ?

What do you think of these signs ?

Do you agree ? Do you disagree ? Tell me why …

Young learners (ages 4 – 6)

9thDecember

First class with a new post-KG (Kindergarten) class. 21 students and a new, young TA. There was going to be a lot of class management and, as a teacher-friend formerly  said, ‘crowd control’.

I used some illustrations to show basic class rules and the procedure (one black mark for breaking the rules, two black marks and the name is in the book) if they transgress.

Almost immediately, three boys were on the board; shouting and screaming (usual behaviour for a young class).

In this type of class, we usually introduce some new vocabulary and grammar, then drill it for pronunciation and meaning. The students will practice speaking, listening and more speaking … ideally.

The challenge here is to make warm up games fun and get everyone involved. At least the room was quite large, so I was able to hide some flash cards and ask some students to run and find them. These would be words learnt from a previous lesson(s) so the game also serves as a review. At this age, the students like active games, it gets them excited and prevents boredom from sitting in chairs for long periods.

Naturally, not all students can be involved at the same time, especially in running games, so a good plan is to break the class down into smaller groups (maybe four or five students per group). One member from each group can do an activity while the others will, hopefully, encourage them. I name the groups after English football clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs. Manchester United are having more success in my classroom than in the Premier League.

However, getting the students to speak in English was a bit of a problem. Most of them didn’t seem to understand my instructions, or didn’t want to speak. I’ll need to get the TA involved more, translating and giving instructions in Vietnamese.

Not a great success but realistic for a first lesson. I spent some time one-to-one with the students, checking their work and letting them speak to me, repeating what they had learnt.

In such a large group, there will be mixed abilities, motivation and energy. It’s a good idea to have some work sheets prepared for fast finishers. These include new vocabulary  and word searches; they appear as games, but also have pedagogic value, especially if the students work together and ask each other questions in English.

At the end of the lesson, the students should have learnt new vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation … and how I expect them to behave in class. It can be a slow process, but it works.