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, Level 4: Sign of the times …

Friday 21 for Saturday 22nd June (Everybody Up 4, U 8 L 3)

Today we have a listening test which is scheduled to occupy fifteen minutes (five minutes of the actual test, ten minutes getting the students to find pens, sit down and shut up). This helps the teacher, as there is less of a lesson to plan, and so without further ado

We are on the penultimate lesson, so now we’re reviewing and going over recently-learnt vocabulary and grammar. They had a class featuring basic ‘Do Not’ signs … red-edged circles enclosing a black image, struck through by a diagonal red line.

After ascertaining the meaning of the signs in the book ( ‘no photography’ etc), I’ll show then a sign I saw in a bathroom in Indonesia. It contains some rather unusual prohibitions:

Of course, teaching students who are around 10 – 12 years means that I will have to hide the lower frame of the photo.

Then, an activity; the class is still young, and they enjoy drawing and being creative, basically anything that doesn’t involve a text book.

Activity: At our centre, we have a number of prohibitions. We can run through some of them and then the students, in small groups and equipped with a writing board and markers, must design a sign. The signs can be humorous as long as the humour is appropriate. For example, is this behaviour acceptable in class ?

Could they design a ‘no sleeping in class’ sign ?

We could then have a little talk about the meaning of signs in society and how prevalent they are … at shopping malls and stations, computers and phone apps.

Next up – grammar: What are you going to do ?

The class has covered, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up ?’ and, ‘What are you going to do next week ?’

Here, I will board some verbs and some actions. The students must match them. I’ve added two higher-level words, to boost their vocabulary:

EXAMPLE: This is my friend Pete. He wants to be a great musician. Next weeks he’s going to practise bass guitar.

Jane wants to work with animals. Next week she’s going to …

Martin wants to be an actor. Next week he’s going to …

Anna wants to swim in the ocean. Next week, she’s going to …

Tony wants to be a scientist. Next week he’s going to …

The verbs and actions:

purchase (buy) / experiments

visit / Shakespeare

conduct (do) / the zoo

read / snorkel and flippers

If there’s a few minutes before break, then a quick game of Pictionary can be fun. Two teams, each in turn, send one member to the front. I give them a subject to draw and their team has a minute to guess.

The subjects could be: An astronaut / gondola / a kangaroo / a monkey on a motorbike / sleeping student and then they could draw a member of the class.

The final activity before the book work (and if time allows; the great thing about over-planning lessons is that anything that isn’t used can be employed in the following class) reviews travelling and what is needed. I’ll show four English-speaking countries. The students, in four teams, will be assigned one country.

What will they need to bring with them ?

Why do they chose these items ?

What is unusual about these places, or different from Viet Nam ?

What would you do there ?

NEXT – the students have to identify the places:

And so … to book work, work books and … the bell !