Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Bathroom is for Other Things too

I was teaching in a comprehensive immersion program for ESL students. Although we were in class 30 hours a week there needed to be language learning taking place outside of school as well. The following was one of my recommendations and it works well also for non-ESL people who would like to improve their vocabulary.

We human beings spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom. Let's not "waste" all of it. If you are brushing your teeth the recommended number of times a day and for the recommended amount of time, then you have a perfect vocabulary learning situation. Make up a small index card with new words on them that you feel you should know or that would be beneficial to know. (Plenty of word lists on the Internet that "educated" people are supposed to know. Try the GRE word lists or the PSAT word lists or the SAT word lists.) Put on the definition, an example of how the word is used and any synonyms or antonyms the dictionary gives you. Tape that card to the side of your bathroom mirror. Instead of staring at yourself while brushing, memorize some vocabulary. Leave each card up for a day or two if you need to. Then put up another card. If you are a "fast" learner, tape up two cards.

In addition, try to find situations where you can use that new word on the day you are learning it. Linguistic wisdom holds that if you use a word 5 times it is yours for life. Drop the word into conversation at the family dinner table. See how many places you can locate that word in the printed material that you read each day.

Learning is not limited to the schoolroom. Even the lowly bathroom can be an educational tool.


Anonymous said...

Great suggestion! I wish I had done something like this when I took A.P. English; learning those words would have been so much easier this way!

Lion of Zion said...

"Even the lowly bathroom can be an educational tool."

for sure, but my wife thinks i spend way too much time learning in the bathroom. (i used to actually keep a small library in there)

ProfK said...

I'm sorry Lion, but doesn't everybody keep a library in the bathroom? We can't be the only two people in the world with this habit. And it's common enough around here when someone bangs on the bathroom door and asks "Are you ever coming out of there?" to hear the answer "Almost finished with the chapter and then I'll be right out."