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Sunday, September 21, 2008

ESL Teacher Blog: Using Subway Maps

In our constant pursuit of finding useful authentic resources for our classes, we sometimes overlook the ones that are within our reach at all times. Available at most subway collector booths or easily ordered through public transportation offices in your city (just mention: these are for educational purposes), subway maps are a great tool to introduce, review and practice various language points throughout the lessons.
I use the maps to:

• teach directions (of course!). Whereas phrases like ‘turn right/left’, ‘walk up/down the street to’ are still useful, students have to use expressions such as ‘take a southbound train to’ and ‘get off two stops west of _____ station’. I always follow up with an exercise ‘tell me how I get to _____ station from _____’.

• acquaint students with the subway stations names so they can pronounce them well. Reading proper names isn’t an easy task as these sometimes don’t obey common reading rules. Often connected to the city’s history (named after famous people or places), names are difficult to look up for a transcription.

• help students to navigate through the city. As newcomers or international students, students often wish to know which stations are in the vicinity of major attractions or places of interest.

• teach how to read a map. Whereas most useful for literacy students, this is still beneficial to beginners and low intermediate levels as well, as the task is performed in English (and not their first language). We look at the legend, identify what different symbols, colors and contractions mean.

• teach/review comparative/superlative forms of adjectives. Which line is longer/the longest? Which way is shorter/the shortest to go to _____ station?
I then provide some more info about the local subway and ask students compare it to the subway of their home city or the one they’ve used before.
Which one is older/the oldest, deeper/the deepest, cleaner/the cleanest, cheaper/the cheapest, more reliable/the most reliable?

I find that taking time to carefully read the information available on the map can even create a special bond between the students and teacher. After all, we all take subway from time to time and sharing the same knowledge and information helps bridge the gap between the locals and the ones overwhelmed with their new life.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 1:15 AM
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