Teaching VocabularyVocabulary is extremely useful to students, especially during the early stages when students are motivated to learn the basic words they need to get by with the english
language. A learner’s vocabulary is made up of receptive vocabulary – these are words the student knows but doesn’t use, and their productive vocabulary – these are words the student knows and uses. Their receptive vocabulary is much larger than their productive vocabulary; the students can normally understand more words than they actually use. How easy or difficult a vocabulary item is will depend on a number of factors such as spelling and pronunciation, similarity to english
words already known, similarity to students’ own language and whether it is appropriate to the students needs.
With regards to grammar, certain structures should be taught at certain levels of learning. This is not the case with vocabulary. A big problem with teaching vocabulary is selecting which words to teach. The teacher is generally guided by the course and course book, but the following criteria such as appropriacy to the students, whether it is appropriate to the task, frequency and coverage – how often are the students likely to use/come across the language and can it be applied to different situations, and teachability as beginner students need very clear and visual language can all be used to determine which vocabulary to select or expose to the students.
So what do students need to know about a vocabulary item? There are a number of things that the teacher should make sure that the students understand:
- Meaning – what the word means.
- Use – Use/when it is appropriate to use.
- Word grammar – where it belongs
- Interaction – how it interacts and affects other words.
- Spelling – how it is written.
- Pronunciation – how it is said/spoken.
There are a number of techniques for teaching vocabulary at different stages of the lesson. During the engage stage of the lesson, methods such as mime and action, pictures, contrast, discussion and discovery can be used to help engage the students and to explain meaning. Getting the students to speak english
, and to talk with them with help expand their vocabulary. During the study stage of the lesson, activities such as word searches, gap-fill exercises, crosswords, example sentences, matching exercises, study from texts and dialogues, and pronunciation exercises such as drilling. These activities are designed to make the students discover new vocabulary for themselves by reading. During the activate stage of the lesson, activities such as role-play, simulation, discussions, story building, material production and debate can be used. These exercises help the students to learn new vocabulary from the other students on the class.
Within a class there will be different levels of learning amongst the students, more advanced students will have a higher vocabulary than less advanced students. The teacher can use this to their advantage by coming up with activities in which students rely on each other’s vocabulary knowledge. The stronger students can be paired up with the weaker ones to help the weaker students expand their vocabulary, and the stronger students are also likely to learn new words form the weaker ones. From my experience with the english
language, I know that the more reading I do, the greater my vocabulary becomes and also my spelling improves, as well as my grammar. Regular reading exercises or giving students short passages to read for homework will help improve their written and spoken english
. I first realised then when I went to University and didn’t have much time to read. I started to struggle spelling certain words and writing papers also became harder as my vocabulary took a hit. I made sure to try and read at least once a day and noticed an improvement with my spelling. A combination of oral exercises/activities, and reading exercises/activities will both help expand a students’ vocabulary.