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  1. #1
    lehoanglinh is offline Newbie
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    Default ways to teach vocabulary

    Hi everybody,
    I am a young teacher who is on an internship program as an English teacher.
    I have been observing quite a number of English-speaking classes and I realize an absence of focus on vocabulary teaching in those classes. My students can't hold their conversations for too long,say 2 or 3 minutes, using 100% English. Their discussions break down quite often and they are discouraged to express themselves linguistically. There is a real shortage of word stock in them.
    Unfortunately, the current curriculum emphasizes heavily on functional phrases and group work. The topics for students to talk about are quite tough and sometimes abstract. I have made some efforts to equip them with useful and focused vocabulary so that they can function better in their group work as well as individually. But I myself find it rather boring and daunting to teach them vocabulary by giving handouts and short reading texts rich in words and phrases they would need. I want to organize some games for them to learn these items but games are often time-consuming (I have only 2 class sessions for an English-speaking lesson)
    Anybody has some advice for me? At the moment, I am relying on the books : English collocation in use and Vocabulary for IELTS. I am from Vietnam, . Thank you for reading my thread and I would be grateful if you all leave any ideas and advice.

  2. #2
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ways to teach vocabulary

    I have my students keep a vocabulary workbook, in which they are required to add an average of one word per school day, of their choice, from reading materials or the media. It must be defined in English, with an example, and be dated, and I have them consecutively number the words, so that I don't have to count them. :)

    I also reward them for using words orally that they have previously recorded in their vocabulary books.

    This means that reading is the source for vocabulary growth, and lists with quizzes are never used. That method doesn't work.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: ways to teach vocabulary

    I'm having the same issue where I currently teach. I think you might be struggling with what I am, which is that they've been taught very text-oriented English, but haven't personalized it.

    I'll draw on my background in ESL and suggest that you use theme-based lessons, intro/ develop, close, review each meeting what you learned last time. Have them brainstorm words they do know in relation to the topic: Cowboys - saddle, spur, boots, hat, chaps, etc. Add new words as needed. You can even have them regroup these words, without giving them topics headings. Then after they find words that relate to each other, they title that group. For example, chaps, spurs, boots, hat = things cowboys wear. But don't tell them the reason for the grouping. It's critical thinking, too. Gun, whip, knife = weapons. This helps them really grapple with the words. They can then create-a-cowboy, name him, write a story, then share it with the group, adding illustrations (who cares how bad they are) which reinforce the visual with the new words. This might be too young for you, but you can use this with any theme, topic. Make it personal, though.

    Other topics: if you could create a robot what would it do for you? A monster, a pet, have them describe, etc. but let them brainstorm whole group, then small group, then share.

    If they don't internalize the words, they won't have access to them to use.

  4. #4
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ways to teach vocabulary

    If it doesn't relate to their lives, they'll forget it, or won't use it.

  5. #5
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    Lightbulb Re: ways to teach vocabulary - why not use tech?

    Hi,

    I'm not a teacher and don't have any pedagogic background. I'm also not a native English speaker, but I love English and I constantly try to enhance my vocabulary, so maybe I'll be able to add something to the discussion here.

    I believe technology could help a lot, at least when it comes to kids and young adults, who generally love gadgets and view them as toys. I think that this property makes these gadgets and in particular mobile phones great tools for helping to enhance ones vocabulary.

    I happen to be a computer programmer and recently I've started to program for the iPhone in my spare time. I decided to write an iPhone application that will help me enhance my English vocabulary. What I came up with can be viewed as a variation on the "word of the day" screen savers and web sites, which I assume you are familiar with.

    Very briefly, my application works like this: when it starts, English words start gliding across the phone's screen. If left alone, every now and then a random word pauses and its definition is displayed. Or, if I see an unfamiliar word, I can tap on it and that word's definition pop ups. I can add a word to my Favorite Words list by tapping the "+" button and that word will show up more frequently. I found this to be a great way to memorize new words. Obviously it can't replace reading books or speaking in English but it's quite useful, because it brings new words to my attention (the app contains a dictionary of about 150,000 words...)

    What I found out along the way, is that my kids (who learn English at school) were very much attracted to the application, even though it is not a game. I guess that part of it is because their dad wrote it , but I suspect that it's also because kids like new stuff in general, and they like to learn new things, especially if they don't seem too much like normal school studies. Another reason (I think) is that this is a great way to "kill time" when they have nothing better to do.

    I don't want my post to sound like advertising, so I won't provide links to the application here (unless someone asks me to), but if you are curious to see what it looks like, you can search for "wordglide" and "iphone" on Google (WordGlide is the application's name). The application's website has a video of it in action so you can get the general idea.

    As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a teacher, this is just my personal experience with my kids and a few people I know.

    Ori

  6. #6
    lehoanglinh is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: ways to teach vocabulary

    Thank you all for your advice.

    It is really difficult issue since what works for this person does not necessarily work for the other. I am finding it effective to converse with them during the lesson. However, in doing so I must ensure that the class size should be limited to 10 to 15 students. For larger numbers, it will be of a problem. I can not converse with all of them in person (and sometimes, some students will take the floor and become dominant, taking the chances of other students away. This in turn will create a negatively psychological atomosphere).

    I have been told that student-centered method should be used as much as possible but I am doubtful about that. Many of my counterparts are putting an emphasis on the method, giving students the topics and let them manage their ownselves.

    Another thing to note is that the curriculum provides students with quite a number of functional phrases but no ordinary or basic concepts related to the topic. It seems to be pre-assumed that students already know the topics well or acquiring relevant vocabulary is their own business.

    Today the topic for speaking was "environment". I introduced my students some of the concepts and terms to call environmental problems through pictures. They did a good job. I let them watch a small video concerning global warming, having them take some note and then retell the story of global warming. To my suprise, they made an unexpectedly great presentation. But I am still haunted by the question "how to incorporate vocabulary into a speaking lesson". Konungursvia, you said if it does not relate to their lives, it will go off their mind. Can you elaborate on that point? Thank you

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    Default Re: ways to teach vocabulary

    Hi, I hope you don't mind my comments here again, but I was thinking, how exactly are you managing your post-video discussion? you might do something like a KWL chart.

    K = Know, as in What We already know about this subject. Brainstorm BEFORE watching or reading something. Have them share the concepts they know, and Write those on the board, whatever, under K. For instance, Rainforests: Hot, tropical, tall trees, lots of rain, monkeys, Raiders of the Lost Ark - whatever they already associate with the topic. Now they will have a good list of words and hopefully a good number of students have added to it, so each student has gained several new words. Enjoy this process.

    W: What we WANT to know - have them share out some concepts and questions they'd like to learn about ie rainforests, the environment, tropical animal life, whatever topic yuo're covering. you'll probably have to model this one first: I'd like to know how much of the world is rainforest right now...Or, how many animals live in the amazaon rainforest.

    L: Learn is for Learned, what we Learned. At this point, after the video, they go over in whole group what they Learned. You can jot down those new terms that hopefully the picked up: mudslides, precipitation, extinct, gills, amphibians, whatever, that were new and perhaps they have questions about.

    Now they should have a goodsized bank of new words.

    You can extend this to having them answer in small groups some key questions about the topic. What was the most interesting thing you learned about rainforests? Do you think Global Warming is important, why, why not?

    By previewing the topic and reviewing after watching the video or reading the passage, whatever, you've giving them many chances to see and hear their new words, before using them and personalizing them. They'll have them on the board right in front of the to refer to if they can't remmeber exactly what they were, how to say them, etc.

    You can then ask each partnership or small group questions that require them to reuse those words once again, by answering to the large group after they've felt comfortable speaking in small groups.

    enjoy!

  8. #8
    Teaching English Games is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: ways to teach vocabulary

    Repetition is the mother of skill.
    Nice one Rbiton - post just before mine using the old army strategy: tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em, then tell 'em and finally tell 'em what you told 'em.

    I'm receiving a word a day from a nice online dictionary site. I read the unusual words with interest but then don't use them in conversations, and consequently do not remember them. And that's in my native language.

    So what chance do students have of remembering words that they saw written up on the board three months ago?

    I remember a Spanish course in Madrid that I attended and one particular afternoon was devoted to writing up every kind of vegetable known to man on the board in Spanish. Thank goodness I had a great social life and learned a lot in the bars, where vegetables were not generally the topic.

    You can help your students significantly with their vocab by playing vocab games for a few minutes at some point in EVERY class. In a vocab game you may cover several themes and a large amount of words. With repeated exposure the words will stick. Needless to say vocab games do not have to be limited to saying just the word, but using the word in the context of a sentence, which also has the benefit of practising a particular grammatical point at the same time.

    Check out the ideas - the primary games are more targeted for this kind of learning style, while the teen/adult games have some games like that, but are more focused on speaking fluency, which is not the issue being discussed directly here.

    Primary vocab games
    and
    Teen/adult games - mix of drill type for vocab and grammar and fluency

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