3 Useful Strategies to Teach Vocabulary in The ESL Classroom
Lewis (1993) claims that “Lexis is the core or heart of language” (p 89). Indeed, it is one of the basic steps of mastering a foreign language. Vocabulary knowledge is what makes verbal communication between people possible. Most teachers face problems when teaching new items. They feel the need to use techniques to have an effective lesson. Over the years, teachers have tried to find the most effective and practical strategies to teach vocabulary. They have been applying several methods like fill in the blank definitions, pre-teaching unfamiliar words and stressing high-frequency words. This essay will just focus on three strategies that can help teach vocabularies such as using visual aids, highlighting vocabulary in context and vocabulary practice.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Mouna Z. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
1. Visual Aids
First, using visual aids plays an important role in teaching a second language. Teachers need to create a visual memory for the words they are teaching. When it comes to teaching new words, the teacher should not be limited to course books. He/she should be ready to apply useful strategies to fit their learners’ needs. In fact, to maintain students’ interest in the lesson, developing new techniques for teaching is necessary. For example, instead of just writing words on the board, the teacher can introduce new vocabulary using flashcards to elicit the meaning of each word. Employing flashcards in the introduction of new vocabulary may help students recall the words and their meanings better. This technique can also teach them the written form of words. Furthermore, teachers need to attract students’ attention and keep them engaged in the lesson. Visual aids can help them achieve that. They are based on creativity and imagination which can be entertaining and motivating for learners. For instance, using videos to teach new words is considered effective because they combine aural, written and visual input which can help comprehend the language provided. Henceforth, these facilitating tools can lead students to establish a good level in English.
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2. Vocabulary in Context
Second, highlighting vocabulary in context is a way to improve second language vocabulary learning. Highlighting unknown words in reading texts helps students focus their attention on target words. In fact, context clues are useful in guessing the words’ meanings. For instance, the teacher can give a sentence such as “The singer’s flawlessness, or perfection, caused the crowd to go crazy”. This sentence includes an unfamiliar word “flawlessness”. In this case, in order to understand the meaning of the highlighted word, students can focus on other words which can provide its definition in the sentence. Indeed, highlighting a specific word leads learners to pay more attention to the context around the highlighted item. Such clues provide students with a direct or an indirect insight into the actual meaning of new vocabulary presented in a text. Teachers need to introduce new words in an effective way to support and facilitate students’ learning process. For this reason, attracting their attention to the selected words is beneficial. In addition, learners need to be instructed to rely on themselves and understand the words’ meanings from context. In general, being exposed to a word in a comprehensible input enhances word knowledge. Therefore, when teachers apply useful teaching strategies, the level of language proficiency can be achieved.
3. Vocabulary in Use
Third, vocabulary practice is one of the several effective ways of teaching. Typically, when students are frequently exposed to the target language, their chance of learning and remembering words is greater. Thus, teaching words using vocabulary games and study activities, such as gap-fill exercises, word searches, and crosswords, increases learners’ exposure to new vocabulary and raises their interest in learning. When teachers use a number of games to practice vocabulary, students would encounter the same list of words in different ways which would make the lesson more entertaining and interesting. Learners need multiple exposures to words to be able to learn and memorize them. In other words, being involved in different activities gives them a chance to encounter words and practice them. Therefore, teachers need to utilize practical games to allow learners to develop their vocabulary knowledge. For example, charades is a game that teachers use to engage all the students in the classroom. The teacher chooses a student to communicate a word instead of photos. The rest of the class needs to guess the correct word. The physical involvement in this game helps learners learn easily in an enjoyable environment. Hence, practicing a language has an effective role in the learning process.
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To sum up, teaching a second language vocabulary is challenging. Students need to be kept motivated, active and engaged in the lesson. Using multiple strategies in the classroom to present information can be effective for learners. It is the teachers’ responsibility to provide students with fruitful ways of vocabulary learning. Moreover, practice is required to achieve language proficiency. Practicing and engaging learners inefficient activities, ensure the acquisition of new vocabulary. In other words, utilizing a variety of teaching techniques can lead to developing students’ vocabulary. Additionally, exposure to the target words must occur in different contexts to guarantee a full understanding of their meanings. In fact, the amount of words that learners possess enables them to improve their language skills and become productive and fluent in English. Hence, vocabulary has an essential role in mastering a second language.
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