Methods of Teaching Vocabulary in the Classroom
While sentence structure and grammar are the foundation of the English Language, vocabulary is the glue that holds it together. An expansive vocabulary allows students to feel confident in their abilities and communicate more effectively. There are many methods of teaching vocabulary and in each class, the teacher may need to use different methods. This is because each class will be made up of different students each with their own learning style.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Caitlin O. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
What is vocabulary for?
Vocabulary is important to teach in the very first lessons because it is how students will be able to understand the words they need to use for basic communication. Vocabulary is found in every stage of an ESA lesson. In addition, vocabulary can be taught several ways. Pre-teaching and reviewing vocabulary in the study stage and then using that vocabulary in the activate stage is a good way to scaffold a lesson. However, before vocabulary can be taught it needs to be properly selected to ensure it is relevant to the lesson and at an appropriate English level. Some of the most effective ways of teaching vocabulary are using visuals and planning engaging activities. Visuals such as pictures can be used to pre-teach vocabulary for the daily lesson and review vocabulary from previous lessons. Other engaging activities include games and role plays. It is also important that teachers use multiple methods to teach vocabulary to keep students engaged in the learning process. The more students use the vocabulary, the higher the chance that they will remember it. Therefore, incorporating relevant vocabulary in every lesson is crucial.
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All lessons should have some focus on vocabulary. Lessons should check to understand previous material, pre-teach new material, have students practice reading, writing and speaking, using the vocabulary. A sample lesson could entail the following.
Sample Lesson Plan
- Engage: Students talk about their weekends focusing on vocabulary learned the week before.
- Study: Teacher pre-teaches vocabulary that builds on previous knowledge that is relevant to the lessons
- Students do a worksheet that requires them to match words with definitions or pictures
- Students are given a picture and asked to write a story about what they think is happening
- Activate: Students are asked to present their story to the class
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Depending on students’ age
The method of teaching vocabulary also is dependent on what level the class is. The sample lesson above is an example that would be more suited to intermediate to advanced classes. An advanced class can understand more directions to activities than beginner classes. For beginner classes, visuals are more effective than activities because they require less understanding of English.
An example of a more beginner class could entail:
- Engage: Students play a game of Simon says as a warm-up to review the previous vocabulary
- Study:Pre-teach vocabulary using pictures. Have students do a worksheet of matching vocabulary with pictures
- Activate: Have students create a drawing labeling all of the vocabulary that was taught
Also, teaching vocabulary online versus in a classroom looks different. In a classroom, there is more room to interact, while online the teacher is limited by the computer and what can be seen on the screen. This means the teacher has to be creative with visuals. This could include making games out of the visuals to keep it engaging.
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Several concepts are certain no matter what level the class is or how the class is being taught. First, vocabulary must always be relevant and accessible for the student and second, it must be as engaging as possible.
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