The Necessity of Teaching Vocabulary
Learning a new language has always been a challenge given the strong motivation of some people to communicate with others and to make friends from different countries and cultures all over the world. The most important thing when learning a new language is both grammar and the vocabulary part, as we cannot have a conversation without the proper vocabulary in a certain field or situation.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Valeria T.
Whenever we plan to teach new vocabulary to students, we have to take into consideration many aspects given the fact that nowadays there are so many techniques and methods that make a teacher’s life easier than before, like access to the internet, resources, authentic and non-authentic materials, etc. The role of a teacher is extremely high when it comes to teaching new vocabulary to students; practically this is what they remember better at the end of or after the class and it is quite important to produce it correctly. As hereinabove mentioned, the biggest issue when students learn a new language is the vocabulary and the items related to it, pronunciation, spelling, meaning in a certain context and grammatical use or structure of words.
Why is vocabulary development so important?
Students have to acquire new vocabulary each and every lesson either by productive or receptive skills (reading or listening comprehension are an outstanding outcome in terms of vocabulary attained through these practices), due to the fact that the vocabulary development grants them the self-confidence they need in order to engage them in conversations and produce live language. All the strategies the teachers come with must make students master the semantic meaning of words and enrich their vocabulary properly.
If teachers practice with the students all the vocabulary they have achieved when reading or listening, they are going to master it very well in the future. All kinds of games, quizzes, and other activities are welcome for vocabulary reinforcement. An interactive way to teach vocabulary will be to let students discover the items, to play with words, to have fun with them, to let them dive in the ocean of vocabulary.
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Ideas for vocabulary planning and teaching
My favorite activity when teaching vocabulary is to engage students in interactive activities and make them learn by playing. This is the best method for teaching young learners, as they are very receptive to games, images, pictures, realia objects, etc. I really enjoy, and it does work all the time, to challenge them in small competitions like word matching or labeling. Some students of other origins find it difficult, but funny, others make good connections with their native language (cognates) and it seems easier.
Usually, when planning, teachers take into account their units and they try to stick to them to have a sequence, a flow of their teaching and lessons. For instance, we guide our planning subject to the relevant unit titles: Telling the time, Weather, My pets, etc. The first thing when we move on to a new unit is the vocabulary introduction through the methods above mentioned or depending from teacher to teacher. When students have achieved the level of understanding and producing language, teachers can develop further activities related to the proper vocabulary items for suitable usage.
Having finished the engage stage, they should study the new words in a sentence, in a context making use of corresponding grammar rules thereof. Small texts, perhaps a short dialogue will do for a pleasant use of the new vocabulary. If we think about Weather, there can be short animated stories about it where students can solve some worksheets after watching like answering questions, word matching, labeling pictures. They can do amazing things related to any subject they study.
The best example is my own experience when I taught my students the Weather and I gave them for Activate stage to create a video presenting the weather forecast for the best TV channel. They had to create their own map with weather symbols and to come in front of the class to point out the weather on the city map. They worked in pairs, another student was recording the video; it was a lot of fun and entertainment. You could see mimic, gestures, intonation that sometimes equal to a thousand words...
I do consider that vocabulary goes hand in hand with all the other language skills and it is not possible to teach one without the other. Normally, speaking is the first option when we learn a language because we are able to establish new human rapports and to make ourselves heard; that is why vocabulary is so important and teachers should insist on it anytime it is suitable during classes. An extended and rich vocabulary means that we are likely to have a long conversation on many topics in a new language and speaking correctly means that we already master the language suitably.
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“To enjoy and learn from what you read you must understand the meanings of the words a writer uses. You do yourself a grave disservice if you read around words you do not know, or worse, merely guess at what they mean without bothering to look them up. For me, reading has always been not only a quest for pleasure and enlightenment but also a word-hunting expedition, a lexical safari.” (Charles Harrington Elster - American writer).
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