TEFL: How to teach vocabulary?

Teaching new vocabulary is a substantial part of an English teacher's role, especially when working with beginners or lower-level students. A considerable amount of lesson time is dedicated to learning new words, making it critical for the teacher to employ effective methods for optimal results. By using proven techniques, teachers can help their students retain new language skills and boost their confidence in using them both inside and outside the classroom.

Teach new words in context

One of the most beneficial strategies for helping students remember new language is teaching it in context. Simply listing new words on the board and expecting immediate comprehension might lead to disappointment. When introducing new vocabulary, it is advisable to group related words together rather than disconnected ones. Vocabulary lessons can be themed around subjects such as weather, occupations, sports, or anything else related to the target language. Stories incorporating the target language can also be an engaging way to learn and practice vocabulary across reading, writing, and speaking. Through straightforward yet efficient methods, you can progressively enhance your students' understanding of specific language areas.

Also read: What should I teach English beginners?

Frequent repetition is a must

While teachers' approaches to practicing new vocabulary may vary, repeated exposure to new words is universally recognized as crucial. Upon the introduction of new words, students should start practicing them aloud, both individually and as a group. The teacher can demonstrate the word or phrase to the class, have them collectively repeat it back, and then request individual repetition from randomly selected students. It is important to revisit this practice at the end of the class, during the lesson review, and in subsequent classes over the following days and weeks.

Use pictures and other visuals

As language learners are constantly presented with new information, it is important to facilitate maximum retention. Merely speaking new words and writing them on the board may suffice for short-term memory, but much of the information will be lost over time as more words are incorporated into their studies. One effective way to promote retention is to use pictures and other tangible objects when introducing new vocabulary in the classroom. For instance, the word 'tractor' is more likely to be remembered if first introduced with an interesting picture of the vehicle, rather than merely writing the word on the board. For enhanced understanding and retention, you should frequently revisit the new words, using the pictures, during future lessons.

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Use games to practice new vocabulary

Whether you are teaching new vocabulary or other aspects of the English language, making the learning process fun significantly increases the chances of information retention. This principle certainly applies when introducing new vocabulary, as these can be quickly forgotten if not reinforced promptly. By using games to practice what has been learned, students are likely to be more engaged and more comfortable using the words aloud in front of their peers. If you can engage the class in a lively activity using the target language, they are far more likely to remember it in subsequent weeks than if they simply read it from a book.

Also read: Is grammar knowledge important when teaching English?