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4 Tips On Vocabulary Teaching For EFL/ESL Teachers

1. Don’t explain all new words to your students:

  • When children learn their first language, they do not learn all the new words that they meet at the same time. They learn words that they are interested in, or words that their parents feel are useful.
  • Children can often understand the meaning of a story, or a dialogue, even when they do not know all the words.
  • If you spend a lot of time teaching new words, children won’t have the time to practice words and structures they already know.
  • So, children do need to know words, but only teach a word if it is common, useful, or interesting for them.

2. Help your students remember active vocabulary:

  • Distinguish between active words (which students must use) and passive ones (which students should understand but not use well).
  • Recycle words through games, dialogues, short tests, and posters on the classroom wall. This helps passive vocabulary to become active.
  • Encourage students to keep their own vocabulary books. Students can use translation in them, but they might also try drawing pictures, writing example sentences in English, or grouping words in categories (for example the weather, travel, clothes, family, ….. etc)

3. Translate active words only when:

  • Explaining passive vocabulary, or abstract words such as love, hate, etc.
  • Checking that students understood the meaning of a word after presenting it.

4. Use the following ways to show the meaning of active: words:

  • Using pictures, real objects, or drawing on the blackboard are more memorable for students than translation.
  • Using gestures, miming, body language, and facial expressions to show the meaning of words such as ‘hot’,’ cold’, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and so on is very effective.
  • Using examples from the real world (Is there a zoo in our city? What animals can you see in a zoo?) shows the meaning and encourage vocabulary usage at the same time.
  • Asking students, who know a word, to explain it in English or to draw a picture and asking others to guess the meaning may take a little time but adds interest and enjoyment to the lesson for sure.

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