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9 Factors To Consider When Teaching Vocabulary To Advanced Learners

Learners need to broaden their vocabulary to express themselves more clearly and appropriately in a wide range of situations.

With advanced learners, we are concerned not only with students understanding of the meaning of words but also with being able to use them appropriately, taking into account factors such as oral/written use of the language; degree of formality, style, and other factors that I’m going to detail in this article. If you want to know them, continue reading.

What to Consider When Teaching Vocabulary

The following nine factors are essential to consider when teaching a lexical item to advanced students. 

1. What It Means

It is vital to get across the meaning of the item clearly and to ensure that your students have understood it correctly by checking questions.

2. The Part of Speech

Students need to know if it is a verb, a noun, an adjective, or an adverb to be able to use it effectively.

3. Pronunciation

This can be particularly problematic for learners of English because there is often no clear relation between how a word is written and how it is pronounced.

It is very important to use the phonemic script in such cases so the students have a clear written record of the pronunciation.

Don’t forget also to drill words that you think will cause pronunciation problems for your students and highlight the word stresses.

4. How It Is Spelt 

This is always difficult in English for the reason mentioned above. Remember to clarify the pronunciation before showing the written form.

5. If It Follows Any Unpredictable Grammatical Patterns

For example, man-men, information (uncountable), and if the word is followed by a particular preposition (e.g. depend on ).

6. The Connotations That The Item May Have

Bachelor is a neutral positive word whereas spinster conjures a more negative image.

7. The Situations When The Item Is Or Is Not Used 

Is it formal, neutral, or informal? For example, spectacles, glasses, and specs.

Is it used mainly in speech or in writing?

8. How The Item Is Related To Others

For example, synonyms, antonyms, lexical sets

9. Collocation Or The Way The items Occur Together

You describe things ‘in great detail’ not ‘in big detail’ and to ask a question you ‘raise your hand’ you don’t ‘lift your hand’. It is important to highlight this to students to prevent mistakes in usage later.

Ways To Present Vocabulary

There are lots of ways of getting across the meaning of a lexical item.


This is useful for more concrete words (dog, rain, tall) and visual learners. It has its limits though, not all items can be drawn.


This lends itself particularly well to action verbs and it can be fun and memorable.

Synonyms/Antonyms/Gradable Items

Using the words students already know can be effective for getting meaning across.


Make sure that it is clear (maybe check in a learner dictionary before the lesson if you are not confident). Remember to ask questions to check they have understood properly.


If you know the students’ L1, then it is fast and efficient. Remember that not every word has a direct translation.


Think of a clear context when the word is used and then describe it to the students or give them example sentences to clarify the meaning further.

Other Things To Consider

  • Review the vocabulary you teach through a game or activity and encourage your students to do the same at home.
  • Encourage autonomy in your learners. Tell them to read, watch films, listen to songs, etc and note the useful words.
  • Have a section of your board for vocabulary items that come up as you are teaching. Use different colors for the word/the phonemics/the prepositions/the part of speech.
  • It is important to teach words with associated meanings together.
  • Encourage your students to make a dictionary from words presented in class.
  • Teach your students the grammatical names for the parts of speech and the phonemic script.
  • Give extra examples sentences to the students if they are unsure and encourage them to write the word in an example sentence (maybe for homework).

Thanks For Reading

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