Vocabulary is one of the keys to develop your language skills. With this in mind, you should decide to improve it and increase your stock. If you try the following three easy steps, I’m sure, you will make a success. Here they are:
1. Read and listen:
Step number one to improve your vocabulary is reading and listening to authentic English materials.
For reading, you should:
- Read every day making reading in English a part of your daily routine.
- Underline or write down each new word or phrase when you see it.
- Guess the meaning of these new words from the context.
- Look up new words in English-English dictionary focusing on the usage of each word.
And for listening, you should:
- Listen to something you love and enjoy so that you will learn much more.
- Write down each new word or phrase when you hear.
- Listen on the go while you walk, work out, travel or work. You can then write down your new words or phrases when you get home.
2. Record the meanings:
Buy a notebook and make it your own dictionary. Don’t just write the meanings. You can write collocations, synonyms, antonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, etc.
3. Review regularly:
Make vocabulary review a part of your routine. It can be once or twice a week. Try to make it fun by using word games or you can be creative and use your new words to tell a story.
Many experiments demonstrated that vocabulary forgetting starts as soon as learning happens. So what can be done? Research shows that there are some effective strategies teachers can use to help make vocabulary learning stick. The following are the main five of them:
1. Use peer explanation:
Ask students to explain what they’ve learned to their classmates. They can pronounce the words and explain their meanings. This strategy can not only increase retention but make vocabulary learning permanent in the long-term memory. In addition, it encourages active learning and students’ engagement.
2. Recycle the key vocabulary:
Review important vocabulary throughout the school year. Re-expose students to the previous vocabulary and give them multiple opportunities to use them in new contexts. Research shows that students perform better in their exam when they are given a brief review of what was covered several weeks before.
3. Give frequent practice tests:
In addition to regular review of the previous vocabulary, frequent practice tests on vocabulary can boost their long-term retention. Frequent practice tests protect against stress that often impairs memory performance. You can use a quick quiz at the start of each lesson to test your students’ knowledge of the vocabulary taught in the previous lessons. It is an effective remedial plan for low achievers who often forget vocabulary quickly.
4. Use word mapping:
Write a key word on the board or on a wall sheet and ask students to write related words or phrases to it. When similar words are grouped together, students will remember them more often. In addition, their stock of vocabulary will increase. This approach is helpful for students when writing a paragraph on certain topic.
5. Combine text with images:
It’s often easier to remember words that have been presented with visual aids. Visual aids can not only attract students’ attention, but also they can facilitate and reinforce learning. It’s easier to remember what’s been read and seen.
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You don’t need to explain all new words to your pupils
- When children learn their first language, they do not learn all the new words they meet at the same time. They learn words they are interested in, or words 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 don’t have the time to practise words and structures they already know.
- So, children do need to know words, but only teach a word if it is a common, useful or interesting word for them.
Do the following to help pupils remember words:
- Distinguish between active words (which pupils must use) and passive ones ( which pupils should understand but not use well).
- Recycle words through games, dialogues, short tests, posters on the classroom wall. This helps passive vocabulary to become active.
- Encourage pupils to keep their own vocabulary books. Pupils 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)
When You should translate words:
- When explaining passive vocabulary, or abstract words such as love, hate, etc.
- When checking that pupils understood the meaning of a word after presenting it.
Ways You can use to show the meaning of a word:
- Using pictures, real objects or drawing on the blackboard are more memorable for pupils than translation.
- Using gestures, mime, body language and facial expressions to show the meaning of words such as ‘hot’,’ cold’, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and so on.
- Using examples from the real world (Is there a zoo in our city? What animals can you see in a zoo?)
- Asking pupils, who know a word, to explain it in English or to draw a picture and asking others to guess the meaning. This may take a little time, but may add interest and enjoyment to the lesson.