Teaching vocabulary is important because the more words your students know, the better they can express themselves and the more they can understand. How, then, do you go about teaching vocabulary?
Vocabulary and meaning
Vocabulary, the stock of words at one’s disposal, is inevitably tied into meaning. Teaching a new word, then, involves demonstrating meaning and nuances through context.
If your students just lazily look up every unknown word in their dictionaries for translations into their own language, there is bound to be confusion. Rather, you need to show them how a word is used in a variety of contexts. Dictionaries aren’t all bad, of course, but the best way to build useful vocabulary is through use.
A second aspect of teaching vocabulary is pronunciation. Students must be able to pronounce a word clearly for effective usage. This includes old-fashioned repeat-after-me techniques – repeating the word, either on its own or in a contextual sentence – until pronunciation has been mastered. Teaching correct stress and intonation is vital here.
Finally, we have to teach form. Is its form irregular? Does the word take on different meanings in different situations? Is the written form different to the sound? You also need to teach words that are commonly used with the target word, such as prepositions, or use in phrasal verbs.
- Ask questions or give example sentences with the required word missing in order to elicit the word from your students
- Keep a record of new words in order to check retention (make sure your students are doing the same)
- Demonstrate meaning through context, or use simple definitions or explanations
- Best of all, get your students to make example sentences using the word
- Synonyms and antonyms are a quick and easy way to teach meaning
- Asking just one student for a definition of the word doesn’t mean that everyone has understood it – use the board to demonstrate proper usage for the entire class to see