Vocabulary is the knowledge about words
and their meanings. As Steven Stahl [1, p. 135] puts it, "Vocabulary
knowledge is knowledge; the knowledge of a word not only implies a definition,
but also implies how that word fits into the world." A word’s definition
is just the tip of the ice berg! Teacher should help students ‘dive’ below the
surface into extended word meanings. Knowledge about vocabulary is not
something that can be fully mastered; it is something that develops and
increases over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary does not
contain only looking up words in a dictionary and using the words in a
sentence. Vocabulary is acquired by chance through indirect exhibition to words
and intentionally through clear and outspoken instruction in specific words and
word-learning strategies. According to Michael Graves, there are four components
of an effective vocabulary program:
1) wide or extensive independent reading
to expand word knowledge;
2) instruction in specific words to enhance
comprehension of texts containing those words;
3) instruction in independent
4) word consciousness and word-play
activities to motivate and enhance learning.
There is no single research-based method
for teaching vocabulary. It is recommended to use a variety of direct and
indirect methods of vocabulary instruction. Intentional vocabulary teaching
implies specific word instruction:
- Selecting words to teach;
- Rich and robust instruction.
Selecting words to teach is choosing a
global style of learning. When one learner selects only those words and phrases
that he or she needs to understand the whole context. So does the teacher while
working with texts from the tutorials. He or she selects only the most
important vocabulary items that her or his students must learn and be able to
recognize in the context.
Rich and robust instruction is referred
to another learning style that is analytical one. The whole text is important
both for the leaner and the teacher. The list of words is rather long. While
preparing for new vocabulary presentation the teacher should remember to divide
the list of new words into so-called sections which should be given to the
learners at different classes. It will avoid loss of students’ motivation and
their class overload.
starting to work with new vocabulary a learner may choose his or her own
Clear and outspoken vocabulary instruction
is greatly effective. To develop vocabulary purposefully, students should be
explicitly taught both specific words and word-learning strategies. To develop
students' knowledge of word meanings, specific word instruction should be clear
and reliable. Working on vocabulary in rich contexts from authentic texts,
rather than in isolated vocabulary drills, causes effective vocabulary
learning. Such instruction often does not begin with a definition, for the
ability to give a definition is often the result of knowing what the word
means. Rich and efficient vocabulary instruction is far more than just
definitional knowledge; it gets students actively engaged in using and thinking
about meanings of words and in creating relationships among them.
There are more words to be learned than can
be directly taught in even the most pretentious program of vocabulary
instruction. Explicit instruction in word-learning strategies gives students
aids for individually determining the meanings of unfamiliar words that have
not been precisely introduced in class. Since students face so many unfamiliar
words in their reading, writing, listening and speaking activities any help
provided by such strategies can be useful.
Word-learning strategies include dictionary
use, morphemic analysis, and contextual analysis. For English language learners
whose language shares are connected with English, cognate awareness is also an
important strategy. Dictionary use gives students multiple word meanings, as
well as it shows the importance of choosing the appropriate definition to fit
the particular context. Morphemic analysis is the process of deducing a word's
meaning by analyzing its meaningful parts, or morphemes. Such word parts
include root words, prefixes, and suffixes. Contextual analysis involves
implying the meaning of an unfamiliar word by scrutinizing the text surrounding
it. Contextual analysis generally involves teaching students to employ both generic
and specific types of context clues.
A more general way to help students develop
vocabulary is by fostering word consciousness, encouraging an awareness of and
interest in words. Word consciousness is not an isolated component of
vocabulary learning and teaching; it needs to be taken into account each and
every day [Scott and Nagy, 2004]. It can be always and variously developed:
through encouraging expert pronunciation, through word play, and through research
on origins or histories of words. According to Graves, "If we can get
students interested in playing with words and language, then we are at least
halfway to the goal of creating the sort of word-conscious students who will
make words a lifetime interest."
One principle of effective vocabulary
learning is to provide multiple expressions to a word's meaning. There is great
improvement in vocabulary when students encounter vocabulary words often,
students probably have to deal with a word more than once to place and store it
firmly in their long-term memories. "This does not mean mere repetition or
drill of the word," but encountering the word in different and multiple
contexts. In other words, it is important that vocabulary instruction provide
students with opportunities to encounter words repeatedly and in more than one
It is often supposed that when students do
not learn new vocabulary items, they simply need to practice the words some
more. However, it is often the case that students simply do not understand the
teacher’s task involved. Rather than paying attention to only the words
themselves, teachers should be certain that students fully understand the tasks
[Schwartz and Raphael, 1985]. The restructuring of learning materials or
strategies in different ways often can cause increased vocabulary acquisition,
especially for low-achieving or at-risk students. According to Kamil,
"once students know what is expected of them in a vocabulary task, they
often learn rapidly."
The most of vocabulary is acquired by
chance through indirect encountering with words. Students can acquire
vocabulary incidentally by engaging in rich speaking experiences at home and at
school, listening to books read aloud to them, and reading widely on their own.
Reading volume is very important in terms of long-term vocabulary development
[Cunningham and Stanovich, 1998]. Kamil and Hiebert consider that extensive
reading gives students repeated or multiple exposures to words and is also one
of the tools by which students see vocabulary in rich contexts. Cunningham
recommends providing structured read-aloud and discussion sessions and extending
individual reading experiences outside school hours to encourage vocabulary
growth in students. There is no one right way to teach vocabulary. Using a variety of techniques or approaches increases
students’ vocabulary knowledge, such as
categorization, semantic feature analysis, making analogies, structural
analysis, following Frayer model, word or concept map, content core word
groups, by means of illustration, miming, synonyms (antonyms/gradable items),
definition, translation and context.
Categorization (placing the words into categories) is one of the most well-spread ways to work with words and its meanings. If one sees the connection among familiar words and new words, he or she is able to connect new information and prior knowledge together. While categorizing words we also develop our thinking skill of classifying. The activity (like “Animals” or “Vegetables”) can be applied here, where one thinks of an item and the others try to guess what is it by at first determining the general category and then asking “yes” or “no” questions about it. If the item is not guessed in a certain number of questions, the questioner had failed, the other volunteers identify the item and then think of another item, and the activity starts again. This activity can be done in the classroom with new vocabulary terms being mixed up with familiar words.
The items may also be grouped into classifications such as animate and non-animate, movable and stationary, etc. The teacher should lead the learners to discuss reasons for grouping that they develop, pointing out common characteristics. At first the teacher may name the categories into which items must be placed, but in the end the children should come up with the categories individually.
The same sequence could be applied with word lists in reading. The teacher may also provide a category (without providing items to place), and allow the children suggest appropriate items. For example, teacher asks learners to suggest things that grow from the list given below: hair, animal, street, today, child, window, cat, etc. Also teacher can use this kind of activity that can be enjoyable for learners and can promote vocabulary development at the same time. In the activity a word is written vertically on the left side of the paper or the blackboard as shown in the table (see Appendix). Categories are placed in a row across the top of the paper or the blackboard. The learners are challenged to use reference books or dictionaries to help them fill in the resulting grid with examples for each category that start with each letter on the left.
Semantic Feature Analysis
This strategy is effective in helping students
visualize the connections among concepts. It is designed to provide a
systematic process for establishing categories and developing significant
dependence among new words and concepts. Semantic feature analysis is a very
interactive process. The graphic organizer (chart) helps students understand
the meaning of the term by comparing features and characteristics. The
characteristics are listed across the top of the organizer and students place a
check mark or X in the box if the concept term has that feature.
Semantic feature analysis is another efficient way to guide word study. In it a number of words are classified in relationship to several characteristics. For instance, musical instruments might be placed under such classifications as string, woodwind, brass, percussion, mouthpiece, bow and others. The more considered features, the more knowledge the learners have to display about the target words for completing the table. If the features included are enough, two or more items might have exactly the same pattern. For example, timpani and snare drum have the same characteristic, but the addition of snares to the list of features would differentiate the two items. Similarly, trumpet and trombone have also the same characteristic, but the adding of slide to the list of features would change the category. Ranking words on one feature is one activity related to semantic feature analysis. For example, words such as none, some, many and all could be categorized on the basis of amount.
Making analogies is another way to learn about the words, as well as to develop mental skills referred to classification, comparison and contrast. English learners will start learning the skill necessary for making analogies when they are busy with categorization activities, for successful analogy construction requires the recognition of the relationships among words. With young learner the teacher may say “A sock goes on your foot like what goes on your hand?” The learners are led to see that both relationships are the same type. Little by little the analogies come to be stated as “Sock is to foot as ________ is to hand.” Analogies can be developed on the basis of a multitude of possible relationships: synonym, antonym, homonym, member-organization, etc. Older learners can be introduced to the symbols related to analogies, as the analogies become “Sock-foot, ____ - hand”. Learners enjoy competing to complete such analogies and also creating their own ones. Such activities require the use of higher-order thinking skills.
It involves learning to recognize and differentiate common word parts, such as prefixes, suffixes, endings, parts of compound words and contractions parts, and relating meaning with these word parts. Knowledge of structural analysis is a powerful tool for students in learning the meanings of new words that they meet. Learners also develop their skill in analytical thinking as they learn how to understand and use parts of words. Prefixes and suffixes are common word parts that influence the meanings of the words. Prefixes are letters grouped and attached to the beginnings of words that change the meanings of the words (e.g. tie-untie/завязать-развязать). Suffixes are letters grouped and added to the endings of words that may alter their meanings or parts of speech (e.g. act-action/ действовать - действие). Endings are letters or letter groups added to the endings of words that may modify the tense (e.g. look – looked/смотрю - смотрел) or person (e.g. go – goes/иду-идёт) of the verb, the number (e.g. girl – girls/ девушка - девушки), case (e.g. Jack –Jack’s), gender of the noun (e.g. host-hostess/ хозяин - хозяйка), or degree of the adjective (e.g. big – bigger/большой - больше). Compound words are words formed of two or more smaller words that blend to produce a new meaning (e.g. houseboat - плавучийдом). Sometimes compound nouns consist of two separate nouns (e.g. police officer - полицейский).
Contractions are formed by joining two words together, excluding one or more letters and replacing them with the apostrophe (e.g. he would – he’d). Some learners have difficulties differentiating between contractions and possessives, which are also formed with apostrophes. Teaching prefixes and suffixes by presenting lists of the word parts and their meanings is not a good practice. The word parts will be remembered and learned best if they are taught in the context of words for which the learners can see some in their class activities. Emphasizing the effects that the endings have on words is also important.
This tool helps students develop and increase
vocabulary knowledge by
studying a term in a manner of relations. Students write a word in the center
circle and then list characteristics, examples, non-examples, and a definition
in the quadrants of the box. The Frayer Model is an adaptation of the concept
map. The framework of the Frayer Model includes: the concept word, the
definition, characteristics of the concept word, examples of the concept word,
and non examples of the concept word. It is important to include both examples
and non examples, so students are able to identify what the concept word is and
what the concept word is not. First, the teacher assigns the concept word being
studied, and then talk about the steps involved in completing the chart.
Word or Concept Map
This strategy helps students understand a
concept of definition for content area words. This strategy emphasizes the use
of context clues and previous knowledge in determining a words meaning. Concept mapping provides a framework for organizing
conceptual information in the process of defining a word. The concept map also
supports vocabulary and concepts learning by helping students master a strategy
for defining and clarifying the meaning of unknown words. Students write the
concept word or target word being studied in the center, and then work outward
into the boxes writing words that describe the key word. The framework of the
concept map contains: category/class the concept or key word belongs, properties
of the concept word or key, and examples of the concept or key word.
This is very useful for more concrete
words (dog, rain, and tall) and for visual learners. It has its limits though,
not all objects can be drawn. Plastic models of people, animals, vehicles and
buildings can also be a good aid for the learners as the basis for classification
activities. The teacher may put the items on a table in an order that all of
the items except one could fit into a common category (for example: people).
The learners are given the task to find and remove the odd item and to tell why
they have chosen that item in the Russian or English language.
This lends itself particularly well to action
verbs and it can be fun and memorable. It can be used as a guessing game. While
carrying out this wordless activity the learners tend to talk quite naturally.
One mimes a word (e.g. action verb) and the others try to guess what it is.
This activity provides further practice of a wider variety of lexical and
grammatical units. For example, one student chooses a job and mimes a
particular activity that it involves. The other students ask “yes” and “no” questions
and try to guess the exact word. The student miming provides just nonverbal
prompts to help the rest of the class.
Synonyms/ Antonyms/ Gradable items
Using the words a student already knows
can be effective for getting meaning across. Synonyms are words that mean close
to the same thing, rather than exactly the same thing. Ranking the synonyms on
one feature is a helpful activity. For example, the words smell, odor and stench
might be rated according to intensity.
The teacher shouldmake sure that the definition
to the word that he or she chooses is clear (it is better to check it in a
learner dictionary before the lesson if there are any doubts). The teacher
should remember to ask questions to check the students have understood the
definition properly. This activity requires rather high level of English but
the teacher may adopt this task according to the level of her or his class and
the type of the task.
If the teacher knows the students' native
language, then this way is fast and efficient. But anyway the teacher must
remember that not every word has a direct translation. For example, elementary
learners should be provided with word translation at once or asked to find it
in the dictionary. Advanced learners usually do the opposite task (they may
translate the word from Russian into English) or, at first, work with word
definition, guess the meaning and translate it.
As it has been mentioned before that the
words are better learned in the given context than isolated. The teacher in
this case must think
of a clear context when the word is used and either describe it to the students
or give them example sentences to clarify meaning further. The students in turn
may guess the right meaning precisely from the context even without looking the
word up in the dictionary.
Again the teacher’s choice of the strategy
or way of teaching vocabulary depends on the item he or she is presenting. Some
strategies and ways are more suitable for particular words. Often a combination
of them can be both helpful and memorable.
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