Presenting new vocabulary
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007
Автор: Сергеева О. С.
acquisition is increasingly viewed as crucial to language acquisition.
Methodologists insist on the vocabulary being included in the syllabus. Michael
Lewis (1993), who coined the term lexical approach, suggests that lexis is the
basis of language, that the key principle of a lexical approach is that
"language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized
grammar." Andrew Sheehan, a member of the Chilean Ministry of Education’s
new English Project Team, says that “vocabulary has been neglected Cinderella
of language teaching; preference has always been, and still is, given to the
two sisters Grammar and More Grammar”.
But in spite
of all that attention there is no universal technique in teaching vocabulary
that would be 100% effective. For many English language teachers it is easier
to stick to grammar as grammar is something systematic and finite, whereas
vocabulary is not.
vocabulary is a part of vocabulary teaching thus it contributes to its success.
A lot depends on how the new vocabulary is presented. So what a teacher can do
to ease the process of vocabulary learning? What aspects s/he should keep in
his mind? How can s/he present vocabulary so that it would contribute to successful
memorization? In this article we will try to find answers to these questions.
WHAT TO TEACH?
teaching new vocabulary we should determine what vocabulary items we are
supposed to teach. So what needs to be taught? We should consider?
- How the
vocabulary item is pronounced. Many words in the English language do not follow
the reading rules so it is important to practice the pronunciation of the word.
- How it is
spelt. Learners need to know what the word looks like so that they would be able
to recognize it when they meet it in the text.
- The meaning
of it. It is important to make sure the learners understand the meaning of the
grammar. Does the item follow any unpredictable grammatical patterns? Does it
have some idiosyncratic way of connecting with other words in sentences?
connotations of the item. This is an important aspect of presenting the item.
Learners need to know the “second face” of the item.
- In what
situations the item can or can not be used? The learners need to know if the
word is outdated, appropriate in writing or in speaking, etc.
relationships with other words – i.e. its synonyms (words that have the same
meaning), antonyms (words that have opposite meanings), hyponyms (items that
serve as specific examples of a general concept), co-hyponyms (items that are
the “same kind of things”), superordinates (opposite to hyponyms).
Collocations – the way words occur together. This gives a certain “sub context”
to the sentence.
formation. Different affixes may give a clue to the meaning of the item.
Helps to make the meaning of the item more clear to the learner.
of vocabulary items that are to be taught basically depends on learners’ needs,
on usefulness of the items, on how often they are used in speech.
three stages of teaching vocabulary:
- Practice /
The one that
we are going to emphasize is presenting new vocabulary.
presenting new vocabulary we have to take into consideration to whom we present
it, how our learners remember the new item. Oxford (1990) suggests memory
strategies to aid learning, and these can be divided into:
mental linkages: grouping, associating, placing new words into a context;
images and sounds: using imagery, semantic mapping, using keywords and
representing sounds in memory;
well, in a structured way;
action: physical response or sensation, using mechanical techniques.
TYPES OF MEMORY AND
to be considered is what kind of memory your learners use, which also
determines the choice of technique for presenting vocabulary.
probably most of) people remember something better if they see it. For such
people we use Visual Techniques as they pertain to visual memory. These include
flashcards, posters, pictures, blackboard drawings, realias. These visuals are
good for presenting concrete terms of vocabulary, such things as professions,
activities, outfit, etc. Teacher can easily bring some realias to the
classroom. For example those might be things connected with cleaning – duster,
sponge, etc. We might also use mime and gesture to covey meaning of activities
and actions which may be fun and memorable. For example, it would be easy for
the teacher to show a “happy” face, to “vacuum the floor”, to “lock” the door,
to “shout”, etc. The teacher shows the realias or mimes the action and names it
several times. After that s/he asks learners to point at a certain thing or mime
a certain action.
remember something better if they hear it. For such people we choose Verbal
techniques. They include:
- Use of
illustrative situations (oral or written). These are good for presenting
abstract items. For example, to present the meaning of “curfew” the teacher
might use the following context: Sue invites her friends Rebecca and Tiffany to
go out for the night. But Tiffany says, “Sure, I’ll go. But I won’t stay out
with you the whole night. My mother wants me to go back home. My curfew is 12
a.m.” To find out whether learners understand what “curfew” is teacher might
ask questions like “What is your usual curfew?” etc.
- Use of
synonyms and definitions. Using the words students already know can be
effective for getting meaning across. For example, the word “enormous” means
“large, big, huge, gigantic, great, massive”. The definition for “banner” is “a
large piece of material with a message written on it”.
According to Nation, it is better to combine different types of
definition: a definition by abstraction combined with contextual examples; a
contextual definition followed by a definition by abstraction; a definition by
demonstration combines with contextual examples or (where possible) definition
by abstraction; a contextual definition followed by translation.
You can easily explain an item by contrasting it with its opposite. For
example, presenting “ugly” we might say it is the opposite for “beautiful”. But
we should not forget about the context in which this is true, because in
different context the word might have different antonyms.
- Scales. If
learners already know two opposites, we can use this to present some more items
of the same kind, putting them in a scale. For example,
“boiling-hot-warm-cool-cold-freezing”. Again, do not forget about the context.
- Examples of
the type/categories. These are good for presenting hyponyms and superordinates.
We can easily teach the word “animal”, “furniture”, “clothing”, etc. For
example, the teacher wants to introduce the word “fruit”. S/he explains that
you can eat fruit and there are various kinds: apples, bananas, oranges,
peaches, etc. S/he asks the learners for more examples of fruit.
kind of people remembers better if they touch or do something. For such
students we might do the following. Some learners have their eyes covered.
Teacher gives them an object. While students hold the object in their hands and
feel it teacher repeats the name of the object several times. Then the students
are given another object and the same procedure follows. After that the
students uncover their eyes. Teacher names an object and the students point to
it. Instead of real objects you might use cut-out shapes such as a flower, a triangle,
of presenting of an item that can be drawn is drawing some dots to outline the
picture. While the students are connecting the dots with lines teacher repeats
the word several times. When the dots are connected and the picture appears,
the learners get the meaning.
teacher could hand out copies of a “dot-picture” with the name of it written
underneath. You can see an example of such a “dot-picture” below.
THE USE OF DICTIONARY
dictionary is another technique of finding out meanings of unfamiliar words and
phrases. Translation can be very effective during the lesson. Firstly it saves
precious time. Secondly in the languages of the same family some words look the
same (or very much alike), but their meanings do not exactly coincide.
the French verb “marcher” looks like “to march” in English, but its meaning is
“to walk”, the verb “demander” means “to ask”, not “to demand”.
In this case
teacher should make sure the learners do not continue using their
A learner who
makes good use of a dictionary is able to continue learning outside the
classroom, which encourages autonomy. Also, when a learner reads a text he can
not always guess the exact meaning of a word from the context. A dictionary can
be used to help the learner to choose the right concept or confirm his
guessing. An example of using a dictionary can be:
you find the feminine forms of the words? Use your dictionary.
Can you think of any
more examples when masculine and feminine do not coincide?
THE USE OF CONTEXT
to present new vocabulary is including it into a context. Learning new words in
context, not in isolation, is an important issue which contributes to
successful vocabulary learning. Learning new words through definitions without
any examples of where the word occurs will not give the learner the exact full
meaning of the item. Having learned the item through its definition or by the
means of vocabulary, learners do not know how and where to apply the item in
speech. Occurring in different contexts the item might have different meanings
or shades of meaning. Along with that when meeting the item in context learners
see the grammatical pattern in which the item occurs – it teaches the grammar
of the item.
presenting a new vocabulary item teacher should provide a context which will
give learners enough clues for guessing the meaning of the item. What clues
then should be included in the context to make it reach enough to ease the
presentation? The following types of context clue are by Yu Shu Ying:
Students may derive the word meaning if they examine the morphological features
of the word.
Some words regularly co-occur together so if students know one of them they can
guess the meaning of another one.
and antonyms. For example, “I have never seen such a large cave. It’s
enormous”. It is obvious that “enormous” is a synonym to “large”.
Very often the reader can see that the relationship between an unfamiliar word
and a familiar word is that of a general concept accompanied by a specific
example (a hyponym). For example, “she seemed to know names of all the animals:
dogs, antelopes, bisons, jaguars…”
This type was covered above.
“Ichthyologists, or specialists in the study of fish, have contributed to our
understanding of the past.” The word “ichthyologist” is unfamiliar, but the
meaning is explained by giving a more familiar term.
- Summary. A
summary clue sums up a situation or an idea with a word or a phrase. For
example, “Mrs. Christopher contributes money to the Red Cross, the Girls Club,
and the Cancer Society. She also volunteers many hours in the emergency ward of
the hospital. She is indeed altruistic.” From the context students might
conclude “altruistic” means “not selfish”.
and contrast. For example, “A cuckoo, unlike other birds, does not hatch her
fledglings.” It is clear, that “cuckoo” is a kind of bird.
In this type
of exercises students match words to words. Those might be synonyms-synonyms,
synonyms-antonyms, words-definitions, words-pictures, etc. This technique is
very popular and effective not only in teaching vocabulary but also in other
areas of teaching a foreign language.
Find these nouns in the text. Match them
with the definitions.
1 ghetto blaster _ a large piece of
material with a message written on it
2 raids 1 a
radio-cassette player with built-in speakers
3 broadcasting _ surprise attacks
4 resurgence _ a tax on the
reproduction of music for the public
5 airwaves _ commerce
6 following _ the means by
which radio signals are transmitted
7 banner _ supporters
8 copyright levies _ reappearance and
9 trade _
transmission of radio or television programmes
mentioned above that grouping is one of the ways to create mental links. What
ways of grouping new words might be used?
mentioned above that grouping is one of the ways to create mental links. What
ways of grouping new words might be used?
- Grouping by
series. This refers to a series of actions that happen consecutively in the
real world. “I go to the store, I choose an item I want to buy, I come up to
the cashier, I buy the item…” it is important to make sure the consequence is
clear and the following step results from the previous one.
Grouping by subject or field. For example,
teacher writes the word “book” on the board and asks the students to brainstorm
all the words they can think of that are connected with it. As a result you may
have something looking like this.
type of grouping new words may be introduced by the teacher or by some of the
Grouping by superordinate and hyponym. This type
reminds the previous one though it differs. Different topics can be looked at.
It is also
possible to combine different types of grouping.
use of colour
To make the
process of presenting new vocabulary more effective teacher has to attract
learners’ attention. And one of the best and easiest ways for that is colouring.
Colour is an important tool in visual thinking, it captures and directs
attention. The teacher might highlight the new words in the text he wants his
students to concentrate on. The teacher may use colouring to: practice
pronunciation of a word and its spelling (highlight double letters, the
initial/final sound/letters that are likely to cause difficulty, stressed and
secondary stressed syllables, etc.), to teach the word’s grammar (use different
colours for different parts of speech, for countable/uncountable nouns,
transitive/intransitive verbs, mark word’s gender), teach the semantic
categories and word differences (use specific colours for the words connected
with a given topic, for adjectives with positive/negative meaning, for
synonyms/antonyms, etc.), to teach morphology (colour all prefixes and suffixes
in a passage of a text to try to find out what they mean, highlight the stems
of words that is the same like in prolong, longitude, longing, long,
prolongation, oblong, etc.).
do colouring themselves they make the text look more familiar and thus
psychologically easier to obtain, that includes new vocabulary items. Colour
coding is very popular. The teacher might decide with the students what a
certain colour denotes so that will help them to find out some features of the
word before they learn it. On the blackboard coloured chalks can be used.
THE USE OF GAMES
The use of
games in teaching process is hard to over evaluate. They are highly motivating
and entertaining and they can give shy students more opportunity to express
their opinions and feelings. They also enable learners to acquire new
experiences within a foreign language which are not always possible during a
typical lesson. In the easy relaxed atmosphere created by using games, students
remember things faster and better. Games encourage entertain, teach and promote
fluency. As many methodologies believe, games should not be regarded as a
marginal activity filling in odd moments. Games can be used at any stage of a
lesson if they are carefully chosen and prepared. When we use games for
presentation, our aim is provide a good model making its meaning clear.
of thousands of words in the English language, teaching vocabulary can seem
like a very daunting prospect. Remember though that the average native speaker
uses around only five thousand words in everyday speech. Moreover, your
students won't need to produce every word they learn, some they will just need
recommendations can be given on the topic. Keep in mind that people tend to
remember words that have personal or emotive significance. Make a use of this
phenomenon in your class, personalize tasks. Tasks themselves should be
interesting and meaningful; such exercises have proved to be the most effective
in the process of language learning. People commonly tend to link items
together in sense units, or find some reasons to associate them. This can be
successfully used in teaching.
important for learners to know they really need to know the word. This can be
also used by teachers if they create learners’ need for knowing the item.
Relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in the classroom can also contribute to the
success. If the students do not think or feel that at the moment they are
learning, their results are impressing.
We can not
teach a whole class in a way that will fit every student’s learning strategies,
therefore it is important to encourage individual students to find what is
helpful, create stimulus for extra work, for learning outside the classroom.
There is not
one best method to teach vocabulary. There are several helpful approaches one
may use to acquire and enrich vocabulary.
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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007