Reviewing tasks and questions to analyze and confirm understanding are very important in determining the vocabulary comprehension.
So how do you know if your students understand what they're learning? There are several methods you can use to test vocabulary skills. Testing them in spoken and written communication will give you a good sense of their vocabulary knowledge and at what level they have reached in comparison to the other students.
Ask questions — who, why, when, what, where and how are good questions to ask. Ask other general questions too, to see if the student gets the concept and meaning of the words. This is also a good method to test past, present and future tenses.
Who is crying? The boy is crying.
Why is he crying? He is crying because he fell off his bike and hurt his knees.
When did he cry? Yesterday afternoon when he had his accident.
What made him cry? His sore knees made him cry.
Where was he crying? He cried behind the bicycle shed.
How was he crying? He was sobbing at first but then it turned into a whimper.
Is he still crying? No, he has calmed down.
Will he be alright? Yes, his mother bandaged his knees.
Get students to write descriptive sentences about an item as if they were actually the item. They have to look at every aspect of that item and pretend that they are the item, using shape, colour, texture and other details.
Example: A bus.
I am very large and have four large, rubber wheels.
I carry a lot of people to and from work and school everyday.
You have to wait at a bus stop for me to pick you up.
I am driven by a bus driver and have many seats inside me.
I can come in many colours and am mostly a long rectangular shape.
They can also write descriptive sentences about people, animals, places and situations. Teaching vocabulary takes creativity, planning and thought.
Testing and reviewing a word on the board with the class:
- First present the word by writing it on the board.
- Show a picture and do an action (if you can) to show the word.
- Say and spell the word out loud.
- Ask questions around the class. See if students understand how this word works, where it fits with other words and what it's used for
- Let the students all spell and say the word out loud together. Do the same with a few sentences as you write them on the board.
- Use visual aids whenever possible to assist and support new words.
- Make sure the pronunciation of the word is correct.
- Get the students to write the word down and spell it out as they do.
- See, say, spell and write.
Dictations are also very useful. A pupil / student can do it all by himself. Simply following this process:
- Write the words (usually no more than ten at once) on a piece of paper. Use two columns: one for English and one for the translation in the native language.
- Fold in the piece of paper so that a pupil can only see the translation in the native language.
- Take another piece of paper and write the English words that match the translated words. Don't look at the answers! The point is remembering by heart.
- When finished, compare the English words, just written to the ones on the original paper.
Apart from encouraging your students to keep an orderly vocab book of some sort, another way of having easy access to the words that have come up in your classes is to create a ‘word bag’ for each of your groups. All you need are two large envelopes and some strips of card. Write on one envelope ‘Blank word cards’ and ‘Class Word Bag’ on the other. Cut up lots of small strips of card and put them in the ‘Blank Word Cards’ envelope.
Every class, nominate a student to be in charge of the ‘word bag’. He or she should be given the envelopes at the beginning of the class and is responsible for writing all the new vocabulary on separate blank word cards and putting them into the class word bag envelope. If this isn’t practical for your group, you can be responsible for putting the words in the bag after each class. If you can keep the envelopes in the class you teach in, pinned on a cork board or in a safe place, it will be easier for you to keep track of the bag. After a few lessons you will have a good selection of words in the word bag.
Here are some activities for using the word bag to recycle the vocabulary. They can be used at the beginning of a class as a warmer or at the end to fill up the last five minutes.
Quick Fire Quiz. Pull out a bunch of words from the bag. Give clues or definitions so the students can guess the word on the card. The student who guesses the word correctly, wins the card. The winner is the student with the most cards at the end.
‘Beep’ sentences. Read a sentence incorporating the word on the word card. Instead of saying the word, say ‘beep’. Students guess the missing word. When students get the idea, pass them the word bag, so they can create their own sentences.
Circle story. Give each student a word card. You start and begin to tell a story and use the word you have on your card. When you have used your word, the next student continues the story until they can incorporate their own word.
Team vocab tests. Divide the class into teams or pairs. Pull out a set number of words and using translation or clues give the teams a vocab test!
Pictionary. In two teams, use the word cards as prompts for a game of pictionary. Use the board or paper.
Teaching vocabulary requires continued effort on both the teacher's and student's part.
An efficient language teacher can use selected vocabulary activities or can use integrated activities. All this depends upon ability and level of understanding and interest of the learners. There is no sure fire remedy or method to enhance vocabulary in a day or two. A student's vocabulary bank can be enriched on a gradual basis and one should always show keen interest and enthusiasm in finding, learning and understanding new words.
We have concluded, teaching students vocabulary skills can encompass strategies that use the different types of vocabulary instruction in creating word context, content, meaning and application that will prove beneficial and powerful as the student grows to understand the importance and application of words.
Having a large vocabulary and understanding a huge selection of words makes communication a lot easier to navigate. Through using the four main skills of speaking, reading, writing and listening, vocabulary expands and strengthens. Teaching vocabulary takes times and patience.
Vocabulary exercises are activities that help students learn new English vocabulary words well enough to:
- Recognize them when they see or hear them.
- Recall them.
- Apply them on demand.
We should stress, achieving these three objectives does not assure that students will use this new vocabulary without prompting in writing and speaking. However, these objectives must be met before you can proceed to the higher level learning tasks required if students are to use newly-acquired vocabulary words without prompting in their writing and speech.
We have come to the conclusion students, having learned vocabulary are able to:
- Connect the new word to something they know already.
- See how the new word is used and defined in multiple contexts. The more of these you can draw from students' class materials, the better.
- Identify the new word's structural elements such as its roots, prefix, and suffix.
Thus, we can see that teaching vocabulary is a vitally important part of the foreign language learning. Efficient methodologies and creative approaches can make the teaching process more interesting and efficient. Such approaches will simplify the work both of teachers and students.
The strong and established relationship between students’ vocabulary knowledge and their ability to successfully comprehend what they read places a heavy demand on classroom teachers, curriculum planners, program developers, organizers of staff development plans, reading researchers, and on parent outreach programs. The demand is that significant attention be given to the development of students’ vocabulary knowledge. Much is known from research about how young children acquire words and how they learn to use them in spoken language.
Much is also known about the differences in the amount of vocabulary knowledge that young children bring to school, and the negative impact of what one researcher calls "word poverty" on the acquisition and maintenance of reading competence. It is clear that rich oral language environments must be created in preschool and kindergarten classrooms to promote the development of school — and book-related vocabulary.
As students progress through the grades, the development of their vocabulary knowledge must remain a priority.
In summary, we know a lot about vocabulary knowledge, its acquisition, and its importance across the school years. The challenge is to put what we know to work in the classrooms of schools. The successful reading achievement of many of our students depends upon us doing so.