As students move towards that anxious time of exams, many would find it easier to not only learn new lexis in context but also if the learning and revision is interactive, fun and challenging. Knowing a word is multidimensional with the process occurring over time.
(a) learners need to encounter new vocabulary as high as 16 times before it becomes established in memory.
(b) more encounters may be necessary before the word can be used fluently in speech or it’s meaning automatically understood when it occurs in a new context. (Nation, P 2001 Learning Vocabulary in Another Language).
(c) learning is successful when learners are engaged in meaningful activities that require them to use the word in productive tasks (Hulstijn, J & Laufer, B 2001Language Learning)
However, learning lists of semantically related words can be counter-productive.
Instead, teach new lexis vertically
– in context : the situation in which the word is used (historical, literary, geographical, etc.)
– co-text : words that ‘go’ with the new vocabulary word (collocations, etc.)
e.g ‘campaign’ – start / launch / run / election / advertising / successful / presidential (campaign)
Make learning new words interactive, fun and challenging.
Point out patterns -what comes before the word or after it? Highlight chunks of words – e.g. new word in text ‘ruinous’, highlight ‘ruinous thing to say’ in the text instead of merely ‘ruinous’. You can say ruinous or do ruinous things.
1) Collocation Race: listing words collocating with _________. Write the word in the middle of an A3 paper and students to write down other words that ‘go’ with it.
Make it kinaesthetic
3) What’s that word? – Give students a text with target vocabulary missing. You could provide the words in a separate box. Include contextual clues to help them figure out the answer, such as the use of “__” for a definition, ‘or’, synonyms & antonyms. Students learn the skills of understanding the meaning of a word using contextual clues.
4) Definition match up – A set of 3 cards – one has the vocabulary word, the other the definition and the third the word used in a sentence. Create as many of these cards for the different vocabulary words you like to review. Students have to match and place them into 3 columns of word/definition/sentence.
Make it challenging
5) ‘Humbinger’ game – Replace a noun/adjective/adverb with ‘humbinger’ and ask students what the word might be. Using the ideas from the sentence, they guess the word. e.g Susie got a new humbinger. (Slide 1) Susie got a new humbinger from the library. (Slide 2 – ‘from the library’ is a prepositional phrase). This works with more complex ideas, too. (I came across the word ‘humbinger’ from an online site. Please forgive me if I can’t acknowledge you as I simply cannot recall where I saw this wonderful word. I use to merely put in ‘XX’)
6) Just a minute – Create cards with the target vocabulary plus other nouns/noun phrases that students should use in their talk. Each student is to talk for a minute based on the word(s). If they stop, the clock is stopped and the card is passed on to the next person and the clock counts down.
More on vocabulary next week…