As a teenager when I was learning Spanish, I despised my teacher because she drilled us relentlessly on vocabulary. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a few years later I would end up becoming a proficient speaker of Spanish, enjoying meaningful connection with new friends in Spain. But to this day I will never forget the massive lists of words we were sent home with and the myriad of ways we had to re-use, recycle, repeat, rehearse, rehash and any other synonymous alliterative words you can think of. But as I said, the result was clear. I became a successful user of Spanish. Thanks Mrs. Ortega.
Research suggests that a vocabulary item must usually be reviewed at least ten times, often more, depending on the level, motivation, and ability of the learner, and the difficulty of the item. Is this torture or teaching, or both? What can we do as teachers to help? Well, the last factor effecting the effectiveness of vocabulary mastery is the effectiveness of the review technique used.
What do your learners do in your lessons to review vocabulary? What do they do at home? What problems do you or they encounter?
In her acclaimed article in the Spring 2019 issue of the ETAS Journal, Penny Ur gives us twelve different techniques for vocabulary learning and points out important differences among them. When you teach vocabulary, are you requiring your students’ attention to the words/ phrases? Are they studying the words, or being tested on them? Do you subscribe to the principle that presenting language in context is of paramount importance? Or do you make exceptions? How can you get your learners to use vocabulary productively?
This month at ELT Springboard, we’re sharing practical ways to help people learn vocabulary — disgruntled teens and motivated adults alike. If you’ve got tried and tested activities, please come and share! If you’re in desperate need of new tricks or a basic introduction, there’ll be that too! Please read the article from the ETAS Journal if you can before you come.
Come join us at Tibits – Bern, Bahnhof (in the main station) at 8pm on 3rd October and leave a comment below.
(The photo above is from Foter.com)