STRATEGY IN VOCABULARY TEACHING
Learning vocabulary cannot be separated from the language skills, speaking, reading,
listening and writing; also pragmatics and discourse. English teachers should teach
vocabulary in its context. Otherwise, the vocabulary that the teacher teaches will lose its
exact meaning and make the language user misunderstood during the communicative
activity, because vocabulary cannot stand alone to create meaningful language. One must
know how the words work together in sentences, and it is the basis of a
language before a learner can use language as a means of communication.
In this essay I will discuss the definition of vocabulary. Secondly, I will discuss what vocabulary
students should learn. Thirdly, I will discuss how to teach vocabulary in meaningful
and enjoyable way. I will present a meaningful and enjoyable vocabulary activity. Finally, I will draw a conclusion about teaching vocabulary in an enjoyable and meaningful way to develop students’ vocabulary.
Definition of Vocabulary.
In an orthographic definition, a word means any sequence of letters, which are tied on
either side of the word by a space or punctuation mark. Such as book, pens, newspaper
and others but this definition faces some problem like ‘will not’ is two words but ‘cannot’
is one word, ‘instead of’ is two words but ‘in place of’ is three words. While, a more
accurate definition of a word is the minimum meaningful unit of language. This definition enables us to differentiate the separate meanings conveyed in the word can in so far as it can be said to be a different semantic unit. This definition also faces a problem such as the single unit of meaning which is performed by unit words like bus driver, tram driver, goal keeper, line man. Are they one word or two? It is difficult to have a fixed definition. Both of them have weaknesses. Since, the meaning of these words are closely related. In addition, it is said that “a word’ is a word if it can stand on its own as a reply to a question or as a statement or exclamation like Shoot! Goal! Help!
What vocabulary should be taught.
In determining the vocabulary to be taught to students, the teacher should know which
should be taught first, second and so on. According to Harmer (1991: 154), the general
principle of vocabulary that should be taught first is the frequency of vocabulary that
appears in the students` daily communication. Such as, ‘books’, ‘house’, ‘names of
subjects’, ‘teacher’ and so on. Another principle of teaching vocabulary is to teach from
concrete words and gradually become more abstract ones. The words like chair, table,
chalk, book are easy to explain because those words are in front of the students. The word
‘ concept’, however, is difficult to explain, because it is not physically represented in the
classroom. One more principle that has been used to determine which words to be taught
is coverage “ a word is more useful if it covers more things than if it only has a very
specific meaning”. For example the word “book” it covers a lot of meanings. It can be
notebook, exercise book, text book, hand book, and so on.
How to teach vocabulary?
Teaching vocabulary is more than presenting new words to the students. The students
must know how the words work together with other words to perform meaningful
communication. There are a lot of strategies in learning and teaching vocabulary. Firstly, there is learning vocabulary through explicit learning. In this activity students learn the
most frequent words that appear in the students’ daily communication or the words that
they are most needed in their academic purpose. The list contains the target language and the synonym or the translation in the students’ first language or it can be taught by pictures or other means such as realia. A large number of words are learnt directly if given sufficient
repetition. Much vocabulary teaching with beginners involves repetitive meaning matching with it’s a referent such as “banana” with its picture, “monkey” with its picture. Most words are learnt incidentally in context through reading, listening and conversation. This approach provides students with a lot of activities that enable them to find new words they do not know the meaning of which they try to infer through the context. Learning vocabulary from a context means learners try to infer the meaning of words from the use of context clues. The ability to guess meaning from context is really a valuable skill and should play a part in teaching textual exploitation in the class.
It should be remembered that there are students who use context as their strategy to guess
the meaning and do not need much time but there are students who have difficulty with
this strategy and need to have this skill gradually developed. So, for the teacher who
teaches vocabulary using this approach, it is important to consider the difficulty level of
the text as well as the students’ vocabulary level.
All the approaches I have presented above will be more helpful if teachers present the
materials in a meaningful and enjoyable way. How to teach vocabulary in a meaningful
and enjoyable way? I suggest that the activity is done in group work, because, group
works have proved to be more effective and enjoyable in learning languages. There are a lot of
advantages. First, it gives more practice in speaking (pronouncing the words) especially
in big classes when the teacher leads the class. Second, it creates a relaxing, comfortable
and non-threatening atmosphere, in which the students can work more relaxed and freely
without being afraid of making mistakes. So they can apply their ability to answer the
questions. Third, group work also supports the students’ correct language production
through peer correction. This peer correction will be beneficial for them because the
students who make mistake will not feel uneasy.
Making learning and teaching vocabulary enjoyable, it is suggested to present it in a
game activity. There are some group vocabulary games for classes:
You’ll Never Guess!!
Objectives: To encourage students to derive the meaning of new vocabulary items from
Teacher prepares the contextual clues on the paper. The clues begin with the less
obvious detail toward those that make the students easy to guess. Example: The clues
It is big and usually black.
We use it every day.
There is one in almost classroom.
The teacher writes on it.
Put the students into groups of four or five.
The teacher reads the first clue and waits for a few seconds for students to think and
guess. If there is no answer, the teacher continues to the second clue and so on.
The group that gets the most answers wins.
Teacher prepares a list of words beginning with different letters of the alphabet. One possibility is to have 26, one for each letter. You can vary the complexity of the vocabulary depending on the level of the group.
Divide the class into teams of four or five students.
The first team to give a correct answer in each case wins a point.
The following are examples of questions at different levels: “What ‘a’ is a kind of fruit?”, “What ‘a’ is a joint that joins the leg and the foot”.
The game is very flexible and can be used to practise a particular word family or type of word such as phrasal verbs. A variation would be to allow each team in turn to choose a different letter of the alphabet and then to give the question to this team only. This would be a slower, more reflective form of the game.
The guide dog.
This activity works well as a warmer and is also good for practising giving and understanding instructions.
Divide the class into three or four groups and ask each group to choose a volunteer.
This student is then blindfolded using a scarf or similar.
The task of the remaining members of each group is to guide the blindfolded student from one side of the classroom to the other without him or her touching anything on the way. Clearly this involves a lot of careful instruction-giving, with phrases like “Turn left”, “Go straight ahead for a couple of metres” and so on.
The more chairs, tables and other obstacles that are in the way the better.
The winner is the first person to reach the other side without touching anything.
First, the group chooses a word that they have learned and write the chosen word at the top of a piece of paper.
Next, the group chooses five taboo words and writes them at the bottom section of the paper. (The taboo words are defined as the five most common words that a student would be likely to use in explaining the meaning).
After the Word Taboo slips of paper have been completed, the papers are placed into a pool and volunteers are selected from each group. Each volunteer's role is to take any of the Word Taboo papers from the other groups and try to get the whole class to guess the word by describing it in words and sentences. The group which created the Word Taboo is not allowed to play on that occasion.
The volunteers are not allowed to say any of the five taboo words, to mime the words, to make sound effects, to sing tunes that relate to the words or to spell the words. To make sure that the volunteer does not mention the taboo words a group member who designed the Word Taboo will stand behind the volunteer to monitor his/her words and actions.
The volunteer who can help the class guess the word(s) in the shortest possible time will make his/her group the winner of the contest. On the other hand, if the volunteer says or does any of the taboo words or actions, they have to sit down.
The hot seat.
Break class into 4 or less teams
Place a 'hot seat' in front of the class and facing away from the board
Each team selects a leader
One team is up at a time and their leader sits in the hot seat
Write ten words on the board so the leader can't see them
Number the words 1-10
Each team member is assigned a word or words on the board
Some team members may have more than one word
Team members take turns communicating their word to the leader without
saying the word with no spelling, writing, or drawing allowed
Team members can say 'pass' if their word is too difficult
Each team has 1 minute to get as many words as possible
The team with the most points at the end wins
In short, teaching vocabulary plays an important part in determining the success of
learning a foreign language. Now days, the method of teaching vocabulary is
still teacher centered and the teacher prepares the vocabulary in a list with its meaning in
the students’ first language. This condition is caused by their low proficiency in
techniques of teaching vocabulary. Undoubtedly, good teaching of vocabulary will help
students to develop their language. That is why the teacher must decide which word must
be acquired first before others. It is suggested from the words that student use frequently
and then concrete words and gradually to abstract ones and coverage. The teacher can choose the approach that is suitable for their students, from explicit learning, learning in context or collocation and many others, by considering the students’ level, language level and the goal of teaching vocabulary. Using games is one way of teaching vocabulary that is fun and meaningful for the students’ language development. It is important for English teachers to know how to teach vocabulary through games.
Allen, V, F, 1983, Techniques in Teaching Vocabulary, oxford University Press.
Carte, R & McCharthy, M. 1988, Vocabulary and Language Teaching, Longman Group
Carter, R. 1998, Vocabulary Applied Linguistic Perspectives, Second Edition, Routledge
Harmer, J. 1991, The Practice of English Language Teaching, New Edition, Longman
Group UK Limited.
McCallum, G. P. 19980, 101 Word Games, Oxford University Press.
Pressley, M. & Levin, J. R. & McDaniel, M. A. 1987, Remembering Versus Inferring
Schmitt, N. & Schmitt, D. 1995, ‘Vocabulary Note Books: Theoretical Underpinnings and
Practical Suggestions’, ELT journal, Vol. 49, No. 2. April 1995
STRATEGY IN VOCABULARY TEACHING
Learning vocabulary cannot be separated from the language skills, speaking, reading,listening and writing; also pragmatics and discourse. English teachers should teach vocabulary in its context. Otherwise, the vocabulary that the teacher teaches will lose its exact meaning and make the language user misunderstood during the communicative activity, because vocabulary cannot stand alone to create meaningful language. One must know how the words work together in sentences, and it is the basis of a language before a learner can use language as a means of communication. In this essay I will discuss the definition of vocabulary. Secondly, I will discuss what vocabulary students should learn. Thirdly, I will discuss how to teach vocabulary in meaningful and enjoyable way. I will present a meaningful and enjoyable vocabulary activity. Finally, I will draw a conclusion about teaching vocabulary in an enjoyable and meaningful way to develop students’ vocabulary.
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