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What is vocabulary teaching?
What is importance of vocabulary teaching?› For teachers
› For students
What are the steps of vocabulary teaching?
What are techniques and activities for vocabulary teaching?
What are the problems of vocabulary teaching?
A sample vocabulary teaching lesson
Vocabulary; is the set of words in a particular language
and it has two types as passive and active vocabulary.
› Passive vocabulary (receptive) is the vocabulary that the
learner knows and understand when s/he read or listen.
› Active vocabulary (productive) occurs after passive one, it is
the vocabulary that the learner use in writing or speaking.
To change the passive one to the active, one need to
see or hear the word several times so teacher should
provide meaningful repetitive activities.
Teaching vocabulary is the process of providing
learners to store new vocabulary items in the long term
memory with meaningful activities which helps the
organization of the words in the brain.
Firstly, teacher need to decide on whether the word is
worth spending time or not.
Frequency lists help teachers to decide what to teach
and what order.
Low frequency words are seen rare in language use, like idioms or proverbs, so it would be better to teach them later in the language program.
High frequency words can be seen often in language use, like colors, clothing, health, sport, etc.
When the words are low frequency and not useful for the learners it shouldn’t be spent so much time on them.
On the other hand, high frequency vocabulary should be focused on in terms of meaning, form and the usage.
Secondly teacher need to teach vocabulary in a
context and allow students to see the words in action.
Then, s/he needs to give them enough time and input
to learn and practice new vocabulary.
S/he needs to carry out activities that enable learners to
use vocabulary in productive tasks
And s/he always needs to encourage ways to recycle
According to Nation (2008), teacher should have some
principles while teaching vocabulary;
› «Keep the teaching simple and clear. Don’t give complicated
› «Relate the present teaching to past knowledge by showing a
pattern or analogies.»
› «Use both oral and written presentation - write it on the
blackboard as well as explaining.»
› «Give most attention to words that are already partly known.»
› «Tell the learners if it is a high frequency word that is worth
noting for future attention.»
› «Don’t bring in other unknown or poorly known related words
like near synonyms, opposites, or members of the same lexical
Acquiring large number of words at the same time is very difficult because of the fact that our memory cannot store that much. › 8/9-year-old learners can learn 4/5 words,
› 10/11-year-old learners can learn 7/8 words,
› 14/18-year-old learners can learn 15/20 words but they need to be given separately, 8/10 words are given at first then, after ten minutes related activity the rest should be given.
› Also university students can learn about 30 words in a lesson.
Teaching vocabulary can also be unplanned. Teacher
may want to give some new vocabulary items related
to a topic that occurs spontaneously.
For instance; on a rainy day teacher may want to give
the vocabulary related to rain and storm. This kind of
unplanned teaching motivates learners more and save
the lesson from being so monotonous.
According to Wilkins (1972) and Scrivener (1998),
without vocabulary, grammar does not mean anything.
If the learners do not have vocabulary they cannot
form sentences with the correct grammar. To form
accurate sentences and speech learners need
vocabulary more than grammar. Message can be
given with vocabulary without grammar but it cannot
be given with grammar and without vocabulary.
For teachers, what to teach as vocabulary is really important and this should be according to the learner’s needs.
Teachers should create a sense of need for students because this need should be internal.
It is equally important to help students with how to learn vocabulary as well as with what to learn. (McCarten, 2007)
For learners, the meaning, form and usage of the words are important so they need to be guided and given proper text and activities. (Lindsay and Knight, 2006)
Students need know:
› Meaning of a word
› Spelling and pronunciation of a word
› Grammar (word formation)
1. Lead-In: The teacher creates a context to teach the new word.
2. Convey Meaning: The Teacher uses one or several of the vocabulary teaching techniques in order to convey the meaning of a word.
3. Repetition: The learners listen and repeat the word. (Generally at least for three times)
4. Verification: The teacher asks questions to the learners concerning the meaning of the word and check whether the students comprehended the meaning or not.
5. Use: The learners try to use the word in an appropriate context with the help of the teacher.
6. Model sentence: A model sentence is formed with the new word.
We should remember that the more we employ
VAKOG* type of teaching, the better will the
vocabulary be understood and retained in the LTM;
therefore, we should address all five senses of the
learners as often as possible.(Akar,2010)
Using materials in vocabulary teaching such as;
Films, videos, TV programmes
Facial expressions and body language
Crossword Puzzles, Board Games, Card Games,
Using materials in vocabulary teaching such as;
Sounds from everyday life and nature
Poems, nursery rhymes:
Sitting on a mat.
Wearing a hat.
And watching a rat.
According to Nurgun Akar (2010), ‘these are the most
frequently used ones.’
Verbal techniques contains:
Riddles and Tongue-Twisters
According to Akar (2010) ‘They are ideal because they
are controversational, involving a question and answer,
thereby setting up a very short but essential context.
Riddles thus provide an environment in which a specific
word is used.’
‘The type of riddle most useful for vocabulary
development is the conundrum, a riddle in which a
double meaning is involved.’ (Akar, 2010)
Q: What has got four wheels and flies?
A: A garbage truck.
An example for tongue-twisters:
‘She sells seashells on the seashore. The shells she sells are
Guessing a word or idea in a context. According to
Jackson (1988:166-168) it has five steps:
Look at the word; decide on its part of speech.
Look at the clause or sentence containing the unknown
Look at the relationship between the clause or
sentence and the unknown word and other sentences
or phrases. Possible relationships include cause and
effect, contrast exemplification, summary and so on.
Make a guess at the meaning of the word.
Check your guess.
There are some clues that Pettigrew advises learners to
Cause and effect
Synonyms or paraphrases
Examples in the text
Definitions in the text
To enable wide range of activities, we should teach our
learners lots of fixed expressions to help them carry out
these activites. For example; ordering a meal in a
restaurant, apologizing from someone, asking for
Superordinates and Hyponyms
For example; ‘fruit’ is an superordinate and ‘an apple, an orange, a banana’ are hyponyms.
Using real life processes witnessed in real life. For example: Recycling.
hot: sun, tea, coffee
Ladies and gentlemen
Beautiful: used for women
Handsome: used for men
Kinaesthetic, Olfactory, Gustatory Techniques
(Carleton, L., & Marzano, R. (2010)
Give students cards with instructions like the examples
below. Have them perform the actions without
speaking. The other students try to guess the word or
expression that the student is pantomiming.
Open the door fearfully.
Walk across the room cautiously.
•The clues can be synonyms, antonyms, complete
the sentences. Helps focus on spelling as well as
Divide the class into teams. One person from a team sits
in front of the class. The rest of the team members are
given a card with a category, For example: Things that
are red. The team members take turns giving examples
of the category until the person in the “hot seat”
guesses it or all the team members have given a clue. If
the person in front cannot guess, the other team can
confer and try to guess.
NOTE: The clues must be examples, not definitions. In
the above example, ketchup, blood, and a stop sign
are all acceptable clues. Color is not.
Examples of categories:
Things that are . . . yellow, expensive, fragile, made of
glass, found on a farm American authors, state capitals,
things in a woman’s purse, winter clothing things that
are sold in bottles, places where you have to stand in
line, people who wear uniforms
Divide the class into two teams. One person from each
team sits in a chair in front of the class. Those two
people receive a card with a vocabulary word. The first
person gives a one-word clue to his/her team. If no one
from the team can guess, the second person gives a
clue to his/her team. This alternates back and forth until
someone from one of the teams guesses the word, or
until a specified number of clues has been given.
This works well if you have an empty classroom nearby.
Divide the class into two groups. Give each one a list of
vocabulary words (idiomatic expressions also work well
for this). The students draw pictures—but no words—on
the board so that the students in the other group can
guess the words or expressions they’re trying to
represent. This is a fun way to review some vocabulary
and break up the class routine.
«The main problem with vocabulary teaching is that only a
few words and a small part of what is required to know a
word can be dealt with at any one time. This limitation also
applies to incidental learning from listening or reading, but it
is much easier to arrange for large amounts of independent
listening and reading than it is to arrange for large amounts
of teaching. Teaching can effectively deal with only a small
amount of information about a word at a time. The more
complex the information is, the more likely the learners are
to misinterpret it.» (Nation, 2008)
According to Thornbury, (2002) it is hard for second language learners to acquire the meaning and the forms of the words, to differentiate the meaning of similar words and also to use the words in the correct form when producing the language.
What to teach as vocabulary is really important and this should be according to the learner’s needs. Teachers should create a sense of need for students because this need should be internal. However, the needs of the learners and the teacher’s predictions may not be matched all the time so this can create a conflict. (Allen, 1983)
To prevent this conflict; “Avoid teaching words from textbooks just because they are italicized, written in bold print, etc. do not teach the words just because they appear in a list at the end of a chapter. Do not assign large quantities of words and the ones that learners will rarely encounter again.” (Ellis, 2002)
Learners may not be ready for organizing the words to
store them in the long term memory. To avoid this,
teachers need to guide the learners to be systematic
and well organized. (Akar, 2010)
The activity or the techniques may not appeal to the
learners all the time for all the vocabulary items so
teachers need to use variable techniques or activities
all the time. (Akar, 2010)