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Teaching vocab

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by musiclover1, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Before you get them to repeat the vocab, get them to just UNDERSTAND it by pointing, e.g. have the flashcards stuck on the walls around the room and they have to point in the right direction when you say the word. Or you say the word and they have to point to the object/part of body (e.g. with objects in your pencil case they could hold up the correct item, or with colours they could point to any item of that colour). I even (very boringly) say the word and they have to point to the right picture in the textbook.
    Get them to repeat the words with different emotions/loudly/softly/with a high voice/ with a low voice - might be too much with a naughty class.
    Point to the wrong item on purpose and they have to remain silent (like 'Simon says') or they're out.
    Or use mime: you say the word, they have to do a mime for it (e.g. adjectives for school subjects: interesting is a smiley interested face, boring is yawning, difficult is scratching your head etc.) Get them to invent the mimes. Make sure the mimes don't involve noise. One of my year 7 Aspergers kids came up with a brilliant mime for easy: squeezing a lemon (easy- peasy lemon squeezy).
  2. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I don't think you can teach vocabulary. You can tell them what a word means, but they have to learn it.
  3. Hi
    You don't mention which language you are teaching. Just in case it's German, I've been experimenting with this http://manxman.ch/moodle2/course/view.php?id=14
    The basic idea is to present a text in context or a story. The building block phrases are identified together with their meaning in the context. The text is then rebuilt using the "building blocks" of meaning.
    I've been doing something similar with EFL which has had a lot of success with English learners here (Switzerland)

  4. henriette

    henriette New commenter

    use a word search to "test" knowledge and spelling (words in grid in TL, words listed underneath in English) - my bottom sets love these. Puzzlemaker.com is a really good site for making these.
    also: set them a challenge: We are going to try and learn 12 new words today - how many do you think you will manage? Write it in your book. Then return to the prediction for a plenary and big-up anyone who has exceeded the 2/3 they predicted. Next time, they have to beat their previous success rate.

  5. I'm trying not to teach vocabulary. I try to get my students to create their own lists using text books and dictionaries, they then share their lists and then learn them. Pronunciation is learned by teaching and practising phonics.
  6. Try Interlex, a free vocab acquisition package by Andrew Quilley. It supports several different languages, is easy to use, comes with lots of ready-made vocab files, and students can write their own files to test the words they want to learn. The website also lists lots of useful links and has a file swap area where users can post the files they have created and share resources with other learners: http://www.vocab.co.uk/
    Graham Davies
  7. Hi
    Teaching vocabulary as lists and learning grammar is the traditional 'academic' way to learn a language. It's been done like that since ever and we continue to do it.
    However, consider this. I sidestepped into teaching EFL abroad eight years ago and quickly organised a school language trip to the UK. The kids in question had learnt school book English for several years and could conjugate verbs and had memorized lists of words for vocabulary tests (which they also quickly forgot).
    In frustration, and prompted by OU course E854, I abandoned vocabulary teaching and taught functional grammar instead. Now I know this goes against everything we were taught but the results were amazing. On the next school trip two years later all of our kids shared tables at an evening meal with locals in our host village. They ALL managed to talk about something!
    A bitter pill to swallow when teaching and testing is the regime. I suppose I'm glad I don't teach in the UK.
    OU Course - http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/course/e854.htm
    Functional Grammar - http://www.manxman.ch/moodle2/
  8. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Point taken. Not sure about the distinction between functional grammar and grammar. I was not a big fan of functions and notions back in the 1980s (-ish). If grammar is taught as practice, both controlled and free, then internalisation of rules should take place at a pace dependent on the aptitude of the learner. Teaching rules alone is not enough IMO. Just stating the obvious, I guess.
    My gut feeling is that vocab is best learned in context, rather than from lists. Lists may work for some learners though.
  9. Exactly! Functional Grammar is a bit of a mis-nomer though. It's part of the Systemic Functional Linguistic theory that sees 'meaning' as everything. Traditional Grammar doesn't determine language, it's just an analytical tool. Functional Grammar is very tightly bound to Context and attempts to analyse meaning in context, which is what language is all about after all. Does traditional grammar help us with the language forms we use 'down the pub' as opposed to at a job interview?
    Google for Michael Halliday and SFL for more info. This video by Mary Scheppegrel in the USA is also very enlightening http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgUK7GynW-w
  10. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I had a mild panic moment when I realised that with my CLIL group I hadn't set a single vocab test since the start of the year and hadn't (until last week) done any choral repetition of words in class. Yet they have seen <u>a lot</u> of vocabulary in lessons through texts and listening to my explaining the content we look at.What Steve and manxli say is absolutely true: if you do the vocabulary in context then it sticks to pupils' minds.
    To me, vocab tests and choral repetition are a comfort blanket - it feels like a safe way of ensuring that my students are saying some words with the right intonation and that therefore, by assimilation, they must be learning it right too (which isn't necessarily true). It wasn't my intention to not actively teach vocabulary in my CLIL lessons but I just simply haven't had the time to, and I am shocked to realise that students haven't needed it. If I ask them to describe a painting now (we are doing a module on painters), they are able to come up with the appropriate basic vocabulary without referring to their vocab lists, and I am convinced that they have learned it better than if I'd said "right, vocab test on these 20 words next Monday". To the point that when I asked them to do an English to French translation the other day, and the word "war" came up, most of the class was able to recall it from the History module we'd done before the half-term holidays. My other students wouldn't be able to remember a word beyond one week of "learning"it for a test.
  11. Depends on your group - some of my groups have enjoyed a "sorting" activity - list of vocab on a given topic in TL, pupils have to write it (checking gender as they go) in appropriate column/box/section/picture using dictionary/glossary etc to check meaning. Can sort either by meaning or by type (noun, verb, adj. etc)
    As an alternative - eg for adjectives give a random-order list of vocab and pupils have to find pairs/opposites/ 3-4-5.. words in same category..... etc (again using ref. materials for new items)
    Or can do definitions in TL - ps have to select word defined from a list
    Or gapped sentences - pupils have to choose word (from selection you provide) to fit in gap
    If pronunciation is the focus, why not let them work in groups/pairs; demonstrate how to break new words into syllables and use familiar sound patterns to predict how each syllable then whole word will sound
  12. Thanks for your suggestions. I teach French and Spanish, for the person that asked. Spanish isn't too much of an issue because of the very clear sound spelling links, but French is more difficult. Some of the suggestions I think would work well with my Spanish classes (top sets, those doing a second language), but most of my French is sets 3 and 4, where I can't really teach grammar as they won't understand it, and instead have to rely on set phrases whilst drip feeding the grammar here and there. Also, as I discovered yesterday, relying on cognates isn't as simple as I'd thought - I was doing an exercise with a bottom set Y8 class which had the verb 'observer' in. I'd thought they'd all understand it, but then soon discovered that not one of them knew what 'observe' means in English. Some had heard the word but didn't know what it was, some had never heard the word at all - it is a class where the majority of the pupils have a vocabulary level that is well below average
  13. IMO I do feel girls can recall words/language with less repetition than boys. I do tailor my teaching for this difference.On a personal level, I had great difficulty trying to learn this expression in Spanish "Y por si eso fuera poco" I did it through rote. Saying it over and over again. I have students who really enjoy repeating verb conjugations and key expressions.
    I also look for songs which reinforce the keywords/expressions/grammar in the target language.
    To conclude a mixture of methods are essential for success. But above all one must be willing to put a shift in to achieve a decent level in a foreign language.(especially if they are not immersed in the language where they live"
    "Per ardua ad alta"

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