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May 05, 2008

Tips and Tricks - Vocabulary Notebooks

Hello Readers,

Do your students have a hard time remembering all the new words that they learn in your class? Are you students constantly confusing certain words for other similar words? What can you do about it? Well ...

... as you might know, there are a number of books on learning vocabulary, so there isn't just one easy answer. However, one method you might try is asking your students to keep a vocabulary notebook. It can be divided into different categories by topic (animals, food, colours, etc.,), the letter the words start with (a, b, c ...), part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives) or simply by the order they learn them in. For young students, you may wish to write the words in squares for them to draw the pictures next to, whereas for adults, you might simply guide them by giving them possible topics.

Now if your students are as unmotivated as many of mine were to do a bit of homework in their own time, you might want to give them five minutes at the end of each lesson to add new words to their books. In addition, it might be a good idea to look through them every once in a while and to give them some feedback (and a grade) to help motivate them to do continue with this. Alternatively, you could give occasional vocabulary quizzes to the students where the notebooks can be used. Whatever you do, it's a good idea to use the notebooks in class so that the students can see how useful such a notebook can be.

For more reading on teaching vocabulary, check out Scott Thornbury's "How to teach vocabulary" (2002) by Longman.

Hope that helps!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*For more ESL Tips & Tricks from ESL-Lesson-Plan, please click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker hailing from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked at universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, and did private tutoring as well. Besides teaching, she also worked as a Head teacher, an Education Manager, and a Material Development Manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she also writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing, authors ESL textbooks for publishing houses in China, and is an Editor for Garnet Publishing in Reading, England. Carol holds a BA in Communications from the College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University, and a CELTA, and has just finished her MA TESOL course at Oxford Brookes University. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at May 5, 2008 04:56 AM

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One method I have recommended to students is the 1-1-1 system. They list 5 new words they want to learn each day, based on words they use frequently in L1 but don't know in English. Every day, the students look at their vocabulary entries from 1 DAY, 1 WEEK and 1 MONTH previous.

In doing so they don't simply try to learn parrot fashion, but recite something meaningful to them about the word. i.e. not just rice - L1 translation, potatoes - L1 translation, more like "My friends threw rice at me on my wedding day" and "I really hate potatoes as they make me fat!". In this way, I've found that students have a vocab retention rate of over 90% (from vocab test results) if used daily, compared to about 50-70% for the students who don't use it.

Posted by: Mark Charters at May 27, 2008 07:10 AM

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