Problems & Solutions -
by Emma Worrall
Ways of Teaching Vocabulary
Taylor (1990: 3-4) presents seven criteria,
which describe 'what it is to know a word' and she believes
that we can begin to use these criteria in the classroom (see
appendix 3) by introducing students to them a few at a time.
Taylor says that learners remember best the words that they
have heard many times and have uttered themselves (she suggests
that choral repetition can be useful here, but only when meaning
has already been established). I agree that personalising
vocabulary also helps students remember vocabulary and I often
ask students to record sentences which have 'meaning' for
them. Taylor (1990: 41) says "where possible we should
relate new meanings to our learners' own experiences".
She suggests that incorporating several of her seven aspects
of 'knowledge of a word' when teaching vocabulary. I must
admit I have been reluctant to try all these with my pre-intermediate
students for fear of 'overloading' them with information.
Gairns and Redman (1986: 17) argue that low level learners
"should be spared lexis that is superfluous to immediate
need, or involves conceptual difficulties that may not easily
conveyed without using language of comparable complexity".
However, if you have a strong group, I see no harm in challenging.
Taylor also discusses the 'communicative teaching' of vocabulary
as a way of presenting new items:
"When we 'do' a reading passage with our
students, surely we are teaching vocabulary? Sadly, in many
classrooms this is not the case. Encountering and 'understanding'
a word are seldom enough: as with meeting people, there needs
to be depth and interaction for the encounter to be memorable"
(Morgan & Rinvolucri 1986: 4).
Taylor says that we may prefer, before doing
a reading or listening, to pre-teach vocabulary which may
cause difficulties. This can be done by 'pre-familiarisation'
or by 'post-familiarisation'. Pre-familiarisation is when
we establish 'sense' by encouraging students to look at the
topic first then move on to the 'item' of vocabulary. Post-familiarisation
is the opposite process. The 'item' is given before sense.
I decided to use a 'top-down' approach in my lesson, using
the technique of post-familiarisation- they will be encouraged
to work out the sense for themselves.
The importance is on giving learners time to
assimilate the vocabulary, which was the thinking behind my
lesson plan. I wanted to carefully stage the lesson so that
the students would be able to 'get to grips' with the vocabulary
before they can confidently use it in a 'meaningful' way.
Thornbury (2002) suggests, as does Taylor, that personalisation
is important when teaching vocabulary, for example, written
sentences and ranking vocabulary in order of preference (see
appendix 1 for Thornbury's list of ways of presenting vocabulary).
I feel it is especially important to present
vocabulary in a variety of ways. Often the course books we
use have a method or set way of presenting vocabulary and
there is a danger of the students getting used to the routine,
and therefore we need to challenge them more and put more
pressure on their abilities to memorise words.
Teaching Multi-Word Verbs
A muli-word verb = a verb + one or more particles,
for example, give up- she gave up smoking (she stopped smoking)
A particular problem for my students has
been the use of multi-word verbs. They have only met a few
in the course book but I have noticed that they were lot particularly
happy with them (and may be with my presentation of them).
As my lesson is aimed at teaching multi-word verbs I want
to look more closely at the problems that teachers have teaching
them and students have learning them. I feel that my students
need to be able to use 'real' language in the classroom. My
pre-intermediate group are now at the stage where they are
learning 'chunks' of language to communicate. I want to build
on this and I feel that introducing multi-word verbs is a
good way of providing students with 'usable' language. At
this level the students do not have the language they need
to communicate effectively and at this level (and indeed above)
they often rely on latinate words to help them to communicate,
which often makes them sound unnatural. They do this because
either they do not know the multi-word verb equivalent, or
they are afraid of misusing multi-word verbs.
page 3 of 5
the lesson plan
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