Ideas for teaching vocabulary (part 1) by sandra luna

Teaching vocabulary is much more than just giving students a list of words to learn by heart. We all know how important it is to learn new words, but how can we do it in a fun, yet effective way? The following ideas were presented at one of our Teacher Development sessions. Hope you find them as useful as I do.

  1. Vocabulary Bingo

This an easy activity which can be adapted to any age or level. During the session I focused on activities for higher level classes, such as B.2 and C.1 level, so this is my suggestion on how to adapt the traditional bingo game to higher levels. Create (and possibly laminate) a set of bingo cards with just the grid. Fill in with vocabulary (phrasal verbs, for example) you’ve been using in class. Hand out one or two cards per student. Then read out the definition of the words you’ve used to fill in the grid. If a student has the word whose description you’ve read, he can cross it out. The game ends when one student has filled in all his/her cards. Then you can start again.

  1. Vocabulary Notebooks

Yes, yes, this is a very old one. I know. However, being old does not mean being old-fashioned. At least, not in this case. I am a fan of vocabulary notebooks. I think they help learners get organized when they are young, or when they’re still at A.1 or A.2 level, but they’re also a valuable tool for higher level classes for things such as word formation. You can ask students to have and bring to class a small notebook divided into sections (sometimes I use alphabetical order, sometimes I use topic related division) and use it during class. With younger students you can have them decorate the vocabulary notebook thus making it more personalized. You can cut and glue animals, ask them to draw shapes. Your imagination is your limit. With older (or more advanced) groups you can create a collaborative task with Moodle, for example. Create a glossary and add it to your Moodle class. Then get one student per lesson to be in charge of writing down all the interesting/new/useful words that come up. That student will then have to update the Glossary on Moodle and all from the class words will be available to anyone from the class.

  1. Board Drawing (collaborative)

Teenagers tend to be rather competitive. With this game you’ll be able to understand what their weaknesses are. Also, you’ll be trying to get the different groups to work together instead of against each other.

Let’s imagine that you’ve been talking about food. On the board draw the food pyramid. Divide it into 6 sections and as a group try to name each section. They get each group to be in charge of a section and explain that you’re going to play a name. Read from a list of words. When a group hears a word from their section, they’ll have to write it on the board under the section they are responsible for. Other groups can help, and should there be a word nobody knows about, write it down on a piece of paper (or a specific place on the board allocated for this) and deal with it once all the words have been used.

I’ll come back soon with more ideas. In the meantime have lots of fun. Learning with laughter sure is a lot more effective.