Archive for June, 2012

A suggested lesson for adults learning vocabulary in an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) lesson

June 7, 2012
Level 2: Pre-Intermediate >> Vocabulary Worksheets >>
Comments on using lesson material for teaching adults vocabulary relating to the seasons as provided by the website above.
In the lesson material above, students are asked to place a list of words under seasonal headings.
This would be an excellent revision exercise after an extended lesson on the vocabulary.
Vocabulary is stored in our memories according to the particular sound and meaning of the words. That is why we often make mistakes by recalling words that sound very similar to those we are trying to retrieve from our memory. It is also easier to recall words that belong to the same topic area, such as ‘pins’ and ‘needles’. In addition, words that we are familiar with can be recalled more effectively than those we have never come across before. This knowledge can be used in a lesson by concentrating on the words in a series of concentrated stages so that the vocabulary is fully acquired and most likely be recalled quickly and effective becoming part of the student(s) fully acquired ‘automatically retrieved’ language.  
Stage 1 of a 60-minute lesson:
Ask the student(s) to name the four seasons. Once these have been named and written down for the students to see, the students add words associated with the seasons that they already know and these are written down under the respective headings. (Note, many adults need to see the written word to be able to acquire new vocabulary.)
This may appear to slow the learning process down. It would be much ‘quicker’ for students to simply list the words they know under the respective headings and then ask their friends, look up on the Internet or a dictionary to find out the meanings of unknown words and add them accordingly. However, if the aim of the lesson is for the students to acquire the new words for long-term usage, much more than mere listing is required.
Stage 2:
Depending on the ability/personality/academic capability of the adult, if they are already aware of teaching methods, the student(s) should be reminded of the way in which we store and recall words.
The students are offered the remaining words from the list. Then students try to relate as much vocabulary as possible to words from their first language. For example, if the student is Spanish, the word ‘la flor’ may sound similar to ‘flower’. (Note, with adults, making associations with new vocabulary is particularly important and/or effective).
Stage 3:
In this stage words that are completely new to the students and/or that do not sound similar to words in their own language are taught. Different methods for vocabulary memorization may be offered or one chosen according to the nature of the student(s). One of the most effective ways of memorizing vocabulary is using a method similar to the ‘Linkword’ method in which mental images are created that link the sound and meaning of the new words so that they will become memorable. For example, If a Spanish student were trying to remember ‘flower’ they could picture a person dressed as a flower speaking and hesitating within the speech by saying ‘ –er’ (Hence, a Spanish student may think of the following: ‘flor-er’ = flower).
Stage 4:
When the entire list has been ‘learnt’ students are then encouraged to explore these words further so that they continue to stimulate their previously acquired language and thus embed the new word(s) so that it/they can be quickly – even ‘automatically’ —  retrieved and used. Students try to name additional associated words or forms. For example, ‘sun’ could be extended to ‘sun cream’, ‘sunbathe’, ‘sunhat’, ‘sun bed’, ‘sunning oneself’ and/or ‘suntan’. In this way they reinforce the initial word while becoming familiar with a wider vocabulary than the lesson requires. This will aid full acquisition of newer words later.
Stage 5:
In this stage the student(s) practise recalling the words to use them in different situations or contexts. For example, students may be asked to interview a weather reporter. While concentrating on shaping the interview and also including as many of the new words as possible, they will be engaging their cognitive powers effectively. Any misunderstanding of the meaning of some of the words will come to light as they try to use them in different contexts, for example, the student(s) my need to have explained the difference between ‘sunshine’ in ‘I love sitting in the sunshine’ and ‘Just do it, will you ‘sunshine’! (Even though this is a ‘pre-intermediate’ level sometimes humour using a different tone of voice is readily understood in the early stages of learning, although the full meaning may not be wholly understood.)
Stage 6:
At the end of the lesson students are given a positive experience in the usage of the newly acquired vocabulary. The exercise such as the one initially provided above (in which students list the words associated with the different seasons) or a quick team quiz which the teacher knows should be easy for the students will achieve further, positive reinforcement of the new words.
Ideally, these new words would be visited a day or two later, then a week later continuing i.e. the words should be recalled after increasing lengths of time.
The inclusion and/or the length of the different stages of the lesson will depend on the nature of the student(s). Some may be able to acquire new words quickly without a great deal of help so these stages may not need to be extensive. However, there will be those student(s) who find language learning particularly difficult and the stages listed above would be the best way for him/her/them to acquire new vocabulary effectively.