Vocabulary Teaching Strategies and Techniques by hedongchenchen

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                           Vocabulary Teaching Strategies and Techniques

                                         Cristina Hudgins

                             Language and Linguistics for ESL Teachers

                                          SPSE 6800-D01
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Introduction

        Vocabulary Knowledge is a key component of literacy and language acquisition. Students must

have a wide knowledge of vocabulary to comprehend texts and concepts. It is important to note that

“vocabulary knowledge is not something that can never be fully mastered; it is something that expands

and deepens over the course of a lifetime” (Diamond L.and Gutlohn, 2006). Therefore, students must

be taught the skills and techniques to figure out word meanings and expand their own vocabulary.

There are two ways to acquire vocabulary: “incidentally through indirect exposure to words and

intentionally through explicit instruction in specific words and word-learning strategies” (Diamond L.and

Gutlohn, 2006). Intentionally teaching vocabulary includes teaching specific words and word-learning

strategies, as well as showing the words in various contexts. The incidental learning of vocabulary

happens when children are “engaged in rich oral-language experiences at home and at school”

(Diamond L.and Gutlohn, 2006). Finally, it is also important to help students become conscious of words

and their own word learning.



Summary of Strategies and Techniques

        Though there are many strategies and techniques that aid in teaching vocabulary, there are

some that work better than others. One of the more ineffective strategies is having students copy

definitions. Many teachers resort to this as a time saving way of addressing vocabulary; however, this

method fails to stimulate and engages the student and is therefore ineffective because the information

does not stick with the student (Kester Phillips, 2011). A major step towards teaching vocabulary is to

teach that vocabulary in context. It is also important for the teacher to carefully select the vocabulary

for focus from the text (Kester Phillips, 2011). The students should be introduced to the new vocabulary

before reading and work with it during reading of the text. The words that are selected must build upon

the students’ prior knowledge and connect to what the students are currently learning or already
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understand. It is helpful if the words selected are central to the understanding of the text or passage so

that the students have a more clear purpose for learning the vocabulary. A strategy that might help

students connect with and become more engaged in the vocabulary learning would be to have them

choose the words to study “based off the difficulty of words they encounter in their reading” (Kester

Phillips, 2011). Both the connotation and denotation of the words should be discussed beforehand

(Brummitt-Yale, 2008). During reading, seeing the words in context can help the student retain the

words and understand the meaning more deeply, especially if the words have multiple meanings such as

the vocabulary usually found on the ACT test. Students should also be exposed to the new words

frequently and in different contexts. Allowing for opportunities to see and use the words will help the

student comprehend the meaning and uses of the words more fully (Brummitt-Yale, 2008). It is also a

good idea to help students identify key words, possibly from the definition itself, to help them recall the

meaning of the word while reading. It is helpful to use images or illustrative examples as well. Creating

word maps and using graphic organizers are “excellent method[s] for scaffolding a child’s vocabulary

learning” (Brummitt-Yale, 2008). Graphic organizers are a helpful visual representation of the

connections made among words and concepts (Kester Phillips, 2011). The student is required to use

prior knowledge when filling these out and make their own connections. Another strategy that can

prove very helpful to students in the future is identifying root words, suffixes and prefixes. Once the

child has been explicitly taught the meanings of certain root words, suffixes and prefixes, they are able

to use the strategy to help them with future texts. Another intentional way of teaching vocabulary is to

restructure the reading material by using synonyms for some of the more difficult words (Brummitt-

Yale, 2008). This takes a lot of pre-planning on the part of the teacher and some careful choices when

deciding which words to replace and which words not to replace. All of the above are more explicit

forms of vocabulary acquisition. Students may also learn vocabulary more incidentally by using context

clues when they read (Brummitt-Yale, 2008). However, it is still up to the teacher to guide students and
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model the skill of using context clues to determine word meanings. This is a skill that must be practiced

frequently. Also, the teacher must be careful not to rely heavily on context clue instruction and

learning. This type of vocabulary learning has been said to only be better than copying definitions in the

fact that students must ask themselves questions about the text and word to find the meaning.

However, both context clue learning and copying definitions “fail to develop relational knowledge that is

necessary for true understanding of the concepts represented by the vocabulary words (Blachowicz &

Fisher, 1996)” (Kester Phillips, 2011). To add another dimension to the use of context clues, the teacher

could have the students predict the meanings of words in isolation first, then in context. This requires

the student to use more of their logic (Kester Phillips, 2011).



Suggestions for Teachers

        It is highly suggested that teachers do not use direct translation when teaching vocabulary to

students learning a second language (Mehta, 2009). It is more helpful to the student to use contexts,

key words, images, etcetera to help the students learn the definition and use of new words. The

following strategies prove very helpful with ESL students: discovering the definition, context clues, giving

antonyms and synonyms, using dramatizations, showing pictures or having the students create drawings

and looking at parts of words (Mehta, 2009). Finally, it is very important to give the students

opportunities to discover and discuss the words and the uses of the new vocabulary. To do this the

teacher should “Encourage group work, acknowledge multiple responses, build working Word

Walls, use a Word of the Day, make word webs, etcetera (Teaching Vocabulary: Activities and

Strategies, 2009-2010). The teacher must also consider the three tiers of words when choosing

the words from context to focus on: basic words, frequently used words necessary to

understanding the text and infrequently used words. “Consider focusing most of your
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vocabulary instruction on Tier 2 words, and using only Tier 3 when they directly relate to

subject-specific content (Teaching Vocabulary: Activities and Strategies, 2009-2010).
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                                              References

Brummitt-Yale, J. (2008, July 5). Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary. Retrieved February 16,
2011, from K12 Reader: http://www.k12reader.com/effective-strategies-for-teaching-vocabulary/

Diamond L.and Gutlohn, L. (2006). Teaching Vocabulary. Retrieved 02 15, 2011, from Reading Rockets:
http://www.readingrockets.org/article/9943

Kester Phillips, D. C. (2011, February 8). Strategies for effective vocabulary instruction. Retrieved
February 17, 2011, from The CBS Interactive Business Network:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6516/is_2_45/ai_n29452064/pg_6/?tag=content;col1

Mehta, N. K. (2009). Vocabulary Teaching: Effective Methodologies. The Internet TESOL Journal , 15 (3),
Retrieved from the Internet TESOL Journal Website: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Mehta-
Vocabulary.html.

Teaching Vocabulary: Activities and Strategies. (2009-2010). Retrieved February 15, 2011, from Primary
Education Oasis: http://www.primary-education-oasis.com/teaching-vocabulary.html

								
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