Monday, January 16, 2012

Teaching Vocabulary

Teaching Vocabulary

What information does a learner need in order to know a word receptively and productively?

· Meaning.

Attached to meaning are:

Connotation = an extra attitudinal meaning attached to the word e.g. terrorist Vs freedom fighter.

Appropriacy: An understanding of which word is acceptable in a particular situation e.g. Thank you very much vs Ta; toilet vs W.C vs Loo

Register: an understanding of its restricted use in a particular micro-community e.g. heart attack vs cardiac arrest

Polysemy: multiple meanings of a word e.g. bat (zoological) Vs bat (cricket)

Use: some words (especially grammar words) carry little or no intrinsic meaning but serve to glue the language together e.g. of/the (They are also highly frequent).

· Part of Speech: noun verb adjective etc

· Grammar : Are there any rules regarding it’s pluralisation? Is it countable/uncountable? etc

Are there any rules governing its position in a sentence e.g. always/however.

If a verb, regular or irregular etc. Also attached to this is the idea of

Collocation: some words are glued to other words e.g. listen to/interested in/married to/rancid butter

· Spelling

· Pronunciation : sounds/stress/weak forms

When your aim is teaching vocabulary the above will be too much to deal with. The package can be extended as they get older. The most important thing is that the children understand the meaning. If you help them with the pronunciation, then they benefit even more.

Peter Redpath 2012

Eliciting from the children

What is elicitation? It is providing the children with enough clues for them to process and to arrive at the concept of the vocabulary item.

There are two major pitfalls to beware of:

· Under-eliciting: not providing clear, appropriate clues or enough of them. The children end up trying to guess what is in my mind

· Over-eliciting: doing the work for the children and not engaging them in the process of understanding. I am spoon-feeding them the information.

Other pitfalls include:

· Not using appropriate “wait-time”. This is accurately judging the space/time link between knowing that I have conveyed the meaning of the language and pausing long enough to allow the children to say/provide the language. It includes my acute awareness that the children have understood the concept in their own language but do not have the word in English to express it – at which point I provide it and drill it, if appropriate. When my awareness is less acute, when I am not “reading” the children accurately, I will rush into the golden silence of processing and give the word; a trigger-fingered response. At the other extreme I will over-wait so that the children start to question or hesitate about their understanding and start guessing in other directions. Wait-time is a skill which deserves continuous attention.

· Not listening carefully enough to the children’s’ suggestions and missing a contribution that is, in fact, “correct”. Again this child will move away from the word and start chasing red herrings.

· Accepting the first correct answer. The effect of this is that I only fly with the faster children, consequently leaving shyer or less vocal children behind. If I do this, I am seduced into assuming that all the children understand. This is a common problem for many teachers because of their perceived need to push on and get through their material or plan.

· Noticing but not acknowledging the correct answer from a child. Again this child will move away from the word and start chasing red herrings. I can acknowledge with a look/smile or gesture and keep this child/children “on hold” while other children continue to process the clues.

Peter Redpath 2012

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