TI-AIE: Strategies for teaching vocabulary

What this unit is about

This unit is about how you can help your students to learn, use and remember English vocabulary. Many students struggle with the lessons in the textbook, even in Classes IX or X. They don’t understand many of the words, and even after they are translated, students can find it difficult to remember what they mean.

It has been found that students learn languages best when they experience it in context and use the language independently in speaking and writing. As the Position Paper of the National Focus Group on Teaching of English (National Council of Educational Research and Training, 2006) states:

Research has also shown us that greater gains accrue when language instruction moves away from the traditional approach of learning definitions of words (the dictionary approach) to an enriched approach, which encourages associations with other words and contexts (the encyclopaedia approach).

This means that translating a text word-for-word or memorising lists of words will not necessarily help students to learn new vocabulary that they can use when they speak and write in English. Students need to develop strategies to guess the meaning of new words when they encounter them. You can help them do this by:

  • showing similarities to words they already know
  • using pictures to help your students guess the meaning of words
  • miming.

However, learning a new word or phrase once does not mean that the student will remember it and be able to use it. That is why students also need support in learning how to record new vocabulary and repeatedly review it. If students improve their knowledge of vocabulary, they can understand their lessons more easily and will write and speak better in English, which can also lead to them performing better in exams.

The techniques in this unit help your students to become independent language learners who are able to understand, record and learn new vocabulary by themselves.

As you try the activities in this unit, remember that:

  • techniques may not work the first time you do them – think about what happened in the lesson, make adjustments and try again
  • students may not understand what is happening when you try a new technique – explain it to them and make the purpose of the activity clear
  • you can use the activities in this unit as part of your normal classes – they do not need to take up a whole class, or be extra work for your class or you.

Make your classroom an encouraging place to be; a place where you and your students can try things out without fear of criticism.

What you can learn in this unit