• Teaching Vocabulary


    The concept of teaching vocabulary to students of a foreign language is not impossible but must be approached carefully. There are several ways to deliver the information to students so that they learn the English language ’s vocabulary. For example, Joseph Pettigrew from Boston University posted an interesting article online that gives suggestions on how to go about presenting and teaching vocabulary to students.

    Pettigrew suggests teaching methods that include simple, old-fashioned English language tools such as synonyms and antonyms. Synonyms may be used in matching exercises and antonyms may be used in exercises matching opposites. He also suggests using fill in the blank sentences as a form of exercise. This is perhaps an effective exercise for learning this portion of the English language as it enhances the student’s self-esteem by giving them the simple task of completing an entire sentence with just one word.

    Labeling pictures is another form of exercise suggested by Pettigrew for teaching. It allows the student to associate an English word with an image common to most cultures. Visuals are a valuable aspect of teaching the English language because they provide a similarity apparent to the majority, if not all, of the students in the class and it creates a unified recognition of the material being presented.

    Also suggested in the article for teaching vocabulary is the use of categories. Keeping the trend in a list of words by completing the list with a similar term, or finding the term that does not fit the given group of words, are ways to get students to distinguish between different vocabulary words. Analogies are suggested for use even at low levels. This form of exercise may be catered to different levels by altering the types of terms (simple versus longer, more complex ones) and the types of associations made within the given analogy (apparent versus abstract). Getting students to distinguish slang from proper English is a good way to get them familiarized with the concept of slang and its appropriate use. Also, finding words with positive connotation and those with negative connotation gets students familiar with certain words by associating feelings and emotions with them.

    Pettigrew also discusses the ways of getting students to associate words within a sentence or passage by using context. This allows the student to associate the word with its given situation as opposed to looking up each word in a dictionary. The student will then be able to recognize several words all at once within a given sentence or passage and reading in the English language is then made possible for the student. Pettigrew suggests ways to get students to recognize a vocabulary word out of context and those include clues such as cause and effect, opposites and contrasts, types of words (such as subject, verb, noun), and examples.

    Some other suggestions found in the article for teaching vocabulary are the employing use of word sheets, which list words and promote discussion of them. By finding similarities, opposites, etc. through discussion, the students will learn from one another. Games suggested for use are those using pantomimes, crossword puzzles, categories, passwords and drawing pictures. Scoring and other means of praise and rewards promote motivation and enthusiasm among the class.

    The information selected for study in this research was provided by the following article and its author:

    Teaching Vocabulary:Two Dozen Tips and Techniques, Joseph Pettigrew

    Genevieve Haring