Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Vocabulary learning

College curriculum makes little allowance for vocabulary learning. This implies that the initiative is left very much to students themselves. My students tend to use their electronic dictionaries in class. They come across a difficult word in their reading or listening, flip open their e-dictionary, check up the word, very often without any regard to the word in context and promptly forget its meaning after the lesson.

It is the same too with students preparing for IELTS. They have the misconceived notion that they need to know at least ten thousand words in order to excel in IELTS. Very often, they learn words in isolation, including bombastic words that one hardly hears of! And it isn’t their fault! Their instructors at privately run IELTS centers often impress them with such words! Vocabulary is important if students are to understand not just reading but speaking, listening and writing. Teaching them the base words, their derivatives, different meanings of the same word as well as idioms will do much to help them during tests to make intelligent guesses of new words.

I feel thematic teaching also helps in systematic vocabulary building. For instance, a theme on weddings would take into account, the main players, their roles, the wedding banquet, the wedding gifts, the taboos and so on… Imagine the number of words learnt just from a topic like this. Their meaning becomes reinforced if they dramatize the activity, sing songs about it or watch a movie pertaining to it. Teachers will find that their students will begin to enjoy learning English words when the right scaffolding is provided.

Playing vocabulary quizzes, scrabbles, word puzzles are some fun and challenging ways to help ESL students prepare for their IELTS.

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