How children learn the
meaning of words
Young Learners Workshop
Cecilia Maller A
Bear in mind that kids are still
building their L1 vocabulary, still in
the process of acquiring and
So learning L2 complex.
Learning is a continuous process- all
Children faced to 3 diff. But related
vocabulary learning tasks:
Discover that sequences of sounds
can be used as names for things.
Kids must discover which things can
be packed together under one label.
Kids learn basic words before their
Ex. Chair before furniture
Network building task
Kids must work out how words relate
to one another.
Ex. Family relationships
Knowing a word
It involves many diff. types of
In the early stages:
Less attention to: aspects of form
( spelling, grammatical description,
grammatical changes that a word
may suffer, etc.).
More attention to:
How a word is pronounced
* Depends on the use: active or
Vocabulary size, selection and
How many words to teach?
500 words a year.- depending on
factors like learning conditions, time
available and learnability of a word.
Factors related to LEARNABILITY
1.Demonstrability: When a word is
easy to convey.
Concrete basic level: CAR
2.Similarity to L1: Similar words?
3. Brevity: Short or long word?
Short=easier. ( assumption)
4. Regularity of form: A word that has
regularity in form.
Ex. Apple______Apples ( easier)
5. Learning Load: Part of a word
Ex. Bed Room
Bedroom.( effort to learn it -lower)
6.Opportunism: Relevant word to the
Ex. Classroom environment vocabulary
How to build a house.
7. Centres of interest: Relevant and of
interest to children.
Basic vocabulary essential for
communication as well as child-centred
Kids: like to learn, easiest to learn and
Read pages 83-85 ( whole article)
The vocabulary teaching and
Kids in their effort to learn new words
will go through 5 main stages:
Stage 1: Understanding and
learning the meaning of new words
Ideally presented in context familiar
to the child.
Visual support- to convey meaning
and help memorize new vocabulary.
How to introduce them:
- Lexical sets: shops, fruit, rooms in a
- Rhyming sets: bat, rat, hat, mat
Colours sets: things that are green:
A pea, a leaf, an apple.
-Grammatical sets: adjectives, verbs,
prepositions, nouns. Help recognize
patterns; e.i. –or, -er,c- ist for jobs.
Patterns or collocations: Play the piano,
ride a bike.
-Opposites or male and female:
Techniques to introduce new
Using objects- Helps to memorize the
word through visualization.
Using drawings- board or flashcards*
( card covered with plastic).
Using illustrations, pictures, photos,
flashcards ( your own, from
Using action, mime, expressions and
gestures. Sad/happy., swim/run
Pointing, touching, tasting, feeling,
smelling whenever possible- pupils use
their senses, memorize words and
Explaining- analytical description.
Ex. A present is something….
Definig the context: The winner of the
swimming competition gets a medal.
Eliciting What does the winner of the
swimming competition get?- more
memorable and motivating than a list
Describing: It´s made of metal and
looks like a coin----medal. Using
Kids associate words with a concept they
understand in L1.
Stage 2. Attending to form
Depending on the age and level.
Listening and repeating
Listening for specific phonological info
( consonant and vowel sounds,number
of syllables, stress patterns, etc)
Looking at/ observing the written form
( shape, first and last letters, spelling)
Noticing grammatical information.
Ex. AN apple
Copying and organizing
Stage 3: Vocabulary practising,
memorizing and checking activities
This requires to do things with the
words __to make strong memory
connections by learning words in
Classifying/sorting. Kids sort words
into categories. Ex. Hot and cold
Giving instructions. T. focuses on
specific vocabulary. Ex. Show me a red
Picture dictation: Kids draw what you
What´s missing: Look at a picture
ans say what´s missing.
Kim´s game: Objects are used and
displayed on a tray or table.
Wordsearchers: Kids love searching for
English spelling patterns.
Sequencing: Put pictures on the board
as required. Put the red square next
Labelling: Kids label a picture in order
to practise different nouns from lexical
Stage 4. Consolidating, recycling,
extending, organizing, recording
and personalizing vocabulary
Kids seem to learn fast- take care of
their long term memory: practise
regularly, consolidate and recycle
words in diff. contexts.
Create their own VB:
Ex. Alphabetically, pictures and drawings,
by topic, situation, grammatical
Collages: Around a particular theme
Word network/ webs/trees.
Create their own ones; taking as
starting point a topic.
Clines or steps degrees of temperature:
Hot/ warm/ cold/ freezing. Animals from
big to small.
Word stars. Pupils arrange words which
rhyme on a star diagram which will
help them recognize letter-sound
Reading pg. 90- 91