Effective vocabulary instruction for all levels


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session 192496, TESOL 2011

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Effective vocabulary instruction for all levels

  1. 1. Effective VocabularyInstruction for All Levels (extended handout with additional resources, for online distribution) “Why, then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with words will open” slightly paraphrased from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Wm. Shakespeare TESOL 2011 Annual Convention New Orleans, Louisiana March 18, 2011 Session 192496 Laurel Pollard Educational Consultant lpollard@dakotacom.net laurelpollard.com Students know it. Teachers know it. And research supports it: Students need more words! Vocabulary plays a critical role in our students’ current lives and future opportunities. 1
  2. 2. The activities • work well in multi-level classes • create a co-operative atmosphere • empower students as lifelong learnersAnd the activities need little or no preparation time, so you’ll have more time toobserve your students, assist where needed, think, and breathe! 2
  3. 3. Contentspage4-6. Which words, and how many? How to select words to teachEffective strategies for direct instructionStage 1: Meet the Words (initial exposure to new words) 7. Vocabulary Cards. 8. Dictionary strategies 8. Act It Out Before We Read It 8. Students Teach a Word 8. Total Physical Response 8. Strategies with pictures 9. Scrambled Words 9. What’s in My Wallet / Purse? 9. Grab Bag 9. Disappearing Vocabulary List 9. Early Bird Words 10. Half a PictureStage 2: Work with Words (manipulating and recycling words) 11. Do I Know These Words? 12. Stand For Your Word 13. Mingle 13. Categories 14. Two-in-One Vocabulary Review 14. Words on My Wall 15. Singing Dictation 15. What’s My Number?Stage 3: Make the Words My Own (deeper understanding and long-term retention) 16. Associations 16. Create New Contexts 16. Vocabulary House 16. Categories 16. Finish the Sentence 16. “Pictionary” 17. Learning Goals Support Groups 18. Four Corners Vocabulary19. The Snowball Effect19. Resources20-22. Appendix: Vocabulary Myths, by Keith Folse . . . a few notes to pique your interest 3
  4. 4. Which Words, and How Many?How to select words to teachUnfortunately, textbooks don’t always do a good job of choosing which words to teach.We know our students’ needs.Here is a useful way to categorize words so we can choose which ones to teach. The Three Tiers (from Beck, et al) Tier One words: basic words that may not need instruction in school because students already know them. Examples: clock, baby, happy Tier Two words: high-frequency words for mature language users. Examples: coincidence, absurd, industrious Tier Three words: words that aren’t frequently used, often limited to specific domains. Examples: isotope, lathe, peninsula. These are best learned only when needed in a content area. Vocabulary instruction should focus mostly on Tier 2 . . . and on the Tier 3 words that students need in content classes, workplace, and other situations (e.g., doctor’s office). Of course, with beginners you will choose easier texts and more basic words than the ones in this example. Awareness of the three tiers will help you choose which words to teach at any proficiency level.BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) is composed of Tier One words;CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) has Tier Two and Tier Three words. Three Criteria for Identifying Tier 2 Words • Importance and usefulness: Choose words that are likely to come up again and again in other contexts. • Mature thinking: Do your students understand the general concept? Teach them Tier 2 words that provide more precise and mature ways to express themselves. • Instructional potential: Choose words that can be worked with in a variety of ways so that students will really learn them. To make the best use of class time, focus on words that fit all three criteria. 4
  5. 5. Identifying Tier 2 Words in Text (from Beck, p. 16)Let’s apply these three criteria to a piece of text. This story is about a donkey who is under a magicspell that forces him to do all the work for some lazy servants. (The underlined words were chosenfor a 3rd grade class.) Johnny Harrington was a kind master who treated his servants fairly. He was also a successful wool merchant, and his business required that he travel often. In his absence, his servants would tend to the fields and cattle and maintain the upkeep of his mansion. They preformed their duties happily, for they felt fortunate to have such a benevolent and trusting master. (Most texts will not have this many Tier 2 words.)The underlined words are good candidates for Tier 2 words to teach. Why? • They are important and useful, likely to come up in other contexts. • They give students more precise or mature ways of referring to ideas they already know about. Think about how the students might talk about these concepts: Tier Two Words Students’ likely expressions merchant salesperson or clerk required have to tend take care of maintain keep going performed did fortunate lucky benevolent kind With their new Tier 2 words, students will be better able to understand texts they read (and understand their teachers, too!) They will also be better equipped to express complex ideas. • Finally, we choose these particular words because we can think of good ways to teach them. We can act some out, categorize them . . . present and review them in a variety of ways. Since class time is limited, let’s choose words we can effectively teach! 5
  6. 6. Try It YourselfHere is another paragraph from the story of the donkey and the lazy servants.Underline several Tier 2 words. The words you choose will depend on the students you teach! The servants would never comment on this strange occurrence (finding the kitchen clean even though none of them were doing the cleaning), each servant hoping the other had tended to the chores. Never would they mention the loud noises they’d hear emerging from the kitchen in the middle of the night. Nor would they admit to pulling the covers under their chins as they listened to the sound of haunting laughter that drifted down the halls to their bedrooms each night. In reality, they knew there was a more sinister reason behind their good fortune.Beck chose the following words: comment, occurrence, mention, emerging, admit, haunting,reality, sinister, fortune.Again (in case you’re skimming this handout and missed this above) you will of course chooseeasier texts and more basic words than these when you’re teaching students at lower levelsAt all levels, thinking about the three tiers is a very useful way to choose which words to teach.How many words should we teach in a lesson? (adapted from Beck, p. 17) • A good guideline is to focus on only 5 to 8 important words per reading. Not ten. (Cut the reading in half if necessary.) • Individualize as much as possible; vocabulary cards are one good way to give each student a say in what words they want to learn.The bottom line, of course, is that you and your students are the best judges of how many words theycan handle. 6
  7. 7. Direct and Indirect LearningIn vocabulary, as in other areas of learning, we notice two instructional styles:Direct Learning: “Teacher has to explain it.” direct, explicit, traditionalIndirect Learning: “Students will pick it up.” incidental, implicit, communicativeStudents at all levels need both direct and indirect learning, in a continuum that shifts as theyprogress.Beginning learners need more direct instruction.Advanced learners need direct instruction too, but they can also learn from wide, authentic readingand listening.The following pages offer ‘best practice’ strategies for direct vocabulary instruction. Stage 1: Meet the Words (initial exposure to new words)Vocabulary Cards (adapted from Zero Prep 5.16)Flash cards work at all three stages of vocabulary learning. With a sketch or translation on theback, they introduce a new word. With more information on the back, they work for Stages 2and 3. And students can use cards in many ways to remember and reuse words.This works better for many students than writing lists in a notebook because: • They can post cards on their refrigerator, their bathroom mirror, etc. • They can throw away cards once they’ve mastered a word. • They can use the cards as flashcards for review (they see the word but can’t see the definition until they turn the card over).Procedure:1. On the front of a 3 X 5 card, students print the new word, as large as possible. On the back,the student puts anything that will help him/her remember the meaning (pictures,translations, similar words or opposites, notes about pronunciation or part of speech, etc.).Every card also needs a short sentence in the target language using the new word correctly. (Agood learner’s dictionary will have useful sentences to copy.) After the beginner level,students write original sentences using the new word.(*See note below: Creating Good Sentences.)2. Students use these as flashcards, quizzing themselves independently (in class and at home)by looking at the front and trying to remember the word, then using it in a sentence. If theyneed help, they can look on the back.Extensions:1. In class, pairs play a card game in which they fan out their own collection of flashcards fortheir partner to see. The partner points to a card at random, and the holder uses the word in a 7
  8. 8. sentence. This game can be given a competitive edge if small coins are won or lost when astudent succeeds or fails to remember a word.2. Students take out all their cards and arrange them into categories, then explain to a classmate whythey sorted them in this way. (Typical categories might be colors, furniture, parts of the body,clothing, easy words / words I need to study more, etc.)Creating Good Sentences:After initial teaching and practice with a new word, when students are ready to try writing their ownsentences using the word,1. Each student writes an original sentence including the word.2. Several students write their sentences on the board. (To preserve anonymity, you may collect some unsigned sentences, then hand them out randomly to be written up on the board.)3. Go over these, clarifying how to use the new word correctly.4. Now that they understand the word better, students correct the sentences they wrote on their own cards.Teach Dictionary StrategiesKeep various levels of dictionaries on hand. Remember that definitions are condensed, contrived,and often misleading. (ESL learners’ dictionaries are more useful than traditional dictionaries, butexamples and translations are more useful than definitions.) For ESL students, Beck (p. 123)recommends Collins CoBUILD English Language Dictionary (1987) because it provides such clearexplanations. For example, sparse: “Something that is sparse is small in number or amount andspread out over an area.” • Visit Dictionary.com/Word of the Day or Factmonster.com/WordWise – two sites that students might want to use for ongoing exposure to new words.Act It Out Before We Read ItThis kinesthetic preview activity raises interest, pre-teaches vocabulary, and makes the meaningclear. The listening (or reading) that follows becomes a very satisfying experience for students!1. Bring volunteer students up to the front of the room before the class reads or listens to a story.2. Preview the lesson by coaching each student, step by step, on where to stand, what to do, andwhat to say. As you direct them, students move and repeat your prompts to act out the basicmeaning. (This is another great routine I learned from Dr. Natalie Hess.)Students Teach a Word Put new words up on board. Read; students repeat. Invitestudents to put their name by any word they know; they teach this word to the rest of the class.Total Physical Response (TPR) Kinesthetic learning is a powerful thing! (See Live Action English in Resources list, as well as subsequent TPR books.)Use pictures -- from magazines and other sourcesFor example, students may cut out pictures illustrating words they don’t know. With help fromteacher or classmates, they write the word on a note and clip it to the picture. You can use these invarious ways, e.g., a. Students mingle to teach their words to one another. 8
  9. 9. b. Put several pictures up on a wall; practice the words; then take the notes off the pictures and rearrange the notes. The task: students clip the notes back onto the right pictures.Scrambled Words: For sight-word recognition: Students or teacher write a sentence onpaper and cut the words apart. The student’s job is to put these scrambled words back together whilelooking at an intact copy of the sentence. Very simple, and fun!What’s in My Wallet / Purse? (adapted from Zero Prep) Students set out on their desksseveral items from wallet, pocket, or purse. The possibilities for vocabulary learning are vast andlead to common, much-needed, high-interest words.Grab Bag Teacher and/or students bring common objects from home or workplace. These canbe named, described, grouped . . . again, the possibilities are endless. Try this with objects orpictures of things students are learning in content classes. It’s a visual, kinesthetic change of pace.Disappearing Vocabulary List (Adapted from Zero Prep)This is great for pronunciation and sight-sound correspondence, for beginners and up. 1. Write a list of words on the board. 2. Chant the list several times, first alone, to model pronunciation, and then with students. Finally you are pointing to words silently while the class chants the list. 3. Erase one word, putting a mark where it was in the list. Students chant the list again, including the word that you erased. 4. Continue chanting the list over and over, erasing more words until the list is completely gone. 5. Students dictate the list as you or a student writes it back up on the board.Early Bird Words (a.k.a. “Real English”)On a regular basis, dedicate a few minutes (perhaps starting a little before the official start of class)to student-centered vocabulary sharing. This empowering warm-up activity is so popular thatstudents start coming on time – even early! It helps students get acquainted and builds community.Procedure: Here are two options to try:1. Invite one or more students to write on the board a new word they’ve learned recently. Thestudent teaches this word to the class. OR2. Invite students to write up a word they saw or heard but don’t understand. They get help from youor – better yet – from classmates. 9
  10. 10. Half a Picture Zero Prep 5.29This activity is a way for students to say the words they know and learn new words. The wholeclass does it together, so if a student knows few or no words about the picture, that’s okay.AIM: Generating words to use in a later activityMATERIALS: An interesting pictureProcedure:1. Hold up the picture with half of it hidden.2. With the whole class, talk about the half of the picture you can see. Write some of thesewords on the board.3. Point to the hidden half and let your curiosity show. “What’s in this half?”4. As the class calls out ideas about what might be there, write their ideas on the board. (Offerprompts if they need help.)5. Reveal the whole picture.6. Erase ideas from the board that turned out not to be in the picture (praising these as goodguesses); talk about the guesses that were correct; and add new vocabulary that studentsdidn’t think of before.7. Students copy these words into their notebooks or make vocabulary cards. 10
  11. 11. Stage 2: Work with Words (manipulating and recycling words)Do I Know These Words?(From Finding Family, a forthcoming text by Hess, Pollard, and Rick Kappra)Students see their progress graphically, as they move their words toward the right side of the chart.Materials: Have a list of words to show students. Be sure that some are words they already know.1. Ask “Do you know these words?”2. Individually, each student writes each word on one of the rows, under the column that shows how well s/he feels they know that word. They do this in pencil. A few words are in the chart below, as examples of where one student might place four words.I don’t know this I have seen this I understand this I use this word easily.word word before. word.1. paradigm2. fast3. summary4. race5. In groups, students talk to classmates about the words. They teach and learn from one another. As students learn more about a word, they may erase it and re-write it in a column farther to the right.Extension: Students can personalize their chart by putting in words of their own choice. 11
  12. 12. Stand For Your WordThis activity gives students a feeling that they own certain words.It’s a short, fun activity that benefits students at all levels.One more reason to do this often: it gives students a chance to stand and sit again rapidly severaltimes. This helps them wake up!Aim: vocabulary review, reading review, grammar, spellingMaterials: A passage that students have already read or heard and understand wellProcedure:1. Students take out a piece of paper.2. Give each student a word to listen for. (The same word may be given to several students.)3. Be sure students know what their words mean. They may get help from other students or fromyou.4. Read the passage out loud while students listen.5. As soon as a student hears his/her word, they stand up, then sit down quickly. Repeat this stage afew times if it is challenging for them.Extension:6. Students trade words.7. Students hold up their new word and call it out. (Again they get help with meaning, if necessary.)8. Read the text aloud again while students stand up each time they hear their new word.9. Repeat steps 6 - 8 several times.Taking it even further:10. Write the words on the board in the order that they appeared in the text.11. Students look at the text and read out the sentences where "their words" appeared.12. Students read the whole text and answer questions about it.Note: Stand for Your Word is NOT GOOD for general comprehension.However it is EXCELLENT for • Working the big muscles – getting oxygen to the brain • Distinguishing words in a stream of speech (useful for beginners in English) • Learning parts of speech: students can stand up for nouns until they are very clear on what a noun is, then go on to other parts of speech. • Sight-sound correspondences in literacy training; choose words with a sound that students are learning to spell. • Paying attention to unstressed (but important) words. Students who skip the verb ‘be’ in their writing or don’t hear pronouns well will improve if they ‘Stand For’ these words! 12
  13. 13. MingleThis routine gives students repeated practice as they teach words again and again.The cards help students stay on task.Two good variations:1. Mingle With Cards: Students write or draw on a card something brief (a new word, or a phrase orsentence using that word). They carry this card with them, telling the information to successive partners.Students don’t get bored because each time they find a new partner, they’re hearing something different.2. Mingle, Swapping Cards: The same activity, but this time students may trade cards with each successivepartner as they mingle. This makes it more challenging!CategoriesUse this routine to review words that students have already studied. As they sort words intocategories and explain their decisions, students make new associations with the words. This deepenstheir understanding and helps them remember the words. 1. Display a group of words that students are already familiar with. 2. Provide headings for categories. For example, if the list is elbow, father, run, smile, sister, eye, foot, cousin, fly, you would provide this chart: People in a family Parts of the body Verbs 3. Students write each word in one of the columns. 4. In pairs or groups, they explain why they grouped them this way.Extension 1: After students have done this a few times, let them choose category headings on theirown. For example, what headings might students choose for the following list of words about theAmerican Revolution? democracy, George Washington, bayonets, muskets, Paul Revere, taxation, cannons, self-governance, freedom of religion, volunteer brigades, Thomas JeffersonExtension 2: Once students are good at playing “Categories,” go all the way with it! Provide (orhave students come up with) a random list of words they’ve studied. Because there is no single bestway to categorize the words, each student must decide, group, and label his/her own categories. Thiscan be great fun – it leads to lots of discussions in the pairs and small groups. And because of thediscussions, students do not soon forget their words!Variation: Graphic organizers: Instead of a chart, students may categorize a list of words into aVenn diagram, or a meaning web, or another graphic organizer. 13
  14. 14. Zero Prep © 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.comAll rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.6.10 TWO-IN-ONE VOCABULARY REVIEWIn this word association game, the challenge of creating meaningful contexts for seeminglyunrelated words activates students’ imaginations. The new associations they create will helpthem remember vocabulary items.LEVEL: Intermediate—AdvancedAIM: Vocabulary review, fluencyProcedure:1. With your students, write on the board a list of words to be reviewed.2. Students form pairs.3. Circle two unrelated words on the board.4. Pairs quickly form a sentence using both words. When both partners of a pair agree on asentence, they raise their hands together.5. Call on either student from this first pair to say their sentence to the whole class.6. Other pairs listen carefully and decide whether they have used the two words correctly.7. If the sentence is incorrect, another pair may try.8. Give a point to the first pair with a correct sentence.9. Mark two more words and repeat the contest until all words have been used.Note: Because students don’t know which partner the teacher will call on, both partners in thepair must be ready to answer. You can encourage pairs to collaborate by subtracting a pointwhen the partner you call on is unable to produce a sentence. Partners quickly learn to talk andlisten fast to get each other ready.Variations:1. Have students do this alone, then compare their sentences with others in a noncompetitivelesson.2. Put students in groups of three or more.3. Increase the challenge level by circling three words instead of two. Students must use allthree in a single sentence.4. In large classes, divide the class into two teams. Successful sentences from pairs will score apoint for their team.Words on My Wall Students put words on notes, at school and at home. They tape them upwhere they’ll see them (and say them) often. 14
  15. 15. Zero Prep © 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.comAll rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.SINGING DICTATIONEven people who think they don’t sing enjoy this activity. Not even the teacher needs to sing well!LEVEL: Beginning—AdvancedAIM: Listening, pronunciation, spelling, grammar practiceProcedure:1. Choose a song you know well.2. Sing the first line. Students sing it back to you together. Work on pronunciation of importantsounds as you go along.3. Sing the first and second lines. Students sing them back.4. Sing the first, second and third lines. Continue to build up the song in this way.5. Students write as much as they can remember of the song.6. Students look at other students’ papers and revise their own.7. You or a student writes the song on the board with input from everybody. Final help withgrammar and spelling happens here.8. Students copy the lyrics from the board.9. All together, sing the song through once more.Zero Prep for Beginners © 2001 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.comAll rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.5.27 WHAT’S MY NUMBER?Students really enjoy the movement and the variety of this exercise.AIM: Review of numbers and arithmetic vocabularyMATERIALS: tape, blank papers to make signsProcedure:1. Students form groups of seven.2. Assign three random numbers to each of three students in each group. For example, onestudent gets a ‘7’, one gets a ‘9’, and another gets a ‘3’. Write these numbers on a piece of paperas you speak to the students. Students tape these signs to their chests.3. Assign the roles of plus sign (+), minus sign (–), and equals sign (=) to three more students ineach group. These signs are taped to their chests, also.4. The remaining student in each group, the “answer person,” has a blank sign.5. Each group arranges itself in the shape of an arithmetic problem.Example: 9 – 7 + 3 = . (The “answer person” writes a 5 on his sign.)6. Each group reads its problem to the whole class.7. Groups rearrange themselves into new problems. (The answer person makes a new sign foreach new answer.)8. Continue the procedure as long as there is interest. 15
  16. 16. Stage 3: Make the Words My Own (deeper understanding and long-term retention)Associations: Review words by asking, for example, “What color goes with each new word?Why?” Note: Associations are powerful at all three levels of vocabulary learning!Other associations: What person . . . What time of day . . . What place . . . Others?Create New Contexts, e.g., students make up a story, rap, or skit using their new words.Vocabulary House (from Finding Family)This ongoing association activity is a powerful memory aid. And when students tell one anotherwhy they put each new word in a particular room, they learn quite a lot about each other!Materials: Large sheets of paper, such as newsprint, one per studentProcedure:1. Each student draws the basic floor plan of a house where he or she has many memories. Therooms/yard/gardens should be empty (no furniture) and large enough to write plenty of words in theempty spaces. (Demonstrate this by drawing a simple floor plan of your own present or childhoodhome on the board.)2. Students select a new word, associate it with a place in the floor plan they drew, and write theword in that room.3. After they have done this with several words, students tell each other, in pairs or small groups,why they put each word where they did.4. They keep their Vocabulary House, adding words to it and talking with classmates about itthroughout the course.Categories: We met this in Section Two – here it is again in Section 3, just to remind us of whata flexible, independent activity this can become!• Students group into categories a set of words they are learning. Sometimes you might name the categories; more often, students create their own categories. When classmates compare the categories they created, there’s plenty of discussion about these new words! You may be surprised at the variety of categories your students come up with. If a student gets in a rut and starts using the same categories over and over, have them see what other classmates are doing.Finish the Sentence Using personal knowledge and experiences, students complete a sentencethat contains a word they’re practicing. For example,I feel frustrated when . . . _________________“Pictionary”Teacher and/or students sketch pictures; other students guess which new word is intended. 16
  17. 17. Learning Goals Support GroupsThis activity helps students take a more active role in learning. They set and revise goals, they makechoices about strategies, and they expand their strategies as they hear about what other students aredoing to learn more words.Procedure:1. Class Discussion:Students share how they learn (and how they remember) new words.Often, they come up with effective strategies that the teacher never thought of!2. Individual Goal-Setting:Invite students to write down their own goals • How many new words do I think I can learn each week? • What strategies will I use to learn and to remember new words? • How can I get an A on our weekly vocabulary quiz? • How many times can I use this new word in speaking or writing this week?Each student makes a chart that includes columns with headings like these: My goal / Why I want this / What I’m already doing / Other ideas I can try /My intention for the coming week3. Support Group Sharing:On a regular basis, dedicate class time to pair or small-group sharing about vocabulary goals.Students take out their goal-and-strategy chart. They may • share strategies for remembering and using new words, • brag about a time when they used a new word since the last class, • change their goals or strategies, re-writing their paper, • announce their intentions to their group (which will meet again!) Most of us are more likely to keep commitments once we have shared them with another person. 17
  18. 18. Four Corners Vocabulary(From Making Content Comprehensible: The SIOP Model)This activity richly connects a new word to associations, making it much easier to remember!Individually, in pairs, or in groups, students make a chart for each new word, writing somethingappropriate in each of the four quadrants. This helps connect the new word and its meaning toseveral areas of the brain.One way to play with these is for a team to show other students just one of the quadrants they made(the picture, the definition, or the context sentence); other students guess what the word is. Word Picture Context sentence definitionFor example, students might make the Four Corners chart below for volcano. Volcano (sketch of volcano goes here) The _______ sent lava and When melted rock pushes ash all over. It killed a lot up a mountain, that’s a of trees. ________.Students fold their chart so another student (or team) sees only one square, for example, the contextsentence: “The _______ sent lava and ash all over. It killed a lot of trees.”The other students try to guess which new word this sentence needs: “Volcano!” 18
  19. 19. The Snowball Effect (From Beck, et al) A student with limited vocabulary reads less and listens less, thus limiting the number of new words learned. In contrast, a student who succeeds in learning words will be motivated to listen and read more, thus learning more words, which in turn make reading and listening easier . . . and the snowball is rolling!Recommended resources:Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. Beck, Isabel, et al. The Guilford Press.2002. This is the best resource I know for insights and techniques for teaching vocabulary in K-8 –very useful to teachers of adults too.Finding Family, a reading and vocabulary text for adolescent and adult ESL students, Hess, Natalie,Rick Kappra, and Laurel Pollard. University of Michigan Press, 2010Live Action English, Romijn and Seely, 2002 A TPR classic!Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: The SIOP Model, Echevarria, Vogt, andShort. Pearson, Allyn, and Bacon Publishers. 2004Teacher, Ashton-Warner, Sylvia (out of print; get a used copy if you can)Vocabulary Myths, Folse, Keith S. University of Michigan Press 2004Zero Prep: Ready-to-Go Activities for the Language Classroom, Pollard and Hess, 1997 Alta BookCenterZero Prep for Beginners, Pollard, Hess, and Herron, 2001. Alta Book Center 19
  20. 20. Appendix: Keith Folse’s Vocabulary Myths 1. In learning another language, vocabulary is not as important as grammar or other areas. 2. Using word lists to learn L2 vocabulary is unproductive. 3. Presenting new vocabulary in semantic sets facilitates learning. 4. The use of translations to learn new vocabulary should be discouraged. 5. Guessing words from context is an excellent strategy for learning L2 vocabulary. 6. The best vocabulary learners make use of one or two really specific vocabulary learning strategies. 7. The best vocabulary learners make use of one or two really specific vocabulary learning strategies. 8. The best dictionary for L2 learners is a monolingual dictionary. 9. Teachers, textbooks, and curricula cover L2 vocabulary adequately.A few notes from this very engaging book . . .Myth #2:Using word lists to learn L2 vocabulary is unproductiveWhich mode of presentation do you think resulted in the best vocabulary learning? (a 1997 study byLaufer and Shmueli, cited in Folse, 2004, p. 39) 1. Words presented in isolation (20 words with English synonyms or L1 translations) 2. Words in minimal contexts (same information as in 1, but with the addition of one meaningful sentence) 3. Words in text context (a text passage that had all 20 target words with glosses in the margin). 4. Words in elaborated text context (same as 3, but with extra lexical elaboration, thereby making the language, including the target words, more comprehensible).Two very interesting recommendations emerge: Use translations “Words glossed in L1 were always retained better than words glossed in L2.” Minimize context for initial presentation of words “Words presented in lists and in sentences were remembered better than word presented in text and elaborated text. Thus, in this study, less information was better. Retention scores were higher when less information or limited context was given about the word and lower when more information or extended context was given.” 20
  21. 21. Myth #3:Presenting new vocabulary in semantic sets facilitates learning.Research shows that students are likely to be confused if they learn closely-related semantic sets atthe same time:cousin, niece, aunt, uncleapple, orange, pear, bananabefore, aftermeiosis, mitosisA book that presents words in semantic sets might have us teach several colors, several ordinalnumbers, a list of meals, and a list of modes of transport.It is much more effective to teach words that are loosely related thematically, words that occurtogether naturally in a context. A lesson about a summer vacation is much more natural andmemorable. It could include words from several semantic sets, e.g., silver, bright, jet, first, andbreakfast. “The Martin family traveled from France to Senegal on a bright silver jet. This was their first time traveling to Africa. When they arrived, they were tired, but they ate breakfast at the hotel just after arriving.”Returning for a moment to cell division, consider teaching meiosis on one day and presentingmitosis in a separate lesson. 21
  22. 22. Myth 5: Guessing words from context is an excellent strategy forlearning L2 vocabulary. I spend a lot of time teaching my students to Students who guess a word learn from context. This correctly in context are likely helps them become to remember it because the independent learners. guessing makes a strong (iffy…see fourth box) impression. (false) Guessing words in context helps students get through a reading with better Context guessing? It’s comprehension. That’s the practically useless for reason to teach context vocabulary learning. clues. It doesn’t much help Real contexts are students learn words, but it usually misleading. can help them understand a (true) reading. (true) 22