Building Vocabulary at Higher Levels

Teaching Vocabulary TESOL course Acquiring a large vocabulary is fundamental at intermediate levels and above. Whether it be for work, pleasure or academic purposes, building vocabulary will increase learner’s ability to understand more complex texts and/or academic lectures, and also communicate more effectively by writing. In this TESOL article, you will learn how to help your students develop their communicative and linguistic competence through new vocabulary.

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Teaching Vocabulary Involves More than Meaning!

Meaning is the first thing that a learner would like to know of unknown words. It is also the first thing that a teacher would consider when planning a lesson. However, teaching vocabulary involves more than meaning. It entails showing how the word is used in a sentence, what other parts of speech are combined with it, and how the word is spelled or pronounced. At lower levels, the teacher will probably focus on one or two aspects at a time, but with a more advanced class, collocations, combinations, word stress, the word form and its uses should be taken into account (Read: How to Introduce New Vocabulary).

Class Discussion

Choose the core words you want to teach and write them on the board. Check if the learners are familiar with the words and get them to discuss their meaning in pairs or small groups.

At an Intermediate level or above, learners will have already developed the ability to associate meaning and form by looking at the root of the word, its prefix or suffix. For example, let’s have a look at the word ‘organizational.’ They could deduce from the root that this could be a word derived from the noun ‘organization’ and the verb ‘to organize’, which they probably know already, and by the suffix ‘al’ that it is an adjective.

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Brainstorming Other Parts of Speech

This can be done in different ways. In a more teacher-centered approach, the teacher will write the new word on the board together with its other forms. For example, if the new word is ‘successful’ (adjective), the teacher explains that ‘success’ is the noun form and ‘to succeed’ is the verb. A more student-centered way is preferable. The learners can deduce from context the forms of the new words or they can look them up in a dictionary and present their findings to the rest of the class.

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Completing a Word Building Chart.

The word building chart or sheet can be completed during the term. Every time they learn a new word, they will have to add it to the chart and find the other parts of speech, if any. To make it more challenging, they should also include the positive and negative meaning, the type of nouns (uncountable or countable), if the verb is regular or irregular in its past or past participle forms.

Building Vocabulary at Higher LEvels

Related articles:

Teaching Vocabulary with Journals 

Teaching Vocabulary Fundamentals