TEFL Reading: The Importance of Building Sight Vocabulary

TEFL – Developing Literacy

TEFL teaching reading skills   Learning to read in either a native language or a second language requires learning the individual sounds associated with script first.  The alphabet of the phonic approach is gradually worked through, beginning with individual sounds usually contained in simple one or two syllable words that represent the target sound: A is for apple, B is for boy. This is bottom up learning, which aim is to enable students to begin to learn the symbols for the most common sounds represented by each letter of the alphabet. Words that contain just two or three sounds are drilled using pictures, and with much spoken repetition along with exposure to the written words, a sight vocabulary is developed. Sounding words out is necessary to decode them, but how they become fluent is in doing enough reading so that students recognise words on sight. In this TEFL article, I will discuss key factors for developing sight vocabulary.

TEFL – Teaching Linguistic Skills

What level of oral/aural skills do your students have? If learners already have a spoken vocabulary, it should be much easier for them to develop a sight vocabulary as the words and their meanings are already a part of their developing second language. If you are trying to teach students to read, development of any sight vocabulary will take much longer as reading involves decoding the print with an inner voice.

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TEFL – Grading and Selection

Ensure that the language used in presenting and practicing new words is level appropriate and that the words are necessary for that level. Limit the number of new target words to whatever the average student can manage to work with which may be only 4 or 5 new words in a lesson. Ensure words are presented within context and that the meaning of each content word is understood. They do also need function words, but teaching grammatical terms in chunks with a content word is all that is needed as beginners do not need to be burdened with syntactical explanations (See learning ‘chunks’ and the lexical approach).

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TEFL – Repetition, Recycling and Exposure

Successful reading classrooms are interactive and students are constantly ‘doing’. They are doing the majority of speaking as well as reading in the classroom, not the teacher. They need quality repetition through choral chants, drills, exercises. And the walls will be covered in visuals with target words displayed in contexts, and ever-changing displays of their work will be prominent. There will be posters, pictures, flash cards, games, word lists, puzzles, level-appropriate reading material and the majority of lesson time will be on them ‘doing’.

Related Articles:

Developing Fluency in Reading and Listening Skills

Extensive Reading: ESL Activities and Tasks

Extensive Reading: Choosing a Good Book and Assessing Students