Recording Vocabulary – Notebooks

This article is for students and teachers.

How do you record vocabulary at the moment? I see hundreds of students do it like this:

English Word                                                        L1 Translation
English Word                                                        L1 Translation
English Word                                                        L1 Translation

The fact is, this method doesn’t give you enough information about a word. You need more!

Think about these questions:

  1. What does this word actually mean? 
  2. How do I pronounce it?
  3. What kind of word (Noun / Adjective / Verb etc.) is it?
  4. Does it belong in a word family?
  5. Are there any words that connect (collocate) with this word? And words that don’t?
  6. Can I use this word in a sentence that’s useful to me / my goals?

Students often try to take too much new vocabulary and it ends up being lost because it isn’t memorable. Ideally, you should try to learn ten words a day. No more. And if you cover the words in enough detail, then you will remember them, and you will be able to use them effectively.

Let’s look at an example:

You read a text and find a new word: INTEREST

1. You need to find a meaning in English that you can understand. Here’s one:

“The feeling when you want to know or find out more about something”

2. How many sounds? Where is the stress?

/’ɪntrəst/ – so the word has two sounds, not three. The stress is on the first sound, and there is a weak (lazy) sound before “st”.
If you don’t know these symbols, you could also write “in-trest”

3. INTEREST is a noun.

4. Interesting (adjective) – something that makes you feel interested. Disinterested / Uninterested (Opposites) Interest (verb) – something can interest you. Example: Rugby interests me.

5. Interested + in –> I am interested in reading. NOT interested about / for. Interesting + NO PREPOSITION / OBJECT.

6. I thought that yesterday’s lesson was really interesting.
     I’m interested in finding out more about vocabulary notebooks.

Now I really know this word, and I can use it in many different situations correctly. Here’s what that looks like when you put it together:

Interest /’ɪntrəst/ or In-trest (noun) – The feeling when you want to know or find out more about something

Interest (verb) Interesting (adj) – something that makes you feel interested (adj)
Opp: Disinterested / Uninterested

Interested+in à I am interested in reading.
Interested about / for

Ex: I thought that yesterday’s lesson was really interesting.
       I’m interested in finding out more about vocabulary notebooks.

Putting this together

Now you need to start thinking about recording vocabulary by subject. Maybe INTEREST would go well with vocabulary about free time / likes and dislikes. Recording it with other words from a similar subject helps you make connections and will help you organise your learning a bit better. Have a go!

For Teachers

Try introducing this idea to students and doing a few examples with them. Get them working together, sharing words that they have made “Lexical Notebook Entries” about. Set a few as homework and gradually work it in to classes as expectation. Use it in tests too! It is time-consuming, but it will help cut down on errors and confusion, as well as helping set realistic goals for lexis learning.

Have a look at Teaching Collocation (Michael Lewis, 2000) for more information. 




IELTS Listening – Matching Tasks

Have a look at this task. I’ve found that it can sometimes confuse students because there is a lot of information to follow. A few simple tips should help with this task.

Listening Task Type 6

You can’t remember all the information in A-G, so stressing about keywords and synonyms won’t help much. Instead, have a quick read of the questions, then forget them!

  • As you listen, make a few notes next to each name as it appears.
  • After the end of the task (during your 30 seconds checking time), match your notes to the letters. Then, complete this part during your ten minutes transfer time at the end of the test.

My current students have found this technique very helpful – give it a go in your next class or self-study period!


IELTS listening – spelling tips

As you know, incorrect spelling in the IELTS listening results in a wrong answer. Even one letter wrong will mean a wrong answer. Here are a few tips to help you.

  • Dates – write the dates like this: number + ordinal + month, so…… 14th January. Get in to the habit and then you won’t confuse yourself by having too many choices. Then, make sure you can spell the months. These are:

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Now, check you know the days!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

There are other ways to write the dates that will get you marks, but I think it’s sensible to choose one system and stay with it.

  • Pronunciation practice – part one. There will almost always be a number than ends in ‘-teen’ or ‘-ty’ because the pronunciation difference is quite small. Practise saying these: 15 / 50, 16 / 60 etc. Notice that the stress on ‘-teen’ words is on the second sound and the stress on ‘-ty’ words is on the first sound.
  • Spelling practice – I have heard teachers tell students that if there are any names, then they will be spelt for you. This isn’t completely true. Names will be spelt for you unless the sound matches the spelling, or it is a common word that you should know. Learn how to spell these surnames:

Smith, Jones, Walker, Brown, Green, Davis, Johnson

Now, take a look at this map (click on it and it will enlarge):

IELTS listening map spelling

You can see lots of street names here. If you look at all the streets that start with “Harold”, the second words are very common. You need to learn the following:

Mount, Avenue, Crescent, Road, View, Walk, Place, Grove, Terrace, Street, Place, Rise

Don’t worry about the meaning – it’s not particularly important. You will be expected to spell these without help though.

  • ‘s’ or no ‘s’?! You need to listen carefully to check if words are plural or not. If you miss the ‘s’, you will lose your mark.

Just to check…. can you spell these words (and do you know what they sound like)?

Accommodation (uncountable), language, university / universities, fortnight (learn this word – it means “two weeks” and often appears), budget, assignment, essay, square, government, authority / authorities, library / libraries, scientist, luggage (uncountable)

I hope this helps you!