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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. 

 

Simon

 

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A Phrasal Verb Story

Here’s a story I made with a few phrasal verbs in it. It’s intended for higher levels, but depending on the activity, could work with Intermediate students. I devised it not only to teach a bit of new vocab, but as a vehicle for looking at phrasal verbs with regards to idiomaticity, pronunciation and form (separability). This is what I did:

1) Warmer – Students asked if they have seen any fights or violent behaviour. Asked what the common reasons / locations for violent behaviour are in their countries / England.

2) Reading for comprehension – students can read to answer the question “How is the main character doing now / Where is he now?”

3) Students go through text and underline phrasal verbs

4) Students categorise them in to three columns (don’t give them titles, ask them to sort them as they wish)

5) Groups rationalise their choices

6) Look at phrasal verbs in terms of pronunciation rules, separability and levels of idiomaticity (I believe that each of these three categories can be split in to three columns – for more information see my essay: 

Teaching Phrasal Verbs to Lower Learners (particularly pages 3-7)

Drill, answer questions etc.

7) Gap fill / other controlled practice activity

8) Get them speaking – role play, or writing a story.

As a follow up to this lesson, I gave students the following muddled up version of the original story. NB: This is difficult, but my class were all CAE / CPE students, and coped well.

Phrasal Verb Story Muddle

Enjoy!

Simon