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Presenting and practicing new vocabulary
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Sâmbătă, 08 Iulie 2017 16:41


Prof. Felherț Monica, Gradul Didactic I

Liceul Tehnologic Nr.1 Salonta, Bihor

Teacher attitudes to vocabulary have changed a lot over recent years. The use of the word lexis (rather than the more familiar vocabulary) reflects a fundamental shift in understanding, attitude and approach. The increasing availability of corpora (large computerized databases of analyzable real conversations and other text), and dictionaries, grammar books and other resources based on them have revealed many surprising features of language that had been previously unrealized.

Learners acquire vocabulary in various ways. Students are exposed to a lot of new vocabulary during lessons: by the teacher, by texts or other materials they work with. A lot of this vocabulary is automatically absorbed. (Harmer, 1993: 159)

Beside this incidental acquisition there are “pre-planned lesson stages in which learners are taught pre-selected vocabulary items” (Thornbury, 2004:75). Various techniques and activities are aimed directly at learning vocabulary, which is usually put into sets of somehow related words, often by topic or meaning.

As McCarty (1992) suggests, before presenting new language, pre-teaching activities might be beneficial “to activate existing knowledge to make the encounter with new words more meaningful.”(McCarthy, 1992:108) Pre-teaching activities often arouse students’ attention and desire to explore a particular topic or subject in greater detail.

Both (McCarthy, 1992:110) and (Thornbury, 2004:76) suggest two general possibilities of arranging vocabulary presentation. The teacher provides the learners with the meaning of the words and then progresses to introduction of their forms or vice versa – the form is introduced first, followed up with illustration of the meaning.

In the latter, forms are often presented in text or another form of context and students are encouraged to discover meanings and other properties of words themselves.

This type of activity is called the discovery technique. (Harmer, 1993: 160) There are many possibilities how to explain or illustrate the meaning of the words. In the first place, it is necessary to mention techniques typical for ‘Direct Method’ as Thornbury 2004) specifies them “using real objects (called realia) or pictures or mime.” (Thornbury, 2004: 78)

The same author continues that these means are especially appropriate for teaching elementary levels, where many concrete objects are taught. These types of presentation are usually supplemented with the use of TPR (Total physical response), which is a technique where the teacher gives commands and students perform the actions. In TPR, “the intention is to replicate the experience of learning one’s mother tongue” (Thornbury, 2004: 79)

As (Harmer, 1993: 161-162) suggests, sense relations, definition and direct translation of words might function as yet another helpful tool for clarifying the meaning.

Furthermore as (Thornbury, 2003: 93) claims, it is necessary to integrate new vocabulary into existing knowledge in the mental lexicon, which is done by types of activities, where students make judgements about words, e.g. matching, comparing etc. This mechanical practice is then followed by more open and communicative activities “where learners are required to incorporate the newly studied words into some kind of speaking or writing activity.” (Thornbury, 2004: 100). This is often provided by various pair-work or group-work activities.

As (Ur, 1999: 24-25) suggests there are different stages of presenting vocabulary.

According to (Ur, 1999:24) the ways of presenting new vocabulary are:

As (Hill, 1990:1) pointed out, “the standard classroom” is usually not a very suitable environment for learning languages. That is why teachers search for various aids and stimuli to improve this situation. Pictures are one of these valuable aids. They bring “images of reality into the unnatural world of the language classroom.” (Hill, 1990: 1) Pictures bring not only images of reality, but can also function as a fun element in the class. Sometimes it is surprising, how pictures may change a lesson, even if only employed in additional exercises or just to create the atmosphere.

Pictures meet with a wide range of use not only in acquiring vocabulary, but also in many other aspects of foreign language teaching. Wright, (1990: 4-6) demonstrated this fact on an example, where he used one compiled picture and illustrated the possibility of use in five very different language areas. His example shows employing pictures in teaching structure, vocabulary, functions, situations and all four skills.







McCarthy, M. Vocabulary.” Oxford: Oxford University Press., 1990

Thornbury, S. How to Teach Vocabulary.” Harlow: Longman, 2002

Ur, P. “A course in language teaching: Practice and theory.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991

Ur, P. A Course in Language Teaching: Practice and theory.” UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996

Harmer, J.The Practice of English Language Teaching.” New York: Longman Publishing, 1991

Harmer, J.The Practice of English Language Teaching” (3rd ed.). New York: Longman Publishing, 2001

Harmer, J. The Practice of English Language Teaching (4th ed.)”. New York: Longman Publishing, 2007

Harmer, J. How to Teach English (New ed.)”. Oxford: Pearson/Longman,2007



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