3 Things You Can Do To Save These Endangered Animals Best ESL Vocabulary Teaching Practices – What If You Gave the Context First?

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Best ESL Vocabulary Teaching Practices – What If You Gave the Context First?

Understanding new vocabulary or a new text is an important measure of an ESL student’s academic success. To be able to recognize a word means that they have to use it through communicative competence or, speaking, listening and reading the new word in different contexts. Research shows that the best way to learn a new word is through discovering the meaning of the word.

So what does it mean for ESL learners to know a word in a target language?

Knowing a word in a target language means being able to…

1. Recognize it in speech or writing.

2. Recall it as desired.

3. Match it with an appropriate object or concept.

4. Use it in the correct grammatical form.

5. pronounced distinctly.

6. In writing – pronounce it correctly.

7. Use it with the words with which it goes correctly – that is, in the correct collocation.

8. Use it at the appropriate level of formality.

9. Be aware of its connotations and associations.

When teachers present target vocabulary in a content-rich context, students can practice, understand, and make inferences beyond the text. There are many different and creative ways to introduce vocabulary such as a song, story, a picture or a rap song. The purpose of a context is to create a kind of “frame” within a text type where the reader is encouraged to understand, interpret, make sense of, and decipher (ie, what does each sound “sound” like?) and decipher the new vocabulary.

If there is no context or there is an unclear context, students will not have the association and knowledge to activate the background knowledge. They will suddenly be disappointed.

Also consider this: The type of text and context you use will also determine the strategy and purpose of your instruction. If you are using a song to teach target vocabulary on the topic of endangered animals, students will use their listening and reading skills to follow along with the song.

The context will also determine how you will sequentially arrange the various parts of your lesson that will “glue” it together. Using a picture to introduce new vocabulary is an active form of vocabulary learning, which can naturally lead to isolated vocabulary practice.

Building a context is extremely important for building motivation. I remember an 8th grade EFL (English as a Foreign Language) lesson when I wanted to teach target vocabulary related to the text type of a “diary”. so I actually brought out my Snoopy journal from 1980 (I still have it!) and read excerpts from the journal to them as an introduction. I had 38 pairs of eyes glued to me and you could have heard a pin drop in that classroom! Not only did this help personalize my lesson, but the students also got to understand and interpret that they were going to read additional examples of journal writing.

So what can we learn about learning vocabulary or introducing a new text? The most general of all pedagogical considerations before expecting students to understand a new text or practice new vocabulary is to provide a context. Context can also be enhanced by connecting anything students have read with something they have spoken or heard.

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