Effective ways to teach vocabulary is one very essential building block for the success of your ESL students. Then introducing new vocabulary in class is a huge part of that continued success. I wanted to make a quick list of 5 ways to keep the vocabulary lessons coming and still give students new activities to learn them by.

Use Flash Cards and Games:

A fast way to invent a game is to use flashcards to practice the vocabulary you have already taught. Also consider using interactive class games like Pictionary (students draw on the white board for others to guess), Charades (students act out the word for others to guess), or a running dictation with the new words in sentences. Finally board games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Scategories are all good choices.


Teach Vocabulary in Word Families:

Teaching vocabulary that share a common context is a fantastic way to assist your students ability to remember more words from your lesson. If you are planning to teach your students more adjectives so their speech is more descriptive than isolate a family of adjectives to center the lesson on. Choose 10 adjectives to describe movies, 10 adjectives to describe the weather, or 5 adjectives for to describe a nice hotel room with 5 adjectives to describe a terrible hotel room.
Bonus Tip: Always leave a couple obvious words out of the list and ask students if they could add two or three to the list. Confidence will soar when they realize they already know a word that fits in with the word family.

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Vocabulary Family: Describing Movies

Have Students Contribute to a Word Wall:

When students learn a new word outside of class from a movie, song, or speaking with a native speaker they can add it to the word wall in the class. Basically the take a cue card and put the new word on the front. Then on the back they can add the definition. Once in a while the word wall can be a focus of the class. Students can present the words they added or you could use the word wall to formulate a whole lesson plan. Students will love to see the words they contribute used in activities later.


Make a Banned Word List:

A lot of times students begin to overuse very simple words. For example the word “good” is used in too many situations where a more descriptive word or a better word for that context could be used instead. To encourage students to search for opportunities to use these words by adding them to a banned word list you make. For every word that you add to this banned word list make sure you brainstorm alternatives with your students. For “good” for example I made a list of contexts they were using good and supplied a more accurate word. Weather-sunny / a movie – interesting /  food – delicious / and so on. For the word big you could make a list with them of giant, enormous, huge,  and massive.

Try a FREE Vocabulary Family LESSON PLAN

Vocabulary Family: Describing Movies

Show Them the Best Tools:

Make sure you students know how to use a Thesaurus. It is such an amazing tool to use for self study. It offers many synonyms or alternative words to use plus most offer a list of antonyms (opposite words) to use also. There are many great online thesauruses, I often use Thesaurus.com with my classes. Another underutilized thesaurus in writing is in most word processing programs, simply highlight a word and right click it, look for synonyms or thesaurus in the menu that pops up. Making sure you students know how to use these thesaurus tools will help them over the long run with vocabulary.

No matter what methods you use to introduce new vocabulary to your students, remember this golden piece of advice when teaching vocabulary. Repeat, review, bring it back for a recap later on, pop quiz it, spell test it, play a few more games with it… well you get the idea. Learning new vocabulary is usually easy for students, but remembering it and owning it is difficult. Make sure to review every chance you get.

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