Motto: ‘Without grammar very little can be conveyed,
without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.’
Changes are quick and inevitable in the 21st century. The need to teach in general and teach English language to young learners effectively in particular is the challenge posed to all the teachers. Today, it has become mandatory for the teachers to rethink their teaching strategies with the changing times. As there has been a continuous change in the teaching methods and techniques, vocabulary teaching methods and techniques need desirable changes in a view of the demanding job market in the globalized world.
The traditional teaching style, according to which the teacher is the ‘knower’ and has the task of passing over her/his knowledge to the students it is not applicable anymore, since the times have changed, people have changed and society as a whole has changed. The methods that worked well and were effective yesterday are no longer apposite for today and the methods and techniques that are suitable today will not meet the society’s needs tomorrow.
Teaching young learners is obviously an intensely practical undertaking. We think many teachers believe, or assume, that the practice of teaching is, or should be, based on the application of theories elaborated in parent or feeder disciplines, especially linguistics and psychology. This type of top-down approach to professional education, whereby knowledge is handed down to practitioners by experts remote from the everyday realities of the workplace, is common in many fields apart from teaching. In this ‘applied science model’ , professional competence develops through practice informed by the results derived from scientific knowledge and experimentation. Since scientific knowledge is in a continuous state of flux and development, professional competence needs to undergo periodic in-service updating. And committed teachers who are keen to optimize and develop their professional competence tend to look to the purveyors of seminars and training courses, and the authors of teaching materials and books for teachers, as the immediate source of the latest knowledge.
In Romania, more and more emphasis is paid on teaching foreign languages and especially English. Since 2015 English language teaching has become mandatory at all levels of primary, secondary and high school education. Therefore nurturing young learners has become more important than ever.
The transition from home to school, whether it occurs at a preschool or in the primary school, marks an important turning point in terms of language development when it comes to young learners. At home, children develop both their physical and conversational skills in unstructured circumstances. Learning, is spontaneous and unstructured, is nevertheless steady and involving for the child.
So, the role of teachers is also to broaden children’s range of experiences, introduce new possibilities, systematize the process of learning, help develop thinking skills and, ultimately, empower students to take responsibility for their own learning.
The strategies children have developed at home make sense of their world, to talk about their experiences and to wonder about what is new or imaginary continue to be effective. These strategies should not be supplanted but augmented by teachers in helping all children discover their potential.
The motivation of the present paper is based on the background presented above, in the conditions of a growing interest regarding the methods applied when teaching foreign languages to young learners. This growing interest is justified by the recognized importance of a good start in the process of language acquisition, as a prerogative of a successful learning experience. In this respect, the scope of the present paper is to illustrate, in a theoretical and practical form, the specific conditions and the factors that accompany and determine the correct choice of methodologies, materials and activities involved in teaching English to young learners. Moreover, it aims to demonstrate that a professional approach to teaching young learners, based on modern theories and practices, encompassing young learners’ specific needs and considering individual differences will give the expected results.
The main objectives of this paper are:
– to summarize the theoretical approaches regarding the particularities of teaching young learners;
– to provide a series of interactive methods of teaching vocabulary through interactive methods;
– to demonstrate the advantages of applying the multiple intelligences theory when teaching young learners;
– to highlight that each type of intelligence has its characteristics and it is different from the others;
– to find ways to develop students’ creativity and critical thinking through interactive methods;
In contemplation of achieving the above-mentioned objectives, various strategies and steps were approached. Firstly, it is well known that without a theoretical part one cannot succeed in having a good practical part. That is why for writing the first three chapters of this paper several books, methodologies were consulted, especially Jeremy Harmer’s ‘The practice of English Language Teaching’ and Scott Thornbury’s book ‘How to teach vocabulary’. Even if Harmer’s book was published in the 1990’s it still remains an indispensable for teachers. Not only book, methodologies were consulted but different websites, since we know that the internet has become a very useful tool nowadays. By reading, lecturing, searching different activities were worked out with students. By classroom observation and by applying a questionnaire students’ type of intelligence was approached for a better understanding of their way of thinking and their needs.
Not only the above-mentioned strategies were approached but also the numerous courses, seminars, and conference participations resulted in writing this paper.
An additional reason why teaching young learners is important is owing to the fact that it is quite different from teaching secondary or high school students. Young children have a tendency to change their mood in less than no time and they find it extremely difficult to sit still. It is also widely known that teaching young learners is a great challenge. They jiggle. They twist. They mumble. They dream. They play. Of course, they do so! They are children! For that reason, teachers should take advantage of their energy and enthusiasm and let it work for them instead of working against them. On the other hand, they show greater motivation than older students to do things that appeal to them, since it is almost impossible to cater to the interests for more or less than thirty young learners; the teacher has to be inventive and creative in selecting interesting activities, and has to provide a great variety of activities.
Young learners have strengths and weaknesses and the best way to take advantage of their strengths and help them learn effectively is to cater to their learning styles or multiples intelligences. By getting to know your students better gives you invaluable possibilities to effectively plan your lessons considering their needs. This is one advantage of integrating the theory of multiple intelligences in classroom teaching. Furthermore, by integrating this theory in classroom teaching each and every child from that class has the same opportunity to grasp the information, process it and reuse it.
A child’s first English teacher bears a heavy responsibility, as a lot depends on the teacher’s ability to attract students to learn English, to raise their enthusiasm for it, and keep them interested in learning. If young learner’s first experiences of learning are enjoyable and entertaining then there are less chances to lose their interest, apart from that teachers still have to maintain the same line, otherwise they quickly lose interest. On the other hand, if their first experience is unpleasant, they may grow up with powerfully negative feelings towards the language.
Keeping children interested and motivated involves a lot of energy, painstaking planning, time, creativity and imagination on both sides, but especially the teacher has to plan effective, interesting, entertaining and motivating activities. On the other hand, we cannot learn for our students. Only they can do that. What we can do is help create the conditions in which they might be able to learn. This could be by responding to their requirements, by understanding them, by involving them in the learning process, by enabling them to work at their own speed, by encouraging them to talk, interact, do things, and communicate.
Apart from the all mentioned above, one important part of language improvement, perhaps the most important one, is developing ones vocabulary. Undoubtedly fun vocabulary activities can be used to develop a positive effect in the young learner. Interactive teaching techniques have become a part of our everyday teaching, incorporating a multitude of goals beneath a single roof. Interactive classes are designed around a simple principle, without practical application, students often fail to comprehend the depths of the study material.
It has been proven that interactive methods are highly efficient, yet the teaching process could be made more efficient through better knowledge of students. For this, we are fortunate to have the multiple intelligences theory proposed by Howard Gardner, according to whom all people possess seven (eight) type of intelligences. Getting to know or sense the stronger types of intelligence that your students possess it is something extraordinary and very valuable.
Having these two valuable tools in our hands, namely interactive techniques and the theory of multiple intelligences, there are fewer chances to fail in our didactic approach. By getting to know our students better, helps both us and the students in nurturing their language development as well as their human side.
When thinking back on my own experiences of being taught, it is the teaching techniques that I remember least, probably owing to the fact that there was a lack of techniques and perhaps teachers were the ‘knowers’ and the majority were not interested in developing student’s abilities, skills or motivate them, the main reason for entering the classroom was to teach the lesson and so. But I certainly remember teachers who made subject matter come alive, through their great knowledge and enthusiasm.
In all probability, one of the reasons for writing about teaching young learners and interactive methods amalgamated with multiple intelligences is the fact that I myself like playing with children. I do care if they enjoy the lesson or not, I do care if they understood or not what they were taught and I do care to share my knowledge with the children. I myself never considered that the teacher is much more superior to students, however if it comes to knowledge, life experience, abilities, and skills then ‘Yes’, the teacher is superior, but we should never forget that first of all we are all human beings, both students and teachers, and we have the same feelings yet different personalities and interests.
Secondly, teaching young children is highly rewarding and motivating. Seeing the joy and happiness on their tiny faces, seeing how their eyes sparkle like diamonds when they have a thought-provoking task to undertake, gives the teacher a real satisfaction and the feeling that it is worth all the effort.
All in all, I would like to dedicate this paper on young learners to that particular type of teacher who thinks that it is important whether the children understand what they are taught, whether they enjoy the lesson or they are bored to death, whether they find a way to motivate and help develop student’s abilities and skills. Briefly to that kind of teacher who ‘Does care’.
AN OVERVIEW ON YOUNG LEARNERS
Motto: ‘It is the supreme art of the teacher
to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’
1.1. Who are young learners?
There are different points of view regarding the classification of young learners. Some say that there are two categories others say that young learners can be split into three categories. According to Cambridge University, the categories are divided between very young learners (under 7 years) and young learners (aged between 7 and 11-12). It is also being said that every child up to eighteen is considered to be a young learner, whereas after eighteen one is thought to be an adult. Nevertheless, to be sure that attention is focused on the right category researches in this paper had been made considering children between 7 and 10 years old, that is to say, students attending primary school.
Covering a wide age range young learners need to be treated differently. There is a big difference between what a six-year-old child knows or can do and what a child of eleven. Furthermore, their development should be considered, too. Some children develop faster, others need more time, and some develop gradually while others in leaps and bounds. It is likewise impossible to say that all 7 years children can do or know the same things. On the other hand, it is possible to point out certain characteristics of young learners, which should be taken into consideration when teaching.
According to Wendy A. Scott and Lisbeth H. Ytreberg there are two main groups of young learners, five to seven and eight to ten. The authors also mention several characteristics of young learners, but only a few of them will be listed here.
Five to seven years old:
– They can talk about what they are doing.
– They can tell you about what they have done or heard.
– They can argue for something and tell you why they think what they think.
– They can use logical reasoning.
– They can use their vivid imagination.
– They know that the world is governed by rules. They may not always understand the rules, but they know that they are there to be obeyed, and the rules help to nurture a feeling of security.
– They understand situations more quickly than they understand the language used.
– They love to play and learn best when they are enjoying themselves.
– Young children sometimes have difficulty in knowing what is fact and what is fiction.
Eight to eleven years old:
– Their basic concepts are formed. They have very decided views of the world.
– They can tell the difference between fact and fiction.
– They ask questions all the time.
– They are able to work with others and learn from others.
– They rely on the spoken word as well as the physical world to convey and understand meaning.
– They are able to make some decisions about their own learning.
– They have definite views about what they like and do not like.
– They have a developed sense of fairness about what happens in the classroom and begin to question the teacher’s decisions.
All the features presented above are general characteristics of young learners, but we also have to take into account the fact that each and every child has his or her own rhythm of evolution and there are quite a variety of things that influence children’s development.
To sum up, according to Wendy A Scott and Lisbeth H Ytreberg ‘Children of five are little children. Children of ten are relatively mature children with an adult side and a childish side.’
1.1. Children as young learners
As it is well – known children’s primary interest is playing, no matter where they are, outside with their friends, at home or in the classroom, their attention is mainly focused on playing. However, at some point children’s endless play must be interrupted by the teachers, besides their attention must be focused on other important facts as well. Therefore, here are some important facts that can help educators in their teaching process in order to attract and maintain student’s attention. So, according to Slattery children are learners who:
– love to play and use imagination
– are naturally curious
– enjoy repetition and routines
– are developing quickly as individuals
– learn in a variety of ways, for example, by watching, by listening, by imitating, by doing things
– are not able to understand grammatical rules and explanations about language
– have quite a short attention span and so they need a variety of activities
– talk in their mother tongue about what they understand and do ‘ this helps them learn
– can generally imitate the sounds they hear quite accurately and copy the way adults speak
There are also other features that are worth considering. According to Brumfit and Tongue there are characteristics which most primary level learners share:
– In the first years of schooling, it is possible to reach and mould developmental changes of children and so create their expectations of life.
– Young children want to learn and work with enthusiasm. They do not tend to have similar inhibitions as their older schoolmates.
– As a group, they are potentially more differentiated than secondary or adult learners, for they are closer to their varied home cultures and new to the conformity increasingly imposed across cultural groupings by the school.
– Because they are at the beginning of formal schooling it is essential that their learning is closely linked with the development of ideas and concepts.
– To make learning enjoyable and motivating it is needed to use physical movements and activities that stimulate learner’s thinking.
Young learners tend to have short attention spans and a lot of physical energy. In addition, children are very much liked to their surroundings and are more interested in the physical and tangible. Their own understanding comes through hands, and eyes, and ears. The physical world is dominant at all times. In order to maintain young learner’s attention, the chosen activities should be short, because they easily get bored. If an activity is kept short, children will want to get back to it soon. Young children like to do activities over and over again. Feel free to repeat activities as long as the children are still interested.
1.2. Facts to be considered when teaching young learners
‘Children have a reputation for being natural language learners, for a very good reason. Almost without exception, they have learned their native language with apparent ease, and by the time they are 6 years old they have brought it to a level of fluency that is the envy of non-native speakers.’ Therefore, it is believed that young learners have a much higher capacity in learning languages, than adults have. In fact, the younger the children are the more holistic learners they will be.
When teaching young children there are several points to be considered, according to Phillips the following facts should be well thought out when teaching young learners:
– The activities should be simple enough for children to understand what is expected of them.
– The tasks should be amusing and within children’s abilities, so that the learners can easily reach their goals.
– The task should be stimulating and motivating for learners to feel satisfied with their work.
– Written activities should be used only in a small amount. In the sixth or seventh year of age, the children are not yet so good at writing in their native language.
– Mostly the speaking activities should prevail ‘ indeed, with very young children listening activities will take up a large proportion of class time.
– The activities should be simple enough for the children so that they understand what to do and what is expected of them.
The above-mentioned facts are mostly related to the lesson but not one idea particularly refers to the children as learners. Not to mention the fact that one of the most important realities to be taken in consideration is student’s interests. It is well known that children’s primordial interests are games, fun, music and their enthusiasm for everything that deals with playing and having fun. Hence, introducing these kinds of activities during the lesson is essential when teaching young children. The more games, songs or funny activities you introduce during a lesson, the more interested and motived the children will be.
Younger learners also have a shorter attention span than adults, which recommends that a diversity of short activities throughout a class would be better than one long activity. However, as years pass, children’s attention span turns out to be longer, their motor skills develop, and they are able to do more reading and writing. So, teachers’ main emphasis should be on teaching the students through interactive methods, games, role plays and music, at that time teachers give students the opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time.
Timing is another important issue to be considered, one thing should be always in the teacher’s mind that is he/she handles young learners. Why is this important? First of all, it is essential for the teacher to take into account the minutes she/he has got for the lesson. In Romania almost in every school, the length of a lesson is fifty minutes. For a teacher who teaches young learners, and not only, it is vital to plan her/his lesson according to the available time, but more important than this is the number of activities a teacher plans for a fifty minute session.
It would be an enormous mistake to plan only one activity, because as it is well known, young learners get easily bored. That is why during a fifty-minute session the teacher should bring into classroom a variety of activities in order to raise and preserve the children’s attention and interest that is why an activity should last no more than fifteen minutes.
Motivation is another key factor when it comes to teaching young learners. Motivation provides the primary impetus to initiate learning a second language and later the driving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process. Without sufficient motivation, even individuals with the most remarkable abilities cannot accomplish long-term goals and, neither are appropriate curricula and good teaching enough on their own to ensure student’s achievement.
The atmosphere of the classroom, the attitude of the teacher, children’s interest and their previously acquired knowledge as well the organisation of the lesson all affect youngsters’ learning.
When talking about classroom management the first significant point to be considered is the classroom itself. First of all, teachers ought to try and achieve a warm, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Additionally, the teacher should assure that the chairs and tables are appropriately placed as well as there is enough light and heating/ventilation. For a successful classroom management these things appear to be only few but nonetheless they are primordial facts for achieving your goal, which is to provide children a comfortable space where to learn.
We all know very well that nurturing and teaching young learners it is not an easy undertaking. For that reason the position and behaviour of the teacher is another key component in classroom management. There are a few steps to be followed in order to create a proper environment for youngsters and handle their playfulness during classes.
In the following lines, a few key facts will be presented in order to help teachers to have a successful teaching process; these aspects are seen from Phillips’s point of view:
– Routines should be created for children to be recognized. Although they take time to explain and to establish, routines make the children feel secure and save a lot of time and explanation in the long run.
– The beginning of the lesson should be marked, for example with a song, by correcting homework, or with a brief recall of the previous lesson.
– The ‘core’ of the lesson will vary, but always start by telling the children what activities they are going to do.
– Mark a stage of the lesson clearly, so that the children know when one activity finishes and another starts.
– Give clear instructions for each activity and check that the children have understood by asking questions, or demonstrating the activity.
– Make sure that the children know how long they can spend on an activity, and try and keep to the time limit as much as possible.
– Establish a signal or routine for finishing activities, for example clapping your hands twice or turn off the light and so on.
– If the children are working in pairs or groups, walk around the classroom making comments, praising and encouraging.
– Have something for the early finishers to do, for example an extra worksheet with a word game or puzzle.
– Ending the lesson well is as important as starting it well. It could be a good idea to end with a whole class activity such as a chant, a song or a quick game.
Having in mind all these facts handling young learners should be an easy undertaking, but we cannot always make a sweeping statement, meaning that some methods can work very well in one class and the same strategy can fail with another class. Young learners are unalike; they have different personalities, what works for a child is not a proper approach for another one. Therefore, knowing your children is essential in order to have a successful classroom management.
1.3. Motivating young children to learn
To start with, let us first define motivation: ‘Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.’
Motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behaviour. In everyday usage, the term motivation is frequently used to describe why a person does something.
Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives. Children who do not receive this sort of support and interaction are likely to have a much different attitude about learning later in life.
We can make a distinction between different types of motivation based on the different reasons or goals that brings about an action. The most rudimentary distinction is between intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivation.
Children do many things simply because they want to do them. Selecting a toy or a T-shirt to wear is the result of “intrinsic motivation.” The child makes her own choice and achieves satisfaction from both the act of choosing and from the opportunity to play with the toy or wear the T-shirt. Since the activity is generating motivation, it is mostly self-sustaining for as long as the child wants to continue the activity.
Children also engage in some activities because adults tell them to, or in an effort to please another person. These activities are “extrinsically motivated.” When a child is extrinsically motivated, the reward comes from outside the child, it has to be provided by someone else, and has to be continually given for the child to remain motivated enough to continue the activity. It is more difficult for a child to sustain extrinsically motivated activity because of this reliance upon some outside force.
Since intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. Intrinsically motivated children are more involved in their own learning and development. In other words, a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he or she is intrinsically motivated, when he/she believes he/she is pleasing himself/herself. Parents can build on this sense of confidence by guiding their child’s play and activities while still giving the child a range of options. This unstructured play is an essential element of the child’s motivation, learning, and development.
1.4. Why teach English to young learners?
To help children acquire English, let them hear and experience the language since they are very small. It is argued that young children are better in learning languages than older people. ‘Why argued’? ‘ because there are different points of view regarding this topic. Some linguists say that it is just a myth, whereas others sustain the above-mentioned topic.
Having in mind the different points of view let us try to find a few reasons why children are better language learners:
– Children have more opportunities and more time for learning than adults.
– They do not have any worries about failure or they do not have the feeling of responsibility.
– People around young learners as are their teachers, parents or their friends, can help them with their learning.
– They want to learn the language that people around them speak. The success is certain, when the children can hear the second language every day. The social pressure urges them to use the language for achievement of their aims.
– Children spend more time by learning than the adults and they ‘want’ to learn. They are better at learning languages if they get exposed to them naturally and long-term.
– The brain is capable to absorb much more information before and during puberty than after and children acquire the language in a natural way.
– Learning a language is joined with the real communication and the environment influences it.
– Children have no negative experiences with foreign language and culture than adult learners do and that is why they are better motivated in learning it.
Nevertheless, Brumfit, Moon and Tongue suppose a number of reasons, why teaching English is necessary not only within schooling and educational system:
– The need to expose children from an early age to an understanding of foreign cultures so that they grow up tolerant and sympathetic to others.
– The need to link communication to the understanding of new concepts.
– The need for maximum learning time for important languages ‘ the earlier you start the more time you get.
– The advantage of starting with early second language instruction so that later the language can be used as a medium of teaching.
All in all, even if the question whether children are better language learners than adults it is a debatable one, there is no shortcoming in teaching children a second language from an early age. But the teaching process should be an interactive one, a memorable and enjoyable activity for the children. In this way, we can charm the young ones and make them wish to learn English.
AN OUTLINE OF VOCABULARY TEACHING
Motto: ‘Vocabulary acquisition is the largest and most important task facing the language learner.’ (Michael Swan)
2.1. What is vocabulary and what needs to be taught?
The word vocabulary is defined by the Merriam ‘ Webster dictionary as – the words that make up a language or all of the words known and used by a person, as well as words that are related to a particular subject. In fact, vocabulary does not mean only simple or individual words, there is more than that since there are compound words as well as multi-word idioms, which are made up of two or three words but express a single idea. Furthermore, it is not enough to know the majority of the words from the dictionary in order to use words and communicate efficiently in a language. If someone looks up for a new word in a dictionary, one will seize that a word has several meanings. Considering this approach words must be taught in context, otherwise there is no point in knowing hundreds of words without the ability of using them in context or even during a short conversation.
When it comes to young learners each phase of teaching a foreign language, especially vocabulary, must be taken step by step, otherwise children would be confused and nothing would make sense for them.
Nevertheless teaching young learners is not as difficult as it was years ago, for the reason that nowadays children are quite familiar with English language learning. Children growing up in the 21st are taught English from an early age, starting from kindergarten and continuing until adulthood, therefore we could straightforwardly say that it is a lifelong learning process. As a result, young learners do not come to the classroom empty-handed, they bring with them their previously acquired knowledge along with their already well-established set of instincts, skills and characteristics which are some advantages in learning a language.
What is needed to be taught, first and foremost, is form, ‘young learners have to know what a word sounds like (its pronunciation) and what it looks like (its spelling).’ Nonetheless, according to the Romanian National Curriculum children are taught the written form only after the age of nine that is in the third grade. Throughout the first two years of primary school children are taught only two important skills, speaking and listening. Afterwards a new stage of learning process is introduced to children, which is writing and reading.
The noteworthy point in teaching vocabulary is the selection of words we as teachers want to teach. It is fairly easy to teach concrete words at lower level and then become more abstract.
Moreover, frequency needs to be considered too. It is up to the teacher which words are being taught but on the basis of frequency, how often the words are used by the students has to be taken into consideration. Particularly young learners should be taught words that they are familiar with and they can associate to their daily activities. Typically words are taught according to themes and topics and considering the national curriculum.
In this day and age all the student books are organised into themes and they provide vocabulary according to it. If there is a theme such as ‘Food’, then we can expect words related to fruits, vegetables, healthy versus fast food, menus and so on. Words that have quite specific meaning should be avoided with young learners.
2.2. The importance and role of vocabulary in the classroom
Vocabulary is an important part of the teaching process, especially for students, it is more important than grammar for communication purposes, particularly in the early stages when students are motivated to learn the basic words they need to get by in the language. Also, as the lexical system is always ‘open’, there is always something new to learn when students have learnt the grammar.
Vocabulary not only supports the four language skills, listening, speaking, writing and reading, but also mediates between students and content-area classes in that these students often find that lack of vocabulary knowledge is an obstacle in learning. So, we could conclude that vocabulary teaching and learning should be more emphasized than it is nowadays.
The teacher’s use of language provides an important model for children’s vocabulary development. By modelling the use of sophisticated words, teachers can encourage students’ vocabulary development and word awareness.
Considering the fact that vocabulary plays a pivotal role in the classroom Jim Scrivener mentions five roles of the lexis in the classroom:
– Lexis is important and needs to be dealt systematically in its own right; it is not simply an add-on grammar or skills lessons.
– Our job does not finish as soon as students have first met some new lexis; we need to help them practice, learn, store, recall and use the items.
– Training in the use of English-English dictionaries provides students with a vital tool for self-study.
– We need to distinguish between lexis for productive use and for receptive recognition, and adapt our classroom work appropriately.
– We need to deal not only with single-word lexical items, but also with longer, multiword items.
Learner’s receptive vocabulary are generally much larger than their productive vocabulary, language learners can usually understand many more words than they actively use. And students are idiosyncratic in the way they remember vocabulary, no two students are exactly the same. Actually, as students become more advanced, their individual interest and needs will help determine what kind of words they will want to understand, remember and use.
2.3. Presenting new vocabulary
‘By presentation we mean those pre-planned lesson stages in which learners are taught pre-selected vocabulary items.’
First of all, teachers ought to consider how many words should be presented during the lesson. This is closely connected with several factors, such as:
– The level of the pupils ‘ beginners, intermediate and so on.
– Their familiarity with the words ‘ have they come across these words or are they completely new?
– Words difficulty ‘ are the words abstract, are they easily pronounced, can we find similar words in the learnerï¿½ï¿½s native language etc.?
– Can the words be easily demonstrated?
– Shall we use realia or anything that the pupils can become familiar with?
– Can pictures be used to elicit vocabulary?
Gairns and Stuart states that is impossible to be dogmatic about the number of new vocabulary items that should be presented during a lesson. An average number of eight to twelve productive items would be advisable for presenting a reasonable input, the lower number being more suitable for elementary students. Than we could conclude that even a lower number would be advisable for beginner level, somewhere between five and seven words.
Choosing the suitable vocabulary or at least the parts of vocabulary seems to be significant for motivating students to learn. Before deciding which teaching techniques to choose, as Harmer states, teachers should follow some principles that are essential for selecting valuable vocabulary. They are:
– frequency ‘ words which are most frequently used in everyday life
– coverage ‘ words which have more than one meaning and may be used in different contexts
– choice ‘ words which have been chosen by students, for instance words that they like or find worth knowing
Another factor that is worth considering is the age of the learners. Younger ones react quite well when we show them concrete illustrations, the older ones can manage pretty well abstract explanations or even definitions.
A number of techniques can be adopted to give grounding in new vocabulary items. There are techniques that are more widespread and more often used than others. Furthermore, the decision of which technique to be used lays in the teacher’s hands but always the effectiveness of teaching should be considered. Every teacher leans towards and prefers certain techniques that one finds interesting and/or more resourceful. On the other hand, there are techniques that teachers try to avoid. There is an occurrence of techniques that are particularly appropriate for certain types of words ‘ for example actions can be explained through pantomime. The following part of the paper will briefly deal with a few teaching techniques.
2.4. Techniques in teaching vocabulary
There are numerous techniques concerning vocabulary presentation. Not all techniques are similarly helpful for every student or suitable for every lesson.
There are various ways to present and practice vocabulary, the internet is an inexhaustible resource for these kind of activities, and not only the internet but the various books that were written regarding this topic. In the following lines, a few techniques will be offered about how to teach and practice vocabulary with young learners.
The teacher should choose the most suitable techniques to encourage learning. The techniques have to facilitate student’s improvement of their vocabulary knowledge. Furthermore, it is advisable not to use only one technique during the process of teaching vocabulary. Gairns and Redman suggest three possibilities for vocabulary presentation: visual techniques, verbal techniques and translation.
The above mentioned authors uphold the idea that these three categories pertain to traditional approaches and techniques since they are teacher centred activities. Partly agreeing with their idea, some examples of visual and verbal techniques were added. Even if these ways of presenting vocabulary are considered traditional, with a little creativity from the teacher’s side they can be transformed in interactive ways of teaching.
The easiest way to make it interactive can be by asking the learners to participate in the teaching process. For instance, if visuals are going to be used, we can simply ask the students to hold the cards or real objects for us in this way especially, young learners will be delighted and the activity is not teacher centred anymore, since the students are involved too.
Thus, here follows the three possibilities of presenting vocabulary followed by a few specific examples, but as referred before only the three main options, meaning visual, verbal and translation, pertain to Gairns and Redman.