You are on page 1of 31

Vocabulary teaching

General approaches that

teachers and teaching
materials can adopt
Traditional direct approach: Teach
vocabulary items
Indirect1, learner training approach: Teach
conscious vocabulary-related strategies
How to help a poor man?

Indirect2, natural approach: Create

opportunities for spontaneous acquisition
via communicative tasks . The three

Direct teaching

Selection and ordering

Amount and rate
TASK Which are in the teachers hands?

Selection and ordering the vocab

Who does it?
What criteria are relevant?

Importance, aka utility

Frequency lists e.g.
Ministry lists
Other student needs

Ease, aka learnability, teachability

Interlingual, intralingual, extralingual


Amount and rate

What would be the ideal amount of
vocabulary to be learnt overall in a course?

What is a suitable rate per hour of new


What actually is a pedagogically useful
vocabulary item to present?
Word families?
Lexical chunks aka lexical phrases,
formulae, readymades?

Beyond phrasal verbs (e.g. bring up), multiword

compounds (e.g. hard disk) and idiomatic phrases
(e.g. pull someones leg) to:
polyword at any rate, by and large, as well [= also]
frame or slot the [adj.]-er the [adj]er, as [adj].as,
so [adj]that ,
Little didrealize that
sentence head Could you....., God only knows wh-
sentence tail , if you would., and so on.
There's more than one way to skin a cat.

What is there to present about a lexical

..beyond the basic form one meaning link

How can presentation be done?

Traditional deductive presentation
Inductive presentation

Deductive presentation
Three basic ways to present word
Extension to other aspects of words like
E.g. More Words You Need (Rudzka et al.,
1985, MacMillan)

Inductive presentation, requiring learner

To present word meaning
Teacher provides a pregnant context , e.g. a situation or
story from which the meaning of the word can be easily

For other aspects of words like collocation,

grammatical behaviour, stylistic value
Students work on corpus concordance lines or statistics e.g.

Practice Production
Any repetition / practice of vocab has some at
least minimal value but
.there are many types of vocab
Teacher needs to choose suitable ones in the
light of what kind of work needs to be done on
vocab that has been presented
So what are the functions of exercises /

X = what the teacher presented about the lexical items

Confirm that X has been correctly learnt

Reinforce prior learning, i.e. aid memory of X
Recycling, repetition
Establishment of associations
Deepening of processing

Activation: automatise /proceduralise what has

been learnt of X so that learners access it more
Activation: extend knowledge of the items beyond X
Activation: turn passive/receptive/recognition
mastery of X into active/production/recall ability

Recycling or lack of it

Exercise types in P and W

Selective attention: Make students identify/notice
wordform (e.g. underline the word wherever it occurs
in the text) a
Recognition: Make students show
recognition/receptive knowledge of meaning (e.g.
match word with picture) b
Manipulation: make students show wordformation
knowledge (e.g. change word from noun to adjective)
Interpretation: make students show knowledge of
collocation and syntactic properties (e.g. guess
meaning from context, give grammatical function of
word in text)
Production: make students show recall/production
word knowledge (e.g. open cloze) c

Communicative practice/production
Often seen as ultimate goal of vocab
Deep end approach reverse PPP
Indirect 1 approach needed here

Indirect1 teaching
Vocabulary related strategies potentially
to teach
To help learner where (s)he does not know
vocabulary, esp. in real communicative use:
Some of those involve learning: Discovery
Some involve managing without the needed

To help learner remember vocabulary

previously met/taught: Consolidation
TASK think of examples

Make do with existing L2 resources (and
maybe Discover)
Appeal (so Discover)


Self-selection and note keeping

Integrative practice

What the teacher needs to check

What strategies do students already know
from L1?
What strategies have been already taught,
maybe implicitly, through direct teaching?
For more demanding strategies, check if
students have the threshold language prof to
be able to exploit them / transfer them from L1

Three general approaches:

Allow or encourage them (e.g. Use your dictionary, Try
guessing it, Why not put that in your vocab notebook?)

Teach them overtly as opportunities arise during a

reading task, on specific instances
Inductively: e.g. What did/could you do here to get the
Deductively: e.g. Look at the phrase after the word and guess

Teach them overtly and separately from reading task

Inductively: e.g. What do you do when you meet an unknown
word?, What do you do to try to remember words?
Deductively: e.g. I am going to show you how to use your
dictionary properly. Note: examples used may be known words

After strategy teaching

Implement deep-end approach
Indirect2 should work better now

Indirect2 teaching
Incidental spontaneous learning in
extensive communicative language use
The three hypotheses claiming major
sources of this
Input (Krashen)
Output (Swain)
Interaction (Long)

What really occurs?

Incidental learning/acquisition
..but is it unconscious/implicit?
The need for noticing
So consciousness is involved
but the teacher does not teach vocab or
strategies in this approach/phase

Conditions the teacher needs to create

Interesting communication opportunities
Motivated students
?Input modification
Incidental learning may be planned to be
Vocab acquisition tasks: required vocab at
i+1 but not i+2
Vocab fluency tasks: required vocab at i or i-1
Strategy development tasks?


Thornbury, S. 2002. How to Teach Vocabulary. London: Longman.

Gairns, R. and Redman, S. 1986. Working with words: a guide to
teaching and learning vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. 1988. Vocabulary and language
teaching. London: Longman.
Skmen, A. 1997. Current trends in teaching second language
vocabulary. In Schmitt, N. and M. McCarthy (eds) Vocabulary:
Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press
Hatch, E. and C. Brown. 1995. Vocabulary, Semantics and Language
Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (parts only)
Nation, I.S.P. 2001. Learning Vocabulary in another Language.
Cambridge: Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series, CUP
Read, J. 2000. Assessing Vocabulary.