Module 6 – Teaching Vocabulary

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The research literature on teaching vocabulary has clearly demonstrated the essential role of vocabulary knowledge in order to communicate, read, or write adequately. Children with greater vocabulary knowledge find listening and reading easier, and participate more in writing and speaking activities (Nation, 1990; Pinter, 2006). Vocabulary size is interrelated with the general language level of learners and recent research by Meara and Milton has linked vocabulary size to the Common European Framework of Language levels (as shown in Table 1). Moreover they have developed tests that calculate how much vocabulary is needed to take milestone exams such as state school-leaving exams and TOEFL and IELTS (Meara and Buxton, 1987; Meara and Milton, 2003; Orosz, 2009, 182).




Table 1 Vocabulary size and the CEFR





< 2000Starters movers and flayers2
4750 +Diploma9

Table 2 Vocabulary size and exam levels

Yet,  as demonstrated by numerous scholars, young learners’ vocabulary learning is deeply connected to the evolution and development of memory (recall and recognition forms of memory), analytic and phonetic abilities (Alexiou, 2009). Hence, the training of learning abilities connected to learning vocabulary areas can greatly aid other areas of language learning.

Language aptitude is in flux in the early stages of life. Very young learners respond to, memorize oral words and store the phonetic representations of these words holistically and take in information from interaction with what they see, hear, and touch. Thus, a key factor in developing new vocabulary is to expose very young students to plenty of language input in order to provide examples of what words mean, how they are pronounced, etc. and the acquisition of new vocabulary may be affected by the type of input teachers provide in their use and selection of course books, word lists, teacher talk, and the learnability of new words (length, cognateness). On the other hand, teaching, recycling and the regular use of familiar vocabulary during classes may support vocabulary retention. For example, Laufer (2003) demonstrated that if a word is practiced in a productive word-focused task, its meaning has a better chance to be remembered than if the word is encountered in a text even when these words are presented several times. Memorization needs to be aided by appropriate tasks and recycling activities since numerous studies have found that  “getting students to read or listen is not sufficient for vocabulary learning in the EFL classroom” (Laufer, 1998). As Alexiou notes, “good memory is not a good way of handling very large amounts of information. It must be organized; hence the growing importance of analytic skills” (2009, 57).

Teaching a new lexical item is not easy as it entails teaching pronunciation, spelling, morphology, function, collocation, register, connotation and how meaning changes in different contexts (Nation, 2001, 55; Woodward, 2001, 78). In the following lecture, some suggestions will be made on how to teach vocabulary in ways that take into consideration recent research on young learners.

Course Features

  • Lectures 4
  • Quizzes 2
  • Duration 50 hours
  • Skill level All levels
  • Language English
  • Students 25
  • Certificate No
  • Assessments Self


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