‘It’ is everywhere…The news about the big day at Westminster Abbey…the flowers blooming… the spring bringing new life… With all these, it almost seems impossible to smell the scent of love…
Walking down the corridor, I keep singing “Love is in the air…everywhere I look around… Love is in the ‘vocabulary‘…Every sight and every sound”…
…Opening the door, I greet my students. After some light chit-chat, I introduce the lesson aims. I tell them that this time instead of doing reading skills practice, we will read a text to focus on some vocabulary learning strategies and study skills. Then, I display the first paragraph of the text:
“They flew to a remote lake in a conservation park on the slopes of Mount Kenya 12,000 ft above sea level by helicopter and stayed in a log cabin. He had carried the engagement ring of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in a rucksack for three weeks during their stay with friends in Africa!” (Squido, n.d.).
“So, what do you expect to read about today?” I ask my students. I have them think for a while and then tell them to write their ideas on their notebooks. Having asked them share their ideas with their peers, I ask them to share with whole class (i.e. by writing on the board). With this particular text, I would expect my students to give answers like “the love story of Prince William & Kate Middleton”, “the Royal Wedding”, “the proposal”, etc.
Then I distribute the text to the students and ask them to quickly read to see if their expectations have been met. What is important here is to have them communicate with the text; whether their predictions or expectations are mentioned in the text. As my aim here is to set a purpose for reading the text, I would just give them 3-4 minutes to skim the text. After that, I would ask them some quick comprehension questions (so as to have them carefully read the text). Since my lesson objective is to focus on vocabulary learning strategies, I keep this stage short. And after reading, I would move on with the vocabulary activities.
I teach university preparatory students who need to broaden their vocabulary knowledge to understand academic texts and express themselves appropriately. These being among their primary learning needs, they have to learn strategies and study skills to further expand their academic vocabulary range. Research indicates that one can comprehend 95% of academic texts in L2 providing that they know the words included in Academic Word List (AWL) (Coxhead, 2000). Therefore, I use AWL to choose the target vocabulary to teach; however, if you teach students with a lower level of English, you can use the General Service List (GSL) which is about 2000 words covering 90% of the fiction texts (Coxhead, 2000).
As it is the first time we discuss how to choose words to study, I spent a bit time on explaining what words we should focus on and the rationale behind it. Then, I tell my students to choose five or six words they think are important to learn; the five words they think they may frequently come across with throughout their academic studies. When they are ready, in groups of three they are asked to agree on the most important five academic words and share it with class.
I then give them the link to the text and to have them copy and paste the text and to a Vocabulary Profiler. I then tell the students to analyze the text by selecting ‘Vocabprofile’ and have them go to ‘VP English v3’. They then copy and paste the text, and click on the ‘submit’ button. Once they do so, a list of words with different colors will appear; the blue and green words are words from the GSL, and the ones in yellow are from the AWL. (*see entries of the text below)
I ask them to look at the AWL words and compare the list with the words they have previously chosen. One interesting fact is that they generally come up with more or less the same words that are in the list. This is good in that it helps them see that vocabulary learning does not mean to learn every single unknown word that they come across with, but to focus on the ones that they will need in their further studies.
Having identified on the words to learn as a class, I then move on talking about what we need to focus on when learning a new word and how it should be recorded in vocabulary journals. I share one journal entry I think my students have benefitted most from.
I also share some links to other samples they can make use of, and tell them they are free to choose their way of keeping journals as long as the following items are included:
- grammatical features
- collocations, connotations, antonyms, synonyms
- example sentences
Rather than focusing on single words, I highlight that it is very important to learn new words together with their collocations. I tell them that these are the words that are ‘in love with each other’; in other words, ‘the couples’ (i.e. royal family, in contact with, at a high level, during their stay wit, etc) that have to be together.
“OK, now look back to the words that you should learn. What words do you think they are in ‘love with’?” I ask them. At first they don’t understand what I mean by that so I give some examples from the text;
…after the official engagement was announced, talk quickly turned from romance to finance as British tax payers began to question how much the Royal wedding would cost the British economy in times of austerity and spending cuts. While critics may argue that the Royal wedding will cost the tax payer vast sums of money, many analysts side with the alternative school of thought which believes the Royal wedding will boost the British economy to the tune of £620 million…
I tell them that the underlined AWL words ‘are in love with words that are in bold in this context (and that there could be other possibilities in other contexts):
- sum (of money)
- alternative (school)
- (boost) the economy
As a follow up task, to find the most frequently used ones, I tell them to go to JusttheWord, and tell them to look up for some other good word combinations that can be used in other contexts (the ones in green). Then, I tell them to go back to the text, and find five more words that ‘are in love’. The good thing about this tool is that you can also create a word cloud of the most frequent uses through by clicking on ‘Wordle’ which can be good for visual learners. If you click here you will see the word cloud for the word ’sum’.
And once they have done so, I give them the assignment:
Choose 7 words to learn and note down these with their:
2. grammatical features,
7. a sentence from dictionary/text + two sentences of their own using the collocations.
Love…No matter whether it is a metaphor used to present a topic in a lesson, or love to anything, anybody… it works everywhere…Let’s welcome all the beauties it gives.
Some Sample Vocabulary Journals
Some Useful Sites about Vocabulary Teaching
Coxhead, A. (2000). A New Academic Word List. Retrieved April 14, 2011 from http://www.jstor.org/pss/3587951
Squido. (n.d) The Royal Wedding. Retrieved April 13, 2011 from http://www.squidoo.com/royal-wedding#module134771281