Embedding English: 13 Strategies for Teaching Key Words

  1.  Pre teach four or five key words before tackling reading or writing tasks or starting the lesson. Choose words that are important in the context of the task/text and focus on vocational jargon that students may not come across in everyday life. Words that are technical, abstract or multi-syllable can be particularly challenging so look out for those and bring them to learners’ attention. Clarifying these words early in the lesson can pre-empt problems of understanding later on so this is a good use of the teacher’s time
  2.  Labelling – take every opportunity to label key vocabulary on pictures in classrooms and workshops as this reminds students of the words/phrases. Students can also label diagrams on a handout and this can be a differentiated task with some students having to label all the parts and other students having the diagram partially completed for them beforehand by the teacher
  3.  Encourage students to predict key words that will come up in the topic and summarise these on the board/flip chart or a handout (list, box, mind map). This encourages the group to pool knowledge and gives them something to refer back to later on, when additional key words can be added to the list
  4. Organise your vocabulary into meaningful chunks on the board so that students copy a useful record – e.g. objects for cleaning, verbs for steps in the cleaning process, hygiene risks. Putting related words together helps students to record them in a structured way and remember them more easily. Encourage students to compare notes and discuss different ways of recording information, to highlight the skills and options involved in note making. Many students take poor notes so this support and guidance on how to do it can be helpful
  5. Give a simple example sentence using the key word so students can understand the meaning and how to use the word or elicit this from the students and use questioning to enhance their answer
  6. Use checking questions to see if students understand the meaning of the word/phrase and elicit examples from students in the curriculum context. This is a good way to remind them of key words in later lessons as well
  7. Make the context clear so students know when we use the word. Is it formal style? Is it jargon? Is it used in written or spoken language or both? Is there a common synonym we use instead of this word?
  8.  Give visual support for vocabulary – use mime, drawing, pictures, or objects to show students what it is. Encourage them to use graphic methods to record vocabulary in their notebooks or files
  9.  Teach students to highlight 5 or 6 tricky words in texts, then check them with a partner or a dictionary – this encourages learner independence and helps them focus on specific words that can be a barrier to comprehension
  10. Encourage good dictionary skills – make dictionaries available in the room and give students practice in finding the appropriate meaning of the word for their context. Oxford, Longman and Cobuild all produce learner-friendly dictionaries with clear examples and information on how words are pronounced or you could use an online site or a phone app. Getting students to race to find the best definition can be a good game. Ensure they know how to say and spell the word and how to use it in a sentence so that meaning, spelling and pronunciation are all covered
  11.  Give students a simple glossary of key vocabulary and some tasks to practise using the words e.g. cards to match the word with the definition and an example. Involve the learners in creating the glossary and building it as part of each unit
  12. Work with ILT staff to provide illustrated glossaries or pop-up glossaries as web-based materials
  13. Give vocabulary practice exercises such as gap fills, matching exercises, quizzes, a crossword or word search so that students recycle the vocabulary regularly. You can do this with the whole group in class or give it to students for homework, with the answers supplied.  For greater challenge, get learners to make the quizzes or games, check them and then swap with a partner or other group to complete. This can make a great starter activity or a plenary task
  14. For more practical ideas like this, book in for my training days


This entry was posted in Advanced Practitioners, CPD for Teachers, Embedding English, FE, Sharing good practice, Teaching and learning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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