THE MAGIC OF VOCABULARY

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THE MAGIC OF
VOCABULARY
Sirle Kivihall, MA
(kivihall.blogspot.com)
GRAMMAR AND VOCABULARY
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English is the universal medium of
communication to socialize with people, do
business, reach political agreements and update
your Facebook status.
However, there seems to be the teachers’ as well
as students’ obsession with grammar.
Why?
GRAMMAR AND VOCABULARY
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The truth is that grammar sells!
The English language course books are still
designed with a linear grammatical syllabus in
mind.
Language acquisition is a much more organic or
holistic process.
GRAMMAR AND VOCABULARY
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The concept of “successful language” is much
more helpful than “formally accurate language”.
We should agree that learning a language is not
about knowing how to, but about being able to.
“Without grammar little can be conveyed;
without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.”
(David Wilkins Linguistics in Language Teaching, 1972)
GRAMMAR AND VOCABULARY
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Raymond Murphy has explained that he wrote
his “best-sellers” so that students didn’t have to
waste time in class focusing on grammar
exercises.
Formal grammar should not be totally ignored in
the classroom.
It should definitely take less of a priority than it
takes currently.
LANGUAGE SKILLS
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Some scholars of language acquisition no longer
talk about the four language skills, but nine
skills.
Those traditional four skills don’t take into
account the other skills necessary for language
development.
These other skills are vocabulary, spelling,
grammar, pronunciation and study skills.
VOCABULARY
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Vocabulary has its place in every lesson and can
be organically pulled from the other skill areas
covered in the lesson.
The new vocabulary which students acquire
makes them conscious of the progress they are
making in the language development.
Taking the vocabulary activities further in the
lessons will foster the students’ intrinsic
motivation.
BULK OF WORDS
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Students often complain of not knowing the
words in a text.
This is not surprising, given the sheer number of
items in the language.
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There simply are far too many to learn.
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Why?
BULK OF WORDS
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English has borrowed so much from other
languages, hence, it has a higher than usual
number of synonyms and near-synonyms.
It has idioms and metonyms.
It puts items together, either as compounds or in
collocations.
A noun can be used as a verb and vice versa.
BULK OF WORDS
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There are also multiple versions within one part
of speech.
The past and present participles of verb can be
used as adjectives or nouns.
Modern life has brought about the invention of
many new things to which we need to refer,
thereby adding specialist terms and jargon to the
lexicon.
EXPOSURE TO TEXTUAL LANGUAGE
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Encourage students to listen to the radio, watch
films or You Tube videos, read texts on websites,
read novels and short stories.
TASK: Ask them to make their own wordlists.
Each lesson/every other lesson one student
teaches the classmates 5-10 words, depending on
the level.
LEXICAL VERSUS GRAMMATICAL WORDS
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Lexical words are like numbers because they
have value, grammatical words are like operators
(+, -, = etc) because these signify relationship
between numbers.
TASK: Hand out a short paragraph of text,
divide the class into two, ask each group to use
highlighters to mark either lexical or
grammatical words. Bring the whole class
together for checking and feedback.
WORDS CAN BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY
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1.
2.
3.
4.
TASK: Ask the students to pick out all the –ing
words in the text and classify them as:
Part of continuous form of the verb (She is
smoking.)
A present participle (He sat in the armchair,
smoking his pipe.)
A present participle acting as an adjective (They
have not discovered the smoking gun.)
A gerund as a subject or object of a verb
(Smoking is now banned in public.)
DISCOVER COMPOUNDS
TASK: match the halves to make compound
nouns.
Credit
license
Cheque
star
Bus
lens
Film
stop
Driving
book
Health
card
Contact
centre
 (credit card, cheque book, bus stop, film star,
driving license, health centre, contact lens)
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DISCOVER COMPOUNDS
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TASK: Match the halves to make compound
adjectives.
Freeze
Ready
Organically
Freshly
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-produced
-baked
-dried
-made
(freeze-dried, ready-made/ready-baked,
organically-produced, freshly-baked/freshlymade)
COMPOUNDS MAKE LARGER UNITS AND
COLLOCATIONS
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TASK: Match these compound adjectives with the
nouns.
Instant coffee / fruit and vegetables / bread and
pastries / frozen meals
Freeze-dried
Ready-made
Organically-produced
Freshly-baked
(freeze-dried instant coffee, ready-made frozen meals,
organically-produced fruit and vegetables, freshlybaked bread and pastries)
TEACH COLLOCATIONS
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1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
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One chance of knowing the answer leads to learning
more collocations.
TASK: Match each verb with the words it collocates
with.
Make / take / give / pay / look
................... attention, a debt, someone a compliment
................... advantage, charge, advice, no notice
................... a point, a mess, a fool of oneself
................... ahead, around, to the future, out
................... advice, notice, someone a lot of trouble
(pay, take, make, look, give)
NEW USES FOR OLD
Explore homophones, homonyms and near
synonyms.
 TASK: Match the dictionary definitions to the
correct words.
Line / stamp / stick
1. ..... small sticky square of paper as proof of
payment (n); hit the ground with your foot (vb);
place an inked seal on a document (vb)
2. ..... an extended horizontal mark on paper (n);
put a lining in a skirt, curtains (vb); a queue (n)
3. ..... make something adhere to something else
with glue (vb); part of a branch of a tree (n)
 (stamp, line, stick)
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DISTINGUISH BETWEEN ADJECTIVES AND
ADVERBS / VERBS AND NOUNS
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1.
2.
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1.
2.
TASK: Ask the students to use the words in
sentences to show different uses.
Alone / deep / direct / extra / late
The late arrivals are quite common. (adj.)
We will not wait for you if you arrive late. (adv.)
TASK: Ask the students to use the words in
sentences to show different uses.
Dance / crash / cut / wish / smell
My boyfriend asked me to the dance. (n)
I will dance with you. (vb)
STICKY BALL
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Write several words you want to review on the
board. Give each word a value, for example 20
points for a difficult one, 12 points for an easier
one.
The students take turns to throw a sticky ball or
a paper ball at the board, and they have to make
a sentence using a word that they hit.
Students win points for correct sentences.
WRITING RACE
Divide the class into two or three teams, each
lined up facing the board.
 Give markers/chalks to the students ahead of
their teams.
 Tell everyone that they will have to write words
of a particular kind (e.g. weekdays, body parts,
colours, animals, personality adjectives, past
simple verbs etc.).
 On your signal, they run to the board, write a
word, pass the marker/chalk to the person behind
them and dash to the back of their team.
 The team with the most different words wins.
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WORD FORMATION
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Complete the end, the beginning or both of a
word in as many ways as possible.
PAT_ _ _
 (patent, patchy, patron)
_ _ _ ST
 (first, yeast, least, trust, roast etc.)
_ _ TT _ _
 (mitten, butter, litter, better, gutter, bitten etc.)
MUSICAL WORDS
Play a piece of music and ask students to move
around in the classroom.
 Pause the music and ask them to work in pairs
with the person nearest them.
 Tell them they have about 30 seconds (longer for
more advanced students) to say in turns as many
words in English as possible in a given category,
e.g. adjectives.
 After 30 seconds, start the music again and ask
them to move around again.
 Then pause it again and tell them another
category, e.g. fruit.
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GROUPING LANGUAGE
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1.
2.
3.
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Make a list of language items you have taught
and ask the students to organise the
words/expressions into groups.
Provide the categories yourself
Say how many groups you want but don’t give
the titles
Allow the students freedom in deciding how to
group the items.
In all cases, the students can discuss their
groupings in pairs or small groups.
VARIOUS LINKS THAT MIGHT COME HANDY
PowerPoint templates, puzzles, games, graded
reading, grammar
www.englishmixsite.com
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Proverbs
www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/proverbs.html
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Tongue twisters
http://thinks.com/words/tonguetwisters.htm
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Short video clips accompanied by worksheets;
click on teaching Ideas
www.garycollins.ch
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Online dictionary, which features definitions,
etymology, visual presentation, pronunciation,
antonyms, synonyms, idioms etc.
http://www.wordnik.com
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Extra listening practice for homework; various
accents of spoken English
http://www.elllo.org
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Multimedia-based environment; opt for Language
lectures and watch short video lessons on grammar,
vocabulary, pronunciation, slang.
http://www.learnerstv.com
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A bank of enjoyable videos/texts that can be turned
into listening tasks or simply enjoyed in class
www.reuters.com/news/oddlyEnough
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Downloadable application for preparing revision
activities, especially with lexical focus
http://www.teachers-pet.org
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SOURCES USED
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Richard Ostick Get your priorities right: vocabulary versus
grammar; www.teachitworld.com; 28.09.12
Maxine Mangat Make it meaningful; ENGLISH TEACHING
professional; Issue 78 January 2012
Isobel Fletcher de Téllez Learning Lexis; ENGLISH TEACHING
professional; Issue 80 May 2012
Alicia Artusi, Gregory Manin The wonder of warmers; ENGLISH
TEACHING professional; Issue 78 January 2012
In defence of the old board; ENGLISH TEACHING professional;
Issue 78 January 2012
Ronaldo Adenilton de Lima; ENGLISH TEACHING professional;
Issue 82 September 2012
Hugh Dellar Regular revision; ENGLISH TEACHING
professional; Issue 82 July 2012

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