ESL: Learning and Teaching New Words


Teachers have their own styles as to how students could adapt to the lessons.

As an ESL teacher to some foreign students of different native tongues, I just would recall how I learned English as my second language.

Usually, my teachers asked me to write sentences using new words and idioms. We checked them in the class. My classmates edited the sentences, and only asked the teacher if there was an ambiguity. That was in high school. In college though, it was fast (it depends upon the course). Most lessons were review of Basic English. After college/university graduation, I had to read more to become a writer (my course was not related to writing). I have to learn again (on my own), and study English in bulk and in tons.

When I started teaching ESL to foreign students (as to level), I tried to make them most familiar with common words. Some new learners of English used difficult and unfamiliar words. This will not be very helpful. Before anybody could use a difficult word, he/she must learn the common substitute for it.

A dictionary would be the easiest to use. However, if Thesaurus would be used the student must be careful as to how to get the correct word for every sentence. Words in the Thesaurus have special meanings.

The student’s electronic dictionaries are helpful, but incomplete. These gadgets are good as quick reference only, but not for serious vocabulary study. To learn ESL better, Basic English words must be known by heart.

I use at least two Basic Grammar books for comparison and several other English books that relate to the lessons (aside from the prescribed books and textbooks). Moreover, a teacher’s pious preparation for the lesson is needed (from various sources including the World Wide Web).

Here’s what I do: (Tips)

1. I let the student find 10 words from a short article or any story.
2. Students must be able to find the meaning of these words. We discuss about every word and how it relates to life, to culture, to movies, to fashion, and food, as examples.
3. Students use each word in a sentence. This can be a class activity or as homework.
4. The teacher, or another classmate, or the student himself/herself can check the sentences. A sentence example is given by the teacher for each word.
5. Use/include the new words learned in paragraph writing, class conversation, or substitute in sample dialogue or group activities.
6. Try to memorize at least two words (if not 10 or five words a day), to increase the vocabulary bank.

Hope this would help and be fun. Happy teaching! Happy learning! Become a word wizard!

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