A week ago I promised a blog on this topic… A week ago I was more than a little ambitious. Ha! Things have really exploded with springtime activity both in my professional and personal life, so I’m just now getting around to this.
The vocabulary exercises I learned at TESOL 2015 are still blowing my mind. The presentation was the most delightful one I attended at the conference a month ago, and now that I’ve marinated on the methods for awhile I’m finding ways to incorporate them into my upper level ESL classes.
Laurel Pollard‘s vocabulary presentation inspired me to find ways to make words more accessible to my students. I have often struggled to teach vocabulary building because I find the students are bored and the lessons are boring too. So my goal was to teach it in an interesting way that would provide a lasting effect on their lexicon.
I gave my students reading assignments as usual, but in the list of links I included “45 ways to avoid using the word ‘very.’” They loved it! They came to class prepared to talk about the important of choosing the right word for the right situation. They had questions about whether or not people actually say these words aloud or if they just write them (a fantastic question that gets into social and class politics, on some level).
I came to class ready to help them get personal with these words. Whether or not they had seen them before, they practiced getting familiar with the meaning and usage. I gave each student a sheet with a grid for all 45 words. The directions were to write the new word at the top, and “very” word at the bottom, draw a small picture that would help them remember the word, and write a sentence using the word.
They left class with lots of laughs while drawing pictures of ferocious lions, ravenous dogs, and terrifying ghosts. They also left knowing that the following week (last Monday) they would have a vocabulary quiz.
They loved the game format. They worked in pairs to come up with the correct words (answering in the form of a question and under a time crunch!). It was delightful to hear them conjure the terms–”Oh, I know this one! I drew a picture of a witch’s hat!” (villainous) “I remember my sentence was about the winter weather here!” (freezing)
I was astonished to watch the recall taking place before my eyes as they played the game. They were so competitive! I’m delighted with the lesson and so were they. I’m planning to repeat this for other classes and vary it to expand the kinds of words I can include in the gameplay. Making it fun has already helped the students with recall because the new papers I’m grading have nary a “very” in them.