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Selecting, adapting and producing activities and materials for developing vocabulary

Principles Of Vocabulary Selection




Cultural factors

Studentrelated factors

Using words that are most frequently used. There is high correlation between frequency and usefulness 3 most well-known word lists:
2000 commonly used word in English compiled by Dr Michael West (1956) The threshold level (1975) contains 1500 words by Council of Europe Birmingham Corpus for second language learning

However, it must be remembered that there are other factors to be considered too
One vocab item may contain many meanings (eg: ring) Learnability of the items (eg: negative words)

A word is more useful if it covers more things than only a specific meaning. E.g.: book more general than textbook or notebook

Consider the contexts in which the words are used. Sometimes we cannot use the same word in different contexts. Eg: tall man, tall building / high man, high building?) Certain contexts also sometimes require the use of specific words (register) Eg: sermon / academic setting / technical areas, etc

Cultural Factors
Language used by native speakers and second language users would be different. Words referring to climate, landscape, food, clothing, customs, etc would vary as different cultures would make their own reference to their local culture. Eg: snow, spring, etc, would not be used much in Malaysia This should be given consideration when selecting words to teach learners. Examine the word lists in the Malaysian curriculum specs are they related to local or specific culture?

Student-related Factors
Learner needs learner might be required to read technical reports, so in need of technical words Levels of learners beginning, intermediate, advanced

Adapting activities
Decide what content or which topics need adapting in light of the reading texts and activities. Activities can relate to any one of the four basic skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. adapt the textbook activities to suit the levels: according to its lexical and structural elements in order to appeal and engage all three levels of students.

Selecting words
Let the students say the words in the matter, not selecting all the words for the students.
let the kids skim the text in chapter one and select their own words

Ask each child to create a chart where he/she writes down words of choice, and rates each one as "know it," "sort of know it," or "don't know it at all." Then, on the same paper, have them write a definition or "my guess on meaning" for the words they know and kind of know (No dictionaries)

Before they turn in these pre-reading charts, be sure to emphasize this is not about "being right" but that they are providing the teacher with information to guide next steps in class vocabulary instruction. Read through them all and use the results as a formative assessment. This data will show us which words they know, those they have some understanding of, and those words that are completely foreign to them.

Ranking words
When considering which words need the most instructional attention, refer to Isabel Beck's practical way of categorizing vocabulary words into three tiers
Tier One: Basic words that rarely require instructional focus (door, house, book) Tier Two: Words that appear with high frequency, across a variety of domains, and are crucial when using mature, academic language (coincidence, reluctant, analysis).

Tier Three: Frequency of these words is quite low and often limited to specific fields of study (isotope, Reconstruction, Buddhism).

students will benefit the most academically by focusing instruction on the tier two words (since these appear with much higher frequency than tier three words). This is when we take a look at the pre-reading vocabulary charts our kids created and choose "kind of" and "don't know at all" words that consider as tier two words. select some content-specific words (tier three) but only those directly related to the chapter, article, short story, or whatever you are about to read.

Teaching words
Robert Marzano suggests six steps: Step one: The teacher explains a new word, going beyond reciting its definition (tap into prior knowledge of students, use imagery). Step two: Students restate or explain the new word in their own words (verbally and/or in writing). Step three: Ask students to create a non-linguistic representation of the word (a picture, or symbolic representation)

Step four: Students engage in activities to deepen their knowledge of the new word (compare words, classify terms). Step five: Students discuss the new word (pair-share, elbow partners). Step six: Students periodically play games to review new vocabulary (crossword, puzzle).

Selecting, Adapting and Producing Activities

Amirah Athirah Binti Mohd Alias

What Does it Take to Teach a Word Well?

Vocabulary should be taught both explicitly and incidentally. Repetition and multiple exposure are important for learning new vocabulary.

Learning how to construct vocabulary from rich (directive) contexts is valuable.

Vocabulary learning tasks should be restructured when necessary. Vocabulary tasks should entail active engagement. Explicit vocabulary instruction should address the use of definitions, context and concept learning.

Effective Methodologies
Listening Carefully
Pronouncing The Words

Methods of Grasping The Meaning

Listening Carefully
A good option in teaching vocabulary in a heterogeneous classroom. "Let the students hear the word in isolation and in a sentence. If the sounds of the word have been mastered, the students will hear it correctly with two or three repetitions." (Robert Lado: 121) Slow pronunciation without distortion will help. Breaking the word into parts and building up to the whole word will also be helpful.

Pronouncing the Word

Enables the students to remember it longer and identify it more readily when they hear or see it.

Methods of Grasping the Meaning

Teacher should try to get the meaning to the class without using translation. Translation may or may not provide the meaning of the word accurately and precisely. It enables the class to go without grasping the meaning of a word that they have learned rather than to depend upon the translation.

Techniques and Activities for Teaching Vocabulary

Visual Techniques

Verbal Techniques

Visual Techniques
Can be used to teach concrete items and vocab based topics like festivals, occupations, etc. E.g. - blackboard drawings, wall charts, photographs, flashcards, maps, mime, signs, real objects or realia Visuals are extremely effective in conveying meanings Visuals are interesting stimuli to generate production of vocab items Gestures, facial expressions and mime can be used too esp. verbs like run, crawl, etc.

Using diagrams
Can be used to explain classification or procedures A labeled diagram can be used to explain words related to a process, etc. Graphs can be used to teach words like increase, decrease, gradual, steep, etc.

Word picture association

Present a picture, elicit words associated with the picture. Use the words as the basis for speaking or writing activity.

Pictures and Drawings

Pictures of many types and colours can be used successfully to show the meaning of words and sentences. Drawings can be used to explain the meaning of things, actions, qualities, and relations.

Real objects or models. They are very effective and meaningful in showing meanings. A teacher must be practical and should not be superfluous in handling the real objects.

Students can easily learn through them. Many situations can be dramatized or demonstrated. Examples
Running Crying Closing the door

Verbal Techniques
Useful when dealing with abstract items of vocabulary. Include both written and oral.

Suitable method for upperbeginners and relies on giving the definition of given word. It can be simple, unnecessary precise and scientific definition, given by the teacher. It can be the definition from the dictionary. This is a good method in mobilization of students to the usage of dictionaries.

Self-defining Context
The context makes the situation clear, and this in turn illuminates the meaning of the new word. This practice saves time and develops an intensive reading habit and better understanding.

Teacher explains the meaning of new word by giving its opposite. e.g. Warm -is not cold. This helps the student to understand the different shades of meanings of a word.

Relies on explanation of meaning of new word by giving other word, which students know and understand, and which means nearly the same . For example: little-small, huge-big etc. Synonyms help to enrich a student's vocabulary bank and provide alternative words instantly.

Writing the Word

It will enable the students to write new words while the memory is still fresh, even if the objective is only to read. Writing or copying the word from the blackboard will give the students a chance to understand the grammatical aspect of the word such as noun, verb, adverb, adjective etc.

Reading the Word

Reading words aloud is also very beneficial. It makes a learner familiar with the word and also improves pronunciations of the learners.

Adapting material

Adaptation is a process which often attracts a great deal of interest, yet remains less used than expected. Making modification to existing materials to suit the needs of learners.

Features of adaptation
Learning objectives Content level Depth of coverage Comprehensiveness of coverage Media used Presentation and style Approach Assessment Terminology Match to organisational culture-must be relevant


Unsuitable material level Too difficult Too long or short Use of grammar or language Explore relevancy Adapt for specific use Adapt to student learning

Unsuitable materials level

Whatever materials we may have or be able to get may not suitable for our learners needs. This means that an adjustment is required before we can may effective use of the materials.

Too difficult
If learners are beginner level, we have to simplify vocabulary or context elements to render passages and listening comprehension segments useable.

Too long or short

Lessons and study sessions are most often time-controlled. An activity for a short classroom practice activity, a longer authentic language piece might need to be excerpted or shortened to make it fit into our lessons context. Shorter piece may need additions eg: activities or discussion

Use of grammar or language

Grammar must be suitable with the students Based to the ability and level of the students


Materials should be contextualised

Contextual to the curriculum they are intended to address. Contextualised to the experiences, realities and first language of the learners. Contextual to topics and themes that provide meaningful, purposeful uses for the target language.

Adding a study guide

does not involve physically modifying the existing material. It can involve a number of relatively complex decisions about the learning strategy and how to use/refer to the existing material.

Adding learning material

may add material in either the same or different media to update or expand content.

Creating a new version

An adaptation often involves taking suitable, but out of date material or altering existing material to meet the needs of your organisation. In text material, this can mean a series of small but important rewrites. In other media it can be difficult to add new material so may mean recreating a new version.

Materials should have appropriate instructions.

Instruction should be clear and effective Correct metalanguage can assist with making instructions more concise and efficient.

Material should link to each other

To develop a progression of skills, understandings and language items. Clearly state the objectives will help ensure that the resultant materials have coherence, and that they clearly progress specific learning goals.

Converting to open learning

In practice, converting existing material usually means regarding the existing material as source material. Open learning materials need to be structured and designed to promote individual learning and this will usually require a complete rewrite or reworking.



X I read all the time Meaning from context
Interesting reading materials Eg: magazine > newspaper

Have dictionary Circle Read word entry

Vocabulary study Index card


Easy to review Words in alphabetical order Easy to carry



Present general word Show use of a word in different context Related exercises



Encourage to listen to the words pronunciation



Easy and big words Interesting pictures



Encourage to participate and review the vocabulary Creative and meaningful



Interesting and realcontext vocabulary