Teaching Vocabulary to Primary Students

Autor: prof. Sîrbu Antoneta
Școala Gimnazială “ I. Gr. Teodorescu” Ruseni, Borlești

Teaching vocabulary to the primary students is a challenging task for educators. Their mission is to design the most effective long-term strategies and methods to reach the second language learning goal that is the increase of vocabulary. A good vocabulary has as a goal to produce and practise new words in ways that help the learner to hold information for a long period of time so that it can be easily remembered and used in the future. The “ingredients” of a good vocabulary work include:
•Good presentation of material. The language to be taught should be presented in such a way that learners could remember the work by means of contextualization.
•Engagement. Students should be engaged in the process of conveying. This method involves many techniques such as the use of pictures or contextual stories.
•Diagnosis. The teacher’s mission is to elicit from a context what it is known by the students before giving them the meaning of the new language. It is important for the teacher to assume that learners know nothing of the meaning.
• Accuracy. Learners become confident if the material presented is accurate and they can use the language easily. The teacher should teach the meaning which is needed in the lesson even though words have more than one meaning.
•Confirmation of understanding. After they have their knowledge checked, learners have the possibility to practise the language in meaningful examples and test their own hypothesis by asking questions such as: “Can I say it this way? “
Through these diagnostic tasks, they have the chance to test how to use the language and help the teacher to check their knowledge.
•Full Coverage. When teaching new vocabulary, the teacher should take into account not only the word presented in context but also its form and how it is pronounced.
There are several possibilities of introducing a new vocabulary into the lesson: during the introductory conversation, during the proper work with the text under study. My students mostly like warm-up games and I often use them to introduce the vocabulary that it is going to be achieved.
When the new vocabulary is introduced during the introductory conversation, the teacher has the role of selecting those words that should be acquired by students in an active manner; each uttered sentence should include only one word with a definite meaning in a given context which needs to be simple and natural. The teacher tells a sentence related to the text and explains the new word by means of a technique of word interpretation.
This implies ostensive way of teaching such as: demonstration ( by showing an object or a cutout figure), using realia( different objects brought into the classroom), using pictures ( photographs, blackboard drawings, illustrations from magazines or newspapers) or pictograms( the teacher draws the word to represent its meaning).
Using flashcards, handouts, OHP, CD-player also are effective means to learn new words and keep their attention. My students love miming activities (by gestures or by performing actions). They find them enjoyable, funny, and they are always happy when I put them in our lessons. They have proved to be extremely effective with the students who have a low interest in learning vocabulary words. This makes them more confident in learning English, and I have noticed that it brought a gradual progress to them. They do not feel insecure about speaking English, and they no longer feel it is boring to learn vocabulary.