7 scientifically proven methods for teaching vocabulary

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For a long time, it was believed that vocabulary should be acquired only while being involved in any language activities without any specific intention to focus on vocabulary; While activities such as listening to the radio, watching movies, extensive reading, or joining conversations will definitely add to your vocabulary knowledge, they’re not the only solutions. Some experts believe that explicit learning and teaching vocabulary is needed to fill the gap in vocabulary size between native speakers and second or foreign language learners. They state that incidental vocabulary learning is not enough for building a considerable vocabulary within a short period of time; So, as an English teacher, you should have a plan for implementing direct strategies for teaching vocabulary. Nowadays there are lots of tested and approved methods for teaching and learning vocabulary. The only thing you need to do is research more in the field of vocabulary learning and apply some in your classroom activities. This post can be a good starting point for you.

1. Join online specialized courses for vocabulary teaching

The internet is now bustling with countless online courses that offer several benefits; You can take advantage of some specialized courses designed for teaching methods and techniques for effective vocabulary learning. WordUp Certified Coach program is designed by professionals to make you familiar with the newest methods in the field of vocabulary learning and teaching; Any established teacher from all over the world can join this program; This program starts with an online course covering the methods for effective vocabulary teaching and learning; After passing the course successfully, teachers will be granted certification and entitled to some benefits and even income opportunities.

WordUp App in
 action

2. Spaced practice in teaching vocabulary

I bet you all agree that practice makes perfect, but scholars found that our memory system works better with some specific patterns in reviewing what is learned. Spaced repetition is a method of reviewing information at systematic intervals. At the beginning of the learning process, the information is reviewed at close intervals (in hours after learning), then the intervals become systematically longer. (3 days, one week, 2 weeks, etc.). Spaced repetition involves the active recall of information once in a while to ensure it’s not forgotten yet. The best spaced learning algorithms are the ones where the learned information is reviewed at the moment in time just when they are about to be forgotten.

You can apply the spaced practice in your vocabulary teaching activities and review the words in a more efficient time schedule.

spaced repetition effect in teaching vocabulary

3. Dual coding method 

This theory originally was developed to account for the effect of verbal vs non-verbal entities on memory. Dual Coding Theory supposes that human cognition involves the interplay of two independent and distinct subsystems: Verbal and non-verbal systems. The verbal system deals with representing and processing language in all its forms and the nonverbal (imagery) system specializes in dealing with the representation and processing of nonverbal objects, events, and situations. 

Dual Coding Theory has been directly applied to language learning; It explains the powerful effects of images on the memory and mind. The interaction of two coding systems (verbal and visual) results in better recall of information. In this theory, concreteness and context are the main factors in vocabulary learning and pictures have value in providing cues to word identity. Sufficient contextual information such as videos, images, and audio will help learners sort the information in visual representations for each word. So, using both verbal contexts and imagery in the direct learning of vocabulary definitions can be a highly effective combination.

dual coding for teaching vocabulary

4. Teaching based on Bloom’s model

According to Bloom (Bloom’s taxonomy, the revised version,2001),  generally speaking, “learning’ ” takes place in a multi-step and gradual thinking process. Bloom’s taxonomy can be applied in a wide range including vocabulary learning because it’s all about “learning”. The first step in this hierarchy is the ability to memorize words and phrases; After you make sure that your students can remember the words you’ve already taught in the class, the next step is asking them to use the words in their writing or speaking activities. In the third step, analyzing the word parts and showing the relationship between different words will make it much easier for them to learn new words. The next level involves helping students in choosing the most suitable words for writing or speaking based on different contexts; Using the words creatively is the highest level at which words are acquired successfully and will be consolidated in their brains forever!

bloom's model

5. Word-questioning diagrams 

You can provide word questioning graphics to teach the words which will help learners to learn vocabulary by defining, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, and finally by application.

word questioning

6. Teaching the most frequent words

Frequency lists are lists of the most common words in every language gathered from actual data (language corpora) of the language. Knowing what words to teach in the class is of utmost importance; Scholars such as  Dr. Isabel Beck, Dr. Margaret McKeown, and Dr. Linda Kucan (2002) proposed a tiered model for teaching vocabulary in which words are organized into 3 layers based on their frequency, complexity, and meaning. Tier 1 consists of high-frequency words used repeatedly in general conversation; These words are learned first because they’re related to our immediate and everyday lives and there’s no need to put so much effort into teaching them. Tier 2 words (or academic vocabulary) are the ones appearing frequently in a lot of content areas; These words are the best candidates for being taught in general English classrooms; As these words usually have more than one meaning, they should be the focus of most classroom activities. The third tier consists of low-frequency words occurring in specific contexts; These words are subject-specific words learned when needed and the subject of teaching English for professionals (words related to technology, scientific fields, weather, geographic regions, etc)

7. Using technologies

 Nowadays technological innovations made it easier to put all the theoretical learning models into use. English learning applications such as WordUp are designed based on these learning methods; Your students can access frequency lists by using this application and learn the words they need most. WordUp review method which is based on spaced repetition can help them memorize the words for life! Also, WordUp uses lots of images and videos to enhance the dual coding of the words in the brain. It keeps track of students’ progress and demonstrates the gaps in their knowledge; In a nutshell, WordUp is the best companion for your students and the best complementary tool aiding teachers in their teaching activities.

wordup for teaching english

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