10 proven ways to teach vocabulary to ESL learners

Teaching new vocabulary in ESL is super important for helping students grow their language skills.

You see, words are like tools that help share our thoughts, ideas, and feelings about who we are and how we see the world around us.

As educators, just giving out lists of words to remember isn’t the best way to help students learn; they forget them and it gets boring.

Sometimes, if students take longer to learn, have trouble reading, or don’t come across new words often, it can slow down how much they learn.

Getting better at using lots of words is something that takes a long time. It’s essential for students to know how to learn new words, so they don’t feel alone if they’re having a hard time getting better at using more words.

How to teach vocabulary to ESL students?

When we teach new words to students learning English, we should start by figuring out what it means when we say students “understand” a word.

Teaching vocabulary to ESL students requires a method that aims to improve both their comprehension and communication skills.

So, what’s the top plan to help students get better at words? This is a big question that comes up a lot, and it might be a bit tricky sometimes.

Vocabulary learning happens in three main steps:

1. Acquisition

It starts with students encountering new words within the context of real-life situations, utilizing visual aids to facilitate comprehension.

Incorporating a diverse range of resources such as books, videos, and interactive applications is beneficial as it caters for various learning styles.

This type of learning can happen during lessons or in everyday situations.

2. Memorization

After discovering a new word, students work on remembering it really well. This means spending time with the word and creating strong connections in their brain.

An effective technique involves grouping related words together, which helps expand vocabulary more efficiently.

Employing spaced repetition techniques further reinforces memory and understanding over time.

3. Retention

To make sure the words stay in their memory for a long time, students need to practice them over and over again.

The more they practice, especially with some time in between, the better they’ll remember the words.

Quick Tips

To enhance vocabulary retention, students can create personalized vocabulary notebooks where they record new words, meanings, and example sentences.

Regular review of these notebooks contributes to the reinforcement of learning. Integrating words into meaningful sentences demonstrates proper usage and encourages practical incorporation.

Lastly, it’s important to maintain patience and offering positive reinforcement are crucial, recognizing that steady progress is key to mastering a new vocabulary.

What Is the most effective way to teach vocabulary?

The most effective approach to teach vocabulary to ESL students involves a balanced combination of strategies.

Implementing active learning methods such as games, flashcards, and group discussions helps with the process. More can be done by connecting words to images or experiences.

Regular reading and exposure to diverse content can and should be encouraged to expand vocabulary organically.

It’s also important to do consistent practice through writing exercises, speaking tasks, and incorporating new words in daily conversations solidifies their acquisition.

Vocabulary activities for your classroom

As educators, there are lots of exciting things we can do in class to make vocabulary learning more interesting.

Firstly, we can use flashcards with words and pictures together. This helps to remember words better because we see the pictures and the words simultaneously.

We can also play games like Scrabble or Hangman to make learning words feel like a game and even have a little competition amongst students.

Similarly, there are interactive applications and mobile games requiring you to connect words that are similar in meaning to help your brain remember them better.

Another game that can be played is Vocabulary Bingo. It’s a game where learners listen carefully to the words and try to find them on bingo cards.

Using words that are meant to be taught to students can also be included in a story. This makes it easier to understand and remember the words.

By using all these different ways to learn words, we can help learners feel included and happy.

10 fun ways to teach vocabulary words in your classroom

Teaching new words in exciting and enjoyable ways can really boost the learning experience for your students.

Here are 10 clever ideas you can try in your classroom for maximum attentiveness and participation!

 1) Guess the action  

Split students into teams and let them show vocabulary words through actions, no talking allowed. This makes learning active and sparks their creative thinking.

 2) Vocabulary bingo 

Make bingo cards with different words. Say meanings or similar words, and students mark the words on their cards. The first to finish a line or full card shouts “Bingo!”

 3) Artistic words 

Request students to pick a word and craft a picture of it using art materials. This links images with words, which helps them remember better.

 4) Draw it out 

Like charades, but students draw the word on the board while others guess. This adds a creative touch to learning.

 5) Word hunt adventure 

Hide words around the classroom or school, and offer clues to find them. This makes learning words a moving activity.

 6) Magic word wall 

Make a wall with magnetic words. Students can move and sort the words based on meaning or how they’re used.

 7) Story link 

Begin a story with a sentence containing a word. Each student adds to the story using another word. This builds a teamwork-based collaboration.

 8) Vocabulary beat 

Let students choose a song and replace words with word synonyms or definitions. Then they perform their “word song” in front of the class.

 9) Word puzzles 

Create puzzles with words and meanings. Students put them together while discussing what the words mean.

 10) Word diary 

Give students a journal to write new words. They can define, find similar and opposite words, and use the words in sentences.

Final thoughts

In the exciting world of teaching English to people learning a new language, it’s super important to help them learn lots of words.

When learners understand the meanings of important words before they start learning about new things, it helps them remember stuff better, motivating them to learn more.

Educators use different ways to help ESL learners understand the language better. They also use different activities and games to promote vocabulary learning.

If you want to learn more cool ideas as an educator and make your English teaching journey even more fun, head over to our EDU Blog today.

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