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Ways to Present New Vocabulary to Learners

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Penny Ur presents a few ways for teachers to present new vocabulary to learners, such as:

  • “concise definition (as in a dictionary; often a superordinate with qualifications)
  • detailed description (of appearance, qualities)
  • examples (hyponyms)
  • illustration (picture, object)
  • demonstration (acting, mime)
  • context (story or sentence in which the item occurs)
  • synonyms
  • opposite(s) (antonyms)
  • translation
  • associated ideas, collocations.

The vocabulary and topics suggested as means for improving vocabulary in learners and give topics for English discussions, and that a good course book should contain, may refer to aspects of the language itself or other subjects, literature of the targeted language or universal, culture of the targeted language or universal, moral, political, financial, educational problems or trivial content and the learners themselves. Discussions may tackle values, social, political or sexual orientation, age, religion, classicism, aspects of history, modern pop culture or taboos.

In focusing on vocabulary , Jane Willis suggests a few tips: draw pictures, diagrams, maps, use a model, bring maps, charts, graphs, take students out of the classroom, explain simply, mime, act, bring the real thing into the classroom, write in figures, use symbols, demonstrate, give a context and let students guess, provide synonyms, antonyms, lexical sets, translate into the native language, pre-teach key vocabulary before introducing a text, exemplify in English and allow students to infer or guess the meaning.

When teaching medium or advanced language level students, discussing different topics are linked to new vocabulary. Penny Ur also suggests some ideas for presenting new topics or situations, such as:

  • Write the name of the topic in the middle of the board and invite the class to brainstorm all the associated words they can think of.
  • Write the name of the topic in the middle of the board and ask the class what they know about it and/or what they would like to know.
  • Describe a communicative situation and characters and invite the class to suggest orally what the characters will say.
  • Give the title of a text and invite the class to write down sentences or expressions they expect will occur within it.
  • Define briefly the opening event and characters in a communicative situation and ask the class to imagine what will happen next.
  • Present a recorded dialogue and ask the class to tell you where they think it is taking place and who the characters are.
  • Present a text and ask for an appropriate title.
  • Express your own, or someone else’s, opinions about a topic and invite discussion.
  • Teach a selection of words and expressions and ask the class what they think the situation or topic is.

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Ways to Present New Vocabulary to Learners. (2019, March 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 3, 2021, from
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