Job interview question: How do you present a new word to class?


New Words

There are a number of ways of introducing a new word to the class.

Most often I think of a rich context when the word can be used and describe it to the students, or give them example sentences to clarify the meanings further.

I also use an illustration. It is very useful for more specific words, such as hand, eyes, fingers, house, flag, etc. It is an effective teaching method for visual learners. Demonstrating all items is impossible. Therefore, this method has its limits. 

Giving synonyms or antonyms can be effective, particularly in an intermediate or higher level. 

Mime lends itself particularly well to action verbs, and it can be fun and memorable.
Providing definitions is another good way of introducing new vocabulary. It is important to ask a question to make sure that the students understood it.

Although translation does not help all the time, there are cases when it is very effective. We should always keep in mind that not every word has a direct translation.

In general, I always consider the fact that there are two main categories of words usually presented or taught in a language classroom: incidental, i.e. unfamiliar vocabulary from discussions, presentations, books or journals, and intentional, i.e. carefully pre-selected vocabulary by the teacher. 

Decisions, how to present words efficiently, include the number of words to be taught, whether we are presenting form and meaning, and whether we focus on in written or spoken form. 

In deciding on the number of intentional words to be taught we should take into account the following issues: learners’ level, the degree of difficulty for particular students, and whether the phrase we are preparing to teach is for production, i.e. speaking and writing, or recognition, i.e. listening and reading.

Students need to learn both the meaning and form. Therefore, I present these two aspects in close conjunction so that the students will be able to build connections between those two. 

Pictures, mimes, signs, and symbols are another effective teaching technique. It can be used for demonstrating the meaning, but we can apply it when we select illustratable words. The limitation is that not all words can be visually displayed. So this method should be planned in advance.

Giving full definitions, synonyms, and antonyms, providing example situations, several example sentences or subject terms. In using these techniques, it is important to keep the definitions simple and with the learners’ current range. It may take longer to convey meaning, but it is worth doing that: the students are exposed to extra speaking and listening practice and have an opportunity to get a deeper insight into the meaning of the word. In using situations, the instructor can share their own or their students’ experiences. For example, they can provide a variety of situations to induce the meaning. In the case of the latter, the advantages are that students encounter the new words a few times in various contexts which increase the chances of better retention, getting a feel of different applications and grammatical forms. A variant to full definition approach is to present a layered definition, i.e. the one that is fragmented into several short statements, each one including the target word. In this way, the learners hear the target word not only in context, but they also have an opportunity to use it.

I use lots of different activities to help my students learn and practice new words. These activities make vocabulary learning more exciting, as merely memorizing new words is a very tedious process. There are many exciting vocabulary learning games such as spelling bee competitions, different word matching games, sight words learning games, and flash cards for reading and spelling success. I sometimes use www.freerice.comthe website that was designed by the United Nations Organization.

I introduce new vocabulary by displaying the words and phrases on the PowerPoint and asking the students to read them aloud together. It gives the students practice speaking the words verbally and pronouncing them correctly. Knowing how to pronounce new words is just as significant as knowing how to use them in a sentence.

We should always keep in mind that there are four types of vocabulary usage: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Listening means that the students acquire vocabulary recognition skills, in the process of listening. Speaking means using words in related speech. Reading means recognizing words in the process of reading, and writing - using words in writing, i.e. understanding their meanings, knowing how to spell them, etc.


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