The first thing a child does in his/her Mother Tongue, once he/she has carried out the emission of sound stage, is to say words, isolated words but with meaning.They are connected with the world around him/her and are probably those with which the child has a narrow relationship. According to the increase of his/her perception and knowledge of the reality, his/her vocabulary also increases.
So, in order to establish which vocabulary can have MORE INTEREST for our students´learning, we must take into account the world they live in and the purpose they have when they learn a Foreign Language, with the purpose of being a SIGNIFICANT VOCABULARY for them.
It must be a vocabulary for COMMUNICATION, based on the child or being specially interesting to him/her.
So, vocabulary is an important factor in all language teaching : students must continually be learning words at the same time they learn Grammar and Phonetics.
Presenting new words is only the first step in the process of language learning, and students must remember them and make them part of their own vocabulary. But sometimes it is quite difficult because there are SOME PROBLEMS that do not allow the acquisition process to be easier :
· On the one hand, some of the words taught in Foreign Language lessons occur naturally in sequence : days of the week, numbers, etc… and these series are easily memorized, but the problem arises when students have to use them out of the sequence.
· On the other hand, some similar words or COGNATES facilitate the learning of new words ; some of them are “True cognates”, it is, their meaning is more or less equivalent in both languages (ex., “real” = “real” ), and some of them are “False cognates”, which lead students to confusion (ex., “Actually” means “en realidad”, not “actualmente” ).In the first case they are easy to remember, but in the second case we have to help our students.
· Another problem arises when the words in the Mother Tongue and in the Foreign Language do not cover the same area of meaning. There are words in the Target Language which do not make distinctions that the Foreign Language does (ex., “trip, travel, journey,…”). These distinctions imply that there is a change in the way of viewing reality and, therefore, this change must be learnt too.
In order to remember this vocabulary better, it can be connected in groups which have a common element: a topic, semantic associations, or the formal relations used to form derivations of these words ; when words are associated this way, we call it “SEMANTIC FIELDS” or “WORD FAMILIES”, and when the connectors are the formal relations they form LEXICAL FIELDS.
At the same time we should look for general centres of our students´ interests so that we could choose the most suitable vocabulary for those settings, which could be the following ones :
-Informal conversations with the classmates.
-Descriptions of objects, persons or animals.
-Children´s stories, etc…
So, OUR MAIN TASK is to provide our pupils with a series of resources that help them to have independence when they have to communicate in a Foreign Language.The use of these resources will make their vocabulary, more or less limited, be increased in a way that does not require a lot of effort.
The first step consists of making our students be aware of that in English there is the same possibility as in their Mother Tongue to form new words by means of the following TECHNIQUES :
It is a process in which an item is adapted or converted to a new word-class without the addition of a suffix.
The most common are the following :
a) Verb to noun conversion. Ex., “to love” —> “love”
b) Adjective to noun conversion. Ex., “a daily newspaper” —> “a daily”
c) Noun to verb conversion. Ex., “bottle” —> “to bottle”
d) Adjective to verb conversion. Ex., “a brick garage” —> “thegarage is brick”.
In this group we include :
a.) PREFIXES, which do not generally alter the word-class of the base.Examples :
1. Negative prefixes :“un-“ ,“in-“ ,“il(l)-“ ,…
Ex., unfair, inhuman, illogical.
2. Prefixes of Degree/Size :“super-“, “under-“,…
Ex., superman, undercook.
3. Pejorative prefixes :“mal-“ , “pseudo-“,…
Ex., pseudoscientific, maltreat.
4. Number prefixes :“uni-“ , “bi-“ , …
Ex., unisex, bicycle.
5. Prefixes of Time/Order :“pre-“, “post-“, “ex-“,…
Ex., pre-war, ex-president.
6. Prefixes of Attitude :“co-“,“anti-“,…
Ex., co-education, anti-war.
7. Locative prefixes :“sub-“ , “inter-“,…
Ex., subway, interplay.
b.)SUFFIXES, which frequently alter the word-class of the base. Examples :
1. Verb to noun suffixes :“-er” , “-ing”,…
Ex., driver, painting.
2. Adjective to noun suffixes :“-ness”, “-ity”,…
Ex., happiness, diversity.
3. Noun to adjective suffixes :“-ist”, “-y”,…
4. Noun to noun suffixes :“-hood” , “-ship”,…
Ex., boyhood, friendship.
5. Adjective suffixes. There are some adjective suffixes for which it is impossible to specify a particular meaning, that is, their semantic functions are extremely varied.Ex., “-ive”, “-able”, “-al”, etc…, such as in “explosive, criminal or acceptable”.
A compound is a unit consisting of 2 or more bases.
Ortographically, compounds are written :
b.) SOLID : in 1 word.Ex., “bedroom”, ”headache”, “hangman”,…
c.) HYPHENATED : Ex., “tax-free”, “sister-in-law”,…
d.) OPEN : Ex., “reading material”, “television screen”, “navy blue”,…
Phonologically, they have got a MAIN STRESS on the first elementandaSECONDARYSTRESSonthesecondone.
Ex., ´bed,room .
Semantically, they can be seen to be isolated from ordinary syntactic constructions by having a meaning which may be related to but cannot simply be inferred from the meaning of its parts.
Compounds may be :
1.- Reduplicative , which are compounds with 2 or more elements that are identical or only slightly different, such as “knock-knock”, “tick-tock”,…
2.- Clipping , which implies the substraction of 1 or more syllables from a word, which is also available in its full form,such as “phone” (telephone), “exam” (examination), “ad” (advertisement), …
3.- Blend , in which, at least, 1 of the elements is fragmentary when compared to its corresponding word for, such as “Interpol” (International Police), Eurovision (European Television), …
4.- Acronyms , which are words formed from the initial letters of words that make up a descriptive or a proper name, such as “FBI” (Federal Bureau of Investigation), UFO (Unidentified Flying Object), …
Up till now we have made reference to word-formation, which is going to be useful for our students in order to establish relationships between new words and the previous known ones.
*At Primary School we know the vocabulary presented to our students must be related to their necessities and world around them such as the family, animals, toys, etc…and we also know we must provide them with the Linguistic and Non-linguistic strategies to favour the INTERACTION WITH THE OTHERS through, for example :
–simple greetings : “Good morning. How are you?”,…
–social English : “Have a nice weekend”,…
–asking for permission : “Can I go to the toilet, please?”,…
–communicative strategies : “Sorry, I don´t understand”,…
So, it is a very important point for us to bear in mindthat we have to help children relate the new vocabulary and expressions they are learning in the foreign language to their lives, it is, they must realize that if they are learning, for instance, the members of the family, it is going to be useful for them to get information about their classmates´ families and vice versa too; we mean that new words are learnt, not only to do the activities in the book or to pass a test, but to favour their SOCIALIZATION, to know their classmates better, and to exchange INFORMATION about their feelings, needs, interests, lives, etc… So it is very important the GROUP WORK in the English class.
But, as well as these FEATURES, when teaching new vocabulary, we have also to take into account :
a. The students´ needs. It is very useful to study in depth which are the most common fields that the children would like to deal with in class. These fields will depend very much on the students´ age, social background, interests and hobbies, etc…
b. The frequence of the item, because it is not very useful to keep on teaching new words which are NOT frequently used.
c. The time we have at our disposal to teach new vocabulary.
d. The students´ conditions to learn new words, such as phonological problems, difficulties for memorizing, etc…
e. The lack of materials such as dictionaries, TV, flashcards,…
f. And the Receptive and Productive Vocabulary. The first kind comprises the words students recognize but which are not mostly used; the second type are the words which are mostly used by them. For example, the Receptive vocabulary is “pullover and sweater” and the Productive one could be only“jumper”.
We know that just telling the students the expressions and mechanisms of the Foreign Language does NOT make them learn. Whenever we do an activity for pupils to learn certain vocabulary we must try, in the first place, that this vocabulary is presented in REAL SITUATIONAL or LINGUISTIC SETTING that let them guess the meaning; on the other hand, new words and expressions must be always presented in an ORAL WAY to avoid pupils getting wrong conclusions about their pronunciation when they see the written form.
After this, students must try to use the new items productively, that is, to insert the words in a context they think suitable to use it. This is the best way to make them understand all the different meanings that the new words have, since they always relate the meaning of these items in the Foreign Language with the possible meanings that these words may have in their Mother Tongue.
The classroom is where the most of the students´ interactions take place, and we know these communicative exchanges are not always spontaneous, it is, they are started, guided and controlled by the teacher, and the main reason could be that pupils do not receive from the very beginning of the Teaching and Learning process the necessary linguistic and non-linguistic strategies or resources to do that on their own.
*There are many different methods to teach vocabulary. They depend… :
-on the one hand, on the linguistic level that the students already have.
-and, on the other hand, on the type of items we want to teach them.
But, in broad outlines, some of the TECHNIQUES or ACTIVITIES we can present to children in order to help them develop their autonomous learning of lexicon little by little could be the following ones :
1. In order to INTRODUCE new vocabulary :
A. Using objects, because as much of the vocabulary at this educative stage consists of concrete nouns, so introducing a new word by showing the real object often helps them memorize it better.
B. Using flashcards or transparencies with the picture and the written form of the new item.
C. Drawings, that is, objects can be drawn on the blackboard or in their notebooks.
D. Mime, gestures,…may be used for certain descriptive adjectives, prepositions of place, action verbs, etc…
E. Songs are another way of introducing new vocabulary. There is a great variety of them we may use in class with this purpose :
-Songs that deal with certain topics: the colours, the family, etc…
-Songs to move their bodies.
-Songs to work rhythm, stress and intonation.
-Songs to repeat a certain structure.
F. Synonyms and Antonyms, what let pupils associate the new word with a concept they already know.
G. Guessing the meaning from context. This meaning can be obtained by means of the relation with the pictures, the orthographic or pronunciation similarities with their mother tongue.
H. Names of categories can also be taught verbally if the students know some names of items that belong within a particular category. Ex., “Tennis/Football/Baseball/Basketball/… is a sport”
J. Translation, if none of those techniques works. The use or the avoidance of the Mother Tongue is a matter that must be decided by each individual teacher according to his/her group´s characteristics: some students at the elementary levels feel more comfortable when they mentally relate the new words with a native equivalent, but other students like to discover the meaning of the new items that have been explained without the resource of the Native Language and they feel very proud of their discovery.
In any case, it must be minimized in the classroom.
2.Once we have presented the vocabulary, the following step is to give the students the opportunity to PRACTISE it in suitable real contexts within the classroom. Some of the techniques we may use are the following :
A. Games, such as :
-“Kim´s game” .
-“Dominoes” or “Bingo”.
-Memory games, such as:
.“Chinese Whisper” (the Spanish “Juego del Teléfono”).
.“I went to the market” (in which a child starts saying, “I went to the market and I bought potatoes”, then the next student adds a word and says, “I went to the market and I bought potatoes and tomatoes”, and so on).
B. Matching words to pictures.
C. Making handicrafts, slides, puppets, etc… related to the new vocabulary worked out in the class.
D. Colour coding is another technique which help students to associate the new concepts that they are learning to what they already know, so it is easier for them to remember new words. For instance, we may associate the “yellow” colour with nouns, the “red” colour with verbs, and so on using coloured discs, or coloured symbols, etc…
E. Labelling pictures with the right word.
F. Picture dictation, in which the teacher gives instructions focusing on specific vocabulary. Ex., “Draw a red table/pencil/cat…”.
G. Ordering a text, in which we have a text and we cut it into stripes; then we hand them out to pupils for making the text up.
3.Many children learn new words relatively quickly, but they also forget them quickly. Once vocabulary has been introduced and practised, some techniques may be used to CONSOLIDATE and REVISE it, such as :
A. Picture dictionaries/Vocabulary books created by the own student.
We can organize these alphabetically or by topics. It is useful to use a ring-folder so they can add new pages when necessary. Pupils collect or draw pictures to illustrate the meaning of a word and write the name below.
B. Collages or Posters, in which students collect pictures or photos around a topic, then they stick them on to a large sheet of cardpaper and write their names. These posters or collages are an element to remember the vocabulary that has been learnt and, at the same time, they can be used to decorate the classroom walls.
C. Word families/sets with pictures coloured and labelled. They are kept into envelopes which can be labelled too, for example, “Clothes” , “Fruit”, etc… and may be used, from time to time, as games to revise it.
D. Games, such as “Pictionary”, etc…
*We could conclude that, starting from our class´ characteristics, we will select which vocabulary and which of the previous techniques explained are the most suitable and useful.
The use of varied resources and materials will encourage children and will make the English lessons be more effective and pleasant, which is very important if we want to create a suitable atmosphere in the class and to develop our students´ motivation.