“Children, copy these 30 words from the blackboard and write them down 10 times each for homework. We’ll have a dictation test tomorrow and you will have to rewrite each word 10 times again if you score less than 10!” Sounds familiar? This might remind you of the typical Indian method of ‘teaching’ new words to students between classes II and IV. This method might successfully get you through the test; however, in the long run such passive learning and ‘mugging up’ methods are not of much use.
Vocabulary building is an integral component of the learning system and hence such mundane class assignments need to be modified and put across in a different manner. School education essentially aims to form the basis for higher education and our future professions. Irrespective of the field or career, vocabulary development plays a key role as it inculcates the habit of understanding a concept and putting it across in one’s own words without depending on the typical ratta-maro style prevalent among most students. This reminds me of the famous American educator, Johnson O’Connor who rightly termed vocabulary as the ‘tools of our thought’ and so he proposed, “Your learning speed and efficient vocabulary determines your ability for effective communication with your peers.”
So forget the traditional English vocabulary class and pick up these fun ways of teaching and learning new words. I list five simple and practical classroom ideas that will enable both teachers and students to approach vocabulary building in a systematic and effective way. Classroom games are amazingly rewarding and a prize as small as a chocolate, a pen, or a bookmark can work wonders!
Making sense of words
Learning and remembering becomes a simplified task if we can link a word to its etymology, i.e., the source or origin of the word. This method includes splitting up of a word to understand its meaning and then make sense of the word as a whole.
Teacher’s preparation: Make a list of relevant words which can be easily remembered by the etymology-based approach.
Classroom fun activity: Divide the class into groups and turn by turn provide them with a long/complicated word which can be split for better understanding.
The author is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Biotechnology, Savitribai Phule Pune University (Formerly the University of Pune), Pune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.