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Teaching Vocabulary with Dictionaries: Frameworks, Levels, and Activities

It can be difficult figuring out how to help students improve their English vocabulary once they have become good friends with dictionaries, and have learned to use them as a valuable resource.

In this article, you will find more English vocabulary games, activities and assignments to challenge your students further.

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How To Use A Dictionary In Different Frameworks – Teaching Vocabulary

Fortunately, dictionary use can be paired up with the Communicative Approach and frameworks such as PPP, TBL, and ESA.

When using the PPP (Presentation – Practice – Production) framework, dictionaries can be used as part of the Practice Stage when students work on developing their skills step by step. Provided students already know how to improve English vocabulary with the use of a dictionary, they can complete a number of individual, pair, or group work activities.

In TBL (Task-Based Learning) the use of dictionaries can be part of the Pre-Task or the Main Task, and even the Language Focus stage when the teacher expects the students to analyze the structures and/or the meaning of certain vocabulary words.

The ESA framework (Engage – Study – Activate) is so flexible that dictionaries and different tasks and activities using this resource can be included in any of the stages.

How To Select Dictionaries For Different Levels – Teaching Vocabulary

It is important to bear in mind that each group or level of students will respond differently to different kinds of dictionaries. The list below describes which types of dictionaries go well with each level of students.

–    Beginner students will benefit from any dictionary that has pictures and examples.

–    Lower Intermediate to Intermediate level students should have dictionaries that have simple word definitions and clear examples. For certain words, having a picture available would be very useful for this level as well, even though it is not indispensable.

–    Advanced level students should use regular dictionaries that have not been edited or changed for English language learners, or dictionaries that provide information about proper collocations as well as complete definitions. A thesaurus would also be very helpful for students at this level, as well as information on words that are usually confused or misused.

How to Teach Vocabulary with Activities and Games

One of the best ways to help students develop their vocabulary is the traditional use of fiction. This activity, sometimes called extensive reading, should not be confused with intensive reading, which focuses mostly on the comprehension of the majority of the passage. Extensive reading resembles reading for pleasure; reading to enjoy the story. The teacher might ask the student to focus on one or two new vocabulary words per chapter so as to consciously continue the development of their personal vocabulary. To aid in the development of the students’ vocabulary, it is important to recommend to them that they choose books that are slightly above their comprehension level so that there is a level of challenge present.

Tic-Tac-Toe games with new vocabulary words are very popular among students of all ages. The class can be split into two groups and students can score an X or an O in the spot where a particular word is in the grid if they are able to provide the definition of the word and/or an example using the new word correctly.

Creating a Memo Test game in which half the cards have the new words and the other half have the definitions is a fun way to review and secure the first part of the learning process for vocabulary building. What’s more, it is a game that students can play in pairs or small groups, so it is ideal for bigger classes.

Crossword puzzles are an all-time favourite game to review vocabulary. It is important to try and use examples, and not just definitions, in the ‘hints’ section of the puzzle so that students can develop their knowledge of how to use the words as well as what they mean.

When trying to figure out how to improve English vocabulary, keep in mind that the lesson always has to be enjoyable.

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