1. The importance of a good vocabulary.
1.1 In speaking
1.2 In reading
1.3 In learning
1.4 In thinking
2. A brief introduction to the problems we have in our vocabulary teaching and learning in
senior middle school.
2.1 Students‟ problems in vocabulary learning.
2.2 Teachers‟ neglect in vocabulary teaching.
3. The effective ways of vocabulary teaching and learning.
3.1 Make students become interested in words.
3.1.1 The ways of arousing students‟ interests.
3.1.2 How to use those ways to teach words.
3.2 Teach not only the vocabulary itself but also more information of words.
3.2.1 Teach the history of words.
3.2.2 Use context to teach words.
3.3 Make students be dictionary-minded.
3.3.1 Teach students how to choose a good and useful dictionary.
3.3.2 Teach students how to use dictionary as a good tool.
3.4 Make students know word prefixes and roots.
3.4.1 The importance of learning prefixes and roots.
3.5 Make students use the words they have learnt before as often as possible.
3.5.1 Make sentences.
3.5.2 Write compositions.
3.5.3 Communicate with others.
It is said that vocabulary is a very important tool for English learners with which they communicate. However, nowadays, more and more teachers and students especially in senior middle school think that vocabulary is very difficult and boring for teaching and learning, so they don‟t think highly of it and only spend less time and energy in vocabulary teaching and learning. Actually, according to the “Curriculum Standard for English Teaching and Learning in Senior Middle School “ by Education Department, vocabulary teaching is not
becoming less important but more and more essential. In this case, how to treat this problem (Neglect of vocabulary teaching and learning), and how to solve it, is no doubt a vital task for English teachers. This paper want to show people the importance of vocabulary teaching and learning, the situation of vocabulary teaching and learning in today‟s China, and the way how to improve it. First, to show people the importance of a good vocabulary in speaking, reading, learning and thinking. Second, give a brief introduction to the problems
we have in our vocabulary teaching and learning in senior middle school. That is students‟ problems in vocabulary learning, and teachers‟ neglect in vocabulary teaching. Then, give
the effective ways of vocabulary teaching and learning, such as: make students become interested in words, teach not only the vocabulary itself but also teach the history of words, and use context to teach words, teach students how to choose a good dictionary and how to use it as a good tool, make students know word prefixes and roots, and still, make students use the words they have learnt before as often as possible.
Key words: vocabulary teaching and learning
How to teach vocabulary well in senior middle school 1. The important of a good vocabulary.
Words are the tools with which we communicate. Words are the currency of
communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication ---- listening,
speaking, reading and writing, even thinking. However, a poor vocabulary tends to place
a limit on our ability to understand. How many times have you heard teachers ask, “use
your words?” When students improve their vocabulary, their academic and social
confidence and competence improve, too.
1.1 In speaking
It is easy enough to talk about the weather; but it is not so easy to talk about ideas and
concepts. How many times have you heard someone say, “I know what I mean, but I just
can‟t express it?” This is an open confession of an inadequate vocabulary. Plato said that
to transmit ideas, a speaker must paint pictures in the minds of listeners through the use
of precise words. Although the chances for students to speak in senior middle schools‟
English class is quite limited, they do need some basic vocabulary to speak or talk about
something with others.
1.2 In reading
Reading generally requires greater use of a person‟s vocabulary than any other act of
communication. So in reading it is especially easy to misinterpret meanings because of
an imprecise vocabulary. But most of students would rather go on reading and just guess
the meanings of words from the context than stop reading to consult a dictionary.
Unfortunately, sometimes their thoughts of meanings are not right. And such errors can
lead to the complete misinterpretation of an author‟s presentation. And that, in turn, can
result in a memory full of fuzzy thoughts, instead of crystal clear concepts. So, as
students in senior middle school who will have percentage of reading exercises in College
Entrance Examination Papers, a good vocabulary is compulsory.
1.3 In learning
Without an adequate vocabulary, no one can master important principles and ideas. The fundamental building blocks of learning and knowledge are words--- words with precise meanings. Get the meanings wrong, and you have learned false information. If you have no idea of the meanings, then you will have to work harder to learn. Moreover, an inadequate vocabulary can limit your ability to conceptualize; that is , though you may hear and recognize individual words, you will have difficulty grasping the sequence of concepts being developed by a speaker or an author. Thus, students in senior middle school must learn how to learn vocabulary well in order to understand articles in textbooks and exam papers better.
1.4 In thinking
As we know, listening, speaking, reading and writing are the most important skills for students in senior middle school. However, actually, they also need good thinking before speaking. J.B.Watson, a noted psychologist, said that thinking is silent speech. This means when we think, there is no magical process taking place in our heads that rearranges some mystical fluff and makes our thoughts out of all that; when we think, we think in words. We rearrange words in our heads, pushing new ones together, putting old ones together with new ones, and rearranging old ones; when we are thinking we are thinking with words. Words are the tools of our thinking, the symbols of our thoughts. Without them our thinking about ideas is impossible. From this line of reasoning, it seems logical to accept the idea that the more carefully we develop our vocabulary, the more careful will be our thinking. As we know words precisely, we are able to think precisely.
2. The problems we have in our vocabulary teaching and learning in senior middle school. 2.1 Students‟ problems in vocabulary learning.
Nowadays, more and more students in senior middle school feel that vocabulary is difficult to learn and master. One of the first things they noticed when they study in senior middle schools is the abundance of new words. New words are on the pages of many textbooks, workbooks, exam papers and magazines students pore over. They echo down the halls of the classroom buildings as students and teachers talk to each other. New words will engulf students at every turn when they study in senior middle school. They will become their daily companions whether they wish or not, for the business of senior middle school life is carried out with new words, and these new words are the hardest ones to be memorized by students. Another problem students often have when they study in senior middle school is that they will discover that many of the words they learned to know and use many years ago, they believe they understand what they mean, but they seldom, if ever, speak or write these words. Students are also surprised that some of the words they have used over the years and considered old friends because they understood their meanings are now used in different ways, with different meanings. Those problems they met made lots of students give up vocabulary learning. 2.2 Teachers‟ neglect in vocabulary teaching.
And it is a pity that like students in senior middle school, teachers don‟t like vocabulary
teaching neither. They think that grammar is the most important thing for students
learning English in senior middle school; vocabulary teaching is only a part of grammar teaching. Thus, they don‟t think highly of it and only spend less time and energy in vocabulary teaching, or even neglect it. However, according to the „Curriculum
Standard for English Teaching and Learning is Senior Middle School‟ by Education
Department, “when students graduate from senior middle school, they must learn and master 3000 words and 400 to 500 phrases or idioms; use vocabulary to help understanding and expressing different functions, ideas and attitudes; use vocabulary to describe some complex things, activities and characteristics and to explain concepts”. (1) Vocabulary
teaching is not becoming less important but more and more essential. So what do we need to do is not hate or afraid of or even ignore vocabulary teaching and learning but pay more attention to do it as well as we can.
3. The effective ways of vocabulary teaching and learning
By speaking, listening, and associating with people you will be able to increase your vocabulary, this is what this approach suggests. Obviously this is true for the very young child who is just getting acquainted with the language. But for students in senior middle school, there are many times when the opposite is true. That is, the number of words known can actually decrease with time if the words are not used. So we can‟t depend on
natural growth to increase our vocabularies. On the market today are a number of books designed to improve your vocabulary. They are all do-it-yourself in their approaches and claim that you will be able to improve your supply of usable words by large numbers and in short time. The books are generally easy to read and in some instances even quite entertaining. But by and large they are not going to help you learn the words you need to know to become a successful senior middle school student. On the negative side, what may happen is that you may accumulate a collection of words that simply don‟t fit the kind of life you live and the kind of academic situation in which you study. You invested time and energy that could have been better used doing other things. Some people suggest that the best way to improve your vocabulary is by reading „ good
„ books, particularly books that contain words that contain words you don‟t know. This
system would work if you would stop look up the words you don‟t know in a dictionary.
But you won‟t learn new words automatically by just reading them, not very often anyway. Occasionally, as you‟ll see later, it is possible to derive the meaning of words from their context. But this process, too, must be supplemented with dictionary work. Some persons suggest that the simplest way to increase your word power is to go to the dictionary, pull out five or six words that you don‟t know, write them and their
definitions on card, and then, in off moments during the day, study the card. As we will see later the idea of using a card is not bad. But to pick any five or six words from the dictionary will often leave you with a collection of words you can‟t use. Granted, a great
deal can be learned from studying the dictionary. And of course you can also learn a
studying the dictionary great deal from studying the phone book. The problem with “
“ is no different from that associated with making word lists and study vocabulary self-help books: you end up with words that don‟t fit anyplace. What is different about
studying the dictionary compared with some of the other approaches we have mentioned is that dictionary studying is about the most boring thing I can think of doing. I will
quickly add that used as it should be used-to find out something about a word you don‟t
know-the dictionary can be one of the most exciting books on your shelf. It is all how you use it.
3.1 Make students become interested in words.
Whatever you learn, you must be interested in it. If not, you can never start it, let alone learn it very well. It is the same to vocabulary learning in English. As we know, interest is the best teacher. You can begin to gather in words immediately by becoming attentive and interested in them. A genuine interest in words is the surest path to a close kinship between students and words. The spark that ignites students‟ interest in words will occur
in different ways at different times---often by chance and occasionally by luck. It can also come about because they want it to happen. Students can create their own interest in words by reading books like “ The old man and the sea “, or magazines like “ Times ”,
or watching cartons like “ King lion “, or listening some English songs like “ My heart
will go on “. And teachers should use variety of ways to arouse students‟ interest in
vocabulary learning, such as: teach them to sing English songs, play games with English vocabulary, give them some riddles to guess and some short plays to perform. In this case, the English class will be more vivid and students will be more active in English study.
3.2 Teach students not only the vocabulary itself but also more information of words.
Words are symbols and we use them as tools. But they also have histories that make them more than abstract symbols that are useful only for communication. If the students are truly interested in words, they will find some most interesting information as they dig into their histories. For example, many words in our English language come from the names of people. It is claimed that on August 6th, 1762, John Montague, the
Fourth Earl of Sandwich, ordered cold, thick-sliced beef to be placed between two pieces of toasted bread. Thus was born the sandwich. (2) Another interesting way of studying the
history of words is to associate words we use today with the ethnic groups that brought them to this country or with the American Indians. Some of the words we have borrowed from the American Indians include moose, raccoon, teepee and squash; from the French we obtained such words as café, menu, chauffeur and salon; the Spanish gave us indigo, vanilla, cigar and mosquito; also we have waltz, fatherland, kindergarten and poodle from German; and borrowed piano, bass, violin and opera from Italian.
And words, like facts, are difficult to remember out of context. Remembering is greatly facilitated when you have a body of information with which to associate either a word or a fact. Students in senior middle school are generally much influenced by context and highly skilled at using it. And when they fail to make good use of context, they may go wildly wrong. Here, teachers‟ role is a guide who teaches the students what kind of
words they can just guess the meaning in context and what kind of words they must consult the dictionary and master the usages of the words. In all, teachers in senior middle school should teach students to use context to help understanding and learning words properly.
3.3 Make students be dictionary-minded.
Every student in senior middle school should own a good dictionary. Keep a dictionary
within easy reach as they study and develop the habit of consulting it is necessary. For intensive word study, there is no substitute for an unabridged dictionary. Locate the unabridged dictionaries in Foreign Language Book Stores. An unabridged dictionary gibes more definitions, more about the derivations of words, and more on usage. Good one-volume unabridged works include Webster‟s New International Dictionary of the
English Language and the New Standard Dictionary, in ten volumes plus supplement, is indispensable for the historical study of words, but more detailed than students will need for west purposes.
Students can probably get some idea of the meaning of a new word from its context------how it is used in their reading material. Use context when they can, but be aware that it has its limitations. The safest bet is to aroid all the guesswork and go straight to the dictionary. Buy and use the best abridged dictionary they can afford. Whenever an unabridged dictionary is nearby, use it. But also remember that no word is ever fully defined. The dictionary meaning is good and necessary, but it is only an operational meaning that will solve students‟ immediate problem. Words have shades of
meaning that add richness but that we come to understand only by reading, hearing, and using words in a variety of contexts.
3.4 Make students know word prefixes and roots.
A word‟s root is the core of a word, the part holds the meaning. A prefix is a word beginning that modifies the root. As students in senior middle school work to make their vocabulary more precise, they will appreciate more and more the value of prefixes and roots. Soon, some of them will become old friends, and students will recognize them almost daily as part of a new word, they will be well on the way to grasping its meaning. The practical, advantage of knowing prefixes and roots is being able to use a few basic definitions that are found again and again in the English language. When find a word that is entirely foreign to you and you go to dictionary to find its meaning, do not overlook the information that is offered concerning the prefixes and roots of that word. This information may be invaluable in helping you discover the meaning of other new words that have the same root or prefix. So as an English teacher in senior middle school, to introduce some information about word formation to students is quite necessary. 3.5 Make students use the words they‟ve learned before as often as possible.
Many students in senior middle school said that they study very hard in memorizing English words; however, they still can‟t remember those words very well. The reason
that they fail to memorize the words is that they don‟t have enough practice. Practice
makes perfect. Students must practice more or else they will forget the words they have learned before gradually. Let‟s see some techniques for practicing:
3.5.1 Use the words to make sentences.
Attempt to use the word, first in their writing and then in their speaking. It is through use that the new word will eventually become a part of their vocabulary and will become an old friend like the rest of the words in working vocabulary. Since making sentences is a effective way of memorizing words for students in senior middle school, teacher‟s duty is to give students more chance to make sentence and try to give more typical example sentences for them to remember.
3.5.2 Use the words to write compositions.
A good beginning makes a good ending. So after students can make very good
sentences, teachers can make them use the words they have learned before to write
compositions or diaries. Because when students write composition, they may come
across such problems as „ how to choose the right word at a right place „ and so on.
The process of solving these problems will help them make progress in vocabulary
3.5.3 Use the words to communicate with others.
Language is a tool with which we communicate with other. As students in senior
middle school, although the time for them to use English is quite limited, especially
to use English for communication, however, if teachers would give more time for
communicative activities in English classes, or students themselves can save every
minute to do so, they can have enough chance to use the words they have learned to
communicate with others, from which they reviewed the words.
Nothing is difficult if you put your heart into it. If all the teachers in senior middle school can change their former educational concept into a scientific one, and pay more attention in connecting various ways of vocabulary teaching together; all the students in senior middle school can cooperate with their teachers very well, they can surly create a new field for English teaching and learning.
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