Sunday, 20 July 2014

Approaching a Vocabulary Course

In September, I start teaching a new course that is called Vocabulary. As a rule, the aim of the course is to have students acquire new vocabulary on different topics, which sounds logical. However, when I was told I was taking over this course next year, I decided to change the approach a little bit. 

First off, I believe that any vocabulary-related course should contain elements that would help students to navigate through the complexities of the ocean of the English language. By saying this, I mean that the focus of the course should be the question "HOW" instead of "WHAT". Explaining my point further I'd like to state that teaching students the ways to work with vocabulary is much more important than having them memorise endless word lists. 

Having this in mind, I decided that the course I'm going to design (I love using this word in reference to seemingly boring work) will definitely contain approaches that will help students become interested in acquiring vocabulary and developing their own strategies in mastering it. It might sound pretentious or too ambitious, but let's be honest, we all love to dream big when it comes to learning outcomes. So, why not?

Before I get down to the boring part (which won't be as boring as I'm afraid it will) I decided to look through my topic tefl methods to pick out some online materials that could be useful for my course-to-be.

Tips and guidelines on how to design a course:

Essential articles and blog posts on teaching vocabulary
Apart from that, the whole pool of great activities to use when teaching vocabulary can be found HERE

Finally, I can't avoid mentioning some awesome web tools that students can and should use to explore vocabulary from different perspectives: - one of the best tools to explore the words in the context. It contains millions of sentences with the possibility to see the source article/blog post they are taken from.

Just the word - the tool that searches for all possible collocations for every word you type in.

Netspeak - the tool that shows possible word combinations depending on your purpose.

Wordsift - the tool that helps visualise the words from a text and show the connections between the selected word and related concepts.

Word Sense -  is a dictionary, thesaurus, and valuable tool for matching thoughts to words.

Graph Words -   is free English online thesaurus that helps you find the meanings of words and show connections among associated words

Synonym Finder - the tool that finds synonyms for the word you type in together with providing definitions and examples.

So, I guess this will be the part one of my attempt to approach the course design. If I decide to embark on the second part, I'll focus on how I'm going to encourage students to actually USE the vocabulary and make it part of their active communicative experience.

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