- Less Prep Time for Teachers
- The Importance of Recycling Vocabulary
- The Importance of Multiple Contexts
- Using Target Vocabulary in Speaking Activities
Simply put, the entire purpose of Gerry's Vocabulary Teacher is to make the instructor's job easier, more satisfying and more productive.
Teachers can help students gain a greater understanding of the vocabulary under study by continually recycling target vocabulary through gap-fill sentences in context and discussions requiring use and practice of the target word.
As a result, the student can finish a session with a list in his or her hands of the vocabulary he or she understands and is able to use with confidence. And that is what teaching is all about!
Gerry's Vocabulary Teacher was created by ESL teacher Gerry Luton, and Martin Holmes, formerly an ESL instructor and now a software designer. The purpose was simply to make the teaching task for Gerry a little easier through use of a tool which would allow him to quickly and easily provide mulitple opportunities for his students to review vocabulary in meaningful contexts. Using the program, a gap-fill exercise to review 15 words can be created in about 3 minutes. Students constantly review vocabulary throughout the session, through gap-fill exercises, crossword puzzles using gap-fill sentences in context as clues, listening exercises using gap-fill sentences, discussions which require use of the target vocabulary, and many other activities. For a more detailed description of activities to recycle vocabulary in class using Gerry's Vocabulary Teacher see Teaching Suggestions.
In one class, when a student asked Gerry the difference between the words notice, realize, and recognize, Gerry gave the student a brief explanation of the words, and encouraged him to look at the definitions and sample sentences in his learner's dictionary. And then during the short break between classes, Gerry was able to create a 15-sentence review exercise using the different words for the student to do as homework. Needless to say, the student was astounded and delighted that he could get an exercise to help him understand these words so quickly.
ESL teachers have long understood that students need to see new vocabulary repeatedly in order to learn and understand it, especially if they hope to be able to use it in writing or speaking themselves. Now, the research is clear. According to Nagy, “No single encounter with a word, whether in instruction or in the course of reading or listening, can lead to any great depth of word knowledge” (1997, p. 74). Students must see the word in various contexts at varying intervals.
So how many times should students see the words? According to Paul Nation, learners often require from 5 to 16 or more repetitions to really learn a word (1990, p. 44). While it may be difficult for teachers to achieve 16 or more exposures to each word introduced for study in class, Gerry's Vocabulary Teacher will certainly allow an instructor to quickly and easily produce exercises for multiple exposures. And, as a result, Anita Sökmon writes that “…as the student meets the word through a variety of activities and in different contexts, a more accurate understanding of its meaning and use will develop” (1998, p. 241).
As noted above, research shows that students need to review vocabulary repeatedly in order to truly learn it. In particular, students need to see the vocabulary in various contexts in order to remember it and to develop an understanding of the range of usage of a given word. In his book “Learning Vocabulary in Another Language ”, Paul Nation notes “Multiple contexts provide rich information on a variety of aspects of knowing a word including collocates, grammatical patterns, word family members, related meanings, and homonyms” (2001, p.111).
Gerry's Vocabulary Teacher allows users to quickly and easily generate gap-fill exercises so that students can encounter target vocabulary in various contexts, including sentences using different derivations of the word.
Nation further comments that “Learners need to be encouraged – and have the opportunity – to use vocabulary in speaking and writing where their major focus is on communicating messages” (2001, p. 402). Anita Sökmon notes that “…learning is aided when material is made concrete (psychologically ‘real’) within the conceptual range of the learners. This may mean giving personal examples, relating words to current events, providing experiences with the words, comparing them to real life, or better yet, having students create these images and relate the words to their own lives” (1998, p. 244). Gerry's Vocabulary Teacher provides thought-provoking discussion questions and "Find someone who..." questions which require the students to use the target vocabulary in discussions regarding their beliefs, opinions, experiences, culture, etc.
Folse, K. (2004). Vocabulary Myths. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Nagy, P. (1997). On the Role of Context in First and Second Language Vocabulary Learning. In Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, edited by N. Schmitt and M. McCarthy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nation, P. (1990). Teaching and Learning Vocabulary. Massachusetts: Newbury House.
Nation, P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sökmon, A. (1998). Current Trends in Teaching Second Language Vocabulary. In Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, edited by N. Schmitt and M. McCarthy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.