Presenting and Teaching Vocabulary in the EFL Classroom

Seminar Paper 2008 18 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition

3. Presenting Vocabulary
3.1. Pre-Teaching Activities
3.2. Form and Meaning
3.3. Types of Stimuli
3.4. Input, Reinforcement and Uptake

4. Working with Dictionaries 8 4.1. Using a Dictionary

5. Presenting New Vocabulary to the Class
5.1. Organizing New Vocabulary

6. Vocabulary-Testing Techniques

7. Outlook

8. References


This paper is going to deal with the question how vocabulary can be introduced in the EFL classroom and why it is essential for students to learn new vocabulary and know how to use it in context. Furthermore, it deals with the points that are involved in presenting and demonstrating vocabulary and it also focuses on the teachers and learners and which roles they play in the whole process of vocabulary acquisition in the EFL classroom. It is important to see that the teacher needs to work actively with the students on the process of acquiring new vocabulary and the students need to be involved in the learning process. The teacher needs to show the students the necessity of learning vocabulary since this is the most important part of foreign language learning because without vocabulary they will not be able to communicate and understand text that are written in a foreign language.

1. Introduction

In order to be able to speak a foreign language properly, the students need to learn vocabulary because otherwise they will not be able to express and articulate themselves in a way that other students or native speakers of English can understand them. It is the teacher’s task to support the learning process of the students and to show them ways of learning vocabulary through different teaching approaches and different methods.

There are many different ways of presenting and teaching vocabulary in the EFL classroom but which of them are most efficient? That is a question that has been discussed for many years now and one could come to the conclusion that there is not only one right way of teaching vocabulary but a variety of different approaches that can help the teacher in presenting and teaching new vocabulary. A mixture of many different ways is always more effective than using only one way of teaching which is also very boring for the students. In earlier times, the teacher centred teaching was used in classes in general but times have changed and this term paper will show what kind of different types of teaching vocabulary in the EFL classroom there are nowadays and how the students are actively involved in every step.

2. Definition

What is vocabulary and what are the most important aspects that define vocabulary?

Vocabulary can basically be defined “as the words we teach in the foreign language”[1] which the teacher has to introduce and explain to the students. One needs to be aware of the fact that new vocabulary does not mean that only one new word is being introduced to the students because often multi-word idioms or single ideas which consist of more than one word are introduced. Therefore, “a useful convention is to cover all such cases by talking about vocabulary ´items` rather than ´words`.”[2] The teacher needs to present the vocabulary in a way that students can easily understand how to use the new words. In addition to that, the learner’s individual strategies for learning and using vocabulary need to be taken into consideration.

There is a variety of aspects that need to be taken into account when talking about vocabulary in the EFL classroom. These are the form, its grammar, collocation, different aspects of meaning and the word formation.

The form of new vocabulary is really important which means in detail its pronunciation and its spelling. In order to learn new words, you need to know “what a word sounds like (its pronunciation) and what it looks like (its spelling).”[3] The pronunciation of a word is “the way in which a language is spoken”[4] or “the way a person speaks the words of a language”.[5] In order to be understood by a native speaker of English you need to pronounce the words the right way. The spelling is “to name or write the letters of a word in their correct order”.[6] That is where most mistakes occur because a lot of students know how to pronounce a word correctly but they often seem to confuse its spelling.

The next important point concerning vocabulary is grammar and with it grammatical rules which are “rules in a language for changing the form of words and combining them into sentences”.[7] It is the person’s knowledge and use of the language in certain situations and how to use it in grammatical contexts.

Another important point that defines vocabulary is the collocation of words which is a part combination of words. To collocate words means to combine words that are regularly used together in a language. When you introduce a word like conclusion, for example, you as a teacher need to tell your students that they cannot say make a conclusion but come to a conclusion.

It is time to talk about the different aspects of meaning which are denotation, connotation and appropriateness. Denotation means that something is a sign or a symbol of something, furthermore that it indicates something. The meaning of a word is “what it refers to in the real world.”[8] The connotation of a word is “an idea suggested or implied by a word in addition to its main meaning”.[9] This means that every word has a main meaning but it can still have various connotations and a student can associate different things with one word. The appropriateness of a word means that a speaker should think about the words he uses before he says them and he should ask himself whether they are suitable or acceptable in this context or not. If they are not, he needs to find words that fit or that are correct. The words have to express exactly what a speaker wants to say.

The very last point is the word formation which is the way in which words are put together and into the right order in a sentence. This means that word can be broken down into their single components which do have single meanings as well but a different meaning when they are being put together. It is the teachers choice whether to teach common prefixes and suffixes or not, for example, un- or -able like it is used in unable.

3. Presenting Vocabulary

After having defined the different parts vocabulary consists of, it is time to talk about how to present new words and which different steps are included in this process.

First of all, the teacher should give a concise definition of the new word. That means to give a definition describing the new word using only few words and not to use the word in context at this point. It is similar to a definition in a dictionary. Afterwards, the teacher should describe in detail what the word means and describe its qualities or even the appearance. In addition to that he should give examples of how to use the new word correctly in a sentence. Another way could be to illustrate the word on the board so that the students do have an image of the word in mind. The teacher can either draw a picture on the blackboard or bring photos or the object itself to class. The teacher does also have the possibility to demonstrate in front of the class what the word’s meaning is by acting it out. He could even use it in context, so to speak in a whole well chosen sentence or a story that describes best its meaning and also demonstrates how the word can be used. Another step could be that the teacher asks the students to find synonyms or antonyms (opposites) or the class can even try to find them together and collect them on the board. The last point is to translate the English word into German which is not a very good way because the students should use the English language as much as possible and learn to express themselves by using the English language.

It is always important that the teacher pronounces the new word before he spells it or writes it on the board. Firstly, there should be the “Lautbild” and then the “Schriftbild”. The students should know how to pronounce and use the word in spoken language before they use it in written language and write whole texts using new words.


[1] Ur 1996: p. 60

[2] Ur 1996: p. 60

[3] Ur 1996: p. 60

[4] Oxford 1995: p. 887

[5] Oxford 1995: p. 887

[6] Oxford 1995: p. 1093

[7] Oxford 1995: p. 494

[8] Ur 1996: p. 61

[9] Oxford 1995: p. 234


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University of Kassel
Presenting Vocabulary Teaching Vocabulary EFL Classroom Vocabulary



Title: Presenting and Teaching Vocabulary in the EFL Classroom