Hanna Włostowska

nauczyciel języka angielskiego

Zespół Szkół Sportowych Nr 1





How to teach vocabulary?


Teaching vocabulary is a recurring problem. Unlike grammatical errors which can be easily corrected, vocabulary mistakes are often more difficult to handle, because students sometimes do not get sufficient insights into the meanings. In this work I outline an activity that has helped my students learn vocabulary by association and has allowed them to enjoy the activity as they do it.


Vocabulary activity

In teaching English vocabulary I discovered that the more amusing the exercises, the better and more successful were the learning results. We focus on a pet word mostly in association with another animals, because several expressions and terms have not the same meanings.



The main purpose of this activity is not only to introduce the students to these specific terms, but also to use a methodology that allows me to reach my desired goal. This activity is handed out at the beginning of the school year to show students that the vocabulary they need in this area is not so difficult. The activity is divided into three different stages.


Stage one

First, the students are given a sheet of paper with pictures of various animals. The learners are asked to write the names of animals under their pictures. Then students are asked to imagine what the meanings of the words might be. Finally, students must match the meanings of the terms with the appropriate drawings.


Stage two

After the students have completed this first activity, in small groups, they discuss the possible meanings of the words. The students are provided with blank grids where they can list the particular characteristics of the animals under various headings. This gives the students opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge of the specialized terms they need to find out. When they have completed their grids, they continue their discussions, but this time they are able to support their conclusions with additional information.


Stage three

After the students have finished, they are given the list of expressions and terms that correspond to the animal illustrations. Working individually, students concentrate on finding out the answers so that they can recall both the animals and the meanings more easily.


The results

At the end of the term and without advance notice, the learners are asked to do the same exercise again. Our intention is to discover how well they remember the names of animals, and if they can use the images of the animals, to trigger their memories. The first time the students did the exercise, the results were not very satisfactory. The first stage, which consisted of naming the animals, presented no difficulty to the students. However, during the second stage, the learners could identify only four out of the fourteen. The rest of the drawings were either unexplained or misunderstood. The students did much better on the match-up exercise, but there were still four terms that students could not match. These results were not completely disheartening because it was the first time the students had done this kind of activity. In addition, many answers were related to the animal features. In spite of the fact that this was not the main objective of the exercise, the brainstorming session proved to be a very resourceful tool in the learning process. The results, the second time were more positive. Most learners matched the animals to one specific term or another, and were able to recall the specialized terms. This led us to conclude that images do help students not only to learn the specific words, but also to remember them. After completing the exercise, the students were asked for their impressions of the activity. Most stated that it was easier to acquire specific vocabulary by linking the drawings with the meanings. Thus, pictures helped to establish a relationship between the animals and their significance in the stock market.



One of the main objectives we seek is not only to teach students specific and useful vocabulary, but also to help them assimilate new words. This activity has proved to be an effective way of increasing learners' interests and motivating them. The different stages in the activity led them to finding answers, thereby reinforcing their learning process. Moreover, when the groups discuss the possible meanings of the words, students become aware of the variety of possibilities and are able to recall all the information they knew.