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Recycling Vocabulary in the Classroom. TESOL, San Antonio, TX Academic Vocabulary Activities that Promote Retention/Retrieval March 30, 2005 Gerry Luton - University of Victoria - Victoria, British Columbia The Importance of a Systematic Approach.

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recycling vocabulary in the classroom
Recycling Vocabulary in the Classroom

TESOL, San Antonio, TX

Academic Vocabulary Activities that Promote Retention/Retrieval

March 30, 2005

Gerry Luton - University of Victoria - Victoria, British Columbia

the importance of a systematic approach
The Importance of a Systematic Approach
  • [ESL Students] see acquisition of vocabulary as their greatest source of problems…[However], vocabulary is not dealt with sufficiently. …some teachers cover some vocabulary, but this is hardly ever done very systematically. Vocabulary is something that everyone assumes that learners will somehow pick up, much the same way everyone assumes that students will just pick up good pronunciation.”

(Folse 2004)

knowing a word
“Knowing” a Word

Knowing the word underdeveloped involves:

  • Being able to recognize it when heard
  • Being familiar with its written form
  • Recognizing its parts and being able to relate them to its meaning
  • Knowing the particular meaning of the word
  • Understanding it in a given context
  • Knowing the concept behind the word which will allow understanding in different contexts
  • Knowing that there are related words, such as overdeveloped, and backward
  • Being able to recognize typical collocations (Nation 2001)

And to this, for students in my classes, I would add:

  • Being able to use it in an original sentence, both spoken and written
using multiple contexts
Using Multiple Contexts
  • 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. (Nation 2001)
exercises using generative processing to recycle vocab
Exercises Using Generative Processing to Recycle Vocab
  • Exercises to recycle vocabulary should include those which require both receptive and productivegenerative processing.
  • Generative processing entails relating new information to prior knowledge.
  • Regular gap-fill sentence exercises are an excellent way of recycling vocabulary through different contexts and can be used to broaden a student’s understanding of the range of meaning of vocabulary.
  • He stabbed him in the stomach with a kitchen knife.
  • The word may be interpreted as meaning to put a sharp implement into someone’s body for the purpose of harming him
  • The child was stabbing the grapes with a toothpick and popping them in his mouth.
  • The previous idea of meaning has grown to include putting a pointed object into something, not necessarily for the purpose of injuring it.
  • The politician shouted and stabbed his finger into the air.
  • The meaning has grown further to include thrusting something somewhat pointed into…air
  • Her hurtful remarks stabbed him in the heart.
  • The meaning now includes the figurative sense of causing psychological pain or injury, without the use of a concrete object.
  • The most striking receptive generative uses of vocabulary are those where meeting the word in a new context forces the learner to reconceptualize the meaning that they previously had for that word.

(Newton 1993)

gap fills

Gap-fill exercises to recycle vocabulary can take various forms,

such as:

  • A multi-word exercise with a number of sentences and words to choose from.
  • Several different contexts for ONE word.
  • Gap-fills with a list of the words given in root form – students have to figure out the word and give the appropriate derivation.
  • Crossword puzzles with sentences in context as clues.
  • Language lab listening exercises.
language lab exercises
Language Lab exercises

Level 493C Language Lab #4

Vocabulary Review ( /10)

Listen to the following words and repeat after your handsome teacher:

accurately biased eliminated fluctuates genetic justifies outcome sectors triggered validity

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate word from the list above.

1. ____________________ 6. ____________________

2. ____________________ 7. ____________________

3. ____________________ 8. ____________________

4. ____________________ 9. ____________________

5. ____________________ 10. ____________________

recycling vocabulary through writing speaking
Recycling Vocabulary through Writing & Speaking
  • Learners need to be encouraged – and have the opportunity – to use vocabulary in speaking and writing where their major focus is on communicating messages.

(Nation 2001)

activities to recycle vocabulary through writing
Activities to Recycle Vocabulary through Writing
  • Guided stories
  • Relay races
  • Journal writing
  • Making Changes
making changes
Making Changes
  • These exercises require students to process vocabulary by changing the part of speech of the sentence, by substituting words or by filling in a gap with an appropriate form of the vocabulary under study.

Ex 1: Rewrite the following sentences with the word in parentheses.

  • (contribution) A local businessman has contributed over a million dollars to be used in the construction of a new children's hospital in this city.

Ex 2: Rewrite the following sentences using the word in parentheses.

  • (available) You won't be able to get the apartment until the beginning of next month.

Ex 3: Fill in the blanks with the appropriate form of the word in parentheses.

  • (interpret) Your __________ of the data is somewhat different from my own.
activities to recycle vocabulary through speaking
Activities to Recycle Vocabulary through Speaking
  • Productive generative processing involves producing new ways of using the wanted vocabulary in new contexts in speaking activities which are different from its use in the textual input. (Wittrock 1974)
  • “…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.” (Sökmon 1998)
  • Quick discussions
  • Proverbs & Quotations
  • Trivia
  • Find someone who…
quick discussions
Quick Discussions

You can make topics for 3-minute warm-up discussions using vocabulary being studied. The students are in pairs and change partners after each topic. In this exercise, the students use the vocabulary in a meaningful context.


  • What things have you found it difficult to adapt to in this culture?


  • What is the most common symbol of your country, and what does it represent for you?


  • Is violence justifiable in the battle for human rights?


  • How do you expect learning English will be of benefit to you in your life?
proverbs quotations trivia
Proverbs, Quotations & Trivia
  • There is an African-American proverb which states that romance without [finance] don't stand a chance.
  • John F. Kennedy once remarked that domestic [policy] can only defeat us, but foreign [policy] can kill us.
  • The island of Greenland came under a) Denmark's b) Norway's c) Sweden's authority in the early 1800s.
gerry s vocabulary teacher
Gerry’s Vocabulary Teacher


  • over 2,500 keywords
  • derivations for each keyword
  • a minimum of 10 contexts for each keyword
  • more than 700,000 words of data
  • includes the Academic Word List
online exercise using gerry s vocabulary teacher with hotpotatoes jmatch click drag
Online Exercise Using Gerry’s Vocabulary Teacherwith HotPotatoes – JMatch – click & drag
keyword entries also include where possible
Keyword entries also include (where possible):
  • discussion questions
  • find someone who… questions
  • proverbs from over 100 different cultures
  • thousands of quotations from the famous & not so famous
  • interesting trivia
  • interesting facts about history, countries of the world, world religions, and animals.
  • all using the word under study.
additional features
Additional features
  • allows you to add, delete and edit keywords and entries
  • automatically generates a new document or will allow you to import the exercise into an existing document
  • allows you to construct online exercises using

JMatch and JCloze from HotPotatoes

  • can be used to tailor-make exercises for students
  • can be used to build exercises for each sublist of the AWL
gerry s vocabulary teacher www cict co uk software gvt
Gerry’s Vocabulary
  • Will allow you to update your database file as the program entries grow without you losing your own additions
  • Current updates include sentences modelled on contexts taken from first year university textbooks from various disciplines.
  • Single-user registration £25 / approx. US$48 / Cdn$58 / Euro 36
  • Special educational multi-user licences available
  • Recycle vocab continually throughout the session
  • Provide exposure to multiple contexts
  • Include practice with derivations
  • Include activities which require generative processing, both receptive and productive
  • Include activities which require students to use target vocabulary in speaking and writing
  • Beat it to death…but systematically and with awareness of purpose
  • Folse, K. (2004). Vocabulary Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Nation, P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Newton, J. (1993). Task-based interaction among adult learners of English

and its role in second language development. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Victoria University of Wellington. In Vocabulary Learning and Speaking Activities by Angela Joe. Forum Online. (1996). 34-1.

  • Schmitt, N. (2000). Vocabulary in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schmitt, N., and M. McCarthy. (eds.). (1998). Vocabulary: Description, Pedagogy and Acquisition. Cambridge: 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.
  • Wittrock, M. C. 1974. Learning as a generative process. Educational Psychologist, 11, pp. 87-95. In Vocabulary Learning and Speaking Activities by Angela Joe. Forum Online. (1996). 34-1.