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THE MAGIC OF VOCABULARY. Sirle Kivihall , MA ( ). Grammar and vocabulary. English is the universal medium of communication to socialize with people, do business, reach political agreements and update your Facebook status .

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the magic of vocabulary


SirleKivihall, MA


grammar and vocabulary
Grammar and vocabulary
  • English is the universal medium of communication to socialize with people, do business, reach political agreements and update your Facebook status.
  • However, there seems to be the teachers’ as well as students’ obsession with grammar.
  • Why?
grammar and vocabulary1
Grammar and vocabulary
  • The truth is that grammar sells!
  • The English language course books are still designed with a linear grammatical syllabus in mind.
  • Language acquisition is a much more organic or holistic process.
grammar and vocabulary2
Grammar and vocabulary
  • The concept of “successful language” is much more helpful than “formally accurate language”.
  • We should agree that learning a language is not about knowing how to, but about being able to.
  • “Without grammar little can be conveyed; without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.”(David WilkinsLinguistics in Language Teaching, 1972)
grammar and vocabulary3
Grammar and vocabulary
  • Raymond Murphy has explained that he wrote his “best-sellers” so that students didn’t have to waste time in class focusing on grammar exercises.
  • Formal grammar should not be totally ignored in the classroom.
  • It should definitely take less of a priority than it takes currently.
language skills
Language skills
  • Some scholars of language acquisition no longer talk about the four language skills, but nine skills.
  • Those traditional four skills don’t take into account the other skills necessary for language development.
  • These other skills are vocabulary, spelling, grammar, pronunciation and study skills.
  • Vocabulary has its place in every lesson and can be organically pulled from the other skill areas covered in the lesson.
  • The new vocabulary which students acquire makes them conscious of the progress they are making in the language development.
  • Taking the vocabulary activities further in the lessons will foster the students’ intrinsic motivation.
bulk of words
Bulk of words
  • Students often complain of not knowing the words in a text.
  • This is not surprising, given the sheer number of items in the language.
  • There simply are far too many to learn.
  • Why?
bulk of words1
Bulk of words
  • English has borrowed so much from other languages, hence, it has a higher than usual number of synonyms and near-synonyms.
  • It has idioms and metonyms.
  • It puts items together, either as compounds or in collocations.
  • A noun can be used as a verb and vice versa.
bulk of words2
Bulk of words
  • There are also multiple versions within one part of speech.
  • The past and present participles of verb can be used as adjectives or nouns.
  • Modern life has brought about the invention of many new things to which we need to refer, thereby adding specialist terms and jargon to the lexicon.
exposure to textual language
Exposure to textual language
  • Encourage students to listen to the radio, watch films or You Tube videos, read texts on websites, read novels and short stories.
  • TASK: Ask them to make their own wordlists. Each lesson/every other lesson one student teaches the classmates 5-10 words, depending on the level.
lexical versus grammatical words
lexical versus grammatical words
  • Lexical words are like numbers because they have value, grammatical words are like operators (+, -, = etc) because these signify relationship between numbers.
  • TASK: Hand out a short paragraph of text, divide the class into two, ask each group to use highlighters to mark either lexical or grammatical words. Bring the whole class together for checking and feedback.
words can behave differently
words can behave differently
  • TASK: Ask the students to pick out all the –ing words in the text and classify them as:
  • Part of continuous form of the verb (She is smoking.)
  • A present participle (He sat in the armchair, smoking his pipe.)
  • A present participle acting as an adjective (They have not discovered the smoking gun.)
  • A gerund as a subject or object of a verb (Smoking is now banned in public.)
discover compounds
discover compounds
  • TASK: match the halves to make compound nouns.

Credit license

Cheque star

Bus lens

Film stop

Driving book

Health card

Contact centre

  • (credit card, cheque book, bus stop, film star, driving license, health centre, contact lens)
discover compounds1
discover compounds
  • TASK: Match the halves to make compound adjectives.

Freeze -produced

Ready -baked

Organically -dried

Freshly -made

  • (freeze-dried, ready-made/ready-baked, organically-produced, freshly-baked/freshly-made)
compounds make larger units and collocations
Compoundsmake larger units and collocations
  • TASK: Match these compound adjectives with the nouns.

Instant coffee / fruit and vegetables / bread and pastries / frozen meals

  • Freeze-dried
  • Ready-made
  • Organically-produced
  • Freshly-baked
  • (freeze-dried instant coffee, ready-made frozen meals, organically-produced fruit and vegetables, freshly-baked bread and pastries)
t each collocations
Teach collocations
  • One chance of knowing the answer leads to learning more collocations.
  • TASK: Match each verb with the words it collocates with.

Make / take / give / pay / look

  • ................... attention, a debt, someone a compliment
  • ................... advantage, charge, advice, no notice
  • ................... a point, a mess, a fool of oneself
  • ................... ahead, around, to the future, out
  • ................... advice, notice, someone a lot of trouble
  • (pay, take, make, look, give)
n ew uses for old
New uses for old
  • Explore homophones, homonyms and near synonyms.
  • TASK: Match the dictionary definitions to the correct words.

Line / stamp / stick

  • ..... small sticky square of paper as proof of payment (n); hit the ground with your foot (vb); place an inked seal on a document (vb)
  • ..... an extended horizontal mark on paper (n); put a lining in a skirt, curtains (vb); a queue (n)
  • ..... make something adhere to something else with glue (vb); part of a branch of a tree (n)
  • (stamp, line, stick)
distinguish between adjectives and adverbs verbs and nouns
distinguish between adjectives and adverbs / verbs and nouns
  • TASK: Ask the students to use the words in sentences to show different uses.

Alone / deep / direct / extra / late

  • The latearrivalsare quite common. (adj.)
  • We will not wait for you if you arrive late. (adv.)
  • TASK: Ask the students to use the words in sentences to show different uses.

Dance / crash / cut / wish / smell

  • My boyfriend asked me to the dance. (n)
  • I will dance with you. (vb)
sticky ball
Sticky ball
  • Write several words you want to review on the board. Give each word a value, for example 20 points for a difficult one, 12 points for an easier one.
  • The students take turns to throw a sticky ball or a paper ball at the board, and they have to make a sentence using a word that they hit.
  • Students win points for correct sentences.
writing race
Writing race
  • Divide the class into two or three teams, each lined up facing the board.
  • Give markers/chalks to the students ahead of their teams.
  • Tell everyone that they will have to write words of a particular kind (e.g. weekdays, body parts, colours, animals, personality adjectives, past simple verbs etc.).
  • On your signal, they run to the board, write a word, pass the marker/chalk to the person behind them and dash to the back of their team.
  • The team with the most different words wins.
word formation
Word formation
  • Complete the end, the beginning or both of a word in as many ways as possible.

PAT_ _ _

  • (patent, patchy, patron)

_ _ _ ST

  • (first, yeast, least, trust, roast etc.)

_ _ TT _ _

  • (mitten, butter, litter, better, gutter, bitten etc.)
musical words
Musical words
  • Play a piece of music and ask students to move around in the classroom.
  • Pause the music and ask them to work in pairs with the person nearest them.
  • Tell them they have about 30 seconds (longer for more advanced students) to say in turns as many words in English as possible in a given category, e.g. adjectives.
  • After 30 seconds, start the music again and ask them to move around again.
  • Then pause it again and tell them another category, e.g. fruit.
grouping language
Grouping language
  • Make a list of language items you have taught and ask the students to organise the words/expressions into groups.
  • Provide the categories yourself
  • Say how many groups you want but don’t give the titles
  • Allow the students freedom in deciding how to group the items.
  • In all cases, the students can discuss their groupings in pairs or small groups.
various links that might come handy
Various links that might come handy
  • PowerPoint templates, puzzles, games, graded reading, grammar

  • Proverbs

  • Tongue twisters


Short video clips accompanied by worksheets; click on teaching Ideas

  • Online dictionary, which features definitions, etymology, visual presentation, pronunciation, antonyms, synonyms, idioms etc.

  • Extra listening practice for homework; various accents of spoken English


Multimedia-based environment; opt for Language lectures and watch short video lessons on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, slang.

  • A bank of enjoyable videos/texts that can be turned into listening tasks or simply enjoyed in class

  • Downloadable application for preparing revision activities, especially with lexical focus

sources used
Sources used
  • Richard OstickGet your priorities right: vocabulary versus grammar;; 28.09.12
  • Maxine MangatMake it meaningful; ENGLISH TEACHING professional; Issue 78 January 2012
  • Isobel Fletcher de TéllezLearning Lexis; ENGLISH TEACHING professional; Issue 80 May 2012
  • Alicia Artusi, Gregory ManinThe wonder of warmers; ENGLISH TEACHING professional; Issue 78 January 2012
  • In defence of the old board; ENGLISH TEACHING professional; Issue 78 January 2012
  • RonaldoAdenilton de Lima; ENGLISH TEACHING professional; Issue 82 September 2012
  • Hugh DellarRegular revision; ENGLISH TEACHING professional; Issue 82 July 2012