The following are the principles that underpin vocabulary teaching in schools.
- Select the vocabulary based on:How easy or challenging lexis is in terms of length, pronunciation, spelling, meaning, grammar, word order in a sentence etc.);
Frequency; Relevance to students’ interests, back-ground, culture/sub-culture;
Semantic relatedness (the more strongly semantically inter-related the target words are, the stronger the chances of retention)
If you do not make your own resources, especially if you are a novice teacher, it may be useful to draw a list of the words you intend the students to learn to ensure that systematic recycling does occur throughout the lesson.
- Decide which lexical items you are planning for students to learn receptively (for recognition only) and productively (for use in speech and writing) – ‘receptive learning’ being obviously easier.
- Decide on how deep your teaching of the target lexis will go:In other words, which level of knowing a word you are going to teach. Nation (1990) identified the following dimensions of knowing a word:
Spoken form of a word;
Written form of a word;
Grammatical behavior of a word;
Collocational behavior of a word;
Frequency of a word;
Stylistic appropriateness of a word;
Concept meanings of a word;
Association words have with other related words.
- The number of words to select per lesson:This will depend largely on the students you are teaching and how systematically one wants the target lexis (every single item) to be recycled. There is a myth that one should teach 7+/- 2 words per lesson. This rule of thumb is based on a misunderstanding of Miller’s (1965) law which posits that Working Memory can only hold and rehearse 7+/-2 digits at any one time. But Working Memory span has nothing to do with how many words one can learn in a lesson. In my experience, with an able group (i.e. students with highly efficient working memories) one can aim at as many as 20-25 words/lexical chunks receptively (especially if the lexis includes cognates) and around 10 to 15 productively.