Learning new words methodically

With some of my students I’ve recently started to work on broadening their vocabulary. I’ve tried to come up with something that would help them remember new words and how to use them. In my experience, most of the students tend to write down lists of words and try to learn them by heart. I wanted to provide them with a more methodical way of expanding their vocabulary.

This is what I came up with:


Click on the picture to see it bigger

At the end of each lesson (not necessarily focused on vocabulary), I ask my student what new words they’ve learnt. I then take a few pieces of paper (I’ve always keep them at hand) like the one in the picture and ask the student to write down each new word on a separate slip. I then ask them to think about the following aspects of each new word:

  1. Part of speech: is the word a noun / adjective / verb etc?
  2. Pronunciation: how do you pronounce it? Can you spot any pronunciation rules we’ve talked about?
  3. Register: is it formal or informal English?
  4. Opposites / synonyms: can you think of its opposite / a synonym?
  5. Collocations: what words usually follow / come before this word?
  6. Structure (especially if the word is a verb): is it transitive or intransitive? what preposition usually follows?
  7. Example: can you think of an example sentence containing this word?

The student writes all this information for each new word on the corresponding slip of paper (so make sure your pieces are not too small!). I then suggest that whenever they have some time to kill (for example, when waiting for the bus, when commuting to work etc) they should take out their set of cards and revise them.

Potentially, you could even make the student write derivatives on the back.

When the students has started using these words in their everyday life and feel quite comfortable using them, they can chuck them away and start learning new ones!

What do you think? Could this work for you?
Talk soon 🙂