Some ideas to show the meaning of new words

You don’t need to explain all new words to your pupils

  • When children learn their first language, they do not learn all the new words they meet at the same time. They learn words they are interested in, or words their parents feel are useful.
  • Children can often understand the meaning of a story, or a dialogue, even when they do not know all the words.
  • If you spend a lot of time teaching new words, children don’t have the time to practise words and structures they already know.
  • So, children do need to know words, but only teach a word if it is a common, useful or interesting word for them.

Do the following to help pupils remember words:

  • Distinguish between active words (which pupils must use) and passive ones (  which pupils should understand but not use well).
  • Recycle words through games, dialogues, short tests, posters on the classroom wall. This helps passive vocabulary to become active.
  • Encourage pupils to keep their own vocabulary books. Pupils can use translation in them, but they might also try drawing pictures, writing example sentences in English, or grouping words in categories (for example the weather, travel, clothes, family, ….. etc)

When You should translate words:

  • When explaining passive vocabulary, or abstract words such as love, hate, etc.
  • When checking that pupils understood the meaning of a word after presenting it.

Ways You can use to show the meaning of a word:

  • Using pictures, real objects or drawing on the blackboard are more memorable for pupils than translation.
  • Using  gestures, mime, body language and facial expressions to show the meaning of words such as ‘hot’,’ cold’, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and so on.
  • Using examples from the real world (Is there a zoo in our city? What animals can you see in a zoo?)
  • Asking pupils, who know a word, to explain it in English or to draw a picture and asking others to guess the meaning. This may take a little time, but may add interest and enjoyment to the lesson.
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