Word power: success by definition

There is a lot we can do to help our Upper-secondary students increase their word power as Julie McGuinness illustrates in this article on vocabulary activities.

RTEmagicC_02A15JG1.jpgIf you were to ask any group of Bachillerato students what they considered to be the hardest challenge in English, I would bet that most are likely to single out vocabulary learning. This is hardly surprising considering the deluge of words they meet each year. Hopefully, after years of ESO training most students who are used to studying a second language will have developed some basic strategies for recording and learning vocabulary or will at least be aware of what works and doesn’t work for them. But the closer any language learner becomes to fluency, the wider the door opens and the faster the streams of input become. Even if our students have attained reasonably high levels of autonomy and proficiency, this does not in any way lessen their need for our support. The question is what can we do to help?

Building a high dose of vocabulary work into all skills has the advantage of ensuring that new lexis is met, consolidated and practised in a meaningful, contextualised way. Before launching into a reading text, most teachers would probably introduce the topic through some kind of warm-up activity which activates their students’ knowledge of the topic and kindles their interest. This is something we do naturally with language learners of all ages, as a way of bridging the gap between the learners and the text. At Bachillerato level we can use the same strategy to focus directly on the related lexis with a view to expanding it.

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