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Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching defines Vocabulary as “a set of lexemes, including single words, compound words and idioms”. In The New Oxford Dictionary of English (2001), vocabulary is “the body of words used in a particular language”. English linguist Nation said: “ Learning a second language means learning its vocabulary”. Wilkins states that without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed. The definition of Vocabulary
The main goal of vocabulary teaching is to encourage and help the students know well how the native speakers and other high proficient learners use the target language in order to enhance their sensibility of subtle differences in vocabulary. The aim of vocabulary teaching should be to provide the students with the ability of distinguishing the words and mastering usage.
Concrete words may denote: things (book, street, sky, pencil, house, train) actions (walk, dance, read, write, speak, take, get, bring) and qualities (long, big, good, excellent, easy) They are easier to learn than words denoting abstract notions: -( world, believe, promise, honest, trust, think, ext.)
English linguist Wallace stated that to know a word means the ability to “recognize it in its spoken or written form, recall it at will, relate it to an appropriate object or concept, use it in the appropriate grammatical form, pronounce it in a recognizable way in speech, spell it correctly in writing, use it with the words it correctly goes with, use it at the appropriate level of formality, and be aware of its connotations and associations”.
English Teachers’ Problems in Vocabulary Instruction In junior forms, some English teachers only pay attention to the teaching of phonetics, grammar and syntax, asking students to do lots of exercises about them so as to get good marks in the exams. Teachers pay little attention to vocabulary teaching. When tested, many students will complain that they come across too many unfamiliar words and expressions. As a result, a lot of mistakes appear in their test because of their misunderstanding of the vocabulary, which will make them lose interest in learning English.
Equal Time on Vocabulary The New English Syllabus requires the students of junior form to master the usages of 1500—1600 words and 200—300 idioms, and it has Specific requirements on the learning of each word on the aspects of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Many teachers, however, spend equal time pouring new words and expressions of the word-list to the students, without notifying which one is the most important that should be learned to the fullest extent and which one only needs to be recognized. The students will become worried and doubt their ability of learning English vocabulary. Gradually, they will lose interest it and give up learning.
Ignoring Cultural Meaning Custom is part of culture, and culture is the basis of language. In vocabulary teaching in junior form, the teachers only teach the students the spelling, pronunciation, part of speech and collocation of the words, seldom do they make any mention of information concerning culture. It is better to tell the students some cultural knowledge of vocabulary to broaden their vision and stimulate their learning interest. It will also benefit the students to think in English more and thus enhancing their English learning.
At the stage of presenting new vocabulary, the teachers should choose proper strategies to teach different kinds of words: giving the first language translation, giving a synonym, giving a definition by paraphrase, using the new word in a sentence, using teaching aids such as multimedia or any combination of these. The teachers should remember that a word is much easier for the students to remember when they can connect the form, the meaning and the concrete image of it together. Since every word has its meaning, form and usage to present a word means to explain its meaning, to introduce to pupils its forms and usage. In junior form prevails the visual presentation.
There are 2 ways of conveying the meaning of words: Direct method Translation. The direct method is usually used when the words denote things, objects, sometimes gestures and movements, which can be shown to and seen by pupils. The mother tongue is not used. The direct method: 1) Visual 2) Verbal
Visual Aids In teaching of junior students some nouns of concrete things such as apple, pear, cake, dog, car and moon, the teacher can bring to class the real objects or some pictures of them. Concrete images are easily accepted by the students and the teacher doesn’t have to tell the students the meanings of those words. While teaching some verbs such as eat, walk, jump, open, write, sit, stand, and some teacher can show the students vivid actions and facial expressions, then there is no need for the teacher to explain anything more about the words, because the students already understand them tacitly with their eyes.
English Explanations in Class The English Syllabus requires the teachers to use English in class as often as possible and only use the mother tongue as assisted language, so it is very important to create an English environment in the English class for the students to practice their listening and speaking skills. For instance, the following words can be explained in this way: (1) holiday: time off from work or school; (2) invite: ask someone to dinner; (3) housework: work done around the home; (4) afternoon: between 12:00 and 6:00 in the daytime; (5) exam: an important school test; (6) different: not the same.
Contextual Teaching It is stated that vocabulary is alive only if put into context. In presenting new words, the teacher can provide the context for the students and let them guess the meaning of the target vocabulary. For example, in teaching the word “water”, the teacher can show the following sentences to the students: (1) I am very thirsty; I want to drink some water (2) The flowers are dry; I must water them every day. (3) There is some water in the bottle, we can drink it. From context, it is not difficult for the students to guess that “water” in sentences (1) and (3) is a noun, while the one in sentence (2) is a verb. Then the students will know the different parts of speech and usages of the word “water”.
The teacher can provide the students with the following context in order to teach the word “umbrella”. It’s raining and I want to go out. I don’t want to get wet. I haven’t a raincoat, but I have an umbrella. The rain is coming down on my umbrella but it isn’t coming down on me. My umbrella is protecting me from catching rain. Now the rain has stopped. I will take my umbrella down. An umbrella is very useful when it is raining. Teaching a word in this way, putting the word in context, the teacher not only teaches the student vocabulary, but to think in English as well.
Games Using games in classroom English vocabulary teaching in junior form will make the class alive. Junior students are active and they like playing games. For example, guessing riddles is a good game in vocabulary teaching to practice the students’ abilities of listening, and speaking, and at the same time help them to remember the target words. Junior students will be active in guessing the words and really learn them by heart.
The teacher can convey the meaning with the word-building element: Teacher: You know the words: worker, teacher … Now guess the meaning of the word writer. Write- writer. The teacher may also use synonyms to convey the meaning of a new word. For example the word town may be presented through the familiar word city; receive- get; reply – answer..
The use of the direct method is restricted. Whenever the teacher to present words denoting abstract notions he must resort to the mother tongue, i.e. , to translation. The translation method may be applied in its two variants: Common (proper) translation: Translation- Interpretation: To sleep-спать. Flower – цветок Joy - радость To go –ехать, идти, лететь и т.д To drive – вести (что?) машину, поезд.. Education- воспитание, образование
How does the word collocated with surrounding words? Is it a part of a set expressions? How a lexical item collocates? For example: People are injured but things are damaged. We say a weak coffee but not a light coffee We may say take the decision but come to the conclusion.
Practice of Vocabulary includes various exercises with the words in phrases and structures to assimilate the usage of words. Two groups may be recommended for vocabulary assimilation: Group 1 Exercises designed for developing pupils’ skills in choosing the proper word. Group 2 Exercises designed to form pupil’s skills in using the word in sentences
Group 1 may include: 1)- Exercises in finding the necessary words among those suggested. For example: - Picking out the words which denote school objects; - Choosing the right word: The horse is a (wild, domestic) animal. 2)- Exercises in finding the necessary words among those stored up in the pupil’s memory: - Giving the name to the object the teacher shows; - Filling in the blanks; - Naming the words with a similar meaning; - Making the list of objects one can see in the classroom; - Playing a guessing game.
Group 2 includes: Exercises in inserting the necessary words in word combinations, phrases, sentences, the words and sentences being suggested. For example: - Combine the words; - Connect the sentences.. Exercises in using word combinations, phrases, sentences, the words and sentences stored up in pupils’ memory in connection with situations given. For example: - Say what you can see here. (The teacher shows his pupils pens and pencils of different colour and size for them to say a blue pen, a long pencil, etc. Or he can use situational pictures for the purpose). - Say where the pen is. (The teacher puts the pen in different places for pupils to say on the tale, in the box, under the bag, over the blackboard, and so on.) - Make statements. (The teacher either displays objects or uses pictures for pupils to say a blue pencil, it’s raining hard.) -Make two or three statements on the object (or the picture).
At both stages of teaching vocabulary the teacher should use all kinds of vocabulary testing to see how his pupils assimilate the form the meaning, and the usage of the words. For testing the retention of the written form the teacher may suggest dictations. For testing the meaning special tests may be recommended such as writing synonyms, antonyms and some others. For testing the usage of the words the teacher may give such tests as composing sentences using the words given, composing a short story on a picture or a set of pictures, and some others.
With no good acquisition of vocabulary, there will be no way for listening, speaking, reading, writing, and translation to develop well and appropriately. The teachers are responsible to help the students to develop their ability to understand and to use a word automatically and appropriately for communicative purposes In teaching different kinds of words, the teachers should choose different teaching aids and strategies to activate the students’ learning motivation. Junior students like curious and exciting activities, so the teachers can design some competitive exercises or play some games in the process of teaching vocabulary to arouse their interest in learning. Conclusion
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