Five Energizing Activities to Boost Vocabulary

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Five Energizing Activities to Boost Vocabulary Production and Retention
Jenia Ivanova and Rus Wilson
English Language Institute, University of Utah
[email protected]
[email protected]
 Introduction

Often the task of word learning may be daunting for second language learners; however, it is not
impossible.

To know a word means to know a great deal about it.

The types of knowledge involved in knowing a word include its spoken and written forms,
grammatical patterns, meaning, collocations, frequency, and appropriateness (Nation, 1990).

Providing focused vocabulary practice that is effective may be crucial for acquiring selected
target words that need to be internalized within a limited learning period.

Focused vocabulary exercises should aim to develop not only learners’ receptive word
knowledge (the ability to recognize a word) but also their productive word knowledge (the
ability to use a word)

L2 learners often experience difficulties in their word production, and their language
development is held back by limited productive vocabularies.

Laufer (1991) suggests that the “productive lexicon will grow only until it reaches the average
level of the group in which we are required to function.”

In order to develop learners’ productive lexicon, we should provide effective vocabulary practice
that lends opportunities to the students for contextualized production of the target words in the
classroom environment.
 Production Exercises

Most commonly, the tasks requiring second language learners to produce the target vocabulary
words in appropriate contexts include the following:
- Open cloze exercises
- Labeling pictures
- Answering a question requiring the target word
- Seeing or hearing an L2 synonym and providing the target word
- Finding an error in idiom use in a sentence and correcting it

However, often L2 learners need to construct longer pieces of oral and written discourse in order to
attain different communicative purposes.
 Student Songs and Stories

Considering that contextual production is the most demanding among other vocabulary activities, we
focused our efforts on tasks such as creating stories and songs, in which the L2 learners employed
target words from the weekly vocabulary list, given in class.

In creating stories and songs, L2 learners practice using all aspects of word knowledge in
discourse
- meaning (positive/negative connotation)
- collocations
- grammatical features
- pragmatic appropriateness (formal/informal; polite/impolite)

They actively use the target language to achieve their communicative goal.

The amount and variety of cognitive processes involved may facilitate the retention of the
target words through enhancing the deeper internalization of the layers of the word
knowledge.

Students have fun.
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