ESL classroom tools for vocabulary building

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Dictionaries and thesauruses are very useful tools for vocabulary building, and a quick search of the World Wide Web (WWW) will also reveal a plethora of technology-based tools for vocabulary building: most of which are in the form of word games, but others are more dictionary and thesaurus oriented.

As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you will no doubt be keen to build up the student’s vocabulary, so here are a few suggestions about vocabulary tools that you can use for this purpose. There are numerous sites with vocabulary games and dictionary/thesaurus facilities on the WWW: as an ESL teacher you should familiarize yourself with some of these sites. Once you have selected the site, you can connect your computer to a large screen and the whole class will then be able to participate in the activity: make sure that the activities you select are appropriate for the CEFR level of the class you are teaching. A few sites that you might consider using are the following (they have been chosen at random, and no recommendation is implied – although they do seem to be useful for ESL learning):

It may be that your students ask you to recommend a good dictionary, in this case – any of the following are well suited for ESL learning:

Another useful tool that the ESL teacher can use to build up the student’s vocabulary is the regular use of a spelling test combined with a cloze test of, say, twenty words a week: this will help the student learn the spelling, pronunciation and meaning of the words: over a twenty-eight week period, a guaranteed 560 words would be learnt every academic year – and this is apart from any additional vocabulary that the student might learn during the course of the academic year. At the end of the day, ‘old fashioned’ reading is still the best method for improving vocabulary: to this end, the ESL teacher can use a graded reader combined with a student’s personal dictionary as tools for building vocabulary: the personal dictionary would be used for writing the meanings of all new vocabulary encountered in the reader.

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