Assessing Vocabulary

Assessing Vocabulary - If you assess the vocabulary of your students, you can get a fair idea about the areas on which you need to work in order to improve their performance.

by Trevor Clark

Vocabulary is a crucial part of teaching a language especially if it is the second or foreign language of students. In such a scenario, you have to adopt certain methods with the help of which you can make sure your students are comfortable with the language and can think up words easily to express themselves.

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On Teaching New Vocabulary Words

I recommend that you teach vocabulary in context rather than randomly. For example, don`t teach the word pot in isolation. Make a point of teaching all the kitchen words you can come up with that will be practical for students to learn, then reinforce them with activities, like worksheets, flashcard games and others.

Assessing Vocabulary - How to Assess the Vocabulary of your Students?

How can you assess the vocabulary of your students and thereby improve it? There are a number of methods by which you can do this. One such technique is vocabulary dictation.

Here, you read out a set of twenty to thirty words quickly without any breather. As you finish, you ask your students to write down all the words mentioned by you - as many as they can remember.

Based on the performance of the students, you will be able to assess their vocabulary. If the majority of students manage to write at least 75% of the total words, you would get an idea that they are on the right track. However, if they do not fare well, you will have to take steps to improve their concentration and vocabulary.

After pre-teaching them words ie) animals. You can play slam (kultatori) and see how well they fare. If they are not good at finding the animals when you shout them out, then they need more reinforcement. It is always a great idea to have students act as the teacher and shout out the words for the other student. Then you just moderate and referee the game.

Pictured: Kevin R. Burns and The Jester, in Ebisu Garden Place

You can play the game of riddles to improve the vocabulary knowledge of your students. You give hints about a particular word and the students have to guess it. The time taken by students to answer your riddles would bear testimony to their knowledge of vocabulary.

After you make an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, you have to take the required steps to improve the scenario. One of the most effective ways of improving vocabulary is extempore sessions.

You can call each student and ask him to speak at length about a given topic for, say, 5 minutes (for advanced students). You should encourage him to speak irrespective of whether he has any concrete knowledge of the topic or not. This would help a student in improving his ability of expression thereby increasing his knowledge of words. (article continued below)

Steven Pinker on language and thought

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For lower level students you may want to ask them to speak about a given topic in pairs then do a 3-2-1 Activity, where they speak three more times, for 3 minutes, two minutes then one minute on the same topic each time, but with a different partner.

You will find that they improve with each session and by the fourth time of (one minute), they will be much better indeed. By speaking in pairs, it takes the pressure off of them as compared with speaking in front of the class.

Assessing Vocabulary by Using Worksheets

Vocabulary worksheets are equally helpful in assessing the word knowledge of students. These worksheets have varied sets of exercises; the main intention of which is to acquaint a student with new words and definitions. You can benefit a lot from such sheets.

You can teach students new words with the help of multiple choice exercises. One such example is:

The Principal was irate after hearing about the mischief of the students.

What is the meaning of the word ‘irate’?

(a) surprised (b) proud (c) interested (d) angry

The right answer is: (d) angry.

Students can make out the answer from the context of the sentence. Multiple choice worksheets in other words are more beneficial than close activities, as in the former the answer is one of the four, whereas in a close actitity the student has to come up with the answer from thin air.

Assessing Vocabulary by having them Read Graded Readers

Having your students read can help you to assess their vocabulary knowledge. After reading for 15 minutes, ask then how difficult it was. You can adjust the level of your lesssons accordingly depending on if they say it was easy, so-so or difficult.

In our school we have graded readers of levels 1-6. We assign different levels depending upon feedback from students.

Therefore, with the help of similar exercises, you can expect to bring a noticeable change in the vocabulary of your students.

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