We do a lot of great work during our Fluentify sessions to help students improve their fluency. As we know, the more often we speak in our second language, the easier it becomes and the more fluently a person is able to converse. However, there is one huge block that most of our students face and often complain about- learning new vocabulary. Sure, during our sessions we teach them some new words or we have them find new vocab from an activity that they’ve done, but without a real reason to memorize these words (for example, a test that counts for something) there are very few students who will sit down to learn them.
So how can we encourage students to learn these new words and then actually put them into use? Every student has his or her way of learning whether it be visual, auditory, or a mix of both. We wanted to propose a few techniques that you can share with your students to help them give that boost to their vocab.
1. Notebook + Pencil + Review
The most standard way that many people try to learn new vocabulary is by making lists of new words every time they hear or read one. This is great- if that person will look at the list again. One way to help your students make this more effective is to tell them to set a reminder on their calendars/ phones once or twice a week where they block out a half hour to review the list and try to memorize them.
TIP: Putting vocab in context is always a plus- tell your students to write a sentence with the vocabulary word as a way to help them remember it and be able to use it in the future.
This is something that we’ve talked about in another article on various meta-learning tips, but for some, creating flashcards is the way to go. These can be physical flashcards that your students keep at home (and again set a reminder to review), or for the more modern version- mobile flashcards that students can look at on the metro, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or while they’re stuck in traffic. Some of the free apps we’ve found that work well are Flashcards by Brainscape, Flashcards+ by Chegg, or Flashcards Maker Pro. These are great for on-the-go learning and for having constantly updated vocab lists.
For some of our more beginner students, a great way to learn vocabulary is to label various things around the house or office with post-its. These labels are not meant to be permanent (we all know that they lose their stickiness eventually) but they should last just enough time for the student to see it multiple times in order to remember it.
TIP: In addition, tell your students to repeat the word out loud every time they see or use the thing that is labeled. The actual repetition of vocab out loud is crucial to memory.
4. Audio Recording
For our more auditory learners, recording themselves reading a list of vocabulary that they then listen to on repeat can be quite effective. Again, putting these words in context allows the student to put this vocab into use more easily. You can recommend that students make a new audio recording at the end of the week with all of the new vocab they’ve seen/ found/ heard and that for the next week they listen to it 3-4 times a day.
TIP: A recent study showed that learners who studied a list of words before going to bed and then listened to an audio recording of these words for two hours while they slept had twice as much accurate recall the next day than the group that didn’t listen to the audio recording- definitely worth a try!
5. Use Your Hands
This comes from my own personal language learning experience when I realized that making lists of vocabulary was completely useless if I never looked at them again. The way I solved this problem (similar to the post-its) is that I started writing new vocabulary on the palm of my hand. This way I was forced to look at the word at least 4 or 5 more times before it washed away, but it made a huge impact on my vocab growth! A little unconventional but might work for some of your students.
6. Check-In with Tutor
One final way that you can motivate your students to truly learn their new vocabulary is by scheduling some time during your sessions once a week to have them report on all of the new vocab they’ve learned. You can tell them to bring the list and then you can ask them to use the words in a sentence as a quick activity or try to incorporate them into your conversation while you keep track of the ones they’ve used and if they’ve used them correctly. Having this sense of accountability to their tutor might be just the right motivation they need!
There are many other ways that students can work on expanding their vocabulary, but this factor is extremely important in helping them improve their fluency and in taking their English from one level to the next. Make sure to check in with your students at the beginning of your ‘path’ together about what method they will use and then check in after every few sessions to see if they are sticking to it.
Are there any other methods that you guys recommend that we’ve missed? Comment below!