Ten ways to expand students' lexis

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In his second in a series of tips for those new to teaching English as a foreign language IH London's Chris Milnes looks at ways to expand students’ lexis.

1. Use student centered lexis

Having done a thorough needs analysis (i) to find out what your learners’ needs and interests are, select lexis that will be useful for them in the real world and most importantly their world.

2. Prepare students to learn

Make time for learner training (ii) in class, it might take an hour of class time but it will enable your students to take control of their own learning forever!

3. Train students to record language

It's not just important what the teacher writes on the board, but also what students write in their notebooks. Two things to remember: Check during the lesson (or take in their notebooks) and train students to record language correctly. You can then borrow a student’s notebook as your reference for recycling activities - it will encourage them to record the lexis well.

4. Build your boarding skills

If you can't write clearly on the board, practice until you can.

5. Be aware of language as it occurs in class

Teach some incidental useful language every day i.e. as it comes up. However, make sure students record it accurately and write it down for you so you can create revision activities. You can either take a photo of the whiteboard/save your IWB document so that you too have a record of lexis that emerged.

6. Keep useful materials around the classroom

Consider having small blank vocabulary cards in the classroom that students can use to write new vocabulary on. They then write a definition on the back. The cards can then be used for revision and recycling activities, e.g. backs to the board.

7. Use the world outside your window

Don’t forget there are lots of real world activities that can be done outside the classroom.

8. Use the classroom like a canvas

You can put new vocabulary on Post-its and stick them on the back of the classroom door. Students pick up a Post-it as they come in, stick it on their desk, and try to use that vocabulary item during the lesson. (If students are late, they have to take two!)

9. Keep quick students busy

There's always something an early finisher can do. Even if it is only putting language into their short term memory by closing the book and reciting sentences to themselves.

10. Keep an eye on what students produce

Consider using mini-whiteboards for revision and recycling activities. They’re a good way of keeping an eye on what students are actually producing.

(i) The purpose of conducting a needs analysis is to find out what students already know, what they need to know and what their preferences are. This is best achieved by providing your students with a first day survey.

(ii) Learner training involves helping learners find out how they learn most effectively. Learner training may include ways of recording new vocabulary, different learning styles and preferences, finding opportunities to use English outside the class, reflecting on strengths and weaknesses and study skills.

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