Vocabulary Activities and #KELTChat

On Sunday, June 21st, I had the pleasure of taking part in a #keltchat, which is kind of a discussion on twitter with other language teaching professionals.  Although the “k” stands for “Korean”, I’m not a teacher in Korea.  That hasn’t stopped me the community from welcoming me.  I’ve had nothing but positive experiences on #keltchat and I love the fact that many of the topics deal directly with issues that I face in teaching.  Sunday night’s chat was about learning and teaching new words in class.

I took away quite a bit from the chat.  People shared resources, links, ideas, and experiences.  One thing that particularly struck me was that many teachers taught vocabulary in chunks.  Looking at Newall’s definition, a chunk is “…a unit of memory organisation, formed by bringing together a set of already formed chunks in memory and welding them together into a larger unit.”  In the language classroom, this might mean teaching word families, collocations, phrasal verbs, and idioms, for example.  I think this makes sense and is much more useful than the single-word lists I usually give out to my students.  Next week, I’m planning a lesson on staying healthy and I have replaced single words like “jogging” and “doctor” with “go for a jog” and “visit the doctor” to start with.

Another thing I took away from the chat was the idea of “FUMP“, which sounds like a dirty word but isn’t.  FUMP is an acronym that means “Form, Use, Meaning, and Pronunciation”.  This provides a teaching framework for vocabulary, expressions, and grammar structures.  Form simply refers to the visual and audible part of the vocabulary (spelling, grammar, and syllable stress, for example).  Use covers how, when and why a word is used .  Meaning refers to the meaning of the word and the context in which it is used.  Pronunciation is self-explanatory but I’m kind of surprised and a bit embarassed at how often I skip this in class when things get really busy.   I really didn’t know anything about FUMP before the #keltchat so it was good to find something that expanded on one idea of what is needed for successful vocabulary teaching.  I can see how this can expand my range of vocabulary activities from memorizing simple word-lists to multiple types of activities that center on a word.  For example, I could make a worksheet where students would have to match a particular usage of a word with a certain situation if I wanted to have an activity based around the Use aspect of FUMP.

There was a lot more going on with the #keltchat and I enjoyed hearing about what other teacher’s students liked and disliked.  I found out that not everyone’s students disliked crosswords (as mine seem to).  Some teacher’s students were happy to get them as a break from routine.  This indicated to me that I was probably over-using crosswords as they sort of had become routine in my class.  I was surprised to learn from another teacher that younger students liked drilling and probably needed the repetition.  I would have to agree though, that adult learners probably wouldn’t last long in a drilling-centered class.  Other teachers mentioned that they had students play games in class like “use it in a sentence” games with points rewarded to learners.  I think that would probably be a hit with my students, who are young adult learners but seem to enjoy some friendly competition at times.

Anyway, I wanted to end this post by saying a big thank you to everyone who participated in the#keltchat.  I really enjoyed it and I’d like to participate again.