When I first started teaching online I was unsure how to pace my lessons and I did not have enough ideas for vocabulary activities. So if you are new to teaching, whether it’s online or brick and mortar, this pacing guide and the vocabulary tips will help you improve.
Being that I am currently an Online teacher, I’m sharing ideas for an online classroom. I know you can apply these ideas to a brick and mortar setting too because I worked in the school system from 2005-2016.
Teaching Vocabulary Activities
For both the student’s sake and your sake you need to mix up the variety of ways in which you teach vocabulary. Teaching vocabulary activities sometimes feels overwhelming, especially if you are not a creative person or if you don’t have any teaching experience. So let’s make this as simple, but effective as possible.
Work with what you have. Consider everything that is part of your classroom and then think of all the ways you can make an activity with it.
- The whiteboard is the easiest place to start. You can have the student draw vocabulary words (pictionary), play spelling games (hangman or tic-tac-toe), write lists that the student can use to recall vocabulary, do board races (see how fast the student can write or draw a word compared to other students or to you), and draw a comic with words or ideas from the lesson.
- Props (stuffed animals, toys, etc.) or visuals (flash cards/pictures) are an excellent way to practice vocabulary. You can have two stuffed animals have a conversation, use the props to have the student guess the vocabulary word or practice recall, or play a guessing game using props.
- You! Use your personality to make jokes, smile, ask questions, and be silly when talking about vocabulary. If the words have to do with emotions, act out the emotions. Use a lot of Total Physical Response. Make the student laugh and enjoy the lesson with you.
Vocabulary Games for the Classroom
Some of my favorite vocabulary games for the classroom include:
- Writing as many words as you can in 60 seconds – be specific in terms of using words from the lesson or choosing a category
- Guessing games using words from the lesson. An example of a guessing game is: Guess the teacher’s favorite food and provide three options. Then you can have the student do the same and you guess
- Memory games where you cover words or images of the vocabulary and the student has to find the pair. Have them say a sentence when they find a match.
- If you have a group, have two students compete on guessing a word when the teacher describes something or provides a fill in the blank sentence.
- Charades is always fun. Have students act out a vocabulary word and the other student has to guess it.
- Describe one of the words and the students have to guess which one it is.
There are so many vocabulary games for the classroom and I’ve only listed a few. If you have more ideas let us know in the comments below.
While activities and games are fun, students also need vocabulary strategies to help them improve. One of the most important vocabulary strategies is learning prefixes and suffixes. This helps students break words down into parts so that they can apply meaning to new words without as much difficult.
There are also a lot of ESL vocabulary strategies. Total physical response is a great way to help students retain new words for the long-term.
Having a word wall or a word bank is great to help students refer to the new vocabulary throughout a lesson or a unit. When I’m teaching online and a student is learning a list of words I review the list on each page.
Drawing also helps students remember words because they are pairing an image with the language they’re learning. The act of drawing uses one side of the brain while saying the word uses the other side of the brain. Using both sides of the brain in tandem is what helps students retain vocabulary. That’s also why total physical response works so well.
Teaching Vocabulary Strategies
It’s very important for students to know what the vocabulary strategies are so they can use the strategies themselves. Different strategies resonate well with different people. If a student knows which strategy works best for him, he can use it over and over again throughout the language learning process.
In order for vocabulary development to occur students need to use the vocabulary in context. They need to practice all four language domains: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Vocabulary development takes time, but remind students that they will progress with practice. Based on the student’s needs guide them with the proper tools to practice.
When students struggle with grammar and sentence structure I guide them to read and highlight the specific areas they need to work on. For example, past tense. If they struggle with past tense they should read, highlight all of the words in past tense, and then copy a few sentences from what they read. Then practice using similar sentences.
Sometimes drills and repetition is necessary because we are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the higher the chance of our memory muscle capturing what we’re doing for the long-term.
Learning vocabulary or grammar in isolation is the worst thing for a language learner. They need context to progress. So practice vocabulary based on a theme and then put it into context using all language domains until the student shows mastery.
Best Way to Teach Vocabulary
The best way to teach vocabulary is to use a little of all of the tips above.
Start with front loading the vocabulary before teaching a new unit. Next, have an activity where the students can use the vocabulary. At this point, the student should not have to produce the word. First do something simple such as matching or writing the words and drawing an image to accompany the word. Incorporate vocabulary activities or games daily and also use them in context while reading, writing and speaking. Keep track of the student’s progress. Remember to take things step-by-step until the student is confident in producing the vocabulary in myriad ways.
Pacing can be difficult when teaching online because the materials are provided for you. It takes time to get used to the company’s curriculum style. There are also a lot of other considerations such as the student level, the time of the class, the activities within the lesson, and whether or not it is a group class or a one-on-one class.
In my PDF I decided to share a pacing guide for a 45 minute lesson with 4 intermediate or advanced students and a 25 minute lesson for beginner students. I created a video to walk you through the entire lesson, but let’s talk about some of the basics here.
Teacher Pacing Guide Template – 45 Minutes
Most 45 minute sessions, whether they are adult or junior, intermediate or advanced, have a similar style:
- Title Page
- Introduction to the Lesson
- Reading Page
- Reading Page
- Reading Page
- Discussion Questions Page
With this in mind, you can easily create a pacing guide for any situation. Here is what you need to have in mind to create your pacing guide at iTutorGroup:
- Decide how many minutes you want to spend on each slide. I usually spend two to three minutes on reading slides and five to eight minutes on discussion pages.
- Decide how you fill in extra time once you have completed the reading or activity portion of the slide. I provide some tips for games, prop usage, and more on my PDF and YouTube video.
- Consider any possible interruptions such as IT issues, student questions, students who are not at the right level, or behavior problems (for junior clients).
Pacing Guide Template – 25 Minutes
The structure for pacing a 25 minute session is similar to a 45 minute session in that you will need to decide how many minutes you have to spend on each slide in order to end the session on time. What is different is that you will need to supplement a lot more activities for beginner students. Most 25 minute sessions are with younger kids, so definitely plan activities to expand on the materials.
Beginner students barely speak any English, which means you have to do a lot more talking and the student has to do a lot of repeating. You have to plan activities that incorporate visuals, props, a whiteboard, and total physical response. All of those tools help beginners comprehend English.