Friday, 15 June 2012

Jeremy's handout

Learning to remember:
Some ideas on encountering new vocabulary

‘It has been estimated that, when reading, words stand a good chance of being remembered if they have been met at least seven times over spaced intervals.’ (Scott Thornbury)
It’s important that we make sure students understand new vocabulary and give them time to do so. It’s worth bearing in mind that students will be more likely to remember what happens at the beginning and end of the lesson, rather than what happens in the middle.
Using a variety of different situations and contexts to review vocabulary is the key to keeping students interested and engaged.

Classroom activity: Learning a text by heart
Give the students a text. It can be from the student’s book.
Ask them to work in pairs.
Student A: writes down the text, but only the odd words, leaving big enough spaces for the other words.
Student B: does the same with the even words.
In pairs, they exchange what they have written verbally, and then complete their texts.
The whole class together, from memory, students come to the board and re-write the text.

Our memories love the absurd, the unusual, the vivid and exciting. As a teacher, one of the most important skills is the ability to transform the abstract into something that is attention-grabbing and unforgettable.
Mnemonics can help students remember and retrieve new words more easily. To make a word such as beorn (the old English word for man) more memorable, we should try and connect the sound of the word with an image that is linked to the word’s meaning. For example we could imagine ‘a man being born’ or the famous Swedish tennis player, Bjorn Borg.
Classroom activity: Cross associations
As students read a text, ask them to note down any new words and then find out their meanings, uses, etc. in a dictionary. Then build up a separate list of famous people the students suggest.
Ask students to write down any associations they can make between the words and the people. The more ridiculous and sillier, the more memorable these will be.

Jeremy Bowell, Oxford University Press
The psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus discovered that our memories grow continuously weaker, and that we will forget 50% of something within an hour of
seeing it. However, he also found that the rate at which our memories fade lessens each time we review information, and furthermore, that our memories get stronger with each
review. This is crucial to how we teach vocabulary. Reviewing new vocabulary after a few minutes, an hour, a day, a few days, a week, and so on will enable our students to effectively commit vocabulary to their long term memories.
Actively retrieving words (rather than passively reading them) will help strengthen our memories and improve our ability to recall.

Maturita Solutions VocApp is a great tool that your students can download on to their phones that will help them to revise vocabulary and prepare for tests whenever and wherever they are.
There are wordlists with translations, context sentences and audio, and quizzes to encourage active retrieval of key vocabulary.

Use it or lose it. The more variety of ways that we use the vocabulary with our students, the more likely it is that they will remember and use the words themselves.
Personalising and making new vocabulary meaningful for the students is crucial to success. Storytelling and drama are memorable, fun and imaginative ways we can get our students to use new words in context.

Classroom activity: Wordbag
An old favourite, but a great way to get students to take responsibility for their own vocabulary learning. Fill a bag with blank slips of paper and at the start of each lesson appoint two students to write down any new words that they encounter. Ensure they write the word on one side and a translation/definition/context sentence on the other. Then place all the words in the bag.
Over time you have a great resource to use for quick revision at the start and end of each lesson.

Resource Books for Teachers: Vocabulary, John Morgan, Mario Rinvolucri, OUP Memory Games, The Guardian
Keeping words on the tip of your ...., Scott Thornbury, The Guardian.
Jeremy Bowell, Oxford University Press