Traditional and digital creative approaches in teaching vocabulary to students

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №10 - 2018

Author: Oskolkova Anna , Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

The world-famous methodologist and teacher, Penny Ur, defines vocabulary as "the words we teach in the foreign language". While teaching the very words we need to teach their forms (pronunciation and spelling), grammar, word collocations, aspects of meaning (denotation, connotation, appropriateness, meaning relations) and the rules of word formation.

In the language classroom we can apply and improve both traditional and alternative/creative ways of teaching foreign vocabulary. Traditional methods of presenting new vocabulary can include giving dictionary definitions or detailed descriptions of an item, sharing real life examples, using various illustrations, de-monstrating processes, giving the context, providing synonyms or antonyms, explaining collocations or just translating the word into a native language.

Alternative or creative ways of teaching vocabulary are usually learner-centered. While applying creativity we can develop our students' critical thinking, imagination and emotional intelligence. Among the very creative ways we can name such activities as: alien game, associations, story-telling, thinking out of the box, seeking for similarities and differences, or doing word puzzles.

Alien game is a good activity for both teaching new vocabulary and brushing up well-known words. Usually teachers chooses a topic and give the first word for a start. A teacher or another student can be a time-keeper if there are an odd number of students in the class. In a pair one student is a human another student is an alien who is fond of asking questions about any item he finds interesting in the given definition. When the time is up, students change roles and explain a different word.

Doing associations can be connected with images and pictures. A teacher minds the word or a phrase that is known to students from previous classes; then she draws a small sketch on the board (if there is enough time) or uses already printed pictures. Students should guess the word or the phrase and name it. It is ok if they give synonyms or antonyms.

Story-telling can be done in a different and interesting way. Students are not to make a story with the words a teacher gives to them, but they try to make a story from a word's point of view. For example, an article a describes one day of his life by putting the rule in the story.

Thinking out of the box is a good tool to develop students' critical thinking and imagination. Keeping the topic in mind a teacher shows a cutting of the picture without many details on it. Or a teacher can cover the biggest part of the picture and open new parts with every right guessing from students. Students brainstorm the ideas and discuss them together. The useful vocabulary can be copied on the board and then remembered by the students. Another variant can be when a teacher erases one object from the picture and asks the students to guess the missing item.

The activity with similarities and differences can be done individually or in groups. A teacher gives the word pairs on different topics and asks the student to make a list of similarities and differences of the very words. For example, what are the similarities and differences between a kettle and a teapot, a cafe and a restaurant, a magazine or a newspaper, etc.

Finally, word puzzles can be connected together with teaching grammar aspects of the language. A teacher puts word strips in the box and let every student pick one and make an example with the very word. They can use monolingual dictionaries when necessary.

Nowadays within a rapid development of technology and its impact on education system we can suggest other alternative ways to improve the students' vocabulary of the English language. With the help of the following websites and their resources students can work and develop their vocabulary on their own or together with their group mates.

The first resource is http://www. quickanddirtytips. com/ grammar-girl. It gives the tips not only on grammar but also other important issues and ideas.

Grammar Girl provides short, friend-ly tips to improve your writing. Covering the grammar rules and word choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers, Grammar Girl makes complex grammar questions simple with memory tricks to help you recall and apply those troublesome grammar rules. Whether English is your first language or second language, Grammar Girl’s punctuation, style, and business tips will make you a better and more successful writer. Mignon Fogarty is the creator and host of Grammar Girl. Grammar Girl is a Quick and Dirty Tips podcast [1].

The second resource that students may find interesting is http:// accent. gmu. edu/ howto. php. Everyone who speaks a language, speaks it with an accent. A particular accent essentially reflects a person's linguistic background. When people listen to someone speak with a different accent from their own, they notice the difference, and they may even make certain biased social judgments about the speaker.

The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded. The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different English speakers.

This website allows users to compare the demographic and linguistic backgrounds of the speakers in order to determine which variables are key predictors of each accent. The speech accent archive demonstrates that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech.

All of the linguistic analyses of the accents are available for public scrutiny. The founders of the website welcome comments on the accuracy of our transcriptions and analyses [2].

The third resource that we would like to talk about is Freerice has a custom database containing questions at varying levels of difficulty. There are levels appropriate for beginners and levels that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are levels suitable for students of all ages, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people.

Freerice automatically adjusts to your level. It starts by giving you questions of increasing difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a question wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three questions in a row right, you progress to a harder level.

The program keeps track of how many people get each question right or wrong, and then adjusts each question's difficulty level accordingly. So the questions at the easiest levels are the ones that people most often get right. The questions at the hardest levels are the ones that people most often get wrong. As more and more people have played the game, these levels have become increasingly more accurate. In the middle of the Freerice Home page you will see something like:

small means:

- little;

- old;

- big;

- yellow.

To play the game, you click on one of the four definitions ("little", "old", "big" or "yellow") that you think is correct. If you get it right, Freerice donates 10 grains of rice to help end hunger. In the example above, you would want to click on "little", which means "small". When you select the correct answer, you earn 10 grains of rice - your donation is automatically counted without any further action required on your part. You will then get a chance to play another question in the same way. You can play as long as you like and donate as much rice as you like.

Learning new vocabulary has tremendous benefits. It can help you:

- Better formulate your ideas;

- Write more effective papers, emails and business letters;

- Speak more precisely and persuasively;

- Comprehend more of what you read;

- Read faster because your comprehension improves;

- Get higher grades in high school, college and graduate school;

- Increase your scores on tests like the SAT, GRE, LSAT and GMAT;

- Improve your performance at job interviews and conferences;

- Sell yourself, your services, and your products more effectively;

- Be more successful in your job.

After you have played Freerice for a while, you may notice a strange phenomenon. Words that you have never consciously used before will begin to pop into your head while you are speaking or writing [3].

The fourth website is connected with drawing and interactive gaming together with studying English vocabulary - a student can participate in episodes by drawing the main character and other objects that can help him complete the mission. In order to do this a student should have enough vocabulary to understand the instructions of the main character [4].

Another creative resource is on

At the beginning of each new school year a teacher may have students create an autobiographical comic strip talking about themselves and their families or summarizing the most important things about their lives, including their goals both in school and in life. Students can create a comic strip story using new vocabulary words that are being taught. Having students fill in talk or thought balloons for different cartoon characters also helps students practice conversation and language structure in a meaningful context. And what a fun way for students to improve their writing, reading and storytelling skills!

Students can break up into pairs or group teams to create their comic strips together. This approach encourages teamwork and cooperation, with students complementing the skills of their colleagues.

Students and teachers can create comic scenarios, scripts, or stories for children with autism as a way to teach them different kinds of social behavior and to read emotions by observing the faces of the different characters selected for the cartoons. Students and teachers can create comic strips teaching do’s and don’ts of using the Internet and social media. Teachers and students can create comic posters on responsible behavior related to technology use, including what not to post, digital literacy, ethics, etiquette and security.

Have students who are learning new foreign languages write their text in languages they are studying. In addition to English, the site accepts characters and accent marks from languages such as Spanish, French, Latin, German, Italian and Portuguese. Additional languages will be added to the site in the future.

Students can email or download to their desktop their completed comics. Doing so validates the efforts they put into creating the strips and gives them a sense of ownership. They can use the cartoon strips to introduce students to the world of creative writing and the pleasure of using their imaginations more fully. Teachers may consider having students create daily comix diaries. These provide a way for students to digest and integrate what they are taught each day as well as to reflect on their lives and experiences. Encourage students to use the comic characters as surrogates for them to talk about and examine their lives, their problems, their challenges and their anxieties. In effect, students can see themselves in the comics they create [5].

Another resource is taken from mass media world. It is https:// learningenglish. voanews. com/.

Learning English is VOA’s multimedia source of news and information for millions of English learners worldwide.

Their Let's Learn English programs are designed for beginning English learners by certified American English teachers. The audio programs and captioned videos are written using vocabulary at the intermediate and upper-beginner level. The programs are read one-third slower than normal English speed. Online texts, MP3s and podcasts let people read, listen and learn American English and much more.

Learning English began as Special English, which Voice of America launched in 1959. Special English newscasts and features were a primary fixture of VOA’s international shortwave broadcasts for more than half a century. In 2014, the line of products was expanded to include more English teaching materials, and the service became known as Learning English.

Some language teaching methods are dull and disconnected from real life. People soon forget what they learn, or focus on words and phrases without context. VOA Learning English maintains a loyal following among learners, teachers and educational publishers worldwide by using journalism to engage people's interests. Learners absorb American English thro-ugh content drawn from world news, business, science, U.S. life, popular culture and other topics. People build their vocabulary, strengthen their speaking skills and improve their ability to communicate for work, school and everyday life [6].

In order to improve not only vocabulary but also pronunciation the students and teachers can use the website www. audacity.

Audacity is a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU / Linux and other operating systems. The interface is translated into many languages.

Audacity is free software, developed by a group of volunteers and distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Programs like Audacity are also called open source software, because their source code is available for anyone to study or use. There are thousands of other free and open source programs, including the Firefox web browser, the LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice office suites and entire Linux-based operating systems such as Ubuntu.


- Record live audio

- Record computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine

- Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs

- Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files

- AC3, M4A/M4R (AAC), WMA and other formats supported using optional libraries

- Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together

- Numerous effects including change the speed or pitch of a recording [7].

By clicking on https:// www. discoveryeducation. com/who-we-are/ about-discovery-education/, students can improve their language skills by watching the video and working with its content in the classroom or at home, reading authentic texts and doing the assignments. Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content for students, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional development, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, Discovery Education’s services are in half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the U.K., and more than 50 countries.

Teachers can accelerate their student achievement in their district by capturing the minds and imaginations of students with the fascination of Discovery, tapping into students’ natural curiosity and desire to learn.

Teachers may help in transitioning classrooms to a 21st-century learning environment, or replace textbooks with modern digital resources, Discovery Education offers a continuum of solutions to meet district’s specific needs. All content is aligned to state standards, can be aligned to custom curriculum, and supports classroom instruction regardless of the technology platform. In addition, they offer a variety of professional development opportunities to ensure effective implementation in the classroom. Discovery Education impacts the way students learn, breaking down barriers and moving beyond static textbooks to a digital delivery they already embrace.

Accelerating student achievement is the ultimate result we all want to reach. Discovery Education has worked with school districts of all sizes and demographics and consistently delivers results. They evaluate their services using qualitative measures, including student engagement, teacher satisfaction, and impact, and quantitative measures, such as test scores [8].

Graphic organizers taken from can help students classify ideas and communicate more effectively. They can use graphic organizers to structure writing projects, to help in problem solving, decision making, studying, planning research and brainstorming [9].

In conclusion, we would like to say that it is a well-known fact that the English language has the biggest vocabulary and today's methodology of teaching this vocabulary has gained so many ways, approaches and tools, so it is up to the teacher to choose them wisely and apply effectively.


1. http:// www. quickanddirtytips. com/ grammar- girl







8. https:// www. discoveryeducation. com/ who- we-are/about-discovery-education/


Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №10 - 2018

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