Activities for Teaching Vocabulary: How Can You Teach (or Learn) New Words?

First of all, when using activities for teaching vocabulary there are two key points we must remember:

Activities for Teaching Vocabulary

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

  1. The student has to actually USE the new words. He or she must understand the new word's meaning and then practice using it.

  2. Each word has several aspects to it. The first and most important is the word's meaning.
    After that you have: pictures, word's usage, pronunciation and spelling.

For each of those aspects you can use different activities.


Let's say you teach (or learn) the word "exhilaration".

First you clearly define its meaning: "excitement and happiness".

Learn new words: exhilaration

You can use a good and simple English dictionary for the meanings of words.

Then you can show one or more pictures that express "exhilaration". It can really help understanding. And it is definitely much more interesting that way! Funny pictures take it one step further, since they are usually more fun.

Next: how is this word used? Make some example sentences:
  • "After winning the lottery she felt incredible exhilaration."

  • "Climbing that mountain was really hard, but in the end we all felt exhilaration."

  • "The bride and groom left the church with great exhilaration."
Have the students make up sentences of their own.

Of course, merely reading the word is not enough. You need to know how to pronounce it properly too!

Teach the correct pronunciation of the word. How come it is pronounced that way? For example, the word "cake" is pronounced with a long A sound because of the silent E at the end. (English pronunciation may appear disorganized at times, but actually, there are some helpful rules on the subject. Visit the English Pronunciation section for more information on the sounds of English.)

Finally, you can't really claim you know a word, if you cannot use it in writing. Therefore you must know its spelling.

Dictations can be used to make the students memorize the new words' spelling. The problem with a dictation is that after it is over, it is very easy to forget all about it…

So it is in no way a replacement for the actual and repeated usage of the word in reading and writing.

So here is an example lesson plan to teach some new words:

  1. Make a list of the new words you want to teach. Make sure they are right for your students' level: not too difficult, not too easy.

  2. Prepare for yourself the words' meanings as well as some pictures/illustrations.

  3. Prepare some games with the new words (see below).

  4. Go over the new words with your students, and see that they get them.

  5. Play some games with the new words. For example: flashcards, playing cards, etc. You can use or invent whatever games you like.

  6. Read a story/stories with the new words. The more those words repeat in the text, the better. Make sure the stories do not contain hard words that the students do not know yet.

  7. After that, make some more activities.
    Do exercises, questions, and so forth, to further practice the new words.

  8. On the next lesson, study some new words, but don't forget the "old" ones! They do require repeating.

Activities for Teaching
Vocabulary – Final Words

For more data on the subject please read the Building Vocabulary and
Some Common Mistakes

And no matter which activity you use, keep this key question in front of you:
Does it make the students USE and REPEAT the new words?

The next main thing is to make it fun. Make a game out of it. Involve some points, some winners, etc. Learning new words doesn't have to be boring. When done nicely, it can be a lot of fun!

Learning new words can be fun!

Related articles:

Visit the Vocabulary Activities section to improve your vocabulary!

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