ESL Students and Vocabulary Problems
Tutoring students this quarter has taught me many things I hadn’t previously realized. I saw students who struggled with translation problems, memorization, and even culture barriers that impacted their ability to speak and write English correctly. From personal experience with my own individual tutees, I found that the greatest problem among them all was their ability to remember key
vocabulary words in English. Most of my students had a firm grasp on the English language and could speak it fairly fluently, but they struggled when they were assigned to respond to an article, read a novel, or write their own essay. After doing some research, I came across a case study conducted by Rita Ray who studied the
advancement of ESL students based on different vocabulary
teaching strategies. Rita acknowledged in her report that, “the vocabulary that students encounter frequently prevents them from understanding reading material and test questions.” Although recognizing contextual clues and utilizing a dictionary or translator are always very helpful and appealing options to students, they are frequently very tedious and time consuming, which can also impact a student’s level of understanding if their time is limited. In her study, Rita decided that they best course of action would be to have assigned hour-long periods each day that were focused on direct study of vocabulary. Each session typically utilized a variety of different vocabulary strategies, such as flash cards, word games, and the study of word roots. The study and memorization of
prefixes and suffixes was the main focus of the session whereas the games and flash cards provided secondary backup.
In one of my tutoring sessions I was working with my tutee on writing the initial draft of an essay about child discipline. She had already articulated her main points to me, but there was a final and most important one that she could not find the words to articulate in English. After a few minutes of miscommunication, we came up with the fact that she thought mutual respect between a child and their parent was crucial in terms of discipline. The word respect was what really threw her off, so I took out a dictionary and focused on the root meanings of the word. It came from the Latin word
respectus and the “re” prefix means to look back with consideration or regard. After a few minutes of discussing meanings, she came to realize how “spec” often means to see or to look. For some reason
this particular root stuck with her, which makes her further studies in the English language one step easier.
Marc Roberts, an online author of “Seven Things You Can Do to Help Your Students Learn More Words”, had some very insightful strategies that make learning (and remembering) vocabulary easy and quick. His first and foremost tip was that teachers should insist that ESL students always use an English-to-English pocket
dictionary as much as possible. This will help to ease them away from their native language and force them to learn the new words as well as the meanings of those words in English. Roberts, like Rita, also put a lot of emphasis on the study of suffixes and prefixes. He also suggested that ESL students keep a vocabulary log, label unfamiliar things within the classroom, and purchase a word building book with crossword puzzles and games.
It would be stating the obvious to say that not all ESL learners are the same. Of course we all learn differently and at our own rates, but one of the most important things to consider when teaching vocabulary is the level of the students in the class. According to a website I found in my research, ESLGold, there are five levels of learning. For low-beginning students vocabulary should be limited to the basics such as emotions, body parts, food, and clothing. They should stick to things that can be experience or seen firsthand and things that are common to most people. Nouns will be the most common...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document