Monday, April 23, 2012

Memory Strategies for Vocabulary – Practicing!

Based off the feedback from one of my recently-completed courses, I've decided to take a closer look at vocabulary instruction and practice methods in the classroom, starting with memory strategies and strategy training.


Until now, I've been discussing strategies for putting the words into the mind. Now, I'd like to look at some strategies for reviewing. Reviewing is time consuing, and often boring...which is why many language learners don't do it. Unfortunatly, the much more interesting “just skip it” approach isn't very effective, either.

Here are the some strategies for practicing vocabulary and making sure it sticks:

Structured reviewing:

Language learners need to be smart about their reviewing. Just learning the word once doesn't guarantee that they are permanently in the brain. On the other hand, constantly checking 5,000 flashcards is not a practical way to review, either. Vocabulary review should be structured. For teachers, this means going back over old vocabulary at regular intervals. For learners, this means adjusting the way you may have been using your flashcards. Everyday Language Learner has a good article about an effective way to use paper flashcards for structured reviewing.

Using physical response or sensation:

Movement can help the review process. For teachers, in-class games like Charades can help practice the new words (espeically verbs!), and for learners, practicing words with meaningful gestures can help cement them in the mind. I'm sure the extra oxygen going to the brain from all the movement doesn't hurt, either.

Play with words:

There are a lot of (free) games out there that can help with new vocabulary development. Word games, like Scrabble, Crossword Puzzles, Boggle, or Hangman are also good ideas. The more interactions you have with a word, the more likely you are to remember its meaning. Here are just a few word games and online practice sites I found with a quick Google search. I'm sure there are TONS more.

Any thoughts? Do you think these reviewing tips are helpful? Am I missing anything?
If you are a learner, what do you do to practice? If you are a teacher, how do you help your students practice??