My learners struggle to retain vocabulary. The problem arises when I review the key words a week later, and my learners are unable to recall meanings. Hence, I decided to test the value of using a series of reviewing techniques in language teaching in order to endorse the assumption that the more stir created, the more likelihood that favourable learning results occur amongst lower level learners.
In exploring and determining the validity of this taxonomy, I used one of my Friday sessions on a current week’s themed vocabulary: college and classroom. As a result of this, I hoped to generate value by helping my learners increase their retention rate. My other key aim was to promote accountability in learning, and make students aware of the benefits of revision techniques by empowering my learners during the process. Thus, I divided the session into 4 separate segments.
Review Key Vocabulary
The first segment was reviewing the key vocabulary individually for 5 mins. in preparation for the activity. I used learner empowerment techniques here, which meant nominating one of the learners to come to the front of the class and act as a teacher. The appointed student showed the others several themed flashcards with the missing words, and elicited the vocabulary items from them.
Play Vocabulary Ball
During the second phase, I had them play the Vocabulary ball game. This meant having my learners form a big circle and say a word, then toss the ball to another student. The first student said the first letter of a word in the prescribed category, and then threw the ball to their peer, who had to say a word in the given themed category, and then toss the ball to another. Students who either made a mistake, used a letter of a word that didn’t exist in that category, or repeated a word, had to sit down, and the game resumed. The last student standing was the winner.
Use the Phonetic Chart
In the third phase, I covered the vowel sounds by referring the students to the phonetic chart. The motive was to integrate the sounds into the acquisition of the vocabulary set. By linking the language to the phonemes, it enabled the auditory learners to become more intelligible and raise their cognition levels.
My final and fourth phase in this lesson was to measure the success of applying these revision techniques. In order to pursue this, I had students write down (in 5 mins.) as many words as they could remember. I adjusted the difficulty level of this activity according to language levels. The higher levels had to form sentences using either the Present Simple, prepositions, the expression ‘there is/are’, or a combination of all, in their sentence structures.
In essence, learner empowerment proved to be a success as an aid to learning, as it attracted their attention from the beginning of the session, and generated a community of involvement within the classroom. In other words, the learners were accountable and, as a result, learning became fun, engaging, and motivational. Noticeably, the stronger students participated actively, whereas the lower level learners appeared to listen, recognize, and orally repeat the words.
More than all this learning, the games demonstrated significant value in building high retention levels of acquired language, and also proved to be a fun, challenging, and actively engaging way to review language. Most learners in my group engaged well.
By the end, most learners were able to produce all the vocabulary items successfully. Two of my lower level students still had difficulty engaging in the activities to their benefit, as they initially required more time to review vocabulary as a result of their learning practices, their language confidence levels, and their psychological inhibitors.
To seek validation of my statement, I decided to test them with the same set of vocabulary a week later. Not surprisingly, the learners were able to reproduce most of the key terms.
On the whole, learner empowerment and the ability to test students through repetitive revision techniques does provide value and aid them in retaining vocabulary in long-term memory. In essence, acquiring language requires patience, repetition, and constant conditioning and reconditioning.
Have you tried any repetitive reviewing techniques with success?
Suzan Bartholomeusz is an instructor at Aurora College for the LINC program in Yellowknife. She has been teaching ESL for the past 10 years in Canada, Germany, and the UK. At this time, she’s been adapting the program to meet the needs of the learners within her community.