How to learn Vocabulary – 7 simple ideas


(image source –

Having posted about the advantages of vocab lists I thought it would make sense to give some strategies to learn them.


Research show that you must see/use a word seven times in seven ways to learn it.


The seven times should be spaced out, again research has shown that a lag of between 10-20% is most effective, this means to remember something for one week you should see it at times separated by 12/24 hours, if you want to remember it for five years you should review every 6/12 months.


I was quite surprised to find that students learn groups of random words better than topics such as the days of the week, or clothes. This avoids confusion. If you do want to use a theme, make it something like “a picnic” and include words about food, clothes, nature etc.


Despite the controversy around the use of L1 it seems that word cards with the translation on the back are  effective for learning vocab. Students should only make cards for words they don’t know, when they are confident that they know them, they should be put at the back of the pile or to one side, and tested occasionally.


Testing, by look, cover, copy or any other method, is one of the most effective learning strategies, and easy to do with vocabulary.


Discovering vocabulary in context, through a synonym or antonym, image or realia is more effective (but less reassuring!) than a simple translation.


There are loads of vocabulary games, so vary them and use them frequently to encourage recycling:

-coffee pot (replace new word with the word coffee pot, “I coffee pot twice a week, I wear trainers to coffee pot, you coffee pot if you miss the bus” and guess)

– noughts and crosses ( draw two grids, one with new words, if students -in teams, use word correctly in phrase they choose where to place their 0 or x)

– write the word without vowels

There are of course hundreds of other methods, I’d be interesting in hearing your favourites.

About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
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