Teaching vocabulary to kids WITHOUT games

words written on classroom board
08 Jan Shelley Vernon 1 Comment

Here's the problem: "I need activities for teaching, reinforcing and expanding vocabulary for primary school kids. Chinese teachers are not fond of games, so I need your help. Have you got any books on teaching vocabulary to kids?"


Yes, I do have books on teaching vocabulary to kids! Games books. But the teacher asking this question doesn't think he can use games, so how can you teach vocabulary without games?


a. You could write words on the board for kids to copy and ask them to learn the vocabulary for homework.

b. You could give kids lots of worksheets to fill in and hope they remember them.

c. You could hope kids will learn vocabulary by sitting in class while you go through the textbook.


Good luck with those methods. You are going to need it! Instead of those boring suggestions, you'll achieve better results if you actively teach vocabulary. Having kids copy words off the board isn't teaching! You want to present vocabulary so kids hear it and understand it. Then have kids practise saying the words, by heart. Then show them how the words are written and drill spelling. Then revise everything. If you don't use games for this, your classes are going to be so boring I don't think anyone will stay awake in them. Either that or kids will be reading novels under the desk to keep from going mental with boredom. The good news is that any of my games can be turned into drills. You don't have to have any "game" element. The Chinese teachers won't know it's a game if you tell them it's a drill or an exercise.


For example in my game "Jump the Line" kids jump from left to right depending on which side of the line the picture is you name. This is a basic listening game to introduce and drill new vocabulary. Kids hear the words over and over, associated with a picture, so they learn the meaning of new words and how they sound. To use this in a school where games are disapproved of, skip the jumping. Keep kids seated and have them point to the left and the right in silence. Gradually speed up, getting faster and faster. The kids will have to concentrate and listen, and in doing so, will learn the words much more than passively looking at them in a book.


Now move on to a speaking drill. The game Hot Potato is a great speaking drill but might look like too much of a game to some. Instead of passing potatoes, pass vocabulary flashcards. Students pass the picture and say the word. Do not pass the written words, students will just read the word off the card and make no effort to remember it.


This is a much more active way of teaching than reading from a book and copying from the board. The teacher has to work harder but the results are so much better, job satisfaction is so much greater and pupils' motivation is so much higher, it's worth it! You really have to use games, sorry, drills and exercises to teach vocabulary. Otherwise, you'll have to rely on your students to learn it for themselves.

To enjoy your teaching and help your pupils, use my games books for different ages: preschool, primary, teen/adult and 1-2-1.


Thanks for sharing!

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