Five top tips for teaching vocabulary, grammar, and listening skills

Alastair Horne

face2face author Chris Redston has given a series of webinars for Cambridge this year on topics ranging from vocabulary and grammar to speaking and listening. Here are our top five tips from his talks so far.

Learning new vocabulary

Why not take a student-centred approach to presenting new vocabulary? Let students decide which vocabulary items they don’t know first, and give them time to work out the meaning from pictures, context, or examples. If they’ve tried to work out the meaning for themselves, they’re more likely to remember vocabulary than when they’re passively told it.

Guided discovery for grammar

You can try a guided discovery approach with grammar too. Asking students to try to work out the rules of meaning and form themselves will help them remember those rules later on. This way, you avoid long teacher-led grammar lectures, and encourage student independence. Checking their answers also gives students a genuine reason to read the language summary section of the textbook.

Controlled vocabulary practice

Make controlled speaking practice more communicative and meaningful by personalising exercises so that students talk about themselves, people they know, and their own experiences. Take practice sentences from the textbook and get students to discuss whether or not they agree with them; ask them to choose sentences that are true for them, and then to work in pairs, asking each other questions.

Use video to present functional and situational language in class

Using video to present functional and situational language in class makes the language ‘real’ – students can see the context, location, and relationship between the speakers. It can also help students with register and politeness, and makes the meaning of situational language instantly clear.

Understanding real spoken English

Students often struggle to understand real spoken English because it doesn’t sound how they expect it to – elisions, weak forms and contractions, ellipsis and accents can all cause confusion. You can help with this by explaining to them why spoken English doesn’t always sound the same as it’s written. Once students have listened to an audio for comprehension, revisit it, focusing on a specific phonological feature, using the audio scripts for targeted ‘receptive pronunciation’ activities.

Don’t worry if you’ve missed any of Chris’s previous talks – all his webinars are available to watch on our YouTube channel, or you can just click ‘play’ on the video below.

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