How to build vocabulary slowly

I am always impressed by the amount of vocabulary that we need to learn in order to understand meaningful content and carry on serious conversations.


Here is a recommended approach to vocabulary building that I would certainly not use. Just too slow. I prefer to engage in massive listening and reading with some system for vocabulary retention and review like LingQ, of course.


With the method below I would never acquire all the words I need, and I would be absolutely dependent on others. I think that today, with the Internet, anyone who wants to learn, has all the tools and resources he or she needs and is best advised to avoid these kinds of methods.



 6-Step Process for Vocabulary Instruction

 Marzano and Pickering (2005) Building Academic Vocabulary

Step 1 – Describe – Provide students with a description,

explanation or example (not a definition) using common 


·          Determine prior knowledge

·          What do you think you know about this term?

·          Use current events to connect the term to something familiar.

·          Tell a story using the term


Step 2 – Restate – Students restate the description, explanation or example in their own words

·          Discuss with a partner

·          Student record (notebook or journal)


Step 3 – Show/Represent/Picture – Students represent the term non- linguistically

·          Graphic representation illustrating process

·          Draw the thing

·          Draw a symbol

·          Dramatize the term

·          Student record (notebook or journal)


Step 4 – Engaging Activities – Engage students periodically in activities that add to their knowledge of the terms

·          Identify synonyms or antonyms

·          List related words

·          Write reminders of common confusions

·          Draw an additional graphic

·          Write metaphors and analogies

·          Compare terms

·          Classify terms

·          Student record (notebook or journal)


Step 5 – Discuss – Ask students to discuss terms with each other

·          Think-Pair-Share about targeted terms

·          2 minute vocabulary BUZZ

·          Add to or revise student record

·          Revise or refine meanings


     Step 6 – Games – Play games with your terms

·          Jeopardy

·          Pyramid

·          I have, who has?


2 comments on “How to build vocabulary slowly

Seeming to go through a massive amount of effort to make sure the term is never forgotten after the first exposure. Alternatively you could just look up the word, enter an example sentence into your SRS, be reminded of it at just the right times, and remember it forever with a tenth the time taken.

Steve Kaufmann

Of course that massive effort will not guarantee that you will remember the word. Nor don’t I find SRS worth the effort. I just keep reading and listening and noticing and eventually a surprising number of words stick.

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