Discovering Techniques of Vocabulary Teaching in Middle Schools
Grammar provides the overall patterns, and vocabulary is the material to put in the patterns. Without grammar we can convey a little, but without vocabulary we can convey nothing. Vocabulary teaching is an indispensable part of English curriculum. But some traditional vocabulary-teaching methods seem to isolate the words from the context or break away from the scientific rules, that they can’t help students to develop a language competence in the long run but cause them to lose interest in English. Middle school English teachers should take great responsibility for this, since they are the premier ones who introduce students to the field of English. In this paper, I would provide eleven scientific vocabulary-teaching techniques. I think they could be valuable for middle school English teachers during their teaching process.
Technique vocabulary context competence
[关键词] 教学方法 词汇 语境 语言能力
In China, English teachers have sometimes tended to overlook the importance of the lexical system. This is especially obvious in the middle school. This phenomenon might have resulted from the fact that linguists have worked out a perfect equivalent Chinese vocabulary system to English vocabulary system, so that teaches and students can more easily deal with the vocabulary than with the grammar and sound of English which are quite different from the Chinese grammar and sound system.
Lexical items may also have appeared to be of secondary importance because they have sometimes been seen as that which is used to “flesh out” the structure or to exemplify parts of the sound system. However, without lexicon the major meaning-caring element in language is missing. Therefore, the acquisition of vocabulary is an integral part of English teaching.
On the other hand, there are teachers who have tended to overemphasize the learning of words in the lengthy vocabulary lists. The old English textbook (JUNIOR ENGLISH FOR CHINA, People’s Publisher of China, 1990) bears silent witness to such an approach.
The solution here is to seek scientific techniques of vocabulary teaching. Students should be exposed to the vocabulary needed to express the ideas they want to communicate. The vocabulary items should not be strictly limited, nor should vocabulary acquisition be stressed to the exclusion of other parts of the language system.
In the following part, I will discuss four topics: I. The importance of vocabulary teaching in middle schools. II. The drawbacks of several traditional vocabulary teaching methods. III. Three distinguishing features of English words and 11 scientific techniques for middle school teachers to deliver vocabulary teaching. IV. By adopting scientific vocabulary teaching techniques, teachers can help students improve their language acquisition ability and language competence.
I. The importance of vocabulary teaching in middle school:
Word is one of the three basic language units(sound, word , grammar). It is essential to communication. One of the famous linguists Wilkins once said that, “Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.”(Wilkins, ENGLISH STUDY, Foreign Language Study Institute, 1987) Little children learn to speak in isolated words and then in chains of nouns and verbs. A child who says “Mum bye-bye bike” is easily understood by English-speaking adult. Students who are immersed into a new linguistic settling tend to pick up vocabulary first, and then gradually develop a more accurate, structural framework in which to use these words. And they must continually be learning words as they learn structures and as they practice the sound system. Therefore, vocabulary teaching is an indispensable part of English lessons in middle school, and an important task for the teachers. Whether a middle school English teacher can follow scientific methods to teach vocabulary or not directly bring good or bad influence toward the students. If his methods are suitable for the students and beneficial for them in the long run, he could arouse their interest on English and help them to develop a solid foundation of language acquisition ability; whereas if he fails to do so, it might result in the students’ diffidence toward themselves and might cause them to disgust English.
II. The drawbacks of several traditional vocabulary teaching methods:
i. Teach words in isolation:
Middle school English teachers in china usually ask students to learn vocabulary lists in which words are isolated from the context. In one case, they let the students pick out all the new words in the text, list them on a paper, and consult the dictionary for the Chinese or English meanings; for example, “display” mean “show”, “arrive” means “reach”. In another case, they try to get the students to associate each word with an image or an object; for example, they hold up a picture of a car and say “This is a car.” Both these teaching techniques imply that learning vocabulary means learning individual word one at a time. These two methods may save time and be fast-effective. However, the relationships between words are as important as the meaning of the word in isolation: how “car” contrasts with “bus” and “truck”, and how it is related to “driver” and “engine” are as important as the word itself.
Neglecting the study of the relationships in English vocabulary system might result in students’ slowness in comprehension and inappropriateness in exploiting the English words. Being taught in these ways without a change, students might have difficulty in working out the meanings of some words, such as “time” in the following three sentences:
①She is near her time. (means “She would die soon.”)
②The umpire called time. (means “The umpire called for a stop.”)
③He is in the time of his life. (means “The days he is experiencing are very enjoyable.”)
And many Chinese middle school students often make such sentences as:
①The policies adopted by the Chinese Communist Party is beneficial.
②My spoken-English is very bad.
Students who make such sentences only know the meaning of each individual word, but they are poor in the proper use of “beneficial” (which should “be beneficial for” people) and “bad” (which should be changed into “poor”).
ii. Teach English words in one-to-one correspondence to Chinese words：
Many English teachers tend to teach English words in one-to-one correspondence to Chinese words; for example, English “glass” is “玻璃” in Chinese, English “cup” is “茶杯” in Chinese, and so on. This traditional translation teaching method which has been adopted in china for a long time is considered to be helpful. But in the long run the overuse of this method is harmful to the development of students’ language competence. Especially in the elementary stage, this method should be avoided as possible as it can be.
When students say that they know the meaning of an English word, they usually mean that they have found an equivalent word in Chinese language, but this equivalent word may be misleading. Let’s take the word “with” for example. In the sentence of “I have milk for breakfast”, the word “milk” in Chinese culture refers to hot milk, because Chinese people are used to drink milk hot; while the word “milk” in the American culture refers to cold milk, because Americans never drink boiled milk as we Chinese do. This example shows us that the same word “milk” has different social meanings in different cultures. In fact, many linguists believe that no word can be exactly translated into another language. Learning the vocabulary of a second language is not just to memorize the equivalent words of language one, but to learn the meaning relationship between “milk” and all other words in English within the context of cultural life.
iii. Treat all words equally：
Some English teachers treat all vocabulary equally. That is, they generally imply that students should be able to produce all vocabulary presented. But as is suggested by the linguists that words can be classified into receptive vocabulary and productive vocabulary according to the needs, language levels and professions of the learners. They point out that all speakers are able to recognize more words than they usually use on a productive level. Productive vocabulary is that utilized in everyday speech. Receptive vocabulary, on the other hand, although needed for comprehension, is not necessarily essential for production in speaking and writing. Teachers who do notice this fact ask students to concentrate equally on the acquisition of both receptive vocabulary and productive vocabulary. This method of vocabulary teaching adds much burden to students, and would cause them to become tired of vocabulary learning.
iv. Neglecting the cooperation of sense organs：
According to the experiments of linguists, an average English learner will better remember a new word and make it become an active one if he observes, speaks out, hears, and writes as well as recites it. But many teachers seem to be unaware of this rule that there are not a few students remember vocabulary by incorrect ways. On one hand, they treat the new words as if they are telephone numbers. They read the new words letter by letter without observing the pronunciation rules. For example, when they read the word “classroom”, they do it in this way: “c-l-a-s-s-r-o-o-m, classroom” instead of “cl[kl]-a[a:]-ss[s]-r[r]-oo[u:]-m[m], classroom”. This stupid method adds the difficulty in memorizing new words. On the other hand, since the teachers do not ask students to notice the key parts of the new words, they meet much difficulty when remembering them; for example, when a teacher teach the word “mouth” and “month”, if he ask the students to pay attention to the key parts of these two words, and to underline “ou” in mouth with [au] above it and underline “on” in month with /^n/ above it, students would easily remember these two words without a mistake with their attentions to key parts. But many middle school English teachers, especially those in the non-standard ones lack in the study of pedagogy. They do not see the advantage of concentrating on key parts, that they arbitrarily require students to write down [ ]as well as machine completely and perfectly with the false belief that the more you can write down, the better you remember it. Finally, most students do not cooperate the functions of eyes, ears, mouth and hands when memorizing new words. Generally, a new word would well turn into an active one in students’ minds after at least three stages: The first stage is known as forming an acoustic link. That means students are able to link the pronunciation to the word when they hear it in a conversation. The second stage is probably forming a usual link. That is to say, when students come across this word in reading materials, they can understand it. The third stage is more difficult to achieve but very important. It is to form mental image of the word. That means they can imitate, choose and give the reign to it freely and accurately in speaking and writing as if it is their native word. Most students can only achieve the first and second stages but never reach the third stage partly due to their poor cooperation of the sense organs.
v. Fail to follow the memory rule：
There are two types of memory processes---short-term memory and long-term memory. Short-term memory means that the storation of input only stay in your memory temporarily; while the long-term memory means the storation of input can stay in your memory for more than 10 days, ever for the whole life. In fact, our memory process is a recycling process. According to the survey of linguists, the more times the word is used, the better you remember it. But many teachers partially emphasize the function of short-term memory. They seem to care more about the amount of vocabulary input than those actually stay in students’ memory.
Being forced to remember a large amount of vocabulary in this way, students are treated as if they were a funned. In appearance they take in thousands of new words, but in effect only a few which are frequently used really stay in their store and can be exploited. It is not amazing that a senior middle school student who is required to master 3000 words has misused or made mistakes in 60 words when asked to write down a passage of 100 words because of his poor vocabulary storation. Many of teachers put all the blame to the students’ laziness. They explain for themselves that those students are too lazy to enlarge their size of vocabulary.
There might be some teachers seeing the long-term memory rule. However, they never succeed in applying the memory rule in classroom. They claim that the time of each period of class is limited that they can’t spend so much time on the repetition of vocabulary teaching. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think their excuses make any sense. What matters is their ignorance of scientific teaching techniques and irresponsibility for the development of students.
vi. Harmful method of punishment：
I think the worst method of vocabulary teaching is the adoption of harmful method of punishment---copying new words for 100 even 1000 times. There are still some teachers in favor of the copy method. These teachers force their poor students to copy many times of new words which they make mistakes in. This awkward punishment often cause students to fear and worry about English lessons. It is true that most of the middle school students are interested in English at first, because it is a new subject that is full of novelty and interest. And they like their English teacher, too. But with the misuse of teaching methods by teachers, they might begin to feel discouraged in English learning and even disgust their English teacher.
The six traditional methods of vocabulary teaching which I have mentioned are frequently used by many middle school English teachers, especially those working in common middle schools in rural areas where teacher-dominant classes are typical. Being taught in these ways, although students take painful efforts in vocabulary learning, they achieve little. As a result, they can’t find much pleasure in English and become more and more lazy in study. Not only are their English ability not improved, but they are discouraged in English learning.
It is particularly important and necessary to try to make vocabulary teaching interesting and affective for the students. Their study will become a lot more effective if the students come to the classroom willingly instead of being forced to. That is to say, how can teachers succeed in arousing the students’ interest in English and making the students more active and aggressive in thinking by vocabulary teaching? To do so we should discard the drawbacks of traditional vocabulary teaching methods, reserve their advantages and combine them with scientific vocabulary teaching theories. But how?
III. Three distinguishing features of English vocabulary and 11 scientific techniques to teach them:
3.1. The there distinguishing features of English vocabulary:
Before studying the better techniques in vocabulary teaching, we had better know about the characteristics of English words. English words are quite different from Chinese characters, the former one is a spelling system while the later is a stroke system. English words have three distinguishing features:
i. Firstly, the pronunciation of each word is corresponded to its spelling, for example, look at the following two lists of words:
①old, cold, hold, whole, so [ ]
②smart, artist, mark, garden [a: ]
In list① the letter “o” in the five words are all pronounced as [ ]; and in list② the letter combination “ar” in the four words are pronounced as [a: ]. If students have noticed this relationship between English pronunciation and spelling, they would be easier in pronouncing and memorizing new words.
But with a long history of development and variation, and with the influence by other languages, the spelling of English words don’t always observe this rule; for example, the letter “u” is pronounced differently in the following words:
Uncle[ ], until[ ], full[ ], music[ ], truth[ ]
In another case, with the influence of American accent, the word “clerk [ ]” is also pronounced as [ ].
ii. Another feature of English words is that they frequently have more than one meaning. The word “book”, for example, obviously refers to something you use to read from (a written work in the form of ) a set of printed pages fastened together inside a cover, as a thing to be read. According to one learner’s dictionary. But the same dictionary then goes on to list eight more meanings of “book” as a noun, two meanings of “book” as a verb and three meanings where “book” + preposition makes phrasal verbs. So we will have to say that the word “book” sometimes means the kind of thing you read from, but it can also mean a number of other things.
When we come across a word, then, and try to decipher its meaning we will have to look at the context in which it is used. If we see a woman in a theatre arguing at the ticket office saying, “But I booked my rickets three weeks ago.” we will obviously understand a meaning of the verb “book” which is different from a policeman (accompanied by an unhappy-looking man at a police station) saying to his colleague “we booked him for speeding.” In other words, students need to understand the importance of meaning in context.
iii. The third characteristic is that English words can change their shape and their grammatical values, too. Students need to know facts about word formation and how to twist words to fit different grammatical contexts. Thus the verb “run” has the participles “running” and “ran”, the present participle “running” can be used as an adjective and “run” can also be a none. There is a clear relationship between the words “death”, “dead”, “dying” and “die”.
Students also need to know how suffixes and prefixes work. How can we make the words potent and expensive opposite in meaning? Why do we preface one with in- and the other with im-?
Knowing the three distinguishing characteristics of English vocabulary will help teachers to deliver vocabulary teaching.
3.2. Eleven scientific techniques to teach English vocabulary:
After careful observation of the middle school English classroom and the study of pedagogy in the aspect of English teaching, as well as with my personal experience of English learning, I would like to suggest 11 techniques of vocabulary- teaching which I consider would be valuable for both teachers and students in middle schools:
i. Using visuals:
1). Labels: For a beginning class the teacher can prepare labels for objects in the classroom; for example, in the classroom the door might have a label reading “CLASS TWO”; above the chalkboard might be a sign saying “STUDY HARD”.
2). Magazine pictures: The teacher cuts out magazine pictures that illustrate words in a dialogue or basic sentences. These are placed on the chalkboard or on a magnetic board with magnets. The teacher points to the objects and gives their foreign language equivalents: This is a restaurant.
3). Props: If the lesson is about foods, the teacher could bring to class a basket of plastic fruit.
Teacher: what is this?
Student: It’s a tomato; it’s a pear; it’s an orange.
In teaching about the house, a doll house with furniture can be used to teach the names of rooms, floors, parts of the house, and articles of furniture.
4). Classroom objects: The calendar may be used to teach “today”, “yesterday”, “tomorrow”, as well as “last week”, “next week”, “next month”, “in two weeks”, and so on.
5). Slides: Slides furnish an excellent medium for conveying the connotative cultural meaning of ordinary words in a foreign language.
For example, the word “house”, to American students, denotes an American type of house; while to Chinese students, it denotes a Chinese-style house. With the facility of slides, teacher can show students what American-style houses look like.
Slides of daily contemporary scenes of foreign countries can frequently be used in vocabulary teaching. Items of clothing might be taught first, with the help of drawings or pictures. A slide of several people going shopping provides an opportunity for the students to talk about what the people are wearing. In this way, foreign words slowly absorb the connotations they have in their own culture.
ii. Using gestures
Gestures may be used to convey the meanings of some words. Certain descriptive adjectives, such as “tall”, “thin”, “fat”, “happy”, and “dumb”, can lend themselves to gestures.
Prepositions of place can also be effectively taught by movements; for example:
Teacher: The book is on the table. The pencil is on the book. The book is under the pencil. Now the pencil is behind the book.
Action verbs can be acted out: The teacher is eating. The teacher is drinking. The teacher is reading.
Teacher: What is the teacher doing?
Students: The teacher is eating.
Drawings illustrating vocabulary may be hung around the classroom. These are especially effective if they illustrate points where learning problems tend to occur:
He is lying on the bed. He is laying his coat on the bed.
Another use of drawings is known as picture association which means drew pictures for the troublesome words and the students themselves providing the association:
iv. Teaching series and word sequences:
Some of the words taught in elementary language course occur naturally in sequences, such as numbers, names of months, days of the week. Students readily memorize the series, but they then have difficulty using the words out of sequence. The following techniques help students practice elements in a series:
a) Flash cards
The items or the abbreviations of the items (days of the week and months of the year) can be put on flash cards; for example, all the letters of the alphabet are put on cards. The teacher shuffles the cards to present the letters out of sequence for drill.
b) Clock face
Using a toy clock, or a face of a clock drown on the board, the teacher randomly points to the numbers 1 through 12 while the students say them aloud. The numbers 13 to 24 may also be added.
The teacher writes the first letter or the abbreviation of each day of the week across the chalkboard. After teaching the new words, the teacher points to the letters on the board in random order, eliciting the days of the week from the students.
v. Using known vocabulary:
The teacher can use known vocabulary to teach the meanings of new words:
a) Synonyms and antonyms out of context:
①A synonym of fast is rapidly. What is the synonym of rapidly?
②The opposite of big is little. What is the opposite of little.
b) Synonyms and antonyms in sentence context:
Use the new word in sentences that contain an antonym or contrary expression:
①This meat is tough. I can only eat tender meat.
②Tom was lazy while his brother Jack was industrious. Jack worked all the time.
Use the new word in sentences that contain a synonym or equivalent expression:
①John was exhausted. His brother, too, was extremely tired.
②Mary, why are you talking so fast? The Chinese don’t understand you when you speak so quickly.
c) Categories: Names of categories can be taught verbally if the students know some names of items that belong within a particular category.
Teacher: Coffee is a beverage. Coca-cola is a beverage. Tea is a beverage. Give me some other examples of beverages.
Student: Milk is a beverage.
Teacher: Tennis is a sport. Baseball is a sport. What is another sport?
Student: Football is a sport.
d) Definitions and paraphrases: Definitions and paraphrases may be given in the target language. Target language dictionaries are useful to the teacher, especially those dictionaries prepared to help foreigners learn the second language.
①A singer is a person who sings.
②A girl who is “bad news” is not very pretty. She is ugly.
Many textbooks present vocabulary items in random order. Some books have alphabetical lists of new words. In either case, new words may be further grouped to point out similarities and differences among them. Bright students do this automatically, but often the slower students experience difficulty precisely because they do not notice the obvious groupings.
The teacher can prepare handouts that group words to help students remember them more easily.
a) Nouns: Nouns can be grouped in families:
①Colour: white, black, yellow, brown, green, pink…
②Foods: bread, milk, apple pie, grapes, cake…
b) Verbs: Verbs can be grouped by its usage and collocation:
1. enjoy, avoid, escape, finish, can’t help…+ doing
2. go v.
go about: perform; go after: try to get go against for: oppose
go by: pass; go for: attack go along with: agree with…
c) Adjectives: Adjectives can be grouped according to the way they are used
-ous: famous, dangerous, generous -able,-ible: eatable, accessible
-ful: useful, doubtful, resentful -ary,-ory: elementary, contradictory
-ic: patriotic, heroic, historic -ant,-ent: important, different
-ive: comparative, progressive, passive…
d) Pares of words: Synonyms and antonyms can be grouped. Root words may be paired with forms using prefixes or suffixes.
vii. Discovery techniques:
Especially at intermediate levels and above, discovery techniques (where students have to work out rules and meanings for themselves rather than being given everything by the teacher) are an appropriate alternative to standard presentation techniques. This is certainly true of vocabulary learning where students will often be asked to discover for themselves what a word means and how and why it is being used.
At intermediate levels we can assume that students already have a considerable store of vocabulary rather than teach them new words we can show them examples of words in action ask them to use their pervious knowledge to work out what words can go with others, when they should be used and what connotations they have.
Even at beginner levels, however, we may want to ask students to try to work out what words mean, rather than just handing them the meanings, when students have had a go, with the words we can lead feedback sessions to see it they have understood the words correctly.
We know that learners will select the words they want to learn. We know that the words they have acquired seem to move between active and passive status, and we know the involvement with word is likely to help students to learn and remember them. In other words, it we provide the right kind of exposure to words for the students and if we provide opportunities for students to practice these words then there is a good chance that students will learn and remember some or all of them as Richard Rossner writes:
“The factors that are crucial, surely, are those least easily controlled such as the relevance of a word to an individual’s immediate wants, needs and interest, the impact on his of her affect on the first few encounters and the number of opportunities to bring it into active use.”
viii. Using the native language:
The use of the native language to convey meaning may be direct or indirect. That is, the native language may simply give the meaning of a word or phrase or it may explain a gesture or symbol that will later be used to evoke the word or phrase.
a). Direct use of the native language: The question “Are you a Chinese?” means “ 你是一个中国人吗？”; “What time it is” means “现在几点？”.
b) Indirect use of the native language---gesture: A beckoning of hands means “repeat”. A hand cupped behind the ear means “listen”. Subsequently, when the teacher wants to tell students to listen, he or she will simply say, “listen” and, if necessary, accompanies the word with the gesture to reinforce the meaning of the command.
c) Indirect use of the native language---Symbols: The teacher can give the meaning of written symbols to teach the new words in the second language. Students readily remember the meanings assigned to simple drawings.
ship bus plane
morning afternoon evening
ix. By communication:
Teaching vocabulary by communication means teaching the new words through thinking with students about the things presented or happening in our daily lift, since real experience can deepen the impressions of things upon people, teaching by communication have a great advantage that the new words presented in the conversation immediately become an active word which students can exploit freely and proper; for example, look at the following conversation between a teacher and a student:
Teacher: do you enjoy yourself on the national day?
Teacher: What did you do on national day?
Student: My father brought me to Beijing and that is the first time I raveled by plane? It’s very, very…
Teacher: Is it very exciting and pleasant?
Student: yes, yes, it’s very exciting and pleasant.
From the communication, the students consciously of unconsciously feel the relationship between “enjoy”, “the National Day (holiday)”, “go to Beijing (travel)”, “exciting” and “pleasant”. And since he really has experienced the travel and urgently wants to express his happy feeling, with the teacher’s prompting, he would remember the verb “enjoy” and the adjective “exciting” and “pleasant” well, and have no difficulty in exploiting them next time.
Another advantage of teaching vocabulary in communication is that it can arouse the students’ motive and interest toward enlarging their size of vocabulary. When students meet difficulty in communication, they will have the urge to consult the dictionary or ask for the help from the teacher or the other students, and try to remember the word he want to express so that next time he would not be awkward when speaking out.
x. Teaching vocabulary in context:
The same word can have various meanings in different contexts. To convey the meaning of a new word exactly, it is better to present the word in the sentence or in the text. There are at last three advantages of teaching vocabulary in context:
Firstly, assessing the meaning of a word in context obliges the learner to develop strategies, such as anticipating and inferencing, which become increasingly profitable as learning progresses because they instill an attitude of self-reliance that is the hallmark of proficiency.
Secondly, systematically meeting new words in context underlines the fact that words are indeed used in discourse for purposes of communication.
Finally, context provides an indication of the way the words are used.
All these factors may contribute to a learner’s autonomy to learn English and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge that accompanies it.
For example, look at the following passage:
“Mary is a very diligent student. She gets up very early every morning. She read a lot of books and study very hard. This year she gets the school prize.”
When teaching the word “diligent”, teacher can present the above context so that students can guess its meaning through the following information and set up a relationship between “diligent”, “early”, “read books”, “study hard”, and “school prize”. This method of teaching not only help the students to understand the exact meaning of a new word, but let them have an idea about the group of words that often appear simultaneously in harmony.
xi. By introducing the knowledge of culture background:
English vocabulary system is an open system. It consistently adopts variation, transformation and has been influenced by other languages in the world for a long history. With the knowledge of the culture background of the vocabulary, teacher can make vocabulary teaching more vivid, interesting and impressive. For example, when teaching the word “NEWS”, teacher can tell the students how this word came into being. It is said that, “NEWS” originated from the first letter of the four directions---N(south), E(east), W(west) and S(south)---indicating that news comes from and spreads to all over the world.
Another example, when students come across such sentence as “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Then if the teacher knows the culture background of this idiom, the students would feel it interesting and not so strange. Legend said that there is a gale within the cat’s tail, so the cat is considered as a symbol of the strong wind; and a wise man named Odin usually carried with him a wolf and a dog with him to prompt the farmers that the rainstorm was coming. So “rains cats and dogs” means “rains heavily”.
IV. By adopting scientific vocabulary teaching techniques, teachers can help students improve their language acquisition ability and language competence:
With the forgoing, I don’t mean to disagree all traditional vocabulary teaching methods and take in all the new methods without discrimination. But I’m caring about the bad influence brought by some awkward traditional vocabulary teaching methods which are overused and exploited inflexibly by many teachers in middle school classroom. As far as I’m concerned, I think a teacher’s behavior and teaching methods usually have great influence toward his students, especially those in middle school; therefore, before he becomes a qualified teacher, he should possess influent professional knowledge and good teaching techniques, since vocabulary teaching is an important part of English language teaching. Whether a teacher can handle this process technically bears on the students’ language acquisition ability such as observation, analysis, creation, thinking and communication, and their language competence. If he tries to observe the rules working in the students’ learning processes, concern about their interest and psychological needs, and apply more scientific and efficient vocabulary teaching techniques which are fit for them, he will succeed in arousing the students’ motives to learn English well and learn it in a relaxing and scientific way in which the larges size of vocabulary is not the final teaching target, but the improvement of language competence. That is to say, not to let English become an accumulated knowledge, but a tool for communication.
There are many factors contributing to the inefficiency in English teaching. Inappropriate teaching methods by teachers are among these factors. But, I think, the basic reason for the inefficiency lays in the traditional teaching system---teach-dominant curriculum system. To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of English teaching, we should focus on the reformation of the old teaching system. Middle school English teachers should try to convert their roles for the needs of the students. They should make the class to be learner-centered, more democratic and less teacher-dominant, stress on students’ participation in classroom, show more concern for their thinking and their needs for instruction. Only in this way can they help to improve the students’ language competence and their ability to use English freely in communication.
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