Vocabulary Charts - ESL Lesson Plan

Vocabulary Tree. Kenneth Beare

Vocabulary charts come in a wide variety of forms. Using charts can help focus in on specific areas of English, group together words, show structures and hierarchy, etc. One of the most popular types of chart is a MindMap. A MindMap isn't really chart, but rather a way to organize information. This vocabulary chart lesson is based on a MindMap, but teachers can use further suggestions for adapting graphic organizers as vocabulary charts.

This activity helps students widen their passive and active vocabulary based on related word group areas. Typically, students will often learn new vocabulary by simply writing lists of new vocabulary words and then memorize these words by rote. Unfortunately, this technique often provides few contextual clues. Rote learning helps "short term" learning for exams etc. Unfortunately, it doesn't really provide a "hook" with which to remember new vocabulary. Vocabulary charts such as this MindMap activity provide this "hook" by placing vocabulary in connected categories thus helping  with long-term memorization. 

Begin the class by brainstorming on how to learn new vocabulary asking for students input. Generally speaking, students will mention writing lists of words, using the new word in a sentence, keeping a journal with new words, and translating new words. Here's an outline of the lesson with a list to help students get started.

Aim: Creation of vocabulary charts to be shared around the class

Activity: Awareness raising of effective vocabulary learning techniques followed by vocabulary tree creation in groups

Level: Any level

Outline:

  • Begin lesson by asking students to explain how they go about learning new vocabulary.
  • Explain the concept of short term and long term learning and the importance of contextual clues for effective long term memorization.
  • Ask students how they memorize new vocabulary. 
  • Present the idea of creating vocabulary charts to help students learn specific content related vocabulary.
  • On the board, choose an easy subject such as the home and create a MindMap placing the home at the center and each room as an offshoot. From there, you can branch out with activities done in each room and furniture to be found. For more advanced students, choose another area of focus. 
  • Divide students into small groups asking them to create a vocabulary charts based on a particular subject area.
  • Example: house, sports, the office, etc.
  • Students create vocabulary charts in small groups.
  • Copy student created vocabulary charts and distribute the copies to other groups. In this way, the class generates a large amount of new vocabulary in a relatively short amount of time. 

Further Suggestions 

  • Structured overview organizers can be used to take a closer look at vocabulary items based on parts of speech and structure.
  • Tables can be used to compare and contrast qualities between similar items. 
  • Timelines can be used to focus on tense usage.
  • Venn diagrams can be used to find common terminology.

Creating MindMaps 

Create a MindMap which is a type of vocabulary chart with your teacher.

Organize your chart by putting these words about a 'home' into the chart. Start with your home, then branch out to rooms of the house. From there, provide the actions and objects you might find in each room. Here are some words to get you started:

living room
bedroom
home
garage
bathroom
bath tub
shower
bed
blanket
bookcase
closet 
couch
sofa
toilet
mirror 


Next, choose a topic of your own and create a MindMap on a topic of your choice. It's best to keep your subject general so that you can branch out in many different directions. This will help you learn vocabulary in context as your mind will connect the words more easily. Do your best to create a great chart as you'll share it with the rest of the class. In this way, you'll have lots of new vocabulary in context to help you widen your vocabulary.

Finally, choose your MindMap or that of another student and write a few paragraphs about the subject.

 

Suggested Topics

  • Education - Describe the education system in your country. What type of courses do you take? What do you need to learn? Etc. 
  • Cooking - Categorize based on meals, types of food, kitchen equipment, etc.
  • Sports - Choose a specific sport such as football, basketball or tennis. Branch out into equipment, rules, clothing, special terms, etc.