FC Vocabulary: Lesson 1

Vocabulary: Lesson 1

Hi. My name is Nancy Guilloteau. I am a lecturer in the Dept. of French and Italian. I have been teaching here since 1998, and have been the Language Program Director since 2006. During my tenure at UT, I have taught classes at all levels. At the undergraduate level, I have taught beginning language courses, advanced conversation, French phonetics, advanced grammar and composition, French business culture, and a French and American cultural values course. At the graduate level, I teach a course titled Supervised Teaching in French. This is a required pedagogy and teacher training course for our graduate students who wish to teach in our program.
As Language Program Director, my job includes training and supervising our graduate students who are funded as TAs and AIs. We have a very structured approach to training in our dept. Our TAs spend two years observing beginning classes, and are gradually phased into grading and teaching small segments of classes under supervision. After two years of training, as well as 30 graduate hours and the graduate course, Supervised Teaching in French, our students are qualified to teach their own first-semester class. Most of these grad students come into my Supervised Teaching in French class with a clear picture of how they think grammar should be taught, often based on how they were taught, but few (if any) have any idea how to teach vocabulary. They might have ideas about how students should learn vocabulary (flash cards, labeled pictures, etc.), but they do not realize that they need to teach it, in part because they were never taught vocabulary as second language learners. Langauge teachers often assume that their primary role is to teach grammar, and that vocabulary will somehow take care of itself; this is simply not the case.
In this module, I will begin by addressing the importance of actively teaching vocabulary in the second language classroom. I will then take you through the development of Français interactif, and the rationale behind it. We will then explore the vocabulary learning strategies used throughout Français interactif,. We will also review two progressions of vocabulary activities in this first-year program: input to output, and decontexualized lists to more richly contextualized speech samples. Finally, in the “Portfolio” section, we will see what types of vocabulary exercises the graduate students created for the assignment given to them in class.
Another of my duties, and perhaps the most rewarding, has been the ongoing development of our first-year curriculum, Français interactif,. This first-year program is open access (no fees or passwords). You will see parts of this curriculum throughout the vocabulary module.





1 The Importance of Vocabulary
The importance of actively teaching vocabulary.

2 Rethinking the Place of Vocabulary
Developing a new approach to vocabulary instruction.

3 Vocabulary in Français interactif
From decontextualized lists to contextualized speech samples.

4 From Input to Output
A look at in-class activities used to teach vocabulary.

Sample a variety of beginning language textbooks, and you are very likely to find lists of vocabulary at the end of the chapters. What message does this send to the students about how much time and effort they should spend learning the vocabulary? If students are to learn and recycle the vocab throughout the chapter, shouldn’t it appear at the beginning of the chapter rather than at the end? Most second language textbooks neglect completely the topic of how to learn vocabulary. In fact, vocabulary learning strategies are not taught as part of most curricula, but certainly should be. Similarly, teachers’ annotated editions frequently fail to provide

information on how vocabulary should be taught.

Before watching this video, reflect on whether you were trained how to teach vocabulary.



Language teachers share their experiences in vocabulary training.
Duration: 03:37

Vocabulary is an essential component for successful communication in the second language classroom. While grammar is important, a lack of vocabulary may result in complete failure to convey a message. Let’s see what the following students from the Department of French and Italian have experienced.



Teacher training often emphasizes grammar.
Duration: 02:04

This video reinforces how common it is for students to be trained in various aspects of language pedagogy but rarely in vocabulary instruction.
Why is the teaching of vocabulary often neglected in a beginning language classroom?
• Teachers often mimic the classroom behavior of their own teachers. Consider how you learned a second language. More than likely, your instructor stood at the front of the room and “taught” verb paradigms, and other features of grammar.
• Vocabulary must be learned item by item and is a challenge to teach. A single word can have multiple pronunciations (I say tomato, you say tomahto), meanings, contexts, collocations, and spellings.
• Finally, beginning language textbooks are often organized according to a grammar agenda, with less emphasis on vocabulary.
Many factors need to be taken into consideration when deciding what vocabulary to teach and how. In a nutshell, the vocabulary of beginning language classrooms should be limited to a set of high frequency words that students can employ to create messages right from the start of language learning. This raises a question: Should beginning students learn vocabulary from simple lists or from more richly contextualized language samples? Before addressing in detail how to teach vocabulary (Lessons 3 and 4), let’s first take a look at why it is so important to actively teach vocabulary.

Actively Teaching Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a necessary ingredient for all communication. Language learners encounter vocabulary on a daily basis, and must be able to acquire and retain it. As a language teacher, one of your main tasks is to help students develop a rich and useful vocabulary inventory.
Nation (2001) emphasizes that learning vocabulary is a cumulative process and that it must be deliberately taught, learned, and recycled. This is critical for several reasons:
1. Learners need to encounter the words in a variety of rich contexts, often requiring up to sixteen encounters.
2. Learners remember words when they have manipulated them in different ways, so variety is essential for vocabulary teaching.
3. Learners forget words within the first twenty-four hours after class, so it is important to follow up a vocabulary lesson with homework that recycles the words.
Repeated Encounters with the Same Word
Students need to encounter vocabulary in various contexts in order to remember it and to develop an understanding of the range of usage of a given word. Nation (2001:80) argues that vocabulary words must be repeated in different contexts because contexts-of-use are associated with different cognitive processes during language learning.
With this in mind, let’s watch the video to glean a better understanding of learners’ needs and why teaching vocabulary plays such an important role.


Why vocabulary must be taught.
Duration: 02:29

Receptive and Productive Vocabulary Knowledge

Nation distinguishes between receptive and productive language knowledge, and applies this specifically to vocabulary. It is important for an instructor to understand what is involved in knowing a word at both of these levels. In order to know a word receptively, Nation claims that the learner must:
• be able to recognize the word when it is heard;
• realize that the word is made up of different morphological parts and be able to relate these parts to its meaning, e.g., “underdeveloped” = [under] + [develop] + [ed];
• know the meaning of the word, and also know what the word means in the particular context in which it has occurred; and
• understand the concept behind the word in order to be able to understand it in a variety of contexts.
Similarly, according to Nation, productive knowledge implies that the learner must be able to
• properly pronounce the word;
• write the word and spell it correctly;
• produce the word to express its proper meaning; and
• correctly use the word in an original sentence.
When we consider what it means to know a word, it becomes apparent why it is necessary to actively teach vocabulary and to recycle the same vocabulary item in multiple contexts.



[Module Instructor Nancy Guilloteau . ] 2010. [Vocabulary]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.