One way to introduce a new vocab set

wpid-IMG_20140402_153106.jpgThis is a different way to introduce a new vocab set to introduce to your students. I learnt it from my tutor on my CELTA course. I used it recently with my 11-year-olds and it worked really well. I think it would work with older students and higher levels too. They get a chance to strengthen their own knowledge with a bit of peer teaching and they can physically chart their learning.

Start by asking your students to take a piece of paper and divide it into 3 sections:

  • I know
  • I’m not sure
  • I don’t know

Then explain that you’re going to read some words out. If they know what the word means they can write it in the first section, if they’re unsure, in the second and if they have no idea, in the last one. Tell them that you’re not going to look at their paper so they can feel OK about writing them all in “I don’t know” if they want to. Tell them also that they should not worry about getting the spelling perfectly right, but to try their best and you’ll go through the spellings later.

Then read out the words slowly, repeating each one until everyone has written it down in one of the boxes. We had about 11 words in our set.

Now you can ask the students to work together in twos or threes to share their knowledge. Everyone will have put different words in different places. Show them that if they have a word in “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” and their partner can help explain it to them, they can cross it out and write it in “I know”. Give them some time to do this. I let my students speak Spanish for this activity, although I’m not sure it was necessary.

Lastly, you can go through each one by eliciting what each word means and writing it on the board. Follow it up with some drilling and a vocab practice activity and there you have it!


  1. Interesting. I’ve used this technique for revising vocabulary, but never for introducing it.
    How many words would you introduce? We’re often taught that it’s much more effective to introduce new language in context, which supposedly improves retention and helps with meaning. What’s your opinion about it?
    A great blog, by the way. Lot’s of interesting idea. I enjoy reading your posts.

    1. Thank you, Marek!
      We did it with a set of about 11 words. I don´t think I would do it with more. We set up the topic first and I knew that they would find a lot of them familiar because they were all technological equipment. Some of them are even the same in Spanish. This way they got to realise that they knew a lot more words than they thought. I don´t think I´d do it with something more out of reach. And of course you can work them into context later.

  2. Excellent idea. Nice and simple. I have a couple of lessons this evening and I will be sure to give it a go. Thanks!

    1. You are very welcome!

  3. What a brilliant idea!
    I’ve used something similar approaching reading. You elicit what students know about a topic, what they want to know about the topic and what other interesting info they have found in the text. The first two are filled in before reading and after reading students discuss the results and fill in the third column. That makes them really interested in the text.
    But I’ve never seen the activity you’ve described. Thanks a lot. I will definitely use it.
    I have a question. How do you store all this great ideas and activities (except your blog:)? I often find good ones and then just forget about them(

    1. That´s a great idea, too, Springcait! I´ll try to use it soon!
      To answer your question, this is where I store them! It was kind of the reason why I started the blog. I´ve got a few draft posts lined up to finish and I´ve recently scoured all the old notebooks and bits of paper I´ve kept in the past.

      1. I should think about doing the same) I hate the piles of notebooks and activities crammed in the shelves which I never actually use as it’s not convenient.

      2. Exactly! And then when you have to move…

  4. noureddine · · Reply

    Good idea.i ll try it

  5. I like this idea. I’ll try as soon as possible, thank you.

    1. You’re welcome!

  6. Thank a million for sharing such interesting ideas. I find them really helpful. 🙂

    1. You´re welcome a million! I´m so glad they´re useful!

  7. Thank you so much,by the way I am not a native speaker in English but I teach English language. for grade 2

  8. Manuela · · Reply

    I find it an exellent idea. I’ll try it with my students and I’ll give some feedback

  9. amine · · Reply

    What a good idea you come up with, i think it definitly works, i’ll try it anyways. Thank you Emma

  10. I must try this..thank u for d idea 🙂

  11. Simple yet smart: great idea!

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