Vanessa Beal
Engaging with vocabulary learning: building with words

Vocabulary acquisition is sometimes seen in a supporting role to grammar with regards to second language learning. The objective of this presentation is firstly to outline the importance of focused vocabulary exercises as a core component in courses and secondly to present activities supporting engagement in vocabulary acquisition within the broader context of language learning in university language institutes.

Vocabulary learning can often be presented as lists and memorization tasks; whilst this is still a component, the focus here is to show students how to address their own needs for a more extensive vocabulary, to develop critical thinking, and to discover ways to learn, apply and create in their second language. The emphasis is on creating a student-led learning environment where the teacher choreographs and provides tools to implement vocabulary learning, group work and integration into a challenging new educational environment.

After a very brief overview of concepts from second language acquisition theory, Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy (2001), and ideas related to student engagement in language learning tasks with reference to ‘Involvement Load’ (Laufer & Hulstijn, 2001), I will present three vocabulary and reading projects that I regularly integrate into Academic English courses. These projects are designed to build vocabulary-learning skills, develop the students’ comprehension and production abilities and to shift vocabulary acquisition from memorizing words to synthesizing concepts and ideas. In the last part of the workshop we will work together to expand a list of other possible activities to promote engagement among learners.

Vanessa Beal is currently an English language teacher at Macquarie University ELC. She worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and course coordinator in Montreal before relocating to Sydney. Originally from the UK, she has undergraduate degrees in History of Art, Design, and Film (Middlesex) and Second Language Education (McGill) and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Concordia with research focusing on vocabulary acquisition. She is a curriculum writer with research interests in Reading, Writing, Vocabulary and Motivation Theory.