GRETA Granada: María Jesús Páramo Gutiérrez and Anthony Bruton on vocabulary uptake from reading.

GRETA Granada: María Jesús Páramo Gutiérrez and Anthony Bruton on vocabulary uptake from reading. -

This was very much a participative workshop session, based on classroom research material being developed by Mª Jesús. We began with group discussions on the importance of vocabulary and the most effective methods of learning it. Suggestions included relevance and motivation, repeated exposure, visual support, richness of context and test washback.

The classroom research material consisted of three modified-authentic texts relating to addictive habits. The study was carried out with 1º Bachillerato students (at pre-Intermediate and intermediate levels). The texts all included examples of a small set of “new” vocabulary, and to simulate the newness for the workshop participants, they were replaced by nonsense words.

The idea was that at the end of the workshop, our uptake of these nonsense words would be tested so we could actually feel how the research worked. The first of the three texts included glosses in Spanish of the new items. These items were seen again in subsequent texts, but now without glosses.

Mª Jesús and Anthony made some general points at the end of the session which included:

-         Extensive reading is not an efficient way of learning vocabulary in an EFL environment. Uptake has to be accelerated.

-         Uptake can be improved very slightly by using L1 glosses of new items embedded in the text.

-         Uptake can be more improved through pre-teaching of target items.

-         Uptake can be improved significantly if target items can be embedded in personalized tasks, and especially if these tasks are productive.  (With regard to this, Anthony made the interesting point that one important difficulty in CLIL is how we can personalize it.)

During discussion time at the end, one participant mentioned an obvious limitation to recourse to L1 in classroom activities: that not all classes in modern Spain are monolingual. In some regions, there are very significant numbers of students of North African, East European and Chinese origin, for example, not all of whom have a high level of competence in Spanish.

The session was attended by people involved in ELT different educational contexts, with a high proportion coming from the university sector. These students are, no doubt, involved in research before embarking on their teaching careers. Their interest and enthusiasm all bodes well for the future.


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