Developing Vocabulary in the
ESOL Classroom
8th Annual World Language Symposium
Alice C. Sagehorn, PhD
Pittsburg State University
What is an ELL?
English Language Learner
Limited English Proficient
A student aged 3-21 not
proficient in spoken and/or
written English, as
determined by an English
proficiency assessment.
ESL/ESOL = English as a Second
Language/English to
Speakers of Other Languages
Basic Suggestions for
Working Effectively with ELLs
Be warm and welcoming.
Allow students to use native
Assign buddies or peer tutors.
Encourage students to share native
Focus attention on key vocabulary.
Keep talking to the student.
Arrange for intensive help.
Cultural Concerns
English is not a phonetically consistent language. It may be difficult for
ELLs to differentiate sound variations in the English Language,
especially if those sounds do not exist in their own language.
Knowledge about the ELLs native language can be helpful when
teaching how to read.
Always teach the sounds of the new language within a meaningful
Write what you are saying. This helps students see the connections
between the oral and written word.
Label the entire room.
Support reading in the native language at home.
Research indicates that readers are better able to understand and
remember stories that reflect their cultural background.
When is the ELL Ready to Read English?
When the student:
1. Hears and discriminates among the sounds in
English. (Be sure the student hears the
English sound BEFORE you build a soundsymbol correspondence)
2. Has rhyming elements
3. Knows the alphabet
4. Has learned the sound/symbol
When is the ELL Ready to Read English?
When the student:
5. Possesses a listening and speaking vocabulary
sufficient for the kind of reading material to be
introduced (Native speakers 2500 words before
reading is introduced.)
6. Recognizes common language symbols (singular
and plural; past, present and future; word
derivatives – bake, bakes, bakery; prefixes, suffixes,
and base words
7. Understands simple directions and commands (Go
from concrete to abstract)
Research Based Strategies
 Total Physical Response
 The BIG FIVE –Phonics,
Phonemic Awareness,
Vocabulary Development
Fluency, Comprehension
 Cooperative Learning
Total Physical Response TPR
Understanding of spoken language must be
developed in advance of speaking
Understanding and retention are best achieved
through movement of the body in response to
The imperative form of the language is a powerful
took because it can manipulate students’ behavior
and guide understanding.
Students should never be forced to speak before they
are reading. As the target language is internalized
speaking will emerge naturally.
Total Physical Response
Setting Up
Group Live Action
Written Copy
Oral Repetition and Questions
Student Demonstration
TPR Activities
Simon Sez
Teddy Bear
What’s Missing
Card Games –
Go Fish, Crazy
8s, UNO
4 Kinds of
Vocabulary Development
Every lesson should have a vocabulary objective.
Development of vocabulary is integral to literacy skills.
Limited Vocabulary knowledge was the principal factor
in the school failure of disadvantaged students.
Once decoding skills are mastered, insufficient
knowledge of word meaning is the chief remaining
barrier to school success.
Students need to learn 88,500 words for the grade 3-8
content areas.
The Rule of 3
Choose one activity from each rule
Rule 1: Rehearsal – Spell and Say
Build background information
Spell and Say
Word Recognition
Writing the Word and its Meaning
Cumulative Recognition
(Linda Ventriglia, PhD Interdisciplinary Vocabulary Development – Rule of 3)
The Rule of 3
Rule 2: Word Analysis
 Phonological Features
 Semantic Mapping
 Contextual Meaning
 Manipulation
 Classification
 CLOZE Exercises
The Rule of 3
Rule 3: Creative Production (Deep
Creates Visual Representation
Construction of Meaning
Cooperative Grouping
Mnemonic Strategies
Complex Use of Content
8 or 16 Fold Bingo
8.5 x 11 paper per person
Fold the paper into 8 or 16 boxes
Students write one word (letter) in each box
in a random manner
Teacher calls out the definition of a word or
holds up a picture of an object that
begins/ends with sound of…. Students locate
and place marker.
Bingo = Xs in a line horizontally or vertically
10 Questions
Teacher chooses an
object in the room.
Students create questions
that include descriptive
vocabulary and require a
yes or no answer.
Students have 10
opportunities to guess the
Compare and Contrast
Classifying is a fundamental cognitive
process that refers to sorting objects,
events, and phenomena into clusters
according to their common
characteristics. (Campbell, Campbell
and Dickenson, 2004).
Students compare two objects and
complete activity sheet or Venn
Diagram using descriptive vocabulary
- size, color, shape
Who Am I?
On the back of each student is the name of a
person, object, or place. (Students should not
be able to see their own sign.)
Students walk around and ask yes or no
questions of each other to determine the
identity of the person, object or place.
When the student identifies their sign, they
can sit down.
Word Wall and Word Sort
Word Walls (Tompkins,
1997) are alphabetical
lists of words created in
the classroom for the
purpose of vocabulary
development. Walls
can be formatted in a
variety of ways - High
Frequency Words,
Literature Words,
Synonyms and
Antonyms, etc.
Students are given
vocabulary words
cards. Students
walk around the
room to match cards
Students use cards as
card game - Go
Build an Alien
One student goes to the
board or chart paper and
draws an “Alien” as
described by classmates.
Use geometric terms, colors,
numbers, body parts, and
direction. (Draw the head
with two green triangles,
Alternative Activities
Alien Clothes
Mystery Bag
Objects or pictures of objects are
placed in a bag or box. One
student chooses an item or
picture of the item and orally
describes it until the rest of the
class or small group can guess
the object.
Story Cube
Place one picture or
vocabulary word on
each side of a 6sided cube.
Students work in
small groups.
Student #1 rolls the
cube and reads the
word or picture.
Using the word or
picture, the student
describes the picture
and the other students
have to guess the
object OR the student
gives synonyms or
antonyms until the
group identifies the
word or picture.
Cooperative Learning
Instructional Strategy
Based on the principles of communicative
language teaching
Student work together in teams
Under the direction of the teacher
Formal Structures
Students learn by interacting with the content
and with fellow students
Benefits of CL for ELLS
Increases the number of opportunities for student
output and feedback
Teacher is able to track students’ progress especially
in large classrooms
Promotes application of the four primary skills of
speaking, listening, reading and writing
Promotes a positive language learning environment
Lowers the affective filter in a group environment
Encourages students to be active participants
Ear-to-Ear Reading
The teacher makes a reading selection
and asks the students to read for
specific knowledge, facts, or
information. Students are seated in
pairs so they are ear-to-ear. Using
their six-inch voices they alternate
reading a paragraph until the selection
has been read. The teacher asks
questions to check for comprehension.
Students can TPS the answer before
Guess the Fib
Each student writes a list of three statements about the reading
assignment or information that is being reviewed. Two of the
statements are true and one is a fib. Taking turns, one student at a
time reads their three statements as if they are all true. The other
students on the team can talk to each other about which statement
they think is the fib, but they do have to come to consensus.
When they have decided which statement is not true they tell their
guess to the author. If the author has fooled the teammates, the
author gives the reason why the statement is false. If the students
have identified the fib, they change the statement to true. The
activity continues with the next student reading his/her three
statements and the other students identifying the fib.
Inside Outside Circle
A small group of students in the class form a circle,
shoulder to shoulder, facing outward. A second group
of students face the inner circle. The inner circle
students show their card to the student facing them
from the outer circle. The student in the outer circle
answers the question or give the correct form of the
verb, etc. When the teacher gives the signal students in
the outer circle move one person to the right and
repeat the process.
People Hunt
This is a matching activity. The teacher
prepares two sets of cards. One set has a
question or part of a sentence. The other has
the answer or end of sentence. Divide the class
in two groups and hand out cards. Students
Move around the room and silently find their
partner. When all matches have been made the
student reads his/her card aloud making the
Interesting and Interactive
Websites – click on lessons
Reading at Home with
Your Child
Delta Publishing Co
1400 Miller Parkway
McHenry, IL 60050
VHS 1-887744-91-6
DVD 1-932748-15-6
Contact Information
Dr. Alice Sagehorn
1701 S. Broadway
Pittsburg State
Pittsburg, Kansas
Thank you for your kind

Research Based Strategies for Teaching Foreign …