Szkoła Podstawowa nr 38 im. Zdobywców Wału Pomorskiego w Bydgoszczy
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ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VOCABULARY

More than anything else, children are curious and this in itself is motivating. When they come across a new word they are interested in learning other related words. The question  appears: “Should we teach some words and not teach others?”. It is a teacher who decides which words are more important to young learners than others and how much time and care he or she has to spend on presenting them.
    A distinction is frequently made between active and passive vocabulary. The former refers to words that students have been taught and can easily use. For young beginners these are necessarily the concrete words which they need either in everyday life or in some kind of classroom communicative tasks, for example when talking about the students’ own lives and interests. The words are important to learners and a teacher has to spend more time on presenting them than on presenting passive vocabulary.
At beginner level a teacher should always help students understand the meaning of unfamiliar words. More attention should be paid to meaning before drilling. In teaching active vocabulary it is usually worth spending time giving examples and asking questions, so that young learners can really see how the word is used. They should also be given a chance to try out new vocabulary items in sentences of their own making.
    Words which we want students to understand (e.g. when reading a text or listening to a CD), but which they will not need to use are called passive vocabulary. If it appears as a part of a text or dialogue, teachers can often leave students to guess the word from the context. There is no need to spend so much time and care on presenting the vocabulary. It can be explained quickly with simple examples.
    At beginner level it certainly seems a good idea to provide sets of vocabulary which students can learn. Most of these early words will be constantly practiced and so can be  considered as active. One can remember that a word that has been ‘active’ through constant use may slip back into the passive store if it is not used. That is why vocabulary should be recycled fairy frequently.
It’s worth mentioning here that students should understand far more words than they can produce. All new words cannot be treated as active vocabulary since even well-educated speakers who know thousands of words use only 2,000 words in daily conversation.
 
Maria Nowak
Zmieniony ( 18.01.2011. )
 
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