I'm working on a vocabulary learning game with two friends and need some advice. Apologies for the long post!
We're looking at how best to organise our words for learners and the research is pretty clear that learning vocabulary in semantic sets makes it harder for learners to learn words as similar words interfere with each other. Paul Nation, for example, advises in his recent book for ESL teachers( http://bit.ly/XEnHNs
) that we not teach words of related meaning together e.g. numbers, months, opposites, names of fruit, parts of the body and things in the kitchen (although this is how most traditional textbooks go about things!)
The research seems to show that memorisation is more effective when you learn groups of unrelated words and most effective when words are grouped by "theme" or "frames" based on associative strength. e.g. http://bit.ly/11CIbqU
I had steeled myself to start grouping 3000+ words (e.g. "Kitchen" might include cut, knife, taste, sweet, sharp, smell, mix, spot, match, side, use, pot, open) into themes when I reread Paul Nation's article: Learning Vocabulary in Lexical Sets: Dangers and Guidelines http://bit.ly/Z0rfMB
In this, he has a table (p.7) which shows the interference effect of grouping words in different ways and just after listing "near synonyms" as most interfering he lists "free associates" and gives the example of bed and sleep and also lists "coordinates" as having the most helpful effect for learners and gives the example of apple and pear.
I am confused by this as I would have thought associates corresponded to words in themes and were therefore helpful and coordinates to semantic sets and were therefore unhelpful. It also seems to contradict the advice in other research.
Can anyone cast any light on this? I've been 10 years out of the English teaching game and working in other areas of digital learning so I'm sure it's my rusty EFL / ESL brain misunderstanding something