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15 more ways of eliciting vocabulary

1. Mime/ gestures The communication survival technique of gesturing can also easily be adapted to classroom elicitation, especially easily for action verbs, but also feelings, other adjectives etc. You might want to check that the gestures you want to use are culturally appropriate, especially that they will not be misinterpreted or even found offensive. 2. Pairwork Many […]

1. Mime/ gestures
The communication survival technique of gesturing can also easily be adapted to classroom elicitation, especially easily for action verbs, but also feelings, other adjectives etc. You might want to check that the gestures you want to use are culturally appropriate, especially that they will not be misinterpreted or even found offensive.

2. Pairwork
Many games like Taboo, Pictionary and Give Us a Clue are basically elicitation in groups, and getting students used to playing these kinds of games is great practice for making sure they can understand you when you use similar techniques.

3. Combine information with your partner
Extending the definition of elicitation even further, the first stage of Test Teach Test is basically eliciting what language they already know. A pairwork way of doing this is to give worksheets where they each have half the information they need to come up with the words or expressions that you want to elicit, and they work together (without showing their worksheets to each other) to come up with the answers. The two worksheets could include definitions on Student A’s sheet and the words being defined on Student B’s, expressions with gaps (A) and the missing words (B), spilt sentences with the sentence cut so that half the target expression is on each person’s sheet, etc.

4. You’re getting warmer/ cooler
This is not so much a way of eliciting as a way of telling them if they are on the right track once they start guessing what word or expression you mean. As well as actually saying “warmer” or “cooler/ colder” (if you have taught them that before, maybe with a treasure hunting game), you can use clues like “closer” and “further away” or even specific expressions like “A more formal word than that”, “Even more formal” and “Not quite as Shakespearean as that”.

5. Word origins
For example, “It’s a French word for a kind of classical dance”.

6. Mixed up
E.g. give them the mixed up letters of a word you are trying to elicit or mixed up words for an expression you want them to come up with.

7. Negative clues
Teachers sometimes miss that telling students what it is not is just as useful as telling students what it is, e.g. “Most people think it is a vegetable, but it isn’t. It’s a fruit.” for “tomato”.

8. Trivia/ general knowledge
Clues could also be based on world knowledge, e.g. “The longest one in Europe goes under the English Channel between the UK and France” for “tunnel”.

9. Component parts of the word or expression
E.g. the first part means “before” and the second part means “monthly” for “premenstrual”.

10. Search/ physical position clues
Tell students they can find the word or expression you are looking for in the word search you have given them, in the list or poster on the classroom wall, in a table at the back of their textbooks, in a reading text, in a picture dictionary, in a particular part of a normal dictionary, somewhere in the classroom or even somewhere in their textbook You could also give them reference materials to find it in.

11. With sounds
E.g. “Its first sound is ‘th’ like ‘think’” or “No, the past participle of this word has an “er” sound like “her””

12. With phonemic symbols
If they know the whole English phonemic chart already, it is only really eliciting if you only write up some of the sounds of the word, but few students are in this lucky position (!) so if you write up the whole word as phonemic symbols they should be able to guess the whole thing from the sounds that they already know the symbols for or can guess because they are similar to alphabets they know.

13. By word shape
This works particularly well with students who are still struggling with learning to read in English. Imagine you have drawn a box around a word, such as the zigzag shape you would get from outlining the word “being”. Draw just that shape on the board without any letters in it, and then fill in letters as students guess them thanks to other hints such as the ones described above or add letters one by one to help them guess.

14. By length
This could mean number of letters, number of syllables, length of vowel sound, or just “it’s a long word” or “it’s a short word”.

15. By parts of speech
E.g. “It’s the noun of communicate”.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net December 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

2 Comments

  • Ian Player says:

    Probably best to avoid using homophones 🙂 But in this case sounds like Team A won if all they were given was the “sound” of the word. Both teams were right but Team B ran out of time.

  • Lily eun says:

    Have a question.

    When the word “poor” was chosen from a picked card,

    Team A,draws the water pour out of a jug and the partner says “pour!”

    Team B, Tries to draw the poor man and rich man in their fancy house and in a tent. Beaten by the other team by spending more time in drawing the scene.

    Who wins?

    Even though the sound of “poor and pour” maybe the same, the word is different.

    Can you help us please?

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Vocabulary : 15 more ways of eliciting vocabulary