Taking It To The Next Level: How Your Students Can Build A More Complex Vocabulary Without Learning New Words

Taking It To The Next Level
How Your Students Can Build A More Complex Vocabulary Without Learning New Words

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 11,001 views

One plus one equals one?

Though your math teacher may cringe, that’s exactly what you get with compound words. It’s not logical, someone might say, that two (often unrelated) words come together to make a completely different word (think along the lines of hum plus bug equals humbug – neither music nor insect). That’s why the more practice you give your students with compound words, the better they will remember them and be able to use them. So the next time you are looking for ways to teach compound words to your ESL students, try one of these fun ideas.

Check Out  on Innovative Ideas of Teaching Compound Words

  1. 1

    Compound Word Memory

    After explaining the concept of compound words, you can use a simple memory style game to help students remember which words come together to make a compound word. Prepare your own playing cards or have students make their own sets. You will need two index cards for each compound word you want your students to learn. Write one half of the word on each card, shuffle them, and you are ready to play. Students lay all the cards face down on a table grid-style. On a player’s turn, he or she turns over two cards. If they make a compound word, she keeps the cards and takes another turn. If they do not make a compound word, she must turn them back over and let the next player take a turn. The double challenge is to know which words make a compound word as well as remembering where those cards are in the grid. Once all the pairs have been matched, the player with the most cards is the winner.

  2. 2

    Student Match Up

    If you are looking for a way to get your students moving in class and reviewing compound words at the same time, try this student match up game. Write several compound words on sticky notes, one half of the word on each note, and place one sticky note on each student’s back. On your go, students mingle with their classmates trying to find a partner who will complete their compound word. It’s up to you if want permit students to tell each person the word they are wearing (for an easier game) or if students are not allowed to tell each person the word on their back but can give clues as to what it is (for a more difficult match up but one that elicits more conversation among your students). See if everyone in your class can find their matches in a certain amount of time. Then change up the stick notes and give your students even less time to complete the challenge.

  3. 3

    Compound Word Daisies

    This activity helps students understand how one word can be part of several different compound words, and it’s a great way to teach compound word families. Each student will need one piece of yellow paper and several pieces of white paper which they will use to make daisies. Students should cut a center for their first flower out of the yellow paper – a simple circle will do – and then paste it in the center of the white paper. Then, students should draw five or six petals for their flower (your choice) around the yellow center. The picture should take up the entire page or as much of it as possible and still look like a flower. Give your students a word to write on the center of the flower. This word will be the first part of their compound word. (For example, you might choose “back”.) Then, ask students for words that can be combined with that word to make a compound word. (In the case of back, students might suggest the following: fire, ground, lash, pack, rub, slide, stroke, and track). If a student gives a word that makes a compound word (backfire, background, backpack, etc.) have students write that word on one of the petals. Continue until every petal has a word on it and your students have listed six compound words for that family. If you like, make another flower with a different center to create another compound word family - either with a common first word (For example, bookcase, bookkeeper, bookmark, bookstore, bookworm; Sunday, sunshine, sunray, sunset, sunflower, sunburn) or a common last word (for example, baseball, kickball, basketball, football, gumball, handball). If you like, display your flowers on a bulletin board titled “Growing Our Vocabularies”.

  4. 4

    Compound Word Egg Match

    This activity works well as an independent learning station, but you could also do it as a group activity or a relay race. Whatever your choice, recruit your students to help you create the playing pieces. Start by purchasing a package of simple plastic Easter eggs and putting together a list of twelve compound words you want your students to learn. Have students separate the eggs and then put them back together making sure each egg has pieces of two different colors. Then, using a permanent marker, students should write one compound word on each egg – the first part of the word on the top of the egg and the second part of the word on the bottom egg. Separate the eggs again, throw them into a basket or bag, and you are ready to play. On their turn, each person takes two pieces out of the bag and decides if they will make a compound word. If they do, he puts them together and sets them aside. If not, he leaves the pieces on the table for the next player who pulls two more pieces and tries to make one or more compound words from his pieces as well as those on the table. Play continues until all the compound words are properly formed.

  5. 5

    Compound Word Dominoes

    For a real challenge, see how well your students do at a game of compound word dominoes. In this game, students will have to place either the first part or the second part of a compound word in its proper place on a chart. The key is that the end of one compound word is the beginning of its matching compound word. For example, makeup and upstairs would make a “domino match” because the first word ends with up and the second word begins with it. To play the game, students pull one card at a time and try to place it in the given chart until all the compound words are formed. You can either see how well your students do with the words without practicing (though you may want to give them a reference list of compound words to help them out), or go over the words before giving them the incomplete chart. To make the cards, copy the worksheet as is and cut out all the red words to use as playing pieces. Use the student sheet to play the game.

Compound words aren’t in the plans for every ESL class, but they are a great way to developing vocabulary and make connections in your students’ minds without having to learn and memorize new vocabulary since you are using the tools already at your students’ disposal. If you are looking for a list of American English compound words, Paul Noll has compiled a list of 600 English compound words for your reference. Print them out and then try your class with one of these compound word activities, and see how quickly they learn and how much they retain.

Do you teach compound words in your ESL class?

Do you make them a separate unit or just tackle them as they come up naturally?

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