into the mind - how to teach vocabulary effectively

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  • 08.05.2016 telc gGmbH 1

    Into the mind

    How to teach vocabulary


    Alexandra Haas

  • 08.05.2016 telc gGmbH 2

    Schedule of the workshop

    Why teach vocabulary?

    How does the memory work?

    an experiment

    Words in(to) the mind

  • 08.05.2016 3

    Why teach vocabulary?

    Grammar rules are the

    bones, words are the


    Language learning is

    mastering structures or


    Grammar is subordinate

    to lexis.

    Language is grammati-

    calized lexis, not lexical


    The Lexical Approach (Michael Lewis)

    Language is a lexical phenomenon.

    Language learning is achieved by the ability of the

    mind to learn, store and process lexical items.

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    How does your memory work?

    water life fire square death

    line air angry pencil ball

    picture appel year sheep cluedo

    sky hill cloud spring shape

    pen foot wind round happy

    cat paper arm dog point

    foot rabbit round sad intelligent

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    How does your memory work?

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    Words in the mind

    Any town in real life is likely to

    contain social networks, groups of

    people who know one another and

    interact fairly often. []

    This analogy can be transferred to

    the mental lexicon. Each 'lexical

    town' will contain numerous clumps

    of words with strong ties to one

    another - though each clump will

    also have bonds, yet weaker ones,

    with other groups.

    (Jean Aitchinson, Words in the Mind)

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    Words in the mind

    The neurobiological view: introducing

    the brain cell

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    Words in the mind

    Making connections: synapses

    Learning = building new neuron populations in the cortex

    Babies are born with 100 million neurons, they need to get

    connected by synapses

    Synapses get stronger every time they are activated

    The dentist effect: Hebbs rule

    Cells that fire together, wire together

    Fuel for thoughts neurotransmitters

    transmitting impulses between neurons/synapses

    excite or inhibit? neurotransmitters have to be in balance

    a persons neurotransmitter-cocktail is as individual as their

    fingerprint, unlike the fingerprint, it changes during our lifetime

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    Take home messages:

    Build networks

    = connect new words with things your learners know

    (words, things, sounds, tastes, emotions )

    Recycle words

    = do/say new things with old words

    Repeat vocabulary in growing loops

    = cf. vocabulary box

    Words in the mind

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    Words in(to) the mind


    Espressolia /


    Sven Richter /

    Tim Reckmann /


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    Words in(to) the mind

    The limbic system

    limbus (lat.) = border, the limbic system is the gate keeper

    10 million items of information per second,

    only 20 are let through

    the limbic system checks for relevance:

    - new? important? pleasant/interesting?

    - Is the person in front of me credible?

    = the role of the teacher

    OpenStax College

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    Take home messages:

    get the brains attention

    be (in)credible as a teacher

    its all in the mix:

    Theres no such thing as the ideal learning method

    Words in(to) the mind

  • 08.05.2016 13

    Help your

    students find the

    right methods

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    Minds are like parachutes.

    They only function when open!

    Rhl /