Ten Ideas for Learning Vocabulary Outside Class

English course in Eastbourne

When learning new vocabulary, it is a good idea to keep a good record of new words from lessons. If you are at one of our schools, teachers will help you learn new vocabulary. Many students have good study skills and are able to record vocabulary effectively but is there anything else that you could do to improve the learning of new vocabulary? In this post, there are ten ideas which you could do to improve your learning of new vocabulary.

1. Use a Vocabulary Notebook

It is always best to keep a vocabulary notebook so that you can write new vocabulary in this and also include extra information such as the pronunciation of the word, the meaning, how it is used as well as a possible translation. If you have learnt a new word such as ‘chuck‘, you could write down the following:

  • Chuck /tʃʌk/ verb 1: to throw casually or carelessly “Someone chucked a brick through the window” (Korean: 던지다)



2. Make Word Cards

Another activity you could do is to make your own vocabulary cards which you could review every Friday. You don’t need anything special other than pieces of hard paper or card cut into strips and then you write the new vocabulary on it. When you have the word cards, you can do different things:

  • You could put your word cards up on your wall so you see them each day.
  • Test your memory and try to remember words from the week. How many can words can you recall?
  • Write the translation on other cards and try to connect both the English and translated word together



3. Use a Learner’s Dictionary

Every good student will have a paperback learner’s dictionary. There are plenty of learner dictionaries at our school, so you can always speak to a teacher if you do not have a dictionary yourself. Electronic dictionaries can be useful but many of these just offer a translation and it is best not to do it at this stage. There are a few things to do before you translate:

  • Check the meaning of the word in the learner’s dictionary.
  • Learn how the word is used in a sentence and write these in your vocabulary notebook.
  • Attempt to translate from your own understanding.
  • Check to see if your translation is correct with a translation dictionary (online or paperback).

It is very important to learn how new vocabulary is used in English rather than translating straight away. Some students have a scanner on their phone and they are able to scan some text and translate this into their preferred language. Again, this does not help you learn English and you might as well just read in your own language. There are plenty of online learner dictionaries available such as Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary and Oxford Learner’s Dictionary if you are unable to buy a physical book.



4. Use Word Mapping

transport wordle

If you are in class and you are learning about a particular topic, it is a good idea to link words with a particular topic, such as parts of a car (bonnet, boot, etc.). You can either make your own vocabulary clouds using Wordle to create an electronic version – which could then be printed and then added to your vocabulary folder – or writing it out by hand. If you use Wordle, it looks very nice and is quite visual so it can help you remember particular words.



5. Online Journal

Penzu Vocabulary

Another option to consider is writing an online journal to reflect on everything you learnt that day. There are numerous places where you could post your daily learning journal by either using a blogging platform of your choice – the most popular are Blogger or WordPress – as well as using Penzu. Penzu is an easy platform to register, use and you can keep it private if you want. You can write out a regular short dairy with the vocabulary that you had learnt from that day. It is a good website and I would recommend it.



6. Word of the Day

Word of the day

It is important to try to learn one new word each day and how it is used in a sentence. Thankfully, there are a lot of websites available to help you with this. The most popular daily word website is The Learning Network by the New York Times. The Learning Network is a great website as it will explain what the word means in different respects, how it is pronounced as well as provide some example sentences in context. If you think about it, you will learn vocabulary in your class as well as seven additional new words outside of class each week. This is a lot but you could set yourself a challenge by trying to use these new words each day.  There are other websites available to learn more Word of the Day items such as Merriam Dictionary and Dictionary.com.



7. English Settings for Electronic Devices

This a very useful trick: if you are going to be learning English and you want to try to develop your vocabulary as much as possible, why not change your phone’s settings to English? You will learn more vocabulary related to mobile phones if you actually change your language settings to English. It is very easy to do on many smartphones and tablets. You may find it difficult to begin with but after a short while, you will get used to the language and you will be able to develop your vocabulary for most electronic devices as it will make you remember particular vocabulary to complete an action.



8. Play Scrabble

Scrabble is a wonderful word game which was invented in 1949 in America. It still is a popular game among families in the UK and USA, with many families playing together. The aim of the game is simple: try to make words with a limited number of letters. Many people play it with the traditional board or online as well. I would recommend students to play Scrabble with their friends to help with spelling of vocabulary.



9. Take a Photo

Teacher, I saw these noisy birds. What are they called?

Outside of class, you will come across a lot of language and it can be difficult at first to understand everything. One suggestion is to write down language that you experience outside of class but this can be quite a time consuming process, so another idea is to photograph the language that you have seen. For example, you may see a sign and not know what it means, so you take a photo of it and bring it to class so the teacher can help you. Or you may read a menu, if you are in a restaurant, and you do not know a particular food, so you could take a photo of something that you saw on the menu. Your teacher will be more than happy to help you understand what language is outside the classroom and if you are able to bring along something that you picked up or a photo you took, that would really help. With any photo you take, you could include it in any online diary that you are writing such as the one suggested above, Penzu.



10. Memrise

Memrise is great and if you have a smartphone you will be able to download the Memrise App. It is a wonderful free online resource which you could use by downloading or creating your own vocabulary lessons to review and recycle in the future. It is great and I would recommend any student to use it to supplement their lessons outside of class.  It is also easy to create a profile and there are many different types of courses and lessons available. You will also be able to share your vocabulary learning with anyone else via various social networking sites.

Posted in The LTC Blog, Student Top Tips |