#CdnELTchat summary for March 30, 2021 (Teaching and Learning Vocabulary in #ELT)


#CdnELTchat summary for March 30, 2021
Teaching and Learning Vocabulary in #ELT
Jennifer Chow

#CdnELTchat brings together #ELT enthusiasts to discuss topics of interest twice a month on Tuesday evenings at 6 PT / 9 ET. On March 30, we had a chat about “Teaching and Learning Vocabulary.” 

Vocabulary development is one of the most important components of language learning. Knowledge of vocabulary enables us to understand and communicate with others. What are some effective approaches and strategies that help learners with vocabulary acquisition? 

To guide the discussion, we posed questions that #CdnELTchat community members contributed on our Padlet, https://padlet.com/BonnieJean/CdnELTchat:

Q1: How do you address vocabulary development in your classes? What vocabulary teaching strategies do you use? #CdnELTchat 

Q2: What is the role of lists in teaching and learning vocabulary? How do you decide which words from the unit or activity you are teaching to include? Is there a tool you use? #CdnELTchat

Q3: What strategies can students use to turn passive vocabulary into active vocabulary? Do you have any favourite activities you use with your students? #CdnELTchat 

Q4: How can we support independent vocabulary learning strategies?  #CdnELTchat 

We’ve collected the tweets from our March 30th chat in Wakelet, but here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

  • Use a vocabulary notebook, index cards or Quizlet to encourage autonomy
  • Get students to notice and use collocations, lexical chunks, and patterns 
  • Provide repetition and rich input in context to increase vocabulary retention
  • Use word lists, like the General Service List (GSL) and the Academic Word List (AWL), as a tool to help students prioritize and focus on words and expressions that have high currency
  • Provide opportunities to personalize vocabulary to increase retention by creating an emotional connection

Thank-you to our participants for sharing so many useful resources and tools that support vocabulary development. These have been collected in a Google Doc, Resources for Vocabulary Development in ELT

We hope #CdnELTchat can provide the space for #ELT educators across Canada and beyond to continue to reflect on what we’re learning, what we’re finding challenging and what solutions we’ve tried, especially during this time. Use the hashtag #CdnELTchat anytime to connect and to share information of interest to the #CdnELT community. 

#CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to more reflective practice for all of us involved in ELT. If you are interested in joining our team, or have any ideas for topics, please send @StanzaSL, @EALStories, @Jennifermchow, or @ELTAugusta a tweet. Our Padlet is also always open for your questions and comments.

Jen Bio Pic

Jennifer is passionate about learning how technology can empower her students. After experiencing how technology enabled her to stay connected as an educator, a parent and an active citizen, she is motivated to find the same opportunities for her students. Twitter: @jennifermchow



Classroom Corner: Word Share Vocab Review


by Edward Pye

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2017 issue of TEAL News.]

Tag Words: vocabulary, speaking, writing, peer-review

Time: 60+ minutes

Age/Level: Intermediate+

Numbers: Any number

Requirements: Multimedia, Gmail, Students’ laptops

WORD SHARE is a technology-infused task-based activity that runs through a number of skills all while focusing on the set vocabulary.


  • Learn new vocabulary
  • Write accurate sentences using vocabulary
  • Teach other students and peer-review their work


  • Create a shared Google Document for all the students in the class including the vocab you want to teach and a table for students to write sentences.
  • Have students create Gmail accounts; they will need them to edit the document.
  • Have students bring their laptops to class.


1. Assign the Vocab (15 minutes)—Bring up your Google Doc on the multimedia screen so that all the students can see the vocab. Assign 1 word to each student and tell them they must find the meaning of that word, the different forms and some common collocations. Give students 10 minutes to do this.

2. Share the Vocab (20 minutes)—Once students are confident they have all the information, have them stand up and go around the room. They must partner with another student and teach them their word and all the information that goes with it. Partners must take note of the info they learn. Give them about 3 minutes to explain their words and then have them rotate around to another partner. Repeat this another 4 or 5 times.

3. Write (15 minutes)—Once students have been taught about 5 words, stop the activity and have students go back to their computers. In the table on the shared google document, have students come up with and type in a sentence that includes all the words they have learned. Alternately, this can be done on the whiteboard.

4. Peer-Review (20 minutes)—Have students read another student’s sentence and write a revised sentence next to the original. This can be done several times, so that there are multiple revisions of each sentence. Once done, revise the sentences yourself with the class on the multimedia giving feedback as you go. Once this is all done, students will have an easily accessible, lasting document with examples of feedback and accurate use of the vocabulary.

5. Homework—Have students find images online to illustrate their vocab or sentences and have them paste them into the document.

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2017 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Edward Pye is a New Zealander with an English literature degree from Otago University. Before moving to British Columbia, he taught in South Korea for eight years. Since then, he has worked as an Educational Programmer and EAP instructor on UBC’s Okanagan campus and as an EAL instructor at Okanagan College.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E. (2017, Fall). Word Share Vocab Review. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/TEAL-News-Fall-2017.pdf

Classroom Corner: Murder Mystery Lesson Plan


By Edward Pye

[This article was first printed in the Winter 2016 issue of TEAL News.]

“Murder” is an active vocabulary review and speaking activity that will really engage your students and have them working together closely in teams. It is ostensibly called “Murder” and it works great when you are teaching a topic related to crime; however, the format of the activity can be changed to any topic you can think of. In a recent lesson plan, I adapted it to travel and have used it before for medicine and sports. For the purposes of this article, I will model it using the murder theme.


  • Review vocabulary through description.
  • Practice speaking skills by creating questions and answers.
  • Have students working together in teams to problem solve.


  • Before the class, cut up about 40 strips of paper. How many you need exactly will depend on how many teams you make.


  1. First, you need to make teams. Depending on the size of the class, you can do teams of 2, 3 or 4. The activity works best if you have at least 4 teams but not more than 10, so if you have 12 students then go for 4 teams of 3. Put the students into teams, have them sit together, and have them choose a team name. Write the team names on the board.
  2. Next, you need to explain the premise of the activity; Someone has been murdered, (I usually choose another teacher or someone that the students all know, but that isn’t in the class), and the teams need to use their investigation skills to figure out the murder weapon, the scene of the crime, and the murderer.
  3. Put 3 columns on the board; murder weapon, crime scene and suspect.
  4. Start with weapons. As a class, brainstorm different kinds of weapons and write them up on the board. Get them to think of unusual weapons, which adds a little bit of fun to the activity.
  5. You need to brainstorm enough weapons so that there are 2 for each team and 1 extra. If you have 4 teams, the class needs to think of 9 weapons. If there are 5 teams, then 11 weapons.
  6. Do the same for the crime scene and the suspect categories: 2 for each team and 1 extra. With the suspect category, I have them name a student in the class, as well as a fictional job that that student has; for example, “John the Doctor”.
  7. All of these items (weapons, crime scene, and suspects) need to be written on individual pieces of paper, so choose 3 students, give them some strips of paper, and have them write items down as you write them on the board; 1 item for 1 piece of paper.
  8. When all the brainstorming is finished, have the students copy all the information into a notebook, so they can refer back to it.
  9. Now, the teacher should re-collect the individual pieces of paper, keeping them in their categories.
  10. Without showing the students, choose 1 weapon, 1 crime scene and 1 suspect and put it in your pocket. Those 3 pieces of paper are the actual murderer, the crime scene and the weapon that was used, and this is the information that the students need to find.
  11. Next, randomly hand out all the other items to the teams. Each team should get 2 weapons, 2 crime scenes and 2 suspects. Make sure they keep their information secret from the other teams.
  12. Explain to the students that their goal is to find the 3 pieces of information that you put in your pocket. They now have 2 items from each category, so they can eliminate those things from their lists. Give teams 3 or 4 minutes to talk together and make sure they all understand what their items are.
  13. They then have to eliminate the other things from each category by questioning students from other teams about their items. Have the students stand up and go around the class meeting students from other teams to question them about their team’s items.
  14. There is 1 rule here; the students cannot simply go to another student and ask “Does your team have the gun?” They must ask indirect yes/no questions by describing the item. They can ask 3 yes/no questions; for example, “Does your team have a weapon that is made of metal?” If the student answers “yes” then the student can ask another question “Does your team have a weapon that can shoot bullets?” and finally “Is it a gun?”
  15. By getting a yes answer, the student knows that that team has that weapon, and thus this is not the actual murder weapon (because the actual weapon is in the teacher’s pocket.)
  16. If the student gets a “no” answer they must change partners.
  17. Give everyone about 10-15 minutes to go around and question students from other teams about their items. The goal with this part of the activity is to get students interacting and describing items with as much accuracy as possible. This reinforces vocabulary and understanding of the characteristics of the vocabulary.
  18. When that time is up, tell them to go back to their teams and compare the information they have found. Most teams will not have found all the answers because their initial attempts will have been unorganized. Tell them that you are going to give them 5 more minutes, but this time, tell them to make a plan, perhaps 1 student only asks about weapons, 1 only about crime scenes and the other, only about suspects.
  19. When the 5 minutes is up, have them come back together in their teams and compare again to see if they found the answers that are in your pocket. They may have found the exact answer, or they may have eliminated it down to 2 or 3 choices. If they still have possible choices, they have to take a guess.
  20. Have the teams write down on a piece of paper what they think are the actual 3 pieces of information. Collect them, and write them up on the board next to their team name.
  21. Now it’s time to reveal the actual answers and see which team was the best at investigating. The team that has the most correct answers is the winner.

This is the murder version, but it can be done with many different topics. For something like travel, you can change the 3 categories to country, landmark and holiday activity and then have students try to figure out what you did on your vacation. For medicine, you can do symptoms and then get them to try and figure out the actual sickness. The format can work in many different ways.

Biographical Information

From the Winter 2016 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Edward Pye is a New Zealander with an English literature degree from Otago University. Before moving to British Columbia, he taught in South Korea for eight years. Since then, he has worked as an Educational Programmer on UBC’s Okanagan campus and as an EAL instructor at Okanagan College.


This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E. (2016, Winter). Murder Mystery Lesson Plan. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BC-TEAL-Newsletter-Winter-2016-FINAL.pdf

June 4 #CdnELTchat: Good Practice in Teaching Vocabulary


Compiled by Bonnie Nicholas

On June 4, 2019, the #CdnELTchat community brought their best and briefest words to talk about good practice in teaching vocabulary. We chose good practice over best practice because what is best can change and can depend on context. Agree? Disagree? Tweet your comments using the #CdnELTchat hashtag.

Here are some brief highlights of the tweets for each question:

Q1. What does it mean for students to learn or know a word? What strategies do your students use to consolidate this knowledge?

  • form(s), meaning, use, pronunciation, collocations, colligations, connotation, context, register, theme, frequency, grammar, lexical chunks, pragmatics, regularity

Q2. What does the teaching of vocabulary look like in your classroom? What informs your decisions to teach specific vocabulary? Would you describe your approach to teaching vocabulary as more structured or more eclectic?

  • principled eclecticism
  • thinking about receptive and productive tiered vocabulary
  • strategies, modeling, scaffolding, interleaving
  • realia, surrender value, back to the well

Q3. What are some quick and engaging ways to review vocabulary in class?

  • lead-in phrases
  • Quizlet, vocabulary cards or notebooks

Q4. What websites or tools do you use with your students to help them learn vocabulary?

Q5. How do you utilize word lists, like GSL or AWL, or concepts, like tiered vocabulary? How do you  create vocabulary activities based on corpus analysis?

  • always in context
  • Think about receptive vs productive vocabulary

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow a Twitter chat by searching for #CdnELTchat hashtag, but we’ve also collected the relevant tweets. All the questions and answers have been collected in this summary on Wakelet.

We collect questions and comments for each chat on this Padlet. There are always more questions than we can discuss in an hour-long chat, so we are sharing these extra questions for self-reflection or for tweeting your thoughts using the hashtag #CdnELTchat.   

  • How do you encourage vocabulary acquisition outside of class?
  • What are some misconceptions regarding the teaching or learning of vocabulary?
  • What have you found to be effective when teaching vocabulary? What have you found to be ineffective when teaching vocabulary?
  • How do you tackle spelling  when teaching vocabulary?
  • How do changes in society impact our teaching of vocabulary? (#SOGIE, #reconciliation, #settler, #Fakenews, etc. )

And our favourite final question, which we almost never have time to use:

  • What are you going to do differently as a result of our chat?  

If you’re new to Twitter or curious about how a Twitter chat works, you can check out this post on the BC TEAL blog, How to join a Twitter chat. The #CdnELTchat community on Twitter is always helpful, and the #CdnELTchat team can also answer questions. Just tweet or DM any of us: Augusta (@ELTAugusta), Bonnie (@EALstories), and Jennifer (@jennifermchow), or Svetlana (@StanzaSL).

Bonnie Nicholas (@EALstories) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@LINCInstructor). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.