Create a vocabulary list

Students will encounter two main vocabulary types in their studies: subject-specific and general academic vocabulary. Many students prioritise learning subject-specific vocabulary. Making accurate vocabulary choices are fundamental in achieving academic writing success. Knowing about the different types of vocabulary categories will help students make better, more accurate choices. This will lead to clearer expression and meaningful communication. Choosing the right type of vocabulary will also assist students in achieving the required professional academic tone and style.

Consequently, it’s essential that you assist students in developing competence in using the specialised vocabulary of your subject – especially during the early stages where it is likely that a lot of new vocabulary will be introduced. Effective vocabulary engages active learning – students will learn new vocabulary if they do something with it.

Vocabulary learning strategies

Here are some vocabulary learning strategies that you can implement in some of your lectures and tutorials. You will need to set aside some time to address vocabulary – between 5-15 minutes.

  1. Glossaries (1): Provide students with a full glossary of key vocabulary for the subject. You could reproduce a glossary from a textbook (within copyright). Allocate 5-10 minutes towards the end of a session for students to browse the glossary and highlight any key terms that came up in the session. Take any queries they have regarding vocabulary.
  2. Glossaries (2): At the start of the session, provide students with a list of key vocabulary that you will use. Allocate specific vocabulary to students (individual, pairs, small groups). Their task is to listen for the allocated vocabulary and explain its meaning towards the end of the session. This is also a good way to recap a session.
  3. Word Journal / Flashcards: Encourage students to create a Word Journal where they: look up the definition of a particular word; write a paraphrase of its meaning; write the sentence in which the word occurred; write their own sentence using the word. This can be done in a notebook, on a computer or other e-device, or as flashcards. Students could use different coloured writing and include pictures if they are visual learners. This can be done during or independently after the session. Set aside part of a session where students bring their Word Journals and share the contents in small groups – this encourages discussion and revision.
  4. Academic vocabulary in essays: Ask students to bold/highlight/underline any subject-specific vocabulary that they have included in their essays or reports. This will help them be more conscious of using correct terminology. You can make this part of the assessment.
  5. Highlight/Underline/Circle: When students are completing readings for the subject, encourage them to highlight/underline/circle any new or key vocabulary. They can look up the meanings and write this in the margin of the article. They can complete this on hard copies, or electronic copies like PDFs or e-readers which allow notation tools.
  6. Word wheel: This is a visual and comprehensive approach to learning and building vocabulary.

Examples of vocabulary lists

The vocabulary examples below can be modelled for your students.

A blank version of Example 1 is provided as a PDF. It can be downloaded and distributed to students - you can put it on your subject Moodle page for students to access.