Explain English vocab in English?

For general discussion between ESL teachers.

Moderator: Joe

User avatar
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:53 am
Status: New Teacher

Explain English vocab in English?

Unread post by ssocheat » Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:26 am

What is the best way to explain English words in English? I am a ESL teacher, so I face this problem because I only understand the meaning, but I can't remember words to words to explain.

Busy Member
Busy Member
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:13 pm
Status: Teacher

Re: Explain English vocab in English?

Unread post by AlexCase » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:25 pm

There are many possible ways:
- Mime it
- Draw it
- Show a picture of it (e.g. from Google images)
- Show the real thing (e.g. by pointing at it in the classroom or bringing the object into class)
- Explain what it means, e.g. by reading out a definition from a monolingual dictionary
- Explain what the parts of the word or expression mean, e.g. post office means an office where you can post (= send) something, or psychology means mind + science
- Give the opposite
- Give a synonym
- Put it on a scale, e.g. explaining "detest" by putting it next to dislike and hate, or explaining "hardly ever" by putting it between sometimes and never
- Give an example sentence that makes the meaning clear
- Tell them a different part of speech that they might be more familiar with, e.g. employ is the verb of employee

Prolific Member
Prolific Member
Posts: 109
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 3:10 pm
Status: Teacher Trainer

Re: Explain English vocab in English?

Unread post by eric_p_m » Thu Dec 16, 2010 4:41 pm

Dear ssocheat,

Monolingual dictionaries utilize the same methodology that you should be using when trying to explain the meanings of lexical terms: paraphrase. By paraphrasing words in the target language, you can not only teach new vocabulary, but more importantly, improve the fluency level of your students with additional contact in English. This methodology provides an effective strategy that enables you to reach students at different proficiency levels: paraphrase a given vocabulary term first for advanced learners followed by intermediate students and finally, for people that are still struggling with language comprehension.

Keep my advice in mind when using AlexCase's suggestions above, as now, you automatically should have three examples for each activity. :)


Eric Paul Monroe


Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:28 am
Status: Prospective Teacher

Re: Explain English vocab in English?

Unread post by ania » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:27 pm

I think that explaining English vocabulary in English it should not be that problematic. Nowadays, you have a plenty of different tools to do it smoothly. Think of drawing something on the board. How about miming? If you have some acting skills this can be a good idea. Think also of using flash cards or another visual materials. Many teachers now work with computers and have an easy access to the Internet in their classrooms so you can easily find a picture on the Internet and point it out. However, you should always try to paraphrase, I mean try to describe this word using different words or expressions. Remember, students like to be entertain, if you do this in a witty way, they will definitely remember the word. Good luck!

Post Reply