Julie Moore, part of the writing team for the new Oxford EAP series, looks at the joys, challenges and practicalities of teaching vocabulary as part of an academic English (EAP) course. Julie hosted a webinar entitled ‘Approaches to Teaching Academic Vocabulary’ on 31st May 2012. You can watch it here.
With my background in ELT dictionaries and corpus research, I love vocabulary! And I think it’s probably the thing I most enjoy teaching, too. Trying to teach vocabulary as part of an Academic English (EAP) course, though, can throw up a number of challenges.
What to teach?
As a student moves from general to academic English, the increase in vocabulary load can be a daunting one. A whole new register of language opens up full of abstract nouns (relevance, participation), formal verbs (derive, implement) and specialized terminology (jurisdiction, nanotechnology). As a teacher, where do you start? Then there’s the problem of discipline-specific vocabulary. If you’ve got budding lawyers, historians, medics and engineers together in the same EAP class, who do you cater for?
In my webinar, I’ll put forward a few ideas and principles to help in selecting what vocabulary might be most useful to focus on in class.
How to fit it in?
Most EAP courses are very skills-focused. This is unsurprising as EAP students generally have quite clear goals in terms of what they need to do with language; read lots of academic texts, write well-structured essays, cite references accurately, take part in seminar discussions… the list goes on and it’s often quite a challenge to fit it all into a short EAP course. So how on earth do you squeeze in work on vocabulary as well alongside teaching all those vital skills?
I think the answer comes in two parts; a) by slipping in vocabulary work in small, but regular slots and b) by teaching students the independent study skills they need to keep working on their own vocabulary. I’ll be looking at some practical ways of doing both.