Brain-Based Vocabulary Teaching Strategies

This is a very interesting training session recorded and shared on ELT Ireland Youtube channel. The presenter talked a the way that is very fascinating and brain-friendly. That means, she practices what she preaches. She gave a quick overview of how brain works, then showed the participants how to use the connection for better memorization of vocabulary. She provided two activities to demonstrate the differences between learning separate words and learning them in connection. Very interesting to watch.

Bio-notes about the presenter:

Setenay is from Turkey and she has been teaching English for 8 years including 4 years of teaching when she was a university student. She holds a Masters Degree in English Language Teaching from Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey. Her particular areas of interest are teaching English to young learners and creating new, useful classroom materials and activities.


Cho con tiếp xúc với ngoại ngữ khi nào?

“Is earlier really better?” is one of the questions that many people are interested in. Parents want to know if it is a wise decision to have their kids learning English early or they can learn later in life. It turns out that the answer can not be simply yes or no, but must be framed in a large context with many factors and perspectives.

In this talk show, among others in the series called “làm bạn với con” (literally means be your children’s friends), two guest speakers shares their views on the issue.  Dr. Ton Quang Cuong is an academic working at the Hanoi National University; Ms. Pham Thi Cuc Ha is the founder and executive director of the English teaching school “JustKids”. Many interesting points came up during the discussion, but be judicious when you adopt (a)views from those speakers. It is also important to note that “science” do not “prove” anything, they do offer insights from what they have learned. Be aware that how they get to know what they know is still limited and questionable.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts/experiences.

What I get from this subject

What I get from this subject

After learning this subject, I found that some differences between teaching language to young learner and adult. The differences of psychology and age lead to different teaching methods.

Teaching language to primary pupils needs to funny, colorful, attractive lesson and how teacher attract attention of naughty students.

I practice my voice to become slower, clearer especially notice on intonation (raise up or get down consonantly).

I practice to sing songs although my voice is bad and know some of songs for children.

I try to draw though I don’t have this talent. I love own pictures more than which I copy from internet so that I can teach pupil to draw.

I keep calm down when explain something they don’t understand.

I’m always in joy and keep smile on my face that make students feel be friendly.

And I feel love children more than before (before that I don’t like baby anything) and wanna teach them in future.

I feel be funny before, in, and after lesson like I’m so young.


Teaching language to young learner has many things I have to notice: attractive lesson plans, voice, body language, gestures, postures, teaching aids, manager class…everything needs to be prepared, practiced before teaching students to get objects of lesson.

Teacher in class

Teacher in class

A good lesson plan need a good teacher too, I means how teacher convey information to students effectively. Using teaching aids in class is a creative way to spread knowledge one of them is teacher. With textbook, blackboard, he/she is also a visual aids in class and she is almighty.

It’s said that “no guide, no realization”, and it’s true in this situation, teacher is a guide. He is not only teaches students knowledge in textbook but also guide them do exercise, he corrects when learners make mistake and gives advice if necessary. He makes difficult task in book becomes more easy.

Moreover, teacher is a model, he uses body language, gestures to explain new concept, knowledge. This way is so funny and easy to remember for students. Teacher always has eye-contact to learners, and you know, when you are jaunty, keeps smile on your face will attract your learners more than no smile, strict voice.

In addition, teacher is a singer and actor. When teacher wants teach a song, he obviously sings this song before using speaker, he teaches rhythm, lyrics and sings with students. Or when he tells a story, he becomes storyteller, he uses body language to explain new words or action of characters and finally he acts as characters in the story to help learners remember easier.

Furthermore, teacher is a manager. He controls all students in class, keeps everyone learning and that is not easy. There are many students in a class and how to keep silence and focus on a lesson is what teacher needs to do. Maybe he has to solve some arising problem such as sick student, naughty boys and an important thing is that teacher owns the class, prevents being bullied by students.






Blackboard-useful tool

Blackboard-useful tool

For teacher, using teaching aids is quite important to spread information to students. You know, just talking doesn’t bring good results and that can make learners feel boring, sleepy. No one teach by just talking because it’s very difficult to understand and follow. Except using text book and talking, connecting many different teaching channels is a good way to help students easy imagine what teachers say. Blackboard is a useful tool helps teachers teach effectively. This is a visual channel plus listening channel surely bring better results of learners. They can see, listen, write, practice about a lesson and it is the easy way to remember knowledge. Every class has a blackboard and it‘s a simple tool teachers may use to write on, hang picture, or ask students to do exercise on. You know, there are 7 kinds of multiple intelligence and you know how to improve it. Some learners are good at in visual special while others like listening channel and the task of teachers is to mix some teaching ways to promote students’ intelligence.

I think there is some notice to using effectively blackboard. It should be divided into 3 parts, left part, middle and right part. The name of a lesson will be written on the middle highest of the blackboard and an important thing here is handwriting, it must be clear, big, beautiful especially to primary pupils. In the left part, teachers write new words, task1,2, formula,…as long as it’s important and a part students must be taken note in their books. The middle part is place to hang picture, handout and the right part is written notes, example. Both middle and left parts are place to students do exercise on. Teachers should arrange backboard logically to the end of the lesson, they do not need to delete blackboard but it still has a blank to write homework and summarize the lesson. One more time, blackboard is a simple but useful tool for teachers to convey information.


Some applications from brain based research

Some applications from brain based research.

There are many positive applications on the development of primary pupils from brain base researches. Based on these results, people can construct a consonant program on each subject such as primary students, high students…to help them improve their brain on the best way. According to the research, brain connections are laid down before birth so that taking care of pregnant women is very important to supply full nutrition for baby’s brain. Moreover, when baby grows, parents not only care about baby’s menu but also teach them simple thing. Teaching  baby to interact with the environment can help them get own experience about the life. As you know, nutrition plays an important role in the process of brain development to aid healthy brain &experience and interaction with the environment are important too. It’s very funny to talk to baby and that can help them found listening skill although they may not understand what parents say. It’s so amazing that I have 2 little cousins live in Moscow (they are 6 & 4 years old), they can speak both Vietnamese and Russian. For that, children can improve learning language not only mother tongue but also foreign language if parents usually talk to them.

According to brain based researches, intelligence of baby does not absolutely depend on their parents’ genes, it promotes on the education and experience. There are 7 kinds of multiple intelligence parents/teachers can base on to make specific train matched age to get the best brain development (from Thomas research). To check what kinds of intelligence of baby, parents can use Thomas’s test, basing on a result to have consonant teaching program for each kinds. Some babies are good at math/logic while others interest in musical or interpersonal… that can help parents teach baby at home and teachers teach them at school adjust consonantly on each subject. Moreover, they can connect to some kinds of intelligence in one program to help baby develop comprehensively.


Using song in E class

“Music is the universal language of mankind”.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Like stories, music can be seen as an effective material for teachers to using in English class. There are many choices for teacher when using music in the classroom. For examples, when teacher feel that their students get tired of learning or lose concentration in studying, teacher can use a song as a temporary solution. Certainly, it makes students feel good and can continue with their lesson. After that, music gradually becomes an indispensible thing for teaching language. And, using music in the classroom is a great way for teachers to achieve success with L2 learners.

Some benefits of using Music

Before giving some techniques for using music, I’d like to point out some benefits of using music in E class. Studies have shown that music…

  • motivates student learning
  • help improves memory
  • hepl student feel comfortable and relaxing
  • makes learning fun
  • helps student understand material quickly

Techniques for Using Music with L2 Learners

There are a variety of different ways to using music in the classroom. Some teachers prefer to use a song to lead in the lesson and others use music lyrics to teach something such as vocabulary, grammar,…. So, music can be used in some cases:

  •  introduce a new lesson
  • break the ice 
  • change the mood of students
  • teach vocabulary
  • revised the lesson
  • teach pronunciation and grammar
  • teach songs about difficult grammar and spelling rules that need to be memorized
  • teach reading comprehension
  • creat a class discussion

Some tips when using music in English class

Using music with ESL kids has is a good way to teach E effectively. Children are natural music lovers. You don’t need to convince them that it will help them learn. If you can sing in front of the class to teach a song, it sounds very wonderful. In case, you don’t feel comfortable with singing, you can use a tape or CD player instead. But you should remember that you need to choose a simple and funny song to teach young learners. Another one, you are expected to remain teaching through songs with kids and ask them learn by heart to sing in front of class. This activity is very important because it not only encourages student express their talent but also helps them feel comfortable with public. Student will more confident and like learning English through songs which they love.

To sum up, using music in the English lesson is a good way to teach language effectively. I hope that we will have a chance to try using it in the class. And then, we will learn to how to use music effectively in ESL.


The role of teacher and chalkboard.

Teacher aids can refer to the tools and techniques which are used by teacher to achieve the aim of lesson. There are many kind of teacher aids like poster, graphs, chalk board, radio and soon have applied for each lesson. However, chalkboard, and the presentation of teacher have been considered the most important  devices in the lesson. What can teacher and chalkboard do?


Teacher has an important role in instructing and organizing activities in class. They are said to be an artist on the stage. Sometimes, their feeling can be happy or bored when standing in front of student, but they must hide it and go on teaching children with a happy smiling. Actually, they play many different roles such as an instructor, a psychologist, a director, an actor or an actress  and a learner on the platform.


Instructor: With the roles of an instructor, teacher must orient student to how to give strategies to complete the task easily. Teacher always gives a good method to allow student to achieve their target.

Psychologist:  Each child has their own characteristics. Some student can like a gentle teacher, but some want to work with a strong teacher. They both enjoy sharing their emotion and want to listen to teacher’s idea for any problems. Thus, teacher was known as best friends to share emotion and film fulcrum to keep belief. For example, when crying, kids hope that they will get a consolation from teacher. This requires teacher to know and understand what students want so that they can approach student more simply.

 Director: On behalf of director, teacher seems to be a chief in the class. All activities and student’s behavior are controlled by teacher. They use rules as a way to manage student.

Actor or actress: To help student gain knowledge, teacher becomes a main character on the platform. Teacher can play roles like model, singer, drawer and dancer. Teacher can sing, dance, perform or use body language to motivate student to learn and contribute an active atmosphere in the class.

Learner: Children are capable of discovering new things or problems around class. They can ask teacher to answer any questions that they don’t understand as well as already protect their idea for any situations. This is the ability to make teacher feel puzzled. Therefore, teacher always care about what student say and do. They must learn how to accept instead of refusing student’s idea. Obviously, teacher’s task isn’t simple. However, we can understand what teacher passed over and tried after each lesson.


Speaking of chalkboard, we consider it as a traditional tool to help teacher present contents of lesson. Some most important functions that chalkboard can do are a picture and a reporter

images (1)   Picture: Chalkboard is a good place to help teacher draw and store the image and        knowledge of lesson. During the progress of teaching, all contents of the lesson    consisting of information and the other teacher aids like poster, graph used in studying    are reappeared on the blackboard. Student can be easy to follow and take note  important information.

  Reporter: In our daisy life, we can’t avoid making mistake in expressing our point.    Student can’t also hear any information from teacher because of noisy and teacher’s  voice. After explaining, teacher can write down on the board so that student follow and pay attention to the lesson. Teacher can thank blackboard to solve difficult situations in using language. For instance, when teaching vocabulary for children, if they can’t write and listen to all new words, it will be better to write all vocabularies on the board. This way can permit student to eliminate mistakes in spelling. Generally, teacher can draw, write or express again what teacher says on the blackboard. Virtually, no matter how there are of modern technologies have been produced, they can’t replace chalkboard

To sum up, teacher aids like chalkboard are the ability to make teacher’s instruction meaningful for students. Teacher can also create successful lessons through the helping of visual aids providing emphasis in a different way than speaking. Obviously, teacher’s endeavor  along with chalkboard’s helping aim at providing the good background of knowledge for student after each lesson.