ESL Vocabulary Revision For One-to-One Students

There are plenty of ways to revise vocabulary with groups, like hotseat or simply explaining and guessing in groups; unfortunately these activities don’t transfer as well to one-to-one lessons. Students may forget words from class to class, and it can be awkward if you put pressure on them to explain or even guess the word based on your own definition and they just can’t do it.

I make a list of eight to ten words to be revised, and scramble the letters to each word, sometimes underlining the first letter. If my student seems up to it, I read out the letters, in the wrong order, and they write them down – in this way they are practicing writing a word that is spelled aloud. For a lot of students, this is very hard, so I don’t usually check directly, but instead give them my list to compare to theirs and then they have to figure out the words.

(If you think they really can’t handle the spelling, you can just give them the paper with the words already scrambled.) I think it’s important to revise meaning as well, and so might ask them to explain the words or use them in a sentence…or if it makes sense, choose or rank some (“Which of these qualities are most important in a good leader?”).

Another possibility is to put words on slips of paper. The student just goes through them, first separating them into two piles – “I know” or “I don’t remember”. You can decide what you want the student to do with each, making sure they over the words they don’t remember. I then give them another task connected to meaning. Order the words or put them in pairs by making and explaining some connection between them.