Learning a language is impossible without mastering lexical skills, i.e. without memorising words. The minimum vocabulary is the base that makes it possible to speak, read, listen and write in English. And, of course, to know the words, you need to… learn them!
It is good when words are remembered fast. Such people, they say, have a perfect memory! As a rule, however, you still have to make an effort to remember new words.
Memorising English words with kids
Kids and preschoolers learn everything new in the course of their activities. The same happens with English words. If the lesson is interesting, the tasks resonate with a child; a preschooler actively participates in the lesson, the activity is structured correctly, then children will remember all new words unconsciously.
Alternatively, tasks such as “write the words down in your vocabulary book and learn them” are, of course, not about kids. This is not just because not every preschooler can write and read, but because children perceive words as an incoherent set of sounds and letters. Therefore, first of all, this set needs to be “linked” to something. For example, to a visual image – a picture or an object. Then the memory starts associating the auditory image of the word with its visible, real-life form.
However, these links are still very weak and can easily break down, so one presentation is not enough. If the subject of the lesson is not very relevant for the child at that moment, they will not remember it. Thus, the next step is to strengthen the created links in memory. To do this, our teachers use several game techniques specifically aimed at the development of memory and remembering.
The simplest ones include all possible games based on memos (mnemonics), played either with cards or objects.
Card games for memorising English words
- The easiest option is to get feedback from the child immediately after the presentation. Spread out the cards with the words in front of them and ask, “Where is..?”, ending the question with the needed word. This game makes it possible to find out what a child has learned and which words, Therefore, it is easy to remember and find out which ones require more practise. It is also important that a child can hear not just separate words but words in context – this brings a child closer to real-life speech and makes it possible to practice the situational use of the interrogative word “Where?”.
- The next game is similar to the previous one but requires more memory and attention. Turn over the cards with images of the words being learnt. A child cannot see the picture. We ask the same question, “Where is…?” or “Please find me…”, and a kid has to not only remember what the needed word means but also remember where the corresponding picture is.
- A similar version of the card game can be played actively. Spread out the picture cards on the floor and ask a child to “Jump on them…”. Surely, movements can be changed.
- One more version of the active game. Pictures with words must either be attached to the board with magnets, to the wall or simply spread out on the floor. The child’s task is “shoot the…”, i.e., to throw a ball at the necessary word. This game is interesting to play in pairs with alternating requests. The development of attention and memory is also accompanied by the development of shot accuracy; they have to throw the ball right at the picture! Be sure that such a task will make learning English words more fun and if you introduce a scoring system- wow!
- One of the most popular games for learning new words is bowling. Just glue pictures and words to the pins or, for example, yoghurt jars, place them at the opposite side of the room, give a child a ball and show how to “Roll the ball”. After that, count how many pins or jars have been knocked down (revise numbers) and ask students to name the words on the knocked down pins! If everything is correct, give a child additional points.
- The game “Steam Train” can be used for checking. Just spread out the cards with the words face down one after another. Let a child open the “trailers” and name the word. Start each “opening” with the question “What is it?” and make a student give a full answer – “This is…”.
- Another simple game to check the previous material is the classic version of the Memo. We need two sets of cards with images. Mix them and find matches, but do not forget to name each “match” in English. This game is also helpful for practising singular and plural forms. As a result, there is a match of two items, for example, “apple – apples”. And ideally, a child should add an indefinite article – “an apple – two apples”.
Games for memorising English words with objects
First of all, simple games with objects require objects themselves, as well as a “magic” bag, where you can hide anything. The bag should be tied or tightened so that a student cannot see what is inside. The game is arranged from the simplest to the hardest – simple presentation and naming, memorisation, reproduction of new words. Objects can be touched, and vivid emotions and kinesthetic memory facilitate remembering of the word image.
- Just show the items, name them, ask a student to repeat, let him/her touch them and hide it in a bag. Then we give a student a bag and ask him/her to find the necessary object by feel – “Please touch a…”. For time management, count to 5 or 10. If a student is correct, say, “Yes, you are right! This is…”. If a student is wrong, say, “No, you are wrong. Try again”. Such phrases help establish interaction and create a language environment.
- “Hide-and-Seek”. Hide the items in the room, let a child find them. Ask, “Where is…?”. Over time, you can also add a description of where the item was (“under the table” or “on the chair”).
- Hide-and-seek can be played differently and can be called “I see”. The task is not just to find the hidden object but to name it using the phrase “I can see a…”. A child can keep the found object until the game finishes.
- When a student has already remembered the words, you can play “What’s missing?”. Children love it very much. All the objects are in front of a child, “it” covers them, asks the student to close their eyes, takes one object away, asks the student to open their eyes and guess the missing object (the game is played in English). Accordingly, the student needs to understand what has disappeared and remember what it is called in English.
- You can also buy or sell the objects. Therefore, the game “in a shop” is another favourite. Here, you can arrange a live communication, so this game should be played regularly for the development of speaking skills. In the beginning, the child will repeat the phrases after the teacher, but soon they will easily remember them. The game is very simple – one is the seller, the other one is the buyer. Depending on the level of English, we use either the simplest phrases, such as “please, apple”, or the more complex ones, such as “Can I have an apple, please?”.
Board games for memorising English words
Words can also be remembered with the help of board games. Playing board games is always a very exciting process, but you need to prepare some templates and print them out.
- Dominoes. The rules are the same as in traditional dominoes. You need domino tiles. But there will be pictures of new words instead of numbers. Play, name, repeat, memorise.
- Lotto or bingo. You need two sets of cards with images of words. One set is a game card, and the other set is cut into squares and hidden in a bag. These will be the “kegs”. Pull out the “kegs” one by one and name the word. Or ask the question, “Who has got a…?” The first person to answer “I have a…” gets a “barrel”. The winner is the one who is first to complete his or her game card.
- SNAP. This game is very dynamic and effective for memorising new words. But it requires 4 sets of picture cards! All of them are mixed and spread out “blindly” in front of the players. Everyone has their own set of cards placed face down. In turn, every player turns a card away from themself, so that other players see the picture first, names it and puts it in the centre. If the image matches the card placed by the previous player, they shout “SNAP” and keep the entire set. The one who has no cards loses.
- Dobble. You can see how to make dobble templates on the internet. It is better to make them for several vocabulary categories. You can choose from as many as 5 game options! The game is a test of focus, so it really captivates all students.
- Snakes and Ladders. It is also helpful for revising several vocabulary categories. Just make a template with pictures of new words instead of numbers. Roll the dice and go ahead, count the steps, name the words!
Memorising English words with school children
By the age of 11-12, children’s memory is already developed by regular memorisation of words, and it is enough for them to write them down and repeat them at home, but this does not work with younger school children. They need to be taught how to remember words. It’s good when your school teacher understands the need to learn new vocabulary and spends time not on writing words down in a notebook and translating them (which, by the way, can be done at home after the lesson), but on active memorisation with the help of the existing variety of vocabulary games, some of which have been already described above. In this case, students will not have any problems with remembering new words. Everyone loves to play. Games are exciting, and winning motivates students.
But, if the learning process is arranged differently and learning new words is students’ homework, parents will have to make an effort to help their child, at least at first. The difficulty of memorising words in school is compounded further by the fact that they are often asked to learn both the meaning and the spelling simultaneously. This way of learning is a hard thing for the brain and memory. Unsurprisingly, in this case, children are unwilling to learn English.
How to help a student learn English words?
First of all, you need to explain that nobody can do it but the child themself. And explain that they will not be able to speak, sing and communicate in English without knowing English words. However, do not put pressure on children; convince them that it will only be difficult at the beginning. Then their memory will develop, and they will remember new words before they know it.
Until this happens and the memory “fails” (and the child keeps saying, “I don’t want to, it’s boring…”), offer them several games described above, but accompany all the pictures with written words. If you do not have time to create pictures, then two sets of cards – English and their native language spellings – will be enough.
The easiest tasks for memorising English words:
- Match a native language word to its English translation. First, match the words using the clues, then without any clues, and finally set the time limit. Words will be memorised much faster!
- Spread out English words face down, turn them over and name the translation. The same thing, but slightly different – say English words using native language translation.
- Make a game card with native language words (each space is a word), and then cut squares with English words. Spread them as a lotto.
- The game “halves” or “steam train” – cut the cards, halve each card, with one half with an English word and the other one with a word on your language, but the equivalents for these words are on other cards. At the end of the game, you will get a closed circle or square.
- Ball games. Just throw a ball to each other; one says a word in your mother tongue, the other translates it into English and so on. Any ball game requires a quick reaction, so the memory begins to work more actively.
After a child can easily name new English words, you can move on to memorising their spelling. To do this, first, you should explain that it is impossible to learn how to write words if you do not remember their spelling! Secondly, it will only be difficult at the beginning:).
The procedure of memorising English spelling with school children is as follows:
- First, write a word with a clue.
- Second, repeat the spelling.
- Third, write the word from memory and check. No mistakes? Well done!!!
- Have a mistake? Go back to steps two and three.
In the beginning, the main task is to help a child take their first steps, support interest in learning English, give them confidence, and help overcome any difficulties.
However, if you realise that your efforts are not enough, you should seek help from specialists, for example, in Novakid Online English School for Children. Our video lessons feature all techniques for memorising both new words and new grammar. So that while learning English, a child absorbs new things involuntarily, through live English communication with a teacher, but not separately, through cramming. It’s worth a try; the first lesson is free!