Why teach grade 12 Tier 2 vocabulary to adults? Well, vocabulary is the cornerstone of language learning, and its importance in ESL education just cannot be overstated. After all, the ability to express one’s thoughts and ideas effectively hinges on having a robust vocabulary. However, some teachers find themselves with complete freedom in what to teach, which has pros and cons, and struggle to decide which words to focus on, particularly once students have moved past basic themed vocabulary like home vocabulary or body vocabulary. The beauty of Tier 2 vocabulary is that it is more advanced than what you find in themed vocabulary and general enough that it has real-life relevance for academic and professional success.
The Role of Tier 2 Vocabulary
Grade 12 Tier 2 vocabulary can play a pivotal role in an ESL student’s communication excellence and academic and professional success. These advanced vocabulary terms empower students to articulate complex thoughts and engage in in-depth discussions. These words are not just a requirement for exams but tools for confidently navigating real-life situations and career prospects. Because they are high-frequency words with broad applicability, you won’t be drowning your students in jargon. These words are a bridge between basic language proficiency and fluency.
8 Effective Teaching Strategies for Grade 12 Tier 2 Vocabulary
Hopefully, you have zero intentions of teaching vocabulary the way I was taught–with a list of words and an old paper dictionary. So, what can you do beyond going over the definitions? Oh, SO MUCH!
#1: Build that background
Before beginning, you’ll want to discover what your students already know. Building background worksheets serve a multifaceted purpose. First, they let you assess whether or not you should proceed with the intended lesson. If they know nine out of ten on your list, save that lesson for a later group of students. Second, building their background provides students with an avenue to demonstrate their existing knowledge and collaborate in word-meaning negotiation. The cherry on top is that this approach minimizes excessive teacher talk, allowing students, particularly ESL students, invaluable opportunities to hone their proficiency in the target language.
#2: Connotation Counts: Is it slippery, slimy, or glossy?
Our ESL students often rely heavily on dictionaries and translations. A dictionary can give a perfect denotation but often falls short of pinpointing a word’s connotation. That secondary, often subtle meaning can make the difference between your students choosing the word that precisely expresses what they want to communicate and selecting the word that will leave their listener thinking, “Huh”?! …or even worse, taking offense!
#3: IPA: Is that “a” like cat, cake, or sofa?
You probably don’t want to introduce the International Phonetic Alphabet to your absolute beginners, but you’re also not likely to be teaching them grade 12 Tier 2 vocabulary words. Teaching IPA is more effective at intermediate and advanced levels because students have a foundational understanding of English phonetics and could be looking to refine their pronunciation. Students can grasp the symbols and their corresponding sounds at these levels more easily. Rather than teaching them ALL of the symbols, start teaching them as they are needed with the Tier 2 vocabulary words that you are already teaching.
#4: Spelling: It doesn’t have to be a bee.
Knowing the correct spelling can improve vocabulary retention. Students will be more likely to recognize and remember the word when they come across it later in another context. And yes, sure, spell checkers have come a long way, but I think we all know better than to rely on auto-correct to correctly deduce what we want to say. So, consider having correct spelling as an element of your Tier 2 vocabulary lessons.
#5: Parts of Speech: Try not to noun the verbs so adjectively.
Learning the different forms is one of the fastest ways to increase your students’ vocabulary. Knowing a word’s various parts of speech forms enhances language versatility, enabling students to use words more flexibly and effectively. If they learn a noun, also have them learn the verb form, the adjective form, and the adverb form (if applicable).
#6: Sentences: Models of Contextual Clues
No one ever disputes the importance of example sentences for children, but this strategy is highly effective for learners of all ages. Seeing how the words fit in sentences will make creating their own easier for your adult students. Use sentence gaps to point out to students how to use their grammar knowledge as well as context clues to match the correct word to each sentence. They can use these skills to decode new words in the future.
To sharpen their understanding of the Tier 2 words you are teaching, give them sentences that use the various forms of those words (noun form, verb form, etc.), but leave a blank space instead of giving them the word. Using the embedded context clues will sharpen their understanding and position those words more firmly in their memory.
#7: Synonyms and Antonyms: Word friends and enemies
I still think fondly of the student who would say things like “table’s study friend” when he couldn’t think of “desk.” Sometimes, he’d have an actual synonym and sometimes a funny comparison, but he got his meaning across AND helped cement the words in his classmates’ memories (as soon as we figured out what he meant).
Selling students on learning new words along with the Tier 2 vocabulary terms on their list is easier once you point out that they aren’t entirely new definitions but simply words associated with the same (or opposite) meaning. They’re on board when they realize they’re getting three words for the price of one.
#8: Tier 2 Vocabulary Discussions: Using Conversations with the words, not about the words.
Provide your students with the opportunity to apply their recently acquired Tier 2 vocabulary in meaningful contexts. Ask them questions that will stimulate a conversation where they can use the target word(s) in context.
Tier 2 Vocabulary Resources for Adult ESL classes
I have created ten Tier 2 Grade 12 vocabulary resources that cover ten words each. You can get them one at a time as you need them, or you can save money by buying the bundle and getting them all at once. You’ll find worksheets and activities that cover all the above suggestions and more in these packets. It’s all done for you–no need to fuss with creating all that (unless that’s something you love doing). Instead, think about what you’ll do with the time you’ll save.
In a nutshell, Grade 12 Tier 2 vocabulary is very appropriate for adult ESL students to learn. When you use the practical strategies covered in this article, you’ll be setting your students up to shine in their academic lives and in everyday conversations. Keep in mind that these strategies can be adapted, and your own enthusiasm and creative touch will make a big difference in how engaged and successful your students become.
To make your lesson prep time fly by, try out some of my academic vocabulary resources or adult life vocabulary resources. Let’s make the language learning process as enriching and effective as possible.