ESL/EFL - Teaching Word Families
ESL/EFL Classes and Teaching The Word Family
When I teach word families to my ESL classes I usually start with a simple word and build up from there, showing them clearly how the 'family' can grow. Word families are groups of words formed from a base or root word, so I think it is best to begin with fundamentals.
Let me show you an example using the word ease:
Noun - ease
adjective - easy
verb - to ease
adverb - easily
There are thousands more, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. This article will concentrate on form-based word families as opposed to meaning based.
Why study word families?
A recent study has shown that the 2000 most frequently used form-based words account for more than 80% of an average text.
(Dr Prudent Injeeli, Mind Your Words: Master the Art of Learning and Teaching Vocabulary, Trafford Publishing, 2013)
So their importance cannot be ignored.
Learning about word families can also help with:
- extending vocabulary
- the use of dictionaries
- studying texts
- the meaning of words
I've outlined eight tried and trusted ways for teaching word families but don't forget that the needs of your students come first so be prepared to adapt each method accordingly if you need to.
The Word Family - 8 Teaching Ideas
1. Create Sentences
These 5 verbs are some of the most frequently used in English (www.linguasorb.com) and are more likely to turn up in conversation than written text. Working in pairs or small groups, get your students to create sentences using these verbs.Once they've written them down ask each person to say them out loud. Try and build on this exercise.
- Create sentences using one or more of the following word families:
think thinking thinks thought thoughts thoughtful thoughtfully thoughtfulness
get gets getting got gotten
go goes going gone went
know knew knowing knowledge known knows unknown knowledgeable knowingly
mean meaning means mean meanest meaningful
2. Build Up The Root Word
- Take the root word, for example appear, and build up the word family.
In my class I like to start this exercise by asking the group as a whole to think of new words. I then write them down on the whiteboard as the answers are given. This could take the form of a spidergram or bubble cloud. I then write down a second example for the students to work on quietly by themselves or in pairs.
3. Introduce Idioms
Introducing idioms to the class creates added interest and helps with speaking and conversation.
eg You'll end up unemployed if you say that to the boss!
Hopefully, you won't end up with egg on your face!
I hope you don't end up jobless!
I'll deal with any employment issues in the next meeting.
- Use idioms in connection with the word family.
Some Common Word Families
4. Specific Topics - Numeracy
If you run a specialist class, say in business or science, focus on topics that your students really need. You could go for academic lists, or educational language. Basic numeracy is always popular.
- Ask your students to create a word family based on other numbers.
Take a look at this word family based on the number five:
5. Dictionary Research
- Dictionary research
This exercise will encourage your students to become independent in their research as well as boost their knowledge of working with dictionaries.
Create a list of nouns and have them find the verb and adverb for each, together with meanings.
For example, choose the word boredom and ask your students to look up family words. Then get them to create sentences once they've researched meanings.
The subject was boring.
The subject bored me.
The subject was a total bore.
6. Read A Set Text
- Reading a text
Have your students read through a set text - it could be taken from a book or other source, or created by you - and ask them to highlight any word families they come across. Focus on a verb and get them to determine the adjective, noun and adverb in the same family.
- Create small groups, give them different texts. Have them read out loud and/or write down their findings so the whole class can comment and interact.
7. Fill In The Blanks
- Filling in the Blanks
Create some short passages for your students with blanks. Have them fill the blanks in with the correct word.
If you want to have a ................ career you have to work hard. To be certain of ........... make sure you plan ahead and create goals for yourself. Achieve these goals and you will more than likely ............
The word family - success, succeed, successful.
Fill the Blanks in these Sentences
1. He sat reading the book in complete ________ (silent)
2. They have decreased the ____________ of trains on this route (frequent)
3. This exercise gives an indication of ______________ (intelligent)
4. Be sure to arrive early to avoid _______________ (disappoint)
5. He stared at the animal in _________________ (amaze)
8. Exceptional Word Families
- Exceptional Word families
There are unusual words in English which are used quite frequently by native speakers and yet can prove a challenge for the EFL student.
For instance the word right can turn up in many guises:
It includes the right to reply.
She injured her right hand.
Right way up if you don't mind!
He got right to the end of the tunnel.
Ask your students to come up with a word of their own which is spelt the same but has different meanings. Can they create a sentence/s using this word?
Three More Form-Based Word Families
Walk, walking, walker, walkabout.
Talk, talking, talker, talkative, Talk-show.
Final, finally, finale, finalist, finalise (finalize).
NB Note the word talkative!
- In other recent research it is known that up to 60% of information is forgotten just an hour after we first learn it! (Canada Education www.cea-ace.ca)
- This is why it's important for your students to repeat course work to help reinforce learning. Get them to repeat word families out loud occasionally, have recall and retrieve sessions, give them progress tests.
Word families are really important. They allow students to see how different words from the same root are used in the daily flow of the English language.
© 2014 Andrew Spacey