How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: Vocabulary Competencies Part 1.

If English is regarded as a jigsaw puzzlea complex set of components that work in coordination with one another, how can we best identify and assemble its elements? As displayed at worklifeenglish.com, here’s a general plan of 10 wide-ranging language teaching & learning Parts & Pieces (i.e. competencies) that seems to work.
The focus of this pair of articles, C. Use Vocabulary C-1 to C-3 (1st Half) and C-4 to C-7 (2nd Half) is circled below. To see the the materials for teaching these seven primary "Teachable Competencies,” click on the circled Puzzle Piece C: Use Vocabulary. Even more material is accessible from the worklifeenglish.com home page. 

This article refers to the first half of Parts & Pieces C: Use Vocabulary. Teaching what’s needed to “Know the Alphabet” and “Do  Phonics & Spelling,” is detailed in the previous articles: 
Logically, the next general subject of language teaching might be Puzzle Parts & Pieces C: Use Vocabulary. That’s because these segments target individual wordsbefore they’re combined into larger units (phrases and sentences) that comprise Grammar, Listening/Speaking, Reading/Writing, and other pieces of language education.
Competency Puzzle Piece C: Use Vocabulary
To use vocabulary effectively in real-life situations, educators and students first need the ability to [1] pronounce & spell (new) vocabulary and [2] get word meanings, functions, & uses. These two prerequisites for learning to use words and phrases in context enable people to communicate and express themselves. 
Then there are several techniques or approaches that streamline vocabulary acquisition by systematizing it.  End users can learn how to [3] Categorize Meaning, [4] Combine Words, [5] Consider Items in Pairs or Groups, [6]  Build Words & Phrases from Parts, and [7] Use Motivating Tools in Vocabulary Acquisition.
In Parts & Pieces Chart C: Use Vocabulary, Teachable Vocabulary Competencies C-1 to C-7 are numbered to display information, lessons, or materials in usable sequence. Most important is the "Do It" Column: it divides Vocabulary Use into equal or comparable portions. Here’s the first half of P & P Chart C:
To see all the “Parts & Pieces” of all seven Primary Competencies C-1 to C-7  for Using Vocabulary, read both this blog and the second half of the blog. For detailed teaching materials look in Puzzle Piece C in www.worklifeenglish.com/C: Parts & Pieces (Use Vocabulary). There are over 35 “Sub-Competencies” in vocabulary text chapters, resource guide ideas, spelling lessons, puzzle collections, card packs with Activity & Idea Books, and more.  
Here’s some commentary on the first three listings. They include links to 3 sample (shortened) Parts & Pieces as well as several Vocabulary Books & Games:
C-1. Say & Write New Vocabulary. What can help most at the beginning of targeted vocabulary study? Most language students and new readers say that when they encounter new words or phrases, they’re most concerned about how to pronounce the printed items—and conversely, how the words they hear are spelled. 
Most efficient in mastering these skills might be a “Miniature Phonics Course” like the Introduction to What’s the Word? Pronouncing New Vocabulary. Phonics instruction and ability to use (Pronunciation Keys + Head Words of Entries of) dictionaries are all that’s necessary to begin writing words. For background on “Spelling by the Rules,” you can use material like Idea S (Spelling by the Rules) of Phonics & Spelling: Everything to Know Now. . . .     
C-2. Get Word Meanings, Functions, & Uses. Beyond pronunciation and spelling, the essential features of each vocabulary item are its lexical meanings, its parts of speech or grammatical functions, and its uses in meaningful contexts. These are covered in Parts 1-4 of What’s the Word? Using New Vocabulary in the Real World.
Skill in Parts of Speech—especially Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, & Adverbs with Lexical Meaningboosts vocabulary ability from the start. That’s because it gives immediate clues to meaning, function, and use of each item. Parts of Speech can be determined by the functions + positions of words in sentences; by their meaning categories; by other words appearing in the same phrase; and/or by typical word endings.  There’s practice in these principles and patterns in What’s the Word? Part 1: Recognizing Parts of Speech.
Competence in Guessing Meaning from Context—Figuring Out New Vocabulary (Part 2 of What’s the Word) is probably the most dynamic vocabulary building skill. What can you do with relevant pedagogical materials? With relevant exercises, you can learn which questions to ask in deducing approximate meaning.  You can create a “Meaning from Context Chart,” choose likely definitions of words in real-life readings, match explanations with items, and fill in blanks of connected text with probable vocabulary.
To check guesses about new or unfamiliar vocabulary, it works to look up items in printed and online glossaries, dictionaries, lexicons, thesauruses, or other vocabulary-reference resources. Using the Dictionary to Learn Vocabulary is a constructive vocabulary-enhancement strategy. Most useful in dictionary entries are the given Meanings and Examples. The 12-page Part 3 of What’s the Word? Using New Vocabulary in the Real World, “Get Vocabulary Information from Dictionaries," offers practice in this helpful skill. 
Dictionaries are also valuable tools for acquiring Grammar Patterns & Rules—such as Kinds of Nouns (Countable, Singular & Plural,   Uncountable); Kinds of Verbs (Transitive, Intransitive, Linking); and Nouns, Verbs, or Adjectives That Take Complements (Infinitives, Gerunds, Base Forms).  
A facet of vocabulary attainment that builds language fluency is awareness of Word Usage & Phrasing (Part 4 of What’s the Word?) Not only does attention to these relate to Grammar Patterns & Rules like those listed above, but it also involves word variants, such as noun plurals, (regular & irregular) simple past and participle forms of verbs, comparatives & superlatives, “function words” like prepositions or conjunctions, and the like.
An even more “advanced” vocabulary skill is attending to  “Phraseology,” the unique combinations of words that proficient English speakers/writers use. For example, familiarity with phrases and expressions that incorporate basic verbs like do, have, make, give, take, and others builds vocabulary quickly. So does the study of idioms. And proficiency in phrasing helps speakers and writers develop a “feel for language”—so they’ll know which words fit together best in which ways.  It’s a satisfying, confidence-building talent to have.
C-3. Categorize Meaning. Teaching words in “Categories of Meaning” is not only effective, it’s also engaging and enjoyable. In fact, there are popular party and commercial games and even TV quiz shows based on the idea of “Categories.” Players compete based on knowledge of vocabulary (beginning with selected sounds or letters) that fit into classifications such as “Famous People,” “Drinks,” “Kinds of Sports,” “Vacation Destinations,” “Things That are Sticky,” “Math Terms,” “Movies for Children,” or other more and more specific groupings that motivate or entertain.    
Typical of vocabulary-learning card decks based on Categorization of Vocabulary in “Quartets” of Four Matching Items (like Activities, Business, Communications, Directions, Food, Games, Holidays, etc.) is Symbols Card Decks A-M & N-Z, with a 36-Page Activity & Idea Book. With 26 sets of four-of-a-kind visuals, players practice item names in Basic Learning Activities and Traditional Card Games. Then they go beyond the info in an Illustrated Answer Key to continue acquiring vocabulary with a “categorization approach.”  
In word puzzles like those in Picture This! and Picture This Too!, children and young people learn words in broad practical classifications such as “Things We Use,” “Animals,” “Things We Do” (Verbs), “Clothing & Body Parts,” “Foods,” “Toys & Games,” etc. 
In Ways with Words: Vocabulary Puzzles & Activities, (young) adults enjoy and learn from puzzles based on “Things,” “Actions,” “Places,” “Jobs,” “the Calendar Year,” “the Community,” “the World of Work,” “Housing & Neighborhoods,” and other everyday categories. It’s not only the sound-spelling practice and letter manipulation in “Word Search,” “Crossword,” “Rebus,” “Scrambled Words,” “Missing Letters,” “Matching,” and other activities that build vocabulary skills. It’s also attention to categorized visuals and definitions that fosters “getting meaning from context” and “generating vocabulary that fits into meaning categories.”    
Even on academic levels, systematizing words and phrases according to their Meaning Categories may work. In Part 5 of What’s the Word: The Vocabulary of Subject Matter, you can review what it means to “categorize vocabulary.” Before using words from an article called “Better & Better Learning,” you can organize them. You can sub-classify the vocabulary items that appear in Graphic Organizers and Diagrams. And finally, you can “Learn Beyond the Book” how to organize and use vocabulary from any specific subject area or topic of interest.
Check out all the Parts & Pieces referred to in this article by looking at the full products they come from: 
                  
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About Work/Life English
For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.

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