Struggling to Teach Vocabulary Horizontally

I took this one!
I took this one!

Perhaps “Timing”  really is everything. When you read something that relates directly to a problem you are grappling with, it can have a powerful impact. This is what happened to me in regards to Leo Selivan’s excellent post “Horizontal Alternatives to Vertical Lists”

To my delight, our Ministry of Education has published list of lexical items that beginning and intermediate students should know. This feature was taken out of the curriculum at some point and has now, after many years, made a “comeback”. As a special-ed teacher and counselor I can attest that this is very useful. The majority of deaf /hard of hearing EFL students here have difficulties remembering vocabulary. It does not help them at all that every classroom teacher and every tutor they encounter decides to focus on different vocabulary items.

The first word list, for the basic level, has 1,200 items.

I took this one!
I took this one!

Unfortunately, it is organized alphabetically. LONG list of unrelated words.

Now, I agree wholeheartedly with Leo Selivan that there’s no point in continuing to teach the words according to semantic families – colors, animals, etc. This has been done for years and I have not seen results that justify continuing in this manner. That’s why I was so excited by his post – I knew I wanted to organize words differently but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  In this post there are very practical suggestions and examples that I can use when preparing materials for the teachers I work with.

So, where is the struggle?


It would be so much easier for ME to locate the lexical items in the list that go together, that I would like to teach in conjunction, if the words were arranged in horizontal groups (semantically). I’ve sat down to work but I don’t know how to put them into meaningful chunks without sitting and categorizing them first, which is a dismaying thought.

Any suggestions?

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