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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > Problems with QUESTION WORDS and basic vocabulary    

Problems with QUESTION WORDS and basic vocabulary


Problems with QUESTION WORDS and basic vocabulary
Dear friends,

I need your advice. I have a student who has A LOT of problems with memorzing the most basic vocabulary. He is a true beginner, about 45 years old, a workaholic, lots of hobbies, two small children... you get the picture. We have fun during class, take it one word at a time, but from time to time both of us get frustrated.

He has problems with question words, I told him to use small flash cards and stick them to his mirror, attach them to his desk at work, places where he would see them regularly... But still they don �t seem to stick Ermm

Do you have experience with students like this? Any recommendations?


26 Jul 2011      

class centre

see my work sheet about the question words. The pictures are by my brother Sergey. My sts get it much quicker using the pictures.
hope it can help

also it is good to make some pairs or words - one in English the other on his mother tongue. And repeat them many many many many times in different ways - whispering, in a loud voice, as if he is surprised, irritated, happy, intrigating, etc. Then, while thinking of intonation, he will get the meaning of the word unconciously. Or  another way - no translation, but miming the meaning of the word...
Good luck!

26 Jul 2011     


You can have a look at these printables. I used some of them and they really worked http://www.eslprintables.com/buscador/buscar.asp?nivel=any&age=0&tipo=any&contents=question+words&username=&B1=Search#thetop

26 Jul 2011     


I would play lots of games with the different question words.

26 Jul 2011     

New Zealand

I am this student.
I am an extremely slow language learner and it has been the bane of my life for around 4 years now.
Things that have been working for me over the past year are in particular reading short Swedish novels. This helped because common words are repeated throughout. The first few chapters took hours as I had to look up word after word. By the last chapter I was a lot faster and certain words had stuck. I even took a Swedish book with me on holiday!
Your student could do this and should spend around 20 mins daily minimum. As a beginner maybe he could try to read some very short easy level online kids stories?

The second thing that helped me to remember vocabulary (especially for exams I had to sit), was to make up my own online flashcards.
I would do them in groups of 20. When I had them correct I would add the last 10 from the previous group to 10 new vocabulary words and learnt the "new" group.
Essentially I had hundreds of words to learn and after taking the time to type them into the online programme, it was really beneficial for me.

Another way was to print out the words and their meanings. I then cut them up and mixed and matched them. This was effective for me too.

Pictures and vocabulary+ word lists that are there as teaching and learning/reference tools are always good.

One thing I want to mention is that I have spent the last 4 years feeling frustrated and stupid for my lack of progress even though I would put hours in weekly to improving and attending courses. I have had a private teacher for the past 6 months and due to his encouragement and explanations I really feel like I am finally getting it. I cannot stress enough that you as his teacher need to keep positive and don �t stress out about how slow it may be going.
Everyone learns differently.

From a teacher �s perspective when I have had private lessons at home, when the going gets too tough or things are not sinking in,then it �s time for a break and to put the kettle on. Often we have a cup of tea while going back over things or even using it as a conversation time. Everyone feels relaxed and refreshed and ready to get back into it.
What materials are you using or coursebook? Maybe it �s not suited to his particular learning style...

EDIT: Don�t be afraid to use L1 if it will help. I spent 3 years in Swedish classes, learning grammar rules wrongly, not getting much of anything. My private teacher will explain something in English if I need it for clarification. It has been a godsend for me.

26 Jul 2011     

United States

Suggest he teach his kids the words and use them with them--I have a 40yr old German man that this worked very well with--he and the kids (especially his daughter) loved spending the time together too.

26 Jul 2011     

United States

@Douglas...Thumbs Up I find that when a student teaches another student it cements his/her skills.

26 Jul 2011     


You can also use this worksheet.

26 Jul 2011     

United States

Also, as we all know, the only way to learn a language is through practice. If the only time he speaks English is with you, it just isn �t enough. Can you find opportunities for him to use English outside of class?
Also, since German is his native language, he�s probably confused by the similarities between "wo" and "who", and "wer" and "where", which, unfortunately, don�t mean the same. Maybe associating actions with the question words would help. Search for something, while repeating "where?" over and over. Point to him with a very confused look and repeat "who?" - the same with an object and "what?". Try to do something, again with a confused look, and repeat "how?". Am I right that he has less trouble with "what" and "when", because the German and English are closer in sound? If so, then remind him that he already has two question words under his belt, giving him less to learn.
It�s not much, but it could be of some help,

26 Jul 2011     


A student of mine with similar problems told me the other day, that she �d gotten herself an mp3-player with a microphone (most mobile phones will have that function, too). She records all the vocab she finds hard to remember on that in English (pronunciation), in spelling and in the German translation. She said she listens to that whenever she finds time (tram, car...) and that it really helps her.
It �s also important to keep the intake low - especially with people who are already studying other subjects. I tell mine, that 5 words a day for 2 weeks will work. 70 words the night before the test won �t.
Appart from that a lot has been said above already. :-)
All the best

26 Jul 2011     


Have you told him that English needs to become his number one hobby?

26 Jul 2011     

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