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Teaching English Vocabulary at Elementary School

English at elementary school is placed in “Muatan Lokal”. Nevertheless, it is important to introduce English starting from elementary school because it will help students in their next level. They will not face the most difficulty because at least they have introduced the basic element of English. So, in their higher level, next they will get the effective result in learning English.

Teaching English Vocabulary at Elementary School

The status of English in Indonesia is a foreign language not used as lingua franca. Based on the statement, it is difficult for students of elementary school to learn English. So, the teacher should treat teaching English at elementary school differently from teaching English at other levels. Because of some reasons (M.F. Sri Ekonomi, 2008):

  1. Psychology Development Theory of Piaget stated that the age of 6 – 1, children is still in operational concrete stage so they have not been able to thing something that is abstract or unreal.
  2. Second language acquisition theory stated that second language can be acquired in the environment that has rich of input and can be understand in a satisfying condition.
  3. Brain theory of Dr. Wilder Perfield stated that at the age of eight, nine and ten, children will be able to indicate an optimal work in learning language.

Based on the opinions, we can conclude that teaching vocabulary at elementary school is different with other levels. It is better if using good teaching technique at elementary school.

Technique of teaching English vocabulary

Teaching vocabulary is a process in which teacher gives some new words to the students and hoping that they can recognize, pronounce, practice and remember those new words may they haven’t heard those words before (Surachmat, 2008:21).

In teaching vocabulary, students not only should know the meaning of a word, but they should also be able to use it in context. According to Surachmat (2008:21) here are some techniques for teaching vocabulary:

1. Using realia

Realia means the use of real object that can be seen by the students. The teacher gives such a real thing either in the classroom or beyond the classroom. So, vocabulary can easily explain. This is effective and satisfactory technique, even though, it si limited to a certain single thing or word that can be taken into the classroom or confront the students to the things usually exist.

2. Showing picture

Picture is indispensable media for language teaching since they can be used in so many ways. They can be wall picture, blackboard drawing, charts, flashcards, table or statistic and etc.

3. Synonyms

Synonym is two or more words which have the same meaning but different in spelling and writing. Comparing synonyms help to the students see the relationship between words of similar meaning. Students can learn to distinguish of words by nothing words that belong to certain classes or groups, such as the word big similar with the word great and huge.

4. Antonyms

A studying antonyms can be part of a word analysis. Antonyms also studied as adjectives, early-late, smooth-rough, thin-fat.

5. Homonyms

Homonyms are words identical in pronunciation but different in meanings. Teachers can use written exercise to give the students an opportunity to discriminate between the spelling and meaning of homonyms.

6. Mime, action, gesture

The teacher can walk, cry or write for the words walk, cry, and write. While in exploring the words such as to up, from, etc, the teacher can use gestures.

7. Enumeration

When the teacher find difficulties in explaining words, for example the teacher want to teach the word ‘animal’, the teacher can enumerate a number of animal like lion, tiger, horse, cow, cat, etc.

8. Explanation or definition

The teachers give explanation or definition of the word given. For example, the word “pencil”, the teacher explains it is used to write something on the paper.

9. Translation

The teacher sometime has to translate it into students’ mother tongue.

10. Games and play-acting

Game provides an excellent opportunity for he use of grammar, structures, and vocabulary. At the beginning learning levels, we may ask students to take prearranged objects out of the box and practice such expressions as what’s in the box. Play acting can also be very effective. Students acting out roles may speak in the present tense, as I’m John and I’m working in an office (A toy, papers, and other office product will be helful).

11. Derivation

Derivation involves all kinds of English word changes, such as verb, noun, adverb, adjective, etc. the changes are in parts of speech or in inflation. (word by prefix and suffix).

12. Demonstration

It means an act of showing something as an explaining the meaning of the words.

13. Song

Song can also be a technique to get the meaning of words, in this case the young learners usually like singing very much.


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1. M.F. Sri Ekonomi. Situs sudah tidak dapat diakses. Diakses pada tanggal: 16/01/2008
2. Surachmat, A.M. (2008). TEFL. Ciamis: Universitas Galuh 
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