Making Vocabulary Lessons Fun for ESL Students

By Teacher David:

I just finished teaching vocabulary words to my student at English Gang. Thus, I thought about writing a blog post about it. I cannot stress enough the importance of vocabulary. Without it, other skills in English are impossible to learn, and students hit a ceiling quite early. Understanding new words is not hard for students, but remembering and using them in actual situations is a challenge. Thus, I try my best to make this fun for them. How do I do it? It’s not always easy, but here are a few tricks.

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Teach vocabulary in a way that students can put it into context.

When you teach new words, you should focus on teaching it within a context. Therefore, you should not introduce words that are unrelated. All the words should be connected with an activity or story that is familiar with your students. For instance, when I teach about weather conditions such as the words sunny and rainy, I search for the weather forecast in Thailand, which is usually hot or rainy. When the student sees the weather the following day, they will remember the word for it.

Utilize repetition.

You should know the proper timing in using repetition. Research has shown that students should use the words immediately after learning in order to retain that information. Then, they need to use the words from time to time. In short, you must encourage them to use the words repeatedly. I always use the words when I do a wrap up of the lesson.

Use visuals.

Students will remember the words more easily if you associate the words with pictures. Since a human brain processes visual information in a different way, pictures can stick in our brain for a longer time. In English Gang, there are bright and engaging lesson slides for teaching, so I just usually add 1 or 2 pictures of my own just in case I have extra time at the end of class.

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Make the vocabulary easy to remember.

You have to think of ways to make a particular group of words memorable to your students. When I teach emotions, I make different facial expressions to crack my students up. It works well for me because my Thai students are humorous, relaxed and quite personable. Whatever nationality you teach, research about it to know which approach can work (and what doesn’t).

Let them read the words aloud.

This method is hitting two birds with one stone. You teach the meaning of the word and pronunciation at the same time. Words can be retained and absorbed in their mind if you do this. To add variety, you can come up with a game. I do a gesture game when I teach vocabulary about sports. Then, I ask them to do some gestures to check if they understood the words.


There are many ways to make vocabulary enjoyable for ESL students. Whatever you choose to use, you have to make sure that you maximize the opportunity for your students to remember and learn them. If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to share it here!


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