Teaching Vocabulary

Analysis of the Practical Example "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Term Paper, 2012

10 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Analysis of a Practical Example: “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

3. Evaluation and Alternatives

4. Conclusion

5. References

1. Introduction

The aim of this theoretical term paper is to introduce important aspects of vocabulary teaching through an analysis of the example “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”, as well as to evaluate this example from a teacher’s perspective.

Lexical competence is defined as “the knowledge of, and ability to use the vocabulary of a language” (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 93). Therefore teaching vocabulary consists not only of the introduction of new words through a teacher, but even more importantly it includes strategies to help students figuring out new vocabulary, memorizing, repeating, rediscovering and paraphrasing words (Lehrplan Englisch, 2000: 17/18). For this reason, the study of vocabulary teaching is seen as a significant factor for communicative competence since lexical items “provide basic units of meaning” (Müller- Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 93). In addition, research about vocabulary teaching is important because it provides insights into the complex organization and working of the mental lexicon. For future teachers this topic is particularly interesting because it helps understanding the way students learn vocabulary and thus provides guidelines for effective teaching.

The main part will focus on a practical example of the FU English, called “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, with the main goal of revision and retrieval of vocabulary. First, the main aim is to analyse the game with respect to theoretical aspects and the guidelines of the educational standards and the curriculum. Second, this part will also discuss the positive and negative aspects of this example from the viewpoint of a teacher, as well as provide ideas for improvement.

2. Analysis of a Practical Example: “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

The practical example “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” is based on the famous and amusing TV-game-show and adapted to English classes. In the class version one or several candidate(s) have to answer multiple choice questions about various topics related to the anglophone world (e.g. culture, geography, literature, film, vocabulary, grammar,...) and the host provides the class with additional background information about this topic (Thaler 2002: 39/40). Hence, the game could help to increase the students’ reading and listening skills, as well as it is a thrilling method of expanding and consolidating the learners’ knowledge about English-speaking countries and the English language. Moreover, the questions increase in difficulty and value from one hundred dollars to one million dollars and the learners are allowed to consult three different lifelines- fifty-fifty, ask the audience and ask a class member- which can be an important backing for weaker students. In the end the student contestants receive small rewards (e.g. coins) (Thaler 2002: 39). While the candidates in the TV-show are chosen through the fastest-finger competition, this method can be replace through the fastest-tongue-competition or left out completely (Thaler 2002: 39). In addition, the number of candidates can be increased, either as a team or separate contestants with different questions, and a student can be chosen as host (Thaler 2002: 39/40) to activate and motivate more class members at the same time.

Since one alternative can be to ask questions about the English vocabulary, this example can be used as part of teaching vocabulary. However, it does not focus on the process of learning new vocabulary, but on the checking, the revision and the retrieval of words. In fact, teaching vocabulary should take place in three steps: First, comprehensible input from the teacher or classmates is needed which is slightly above the student’s level (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker- v. Ditfurth 2009: 99/100). During the introduction of new words it is important to provide a meaningful context, as well as to take the different learners’ needs into account through a multi-sensory mediation and under consideration of various possible organisations of the mental lexicon. Furthermore, direct approaches, which focus exclusively on the learning of vocabulary, or indirect approaches, where the students learn vocabulary by doing other activities, can be used to learn a maximum of seven to ten words per day (Müller- Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 103). Second, the students need to practice and in the third step they have to revise the vocabulary (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 99/100). This game focuses mainly on the third phase since words of the last book units and other known words should be used. Hence, this exercise can be used to check vocabulary in a motivating and funny way with a relaxed atmosphere which allows learners to make mistakes. Moreover, the goal of the example is to consolidate the learner’s vocabulary through the repetition of words, as well as to improve the retrieval skills of students.

Furthermore, this example trains the receptive knowledge of vocabulary. Receptive knowledge includes the recognition and understanding of a word, whereas productive knowledge means that students are able to use these words automatically. Through the questions and the multiple-choice answers students improve their retrieval skills, but since they are not forced to use the words in context they do not train their communicative competence and do not increase their productive knowledge. On the other hand, communication is the main goal of learning vocabulary (Bildungsstandards Englisch, 2003: 14/15) and communication consists of two parts understanding the other and bringing the own message across.

An essential point is the design of the questions. Knowing a word does not only mean to know the German translation, it is far more than this. In particular, knowing a words in its complexity includes aspects of recognition of the word in written and spoken language, spelling, pronunciation, meaning, syntactical aspects, morphological aspects, grammatical background, collocations, connotations, register, context of usage, the difference between British and American English and the cultural meaning (Kieweg 2002: 1/7). Since there is no model question for the topic of vocabulary in the FU, it is assumed that the questions should be designed with the help of these pieces of information (e.g. What is the synonym of Which of these spellings is the correct version?). Additionally, to improve the learners’ knowledge about the words the above mentioned features of knowing a word or the corresponding dictionary entry could be given as background information. Most importantly, with the help of the background information new associations in the mental lexicon can be built up or existing associations can be strengthened. The mental lexicon is “the word-store in the human mind” (Wolff, 2002: 11) which functions like an interface between the mind and the reality through storing “sense impressions in mentally represented knowledge structures” (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 95). One entry in the mental lexicon consists of at least four components: First, the phonological aspects; second the morphological aspects; third the syntactical aspects and fourth the conceptual aspects including meaning and the relation to other words (Wolff, 2002: 12). These entries are connected to and organized by associations, which means that the stimulus of a certain word brings up other words and therefore it is easier to recall a word with many associations. Consequently, this means that with the background information the entry in the mental lexicon could be expanded, as well as the connections could be strengthened and as a result the retrieval becomes faster and easier. Besides that, the game “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” can also improve the paraphrasing skills of the learners because they gain knowledge about the words and receive information about synonyms, antonyms and other essential aspects which can help to paraphrase a word effectively.

Another important point is the appropriate selection of words and topics for the game questions. The teacher can either use or translate the questions from the real TV-shows or she/he can choose the words himself on the basis of the textbook used in class. Nevertheless, she/he should be careful with the selection of topics and words. First, it is essential to choose topics that are relevant and interesting for the students whereas topics in the textbooks might not. Second, it is helpful to stick to the criteria of the educational standards and curriculum for the choice of words: frequency, importance of topic, importance for communication and range of usage (Lehrplan Englisch 2000: 17). Beyond that, it is possible and necessary to include “fixed and semi-fixed prefabricated items” (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 94) - so-called chunks- as subjects of the question. Even more than on isolated words, fluency in communication is based on the “acquisition of a large store” (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 97) of chunks because they are stored as units and therefore can be recalled easier and faster in a conversation (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 94). As a consequence, learners need not concentrate on every single lexical item, which helps reducing the L1-interference, as well as grammatical mistakes (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 96/97).

Additionally, the students in higher classes can choose the vocabulary on the basis of the textbook themselves. According to the theories of constructivism, learning vocabulary is an autonomous, learner-dependent and individual process (Müller-Hartmann/Schocker-v. Ditfurth 2009: 99). As soon as the students are involved in the preparation, they are activated more because they can include words and topics they are interested in and can formulate questions according to their individual organization of the mental lexicon. Beyond that, when students create the questions themselves they become experts in the topics and learn more about the words they have focused on. In addition, it would also be possible to include some dictionary work in the way that the students would have to formulate helpful background information with the help of lexicons or dictionaries. Furthermore, in this case the teacher’s role is passive since the learners invent their own questions and lead the game themselves. In contrast, as long as the teacher selects the words and formulates the questions, the students are not involved in the process and the criteria of constructivist teaching are not fulfilled.


Excerpt out of 10 pages


Teaching Vocabulary
Analysis of the Practical Example "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
University of Trier
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Who wants to be a millionaire, vocabulary, teaching, didactics, practical example, lesson plan
Quote paper
Stephanie Desoye (Author), 2012, Teaching Vocabulary, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1000989


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