Skip to content

Vocabulary Journals

To my pre-intermediate (A2) students:

A vocabulary journal is important. You can write new vocabulary you don’t know in a notebook. You write new words you hear and read. Where do you find the definitions? Not google translate. Not Turing. Don’t look for Turkish translation. Use a learner’s dictionary

Is the word a verb, noun, adjective or adverb? When you read or hear the word, how is it used? Think of the context. The context is the words around your new word. For example:

But this was 1897, and Buck did not know that men and dogs were hurrying to north- west Canada to look for gold. And he did not know that Manuel, one of Mr Miller’s gardeners, needed money for his large family. One day, when Mr Miller was out, Manuel and Buck left the garden together. It was just an evening walk, Buck thought. No one saw them go, and only one man saw them arrive at the railway station. This man talked to Manuel, and gave him some money. Then he tied a piece of rope around Buck’s neck.

Buck growled, and was surprised when the rope was pulled hard around his neck. He jumped at the man. The man caught him and suddenly Buck was on his back with his tongue out of his mouth. For a few moments he was unable to move, and it was easy for the two men to put him into the train.

Jack London, Call of the Wild

Notice the word, piece. Is it a verb, noun, adjective or adverb? It is a noun. “Then he” is the subject, “tied” is the verb, so the rest of the sentence is the object. When you read “a piece of rope”, notice the article, “a”, as in a piece of rope. This is an indefinite article, and indefinite articles go before nouns or nouns with adjectives. There is also a pattern here: a piece of. In English, it is common to see “a” + NOUN + “of”, so piece is a noun. Rope is also a noun – “A” + NOUN + “of” + NOUN.

You can put adjectives before these nouns: A small piece of brown rope. Remember that adjectives come before nouns. A noun with another word in front of it is usually an adjective.

Now that we know piece is a noun, we can look up the word in a learner’s dictionary.

When you go to the learner’s dictionary website and search for ‘piece’, this is what you find. We know that in this context, piece is a noun. Notice in the learner’s dictionary, there is a verb definition as well. We can ignore this because we are only interested in the noun definition because of the context where we found this word.

Read the definition: “an amount that is cut or separated from a larger section of something”. Under the definition some example sentences. It even shows the of at the end under “- often + of”.

Now it is time to write in your vocabulary journal:

  1. write the word
  2. write the type of word (verb, noun, adverb or adjective)
  3. copy the definition
  4. write one or two example sentences USING YOUR OWN WORDS

Here’s an example:

piece (noun): an amount that is cut or separated from a larger section of something.
1. I ate a small piece of cake yesterday.
2. After I broke the window, the pieces of glass were on the floor.

You should write in your vocabulary journal using pen an paper. When you write with pen and paper, it is easier to memorize new things. Study your vocabulary journal 2 or three times per week. Think about the words and how to use them when you speak. Practice speaking with these words. Use these words in class. Be prepared to share words from your vocabulary journal in class.

When you read, don’t look up the definition for each word. Underline or write the word down and keep reading. Try to guess the word’s meaning as you read. Look up the words and write in your vocabulary journal after you finish reading. For example, read for 20 minutes, then write in your vocabulary journal. Don’t forget to write example sentences using your own words. Remember to study your vocabulary journal two or three times a week. Practice speaking with these words when you study.

There is a reward for this hard work: your vocabulary is going to grow. You are going to speak better an be more confident. Keep reading and keep practicing. Do the work. You are going to speak fluently soon.