Do you give vocabulary quizzes?

Hello friends, I have posted previously about how I approach teaching academic vocabulary. I have drawn ideas from the work of several theorists and researchers including Isabel Beck and her colleagues and Susanna Dutro and Kate Kinsella. First of all, I explain the new word using student-friendly language rather than a dictionary definition. Let's look at's definition of the word convenient: "suitable or agreeable to the needs or purpose; well-suited with respect to facility or ease in use; favorable, easy, or comfortable for use." I'm sure you would agree with me that this dictionary definition is not very student-friendly. Instead I would say, "Convenient is something that is useful, easy or quick to do."

I want to choose similarly easy-to-understand explanations for academic words. For the academic word section, I explain that a section is a part or piece of something. Next, I give the students several examples of how the word is typically used. For example, an orange can be divided into sections or parts. Each piece of the orange is one section. A theater and a stadium are divided into sections. Books and magazines have sections. A newspaper has several sections, including a section for local news and a section for sports.

After that, I give the students conversation and writing practice by posing several questions that have relevance in their lives such as the following:

1. Which section of the newspaper do you like to read?

2. In which section of the supermarket would you find apples?

3. Which section of an orchestra do you most enjoy listening to?

4. Is it hard for you to believe that planes used to have a smoking section? Why or why not?

I also give the students sentence frames to scaffold and help them get started with using the new vocabulary to respond to the questions.

Later, after we've studied 8-10 words, I give the students a quiz in which they respond to similar questions in writing.

My advanced ESL students generally study for these quizzes and they do well, but this is not true for all. For the one or two who do not do well, I give them the chance to do the quiz over again, if they want to. 

Do you give vocabulary quizzes? Do students welcome the quizzes? What do you think of giving students the do-over option? Please share your ideas with us here!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP


I love these ideas!  I want to share the website (Merriam-Webster) and (Cambridge).  These two learner's dictionaries can help you get started if you can't figure out how to put the definition of the word in easier terms.  I love this tool because it gives the pronunciation as well as an easy definition and examples. Here's the example from "convenient" given in Susan's post.  

MW also gives phrasal verbs and idioms when appropriate that are related to the main term.

onvenient /kənˈviːnjənt/  adjective

Learner's definition of CONVENIENT [more convenient; most convenient]   : allowing you to do something easily or without trouble
  • When is a convenient time for you to meet?
  • The controls are located in a convenient spot on the dashboard.
  • It might be more convenient to use a calculator, rather than adding the numbers yourself.
  • convenient method/way/means of cleaning windows
— opposite inconvenient   : located in a place that is nearby and easy to get to
  • convenient drugstore
  • Schools, churches, and stores are all convenient from here.
  : giving you a reason to do something that you want to do
  • The power failure was a convenient excuse to leave work early.
  • The economic recession gave lawmakers a convenientpretext for passing the bill.

— conveniently

  • Several restaurants are conveniently located nearby.

Hi Glenda and all, Thank you for these online dictionary suggestions. They are much more helpful than All teachers and learners, from primary grades on up to college, should know about these FREE online dictionaries that are actually designed for language learners but are wonderful for ALL learners, whether they are learning English or not. When I create what I call my "Vocabulary Workouts" -- see example above for the word "section" -- I refer to three different online learners' dictionaries Longman, Cambridge and Newbury. As Glenda indicates, these dictionaries are so useful because they use student-friendly language, give great examples, and also include audio files for students to listen to the pronunciation of words.

What other tools have you found helpful for teaching vocabulary?

Cheers, Susan