An interactive activity for reviewing self-selected vocabulary

Rory Rosszell, Meiji University


Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Productive vocabulary, meaning, usage, self-selected, review
  • Learner English level: Beginner and above 
  • Learner maturity: Junior high and above
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Activity time: 30-45 minutes (at the university level)
  • Materials: VKS worksheet (Appendix A), and a vocabulary notebook or worksheet (e.g., Appendix B)

Although the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS; Wesche & Paribakht, 1996) was developed as a research instrument to measure degrees of knowledge of vocabulary items, for the following activity it was molded into a pedagogic tool that 1) raises learners’ awareness of the extent of their knowledge of particular words, and 2) enables them to develop that knowledge—both receptive and productive.

With the goal of developing enough knowledge of word meanings and usage to begin using them in their EAP classes, students in my classes carefully select five words from the textbook and complete a worksheet (see Appendix B) for homework each week. They then use the VKS worksheet in-class (see below, and Appendix A) to review their self-selected words. The worksheet was adapted from Brown (2008) although for this activity it was designed for self-selected rather than teacher-assigned vocabulary. 



Step 1: Have students bring their vocabulary worksheets/notebooks to class.

Step 2: Copy and distribute the VKS worksheet.

Step 3: Explain the steps involved in the activity.



Step 1: Students get out the vocabulary entries that they created over the past 2-3 weeks, select 10 words that they feel they need to review, and write the words and their parts of speech on the VKS worksheet.

Step 2: Students get into pairs and exchange VKS worksheets (with the 10 words listed). They study their partners’ words, not their own words. (Overlap between their lists is not unusual because they select words from the same sections of the textbook).

Step 3: Students reflect on each of the 10 words, and depending on the level of their knowledge, put a check in the appropriate column (A-D).

Step 4: Students write an original sentence using each word for which they checked Column A. 

Step 5: Students consult their partners (the experts who have recently studied the words) about the meanings and usages of the words for which they checked columns B-D, and write original sentences for those words as well. 

Step 6: The teacher walks around the room encouraging students to consult each other (not their dictionaries!), offering help, and giving immediate feedback on whether the original sentences make the meanings of the target words clear and demonstrate correct usage. Finally, students file their sheets and use them for reference and study.



Potential complications include students forgetting to bring their file or worksheets to class. The solution is to have them select 10 words from the textbook, rather than their worksheets. Students may try to copy sentences from their partners’ vocabulary worksheets. To discourage this, explain the value of writing original sentences and discourage such behavior as you walk around the room. For students who work very slowly, this activity can take a long time to complete. You can stop the activity at a specified time and encourage the slower students to complete the activity at home. In sum, I find this activity effective because it is well-received, provides teachers and students with a measure of learning and highlights areas of difficulty, reinforces awareness of the need for productive skills, and provides review of words that would otherwise often be forgotten.



Brown, D. (2008). Using a modified version of the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale to aid vocabulary development. The Language Teacher, 32(12), 15-16. Retrieved from <>

Wesche, M., & Paribakht, S. (1996). Assessing L2 vocabulary knowledge: Depth versus breadth. Canadian Modern Language Review, 53, 13-40.



The appendices are available below: