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ISSN: 0974-892X


January, 2019



GRASP of Words: A Practical Method to Teach Vocabulary

Dr. T. Sandhyarani, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, DJR College of Engineering & Technology, Gudavalli, Vijayawada, AP



English is an international language. Due to globalization, learning English language becomes necessary for all people to communicate with the world. Many countries in the world recognize the importance of English language and have started teaching English in their educational institutions. Many theories have come out with different methods to guide teachers to teach English language. All these methods help students to enhance their skills and can become proficient in English language.


Practical Approach

Vocabulary plays a very important role in learning English language. Learning vocabulary is a complex process for a non-native speaker. Linguists have been suggesting different methods to teach English vocabulary in the classroom. These writers main aim is to make students to understand the meaning of a word, remember it and use it in a right context. According to I.S.P. Nation’s quoted remark of Palmer’s, the most important principal for learning foreign vocabulary is to “Memorize perfectly the largest number of common and useful word-groups”(130). According to Wallace, aim, need, frequent exposure and repetition & meaningful presentation are the main principles in teaching vocabulary. It is the responsibility of a teacher to teach vocabulary in such a way that the word should be registered in students’ minds.

After reading many writers’ methods and approaches for teaching vocabulary, I have also tried a method to teach vocabulary for students. This method is called “GRASP”. Students can easily grasp words in GRASP method. GRASP is an acronym, which can be abbreviated in the following way.

G-Group of words
R-Root words, prefixes, suffixes
A-Association of words
S-Sentence Formation
P-Parts of Speech

The detailed explanation for each method is given below with examples.


G-Group of Words

I.S.P.Nation opinions that “As a way of quickly developing fluency and of picking up native-like expressions, groups of words should be learned as units” (131). Basing on this remark, I have taught students how to learn words in groups. Words basing on single theme are clustered and are taught all of them under one unit. This group learning helps the students to learn more words in less time.


1. Theme-Calm

Group of words –serenity, tranquil, sedate, solemn, stable, placid, unagitated

2. Theme-Ending

Group of words-expunge, efface, obliterate, abrogate, extinguish, eradicate, dispose of

3. Theme-Talk

Group of words-chat, speak, prattle, gibber, jabber, babble, gossip

4. Theme- Furnish

Group of words-provide, appoint, embellish, enhance, supply, equip, issue, grant, present

5. Theme-Transfer

Group of words-move, shift, carry, fetch, relocate, send, relay, transmit, surrender, relinquish


R-Root words, Prefixes and Suffixes

Teaching root words, prefixes and suffixes is a conventional method of vocabulary teaching. The study of root words, prefixes and suffixes is called morphology. Morphology is a very important technique for a language teacher to teach vocabulary. Fifty percent of the vocabulary can be grasped through morphological analysis. Edwards’ definition of morphemic analysis is quoted by Judith A. Scott, “Morphemic analysis involves the derivation of a word’s meaning by examining and using its morphological structure, such as word roots, prefixes, suffixes, and inflected endings” (72).

Students can learn number of words from this method. Unknown words’ meaning can also be hypothesized with this method. If a student knows that aqua means water, and –phobia means fear, from these, the meaning of aquaphobia can be grasped. Students can be taught both morphological and contextual analysis to get the meaning of a new word from a known root word, prefix and suffix.



Root Word





great, long

magnify, magnificent, magnanimous




belligerent, bellicose




ascertain, certify, certain




juvenile, rejuvenate




pyrotechnics, pyretic, pyrometer









circumference,circumstance, circumvent




eulogy, eugenics




intramural, intravenous




benfit, benevolence, benign




conference, contact, concurrent









auctioneer, volunteer, engineer




celebration, opinion, revision



position held

worship, internship, courtship



related to

military, honorary, budgetary



inclined to

vigilant, defiant, brilliant


A-Association of words

I.S.P.Nation distinguishes vocabulary into high frequency and low frequency words. Low frequency means words which are rarely used in text books. High frequency means words which often come in the text books. According to his opinion low frequency words can be guessed according to the context. He suggests that “Low frequency words do not deserve classroom time because of their low frequency”(139). To teach low frequency words teachers focus should be “… working on the strategies that help learners deal with low frequency words” (139). Though these words are rarely used but there should also be a technique to remember the low frequency words. I suggest that low frequency words can be taught by associating them with pictures, events, stories, and with very well known concept.

1. Rigorist, means a strict person. Associate this with a known concept. I associate this word with Hitler.

Sentence: Hitler is a rigorist.

2. Paragon means a perfect example. Associate this word with Mahatma Gandhi.

Sentence: Mahatma Gandhi is the paragon of virtue.

3. Cadence means rhythm. Associate this word with musical instruments and we can also sing a song.

Sentence: Cadence brings sweetness to the song.

4. Impetus means stimulus. Associate this word with chemistry laboratory and importance of impetus for a reaction.

Sentence: The enzyme acts as an impetus in a chemical reaction.

5. Quiver, means shake. Associate this word with all medical syrups.

Sentence: Quiver the syrup before we use.


S-Sentence Formation

Sentence formation helps students to use the vocabulary in the proper context. Stephan. A.Stahl suggests two methods, which have large scope to create sentences. They are-“scenarios”(106) and “possible sentences”(106). Teachers have to give a scenario to the students.

According to Stephan.A.Stahl, “Scenarios can be in the form of prose, such as stories, or plays”(106). This will help the students to understand the usage of words in right context.

Another method is asking students to make number of possible sentences by using the given words. In this method students repeat the given words to make number of sentences. Repetition of words definitely helps the students to remember them. Teachers have to correct the incorrect sentences made by the students.


Observe how the word ‘philanthropist’ is used in the following paragraph by taking the familiar scenario.

Bilgates is one of the philanthropists of this age. He has given donations to many charities and trusts. Many billionaires have followed him and they also become great philanthropists in the society. If all of the millionaires in the world would become philanthropists then there should be no poverty in the world.  

If the students are given a very familiar scenario to the unknown vocabulary they easily connect themselves to the scenario and can remember the words very easily.

Another method that I have given to the students is asking them to frame as many sentences as possible. For this, students can be grouped and they play a sentence game by using the given word. Those whoever makes more sentences will be the winner of the day. If parsimonious is given the following sentences can be made.

My father is parsimonious and never gives me pocket money.
My mother is also parsimonious, she never allows me to go to movie.

In our group, Ramesh is parsimonious; he even does not give chocolates on his birthday. My grandmother does not get any income, so she becomes parsimonious.


P-Parts of Speech

Learning vocabulary and using them in right context improves one’s word power. Besides this, learning parts of speech of a word also helps them to excel their proficiency in English language. This learning adds the flexibility of the students in deploying the word in different context, structure and form. For example students know the word coward. It is a noun. There is also another word cowardice which has the same meaning and also a noun. Students may be confused to identify the parts of speech for these words. The lack of knowledge towards parts of speech may lead the students to use the word in a wrong place in a sentence. To avoid such mistakes, learning parts of speech is very important in vocabulary learning.

Teachers have to give them sentences and ask them to identify the parts of speech for the unfamiliar word from the given sentence. Another method is giving different words which can be changed from noun to verbs, verb to nouns, nouns to adjectives.


Give the following sentence and ask them to identify the parts of speech for the highlighted word.

1. I am a coward when it comes to lizards.
2. Students should be praised for generosity, hospitality and personal bravery but their meanness and cowardice can not be accepted.
3. Many magnanimous members of the congregation gave sizable donation to Kerala flood victims.
4. The pope made a benediction in the church to the destitute.
5. The terrorists planned to abduct Chief Minister.
`Parts of speech for the italicized words are: coward- Noun, generosity- Noun hospitality- Noun bravery-Noun, meanness-Noun, cowardice-Noun, magnanimous-Adjective, congregation-Noun, sizable-Adjective, benediction-Noun, destitute-Adjective and abduct-verb.
Give the following worksheet to the students to change the following into the nouns, verbs or adjectives.


























By using the above discussed methods in vocabulary teaching, teachers can get best results in their classrooms. These methods help the students not only to learn vocabulary but also to remember them very easily. Practically these methods are used in my class room and I have observed a clear change in their grasping power. So GRASP method in vocabulary teaching improves the grasping power of the students and enhances their skills in English language.



Works Cited

Nation, I.S.P. “Vocabulary”. Practical English Language Teaching, Ed. David Nunan. Singapore: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.

Scott, Judith A. “Creating Opportunities to Acquire New Word Meanings From Text”. Teaching And Learning Vocabulary, Ed. Elfrieda H. Hiebert and Michael L. Kamil. London: LEA, 2005, Print.

Stahl, Steven A. “Four Problems With Teaching Word Meanings”. Teaching And Learning Vocabulary, Ed. Elfrieda H. Hiebert and Michael L. Kamil. London: LEA, 2005, Print.

Wallace, Michael. Practical Language Teaching, Teaching Vocabulary, London: Heinemann, 1988. Print.