English teachers know what words are. Of course, we do! If we don’t, then we might as well all pack up and go home. We might need to read up on our grammar from time to time, but words – we are good with words. In fact, everybody over a certain age knows what words are, so as ESL educators, we should probably know a little more than the average. Consider this question, however: “How many words does an English Language Learner (ELL) need to know to achieve Proficiency Level?”. The answer is not so straightforward, and English teachers know why.
Does knowing the plural of a word count as one word or two? Should we count the comparative forms of adjectives or the various verb tense inflections as separate words? Well, yes we could, but language experts and those who teach and study English rarely do when answering questions like the one above. They understand that a lexicon is a fluid, dense, organic network, made up of a world of connections. Embracing this complexity and this connectedness is the key to success in vocabulary building.
The mind-mapping application Popplet, a user-friendly graphic organizer, has a set of powerful features: text, images, video, connections, URLs, formatting, and collaboration. All of these, combined with an infinite, multi-dimensional canvas make it a formidable tool for exploring vocabulary in the English classroom.