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Survival vocabulary

by Elaine Gallagher              Sometimes we wonder what our students need to know, asking ourselves, as I frequently advise you, “Of all the things that COULD be taught, what MUST be taught?”            In English, survival is important….   oral survival ….What can your students say, spontaneously?    How […]

Autor: UNOi

Fecha: 24 de septiembre de 2015

Elaine Gallagher 09 cegby Elaine Gallagher

             Sometimes we wonder what our students need to know, asking ourselves, as I frequently advise you, “Of all the things that COULD be taught, what MUST be taught?”   

        In English, survival is important….   oral survival ….What can your students say, spontaneously?    How can they handle themselves when they need to speak?  Listening and repeating is crucial….Oral production comes after recognition….so you’ll have to make sure that your students RECOGNIZE these words and phrases, and know how and when and why to use them.

With more and more listening and repeating, in casual, non-pressured atmosphere, your students will begin to speak spontaneously.

HOW SOON?  Obviously, the more time they have English class, and the more they listen the sooner they will recognize, and later speak spontaneously. Usually, in a school with ½ day of English, about 15 hours a week of English, students will get to A-1 level of the European Framework of Reference for Languages at the end of 2nd grade of primary. Adults, of course, usually get to A-1 sooner.

If you’re not sure of the six levels of the CEFR, look in the BE Teacher Guide where the scale is explained.

Now. Let’s look at “SURVIVAL ENGLISH”. When it mentions “Words to Know”…this means that the student can first repeat it, then recognize it from a picture, a flashcard, or the real object, and finally, the student can spontaneously use the word in a sentence or in oral conversation.



Each section gets gradually harder. Don’t move on until the kids are ready and comfortable. This is not a race.

  1. VOCABULARY: A-1 when mastered

Students should be able to discuss and answer questions

such as:

  • What’s your name?
  • How many children are there? (1-20)
  • this is / these are
  • What’s this? It’s ……..
  • The body
  • Faces
  • What color is it?
  • My clothes


  • WORDS TO KNOW: bicycle(s), bird(s), boys, cats, children, dogs, flags, girls, trees, basketball, football, rugby, volleyball, team
  • MORE: bedroom, bathroom, dining room, kitchen, living room, bed, books, cards, computer, cupboard, rabbit, shelf, table


  • MORE: arms, feet, fingers, hands, head, legs, tall, short, fat, thin, big, small, long. ears, eyes, hair, mouth, nose, dark, fair


  • MORE: blue, brown, green, orange, pink, purple, red, yellow, black, white, box, crayons, paper, pen, ruler, scissors



  • MORE: belt, blouse, dress, hat, jacket, shirt, skirt, socks, suit, tie, trousers, T-shirt


  • What do you see in this picture? Student should be able to describe the picture, using some of the above-listed words.




  1. VOCABULARY:             A-1 when mastered


  • all colors covered in first list plus: grey; pets, bird, cage, rabbit, fish, beak, behind, in, on, under, tank, wall, flowers


  • Pets


  • Do you have a computer?


  • WORDS: camera, comics, computer, pictures, rings, toys, video game, violin, behind, between, in, on , next to, in front of, under


  • Days of the week


  • WORDS / PHRASES: in the morning / afternoon, the weekend, go swimming, play tennis, visit grandparents, have a music lesson, paints, cleans, watches, does, goes, visits, plays, cooks


  • Where do you live?
  • WORDS: a flat, an apartment, cottage, house, city, town, village, garden, upstairs, downstairs, on the ground floor


  • FAMILY: pretty, sister, brother, mother, father, twin sister / brother, grandmother, grandfather


  • What time do you get up?


  • WORDS / PHRASES: get up, go to bed, have lunch, do homework, watch TV, go to school, have breakfast, o’clock, half past, quarter past / to, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening.


  • FRIENDS: bike,  film, pizza, cinema, restaurant, swimming pool, tennis club, She plays hockey.


  • MONTHS OF THE YEAR: all 12 months, Christmas, birthday, Easter, Mother’s Day,


  • Ordinal numbers for dates:

1st – 31st




3 . VOCABULARY_____A-2 when mastered


What’s the weather like?  

warm, sunny, cloudy, absolutely, rainy

          What do you study?

art, biology, chemistry, multiplication


Free time:

music, homework, go out, play video games


Tell me about your town or city.

I live in……    historic city, crowded, quiet


What are they doing?

He’s …..brushing his teeth.

shopping, working,

watching TV. washing up, reading, eating


Best friends

short, blonde, friendly, straight, wear, strong



What does your father do? He’s a lawyer.


Where’s your classroom?

It’s down the hall. go along, turn left / right



  1. VOCABULARY___    A-2 when mastered


         Family matters:

using the future wit “going to”, describing people, possessives


Play time:

frequency, time expressions, every day, six o’clock


School’s out:

holidays, present / future, when, where, why, who



likes and dislikes, present continuous, questions


Memorable meals:

food, cooking, talking about a meal


Future with going to


Nice work :

jobs, work,  quickly, well, occupations


Shop around:

describing ways of shopping, sequencing: first, next, after, finally


In class:

talking about the past, comparison / superlative

the best, the most difficult, easiest




  1. VOCABULARY__________B-1 when mastered


frequency, giving reasons, recently, a few days ago


Dream machines

probability, could, cheaper, faster, more popular


Cover to cover

books and films, narrating an event, describing a character, the funniest, the most enjoyable


A big bang        

festivals & special occasions, during, dates: 4th of July, 31st of December, 19th of March,

16th of September, the 7th of September, etc.


Ordinal numbers:

fourth, twenty-first


        Watch it:

expressing opinions, I prefer


Going for gold

recent and indefinite past, for, since, ever, never


The world tomorrow

possibly, probably, is certain to, certainly,  definitely not


     Present time

describing events, sequencing, for my birthday, in December, on the 3rd, for Christmas



  1. VOCABULARY B-1 when mastered

          On the ball

badly, fast, hard, regularly, have to, must, need


Season tickets

in the winter, colder, the wettest, sunbathing, swimming, because, giving reasons


It’s history

describing past events, how much? how many?  Frequency


That’s rich

money, ability, skills; If I’m successful, I’ll be rich.



good at + —ing: He is good at swimming.


What on Earth….?

opinions, describing, have to, must, need; If we ban cars, the air would be cleaner.


In great shape

health, have to, don’t have to, need, don’t need


         Wild dreams

describing animals, asking open-ended questions, much, many, more, less, few, little, less


       Followers of fashion

describing what people wear, shopping, expressing frequency, never, occasionally, often, unusually, always, conditionals



Now a student is ready to expand vocabulary, to build fluency, to read with comprehension, to understand others, and to speak English smoothly.