by Alyssa Chen

Recently, a few parents approached me if I am currently providing tuition in EL since I taught English in a secondary school for the past 7 years. Though I am not providing this service at the moment, I decided to start a series of posts to provide EL tips to aid your child in this subject.

Word Bank

The first tool that I will be talking about is the Word Bank.

This particular exercise helps to increase the range of vocabulary. This list can consist of adjectives, adverbs and nouns. One of the oldest exercises in the book, primary school teachers usually encourage their students to fill in words that they come across during reading so that they can use at a later time. One useful site that I have come across is this where it separates word banks by themes for K-12 grades.

However, I noticed that most students tend to copy these vocabulary words blindly and often string a sentence of mumbo-jumbo in hopes that they will receive marks for vocabulary. It is often extremely clear to examination markers when a student is really trying to ‘wring it’. The sentences, more often than not, don’t make sense.

Most students tend to think that having a wide range of vocabulary is just knowing synonyms of a certain word and simply substituting one for the other. What most students don’t know is that these synonyms have varying intensity to express 

So what does that mean? Does it mean that word bank doesn’t work?

Yes, it does. You just need to complement it with a word cline.

Word Cline

A word cline shows how related words are placed within a slope to show degrees intensity of strength when presenting an idea.

A simple example will be like this:


Instead of the usual “hot ” and “cold”, the word cline shows synonyms (related words) that can be used.

“Hot” – “warm, “burning”, “scorching”

“Cold” – chilly”, “freezing”

However, it does not end there. Using the slope, the words are placed to show HOW hot or cold each synonym truly describe.

Let’s use a more advance example – “Rich”.

In this example, the word “rich” takes on 4 different meanings. Starting with the least intense at the bottom, the presentation of its meaning increases as it moves up the ladder. In the thesaurus, the words may come under the same section. However, the intensity presented is different.


Thus, a way to truly understand and increase vocabulary words – create a word bank AND a word cline. This will help readers of your child’s/student’s work to truly understand the expression behind the idea it all. If your child/student is an extremely visual learner, this is a very good website to use for word cline. An online graphical dictionary, Visuwords shows how the words are related to one another.

Have fun exploring!