Vocabulary Notebooks – Part 1

Many of you find English vocabulary difficult. To be honest, so do many teachers! There are SO many words and expressions in English. Sometimes it is difficult to know WHAT to record or even HOW to record them.

To make matters worse, English vocabulary doesn’t have simple rules like so many grammar items you learn in class.

English has thousands of words and word combinations, such as collocations, idioms and expressions. You can say a little with grammar, but you can say a lot more with words!

In this series of posts we’re going to look at Vocabulary Notebooks. You will learn how to record words in your notebook and we will also show you ways to use excellent free online Dictionaries!

This week

Rule No 1: Words, like people, need company

You must not see words as individuals. You must pay attention to combinations of words, i.e., collocations. There are several types of collocation:

  1. Verb + noun: e.g. make a noise, have a party, take a tablet
  2. Adjective + noun: e.g., strong accent, bright colour, heavy rain
  3. Verb + adverb e.g. work hard, smiled softly
  4. Verb + preposition (including phrasal verbs) e.g. talk about sth., burst into tears, filled with horror
  5. Fixed or semi-fixed expression eg. It seems to me that, It’s worth seeing/going to, sick and tired.


WHY are collocations so important? HOW will they improve my English?

  • Well, firstly, your speaking will improve e.g.

I forgot my passport and lost the plane” (miss the plane)


 “I’m sorry I’m late teacher. I hope I didn’t lose anything” (miss class)


(You can lose your pen or book but we say miss a class/lesson/lecture.)

  • Secondly, learning collocations will also improve your writing e.g.

Many people make crimes every day. We need to conclude our crime problem soon

We should say: commit crimes/solve our crime problem.

Learning collocations will really help you to improve. Try it!

HOW should I record and learn words?

Most importantly, NEVER record a single word (“rest”). Write the other words that go with that word, i.e., its collocations: take a rest. Remember, words keep company. Is that Ok? Good!

Some ideas for recording and using vocabulary:

Here are a couple of sample vocabulary notebooks.

Sample page from a student’s notebook (Intermediate level).

Sample page taken from a Pre-intermediate student’s notebook

What’s next?

Now, it’s up to you. Try out some of the ideas above and post a comment below to tell us how it goes. And if you have any good tips, please share them. And look out for those green word combos!