It is often challenging for students to say or write something when they do not know the correct word (or can’t remember the word) that they want to use. During a conversation or speaking activity, students sometimes struggle to find the right word. When this happens, it’s usually not practical or possible to use a dictionary. For this reason it is important to explicitly teach the skill of using circumlocution.
Circumlocution is a strategy for describing or defining a concept instead of saying or writing the specific words. Students should be taught how to do this and the teacher can give them tools to help in the process.
Here are some suggestions to teach students the art of circumlocution explicitly:
- Use vocabulary that you already know.
- Try to think of another way to convey the message.
- Describe the concept. Explain who uses it, why it’s used, or where.
- Use a synonym.
- Use a more general category word (fruit, clothing, etc.)
- Explain what and object is not.
- Point and use gestures, actions, and sounds.
- If you have paper, you can draw.
Here are two documents that give examples of how to use circumlocution as well as some activities to practice the strategies.