A #langchat collaboration
QUESTION 3: So, how do you teach vocabulary in your classes?
Each of my classes starts with a review of the previous class. I ask them to tell me about our topic. For example, in Spanish Three we are talking about the use of Social Networks. I ask what are the benefits of using social networks. As they list ideas. I write them on the board. For example, one of the uses of social networks is that people can share photos. I write that on the board. In phase two of our warm-up, I ask them if they share photos on facebook. I then go through and ask students if they do the other things on our list. This transitions us to the next part. They get into groups of two. One plays the role of parent, the other is a teenager, I give them two minutes to convince their parent that they need a facebook account. They switch roles or they switch partners and we try it again. Through out the day we recycle the vocabulary, over and over again. The trick is not to let things get boring.
I teach vocabulary in many different ways, depending on the level and other factors.
- When I teach vocabulary related to the elderly, I begin by asking the students questions in the TL such as: Who is the oldest person you know personally? Where or with whom does s/he live? What are some stereotypes of the elderly? As students answer these questions, the need to know certain words arises naturally. I choose a student to write the new words on the board, with their English translation, so they are easy to refer to for the remainder of the lesson or discussion. I intersperse film shorts related to the elderly in with the discussion so students once again have the need to use the vocabulary.
- Last week to introduce words in the upcoming chapters of our book, I asked the students to list words related to the law, the police, and the justice system. Since they didn’t know the words in Spanish, they listed them in English. Then I projected a word cloud of the Spanish words related to this theme that were used in the next 2 chapters of the book and students guessed what they meant in English. Previewing the vocabulary in this manner made reading the next 2 chapters much more enjoyable and easy.
- If I know students will need to know a particular word later in the week, I’ll include it during our weekend talk. For example, I knew students would need to know how to say “fishbowl” later in the week, so during our “weekend talk” session, I told them a story about how badly the fishbowl at our house needed cleaning, the color of the water, what I needed to do to convince my daughter to clean it, etc.
- Other times I select 3 words or grammar structures, list them on the board, co-create a story with the students, a la TPRS style, and then type the story for the students to keep with their story collection.
During the last years I have mainly taught upper level Spanish. Most vocabulary is taught through input of reading and writing around a theme. For example...
- Before reading or listening we activate background knowledge related to the theme through a whole class and pair-share discussions. We brainstorm vocabulary that they already know related to the theme and we write the vocabulary on a large piece of newsprint that becomes part of our class word wall, so that students have the visual support for the key vocabulary throughout the unit. We refer to the list in our daily class activities, which include many pair-share conversations.
- We also curate vocabulary with Google Docs. I have a 1:1 iPad pilot so my students also like to make vocabulary flaschcards using apps such a Flashcardlet.
- In pre-teaching reading selection, I will often highlight 3-5 words (rarely more than that) key vocabulary words that will facilitate their comprehension of the selection before we use a lot of short selections: 1-4 minute videos or 1-3 page articles, and I encourage “repeated exposure” to the selection, to really re-enforce their understanding and vocabulary learning. We will then do a whole class skim of the article, activate background knowledge and we will highlight more key words (just a few). Students will do a quick skim of the article, and we will then discuss the main point. Then students might read again and we will talk about some key details. Then students will read the entire selection, often for homework, annotate the reading, and come back the next day ready to engage in a variety of conversation and short writing activities. Students annotate vocabulary in articles and they continue to build their vocabulary lists. Students use the vocabulary through a variety of paired discussions.
- I do frequent formative checks with exit slips and short writing activities. For many of the reading and listening selections I ask students to write and record summaries / reactions using the app Notability, always paying attention to using the vocabulary that they have learned.
- To encourage their use of new vocabulary, I often ask students to complete self-assessment checklists to identify and share examples of the key vocabulary they have used in their writing and speaking. We often share examples of their work to encourage and inspire other students to continue to increase their use of new and “rich” vocabulary in their communication.
Like @fravan and @sonrisadelcampo I incorporate vocabulary using many different methods, and definitely use a word wall like all have noted. I try to approach new vocabulary using a rotation of methods: embedded readings, short videos with different listening purposes and activities, songs, memes, brainstorming, photographs, student generated “I need to know how to say this….”, student exploration of topics using their laptops, old fashioned powerpoints that incorporate words they already know with targeted new words.
As everyone has noted, I think the key to vocabulary is that it is a constant, and that we try to have as much repeated exposure to vocabulary as possible. I also think that the vocabulary for each student is very individualized. It is not necessary that every student learn every word that we, as teachers, would like them to learn. The student is going to remember the words that are necessary for them, words that they feel are important to use. Two examples:
- Spanish III is now in an expanded animal, nature, geography, weather unit. While exposure to these topics via all the methods previously listed is a given, some students are going to remember the word for “deer” because they hunt and will therefore be using it in their partner/small group conversations, others will not. Some will remember the word for tsunami/maremoto because they are fascinated by the topic, and have incorporated the word into their stories/illustrations/conversation.
- Spanish IV has just finished a very extensive art unit: Dali, Picasso, Rivera, Kahlo, Jose Guadalupe Posada, etc. While there was a core vocabulary that I had targeted (words such as portrait, watercolors, bridge, shapes, paintbrush, it seems to me, etc.), the vocabulary that each individual took away from the unit had great variety because they were free to develop the vocabulary based on their interest. There were students who actively used vocabulary such as weird, spooky, juxtaposition, vibrant, detailed, decomposing, etc.on a very regular basis.
My friends responses have given me a lot to think about, and I hope they have you, too. If you have ideas that you want to share, let me know. I would love to include them here. Until then...