Language Educators

Topic: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom 

1.  Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-27-2017 19:56

I hope that cross-posting this from the teacher development SIG is permitted - although that community is more active, it is much smaller. Hopefully the larger group of educators here will have insight into my situation.

I'm a fourth-year Spanish teacher (among other things) at a middle school and due to many factors, including a change in textbooks at the high school and professional development, I am looking to change the way I teach Spanish to my students. From what I've found in blogs, on the ACTFL website, and heard from my mentor, a proficiency-based model seems to be the way to go.

While I've found a lot of information about changes to the general method of instruction and assessment, one issue that concerns me is the best way to introduce vocabulary and make sure that students have the proper tools (vocabulary-wise) to deal with the new activities and assessments we will be doing.

Our set-up is fairly basic: I see the 6th through 8th-grade students three times a week for approximately 40 minutes each time. We do have 1:1 Chromebooks in the middle school, which is both a blessing and a curse. Right now, many students are tempted to use Google Translate to simply get an assignment done. A transition to a proficiency-based model, where simply translating something isn't particularly helpful (improvised, non-rehearsed dialogue for example) will help to release them from this temptation.

I feel that I have enough ideas for units that my overall curriculum will not be lacking, but I am concerned about leaving my students without sufficient vocabulary when we begin to make the transition to proficiency-assessment. I know that several of my students (and likely more) will surprise me with their abilities once they're confident, but they do need to have a solid base from which to work. Are flash cards the way to go? Do I make sure they have a foundation of vocabulary and go from there?

Thanks for your advice

(I have posted this on other forums, and the other response I have gotten is to make a word wall or create a vocabulary list for students. Both seem like good ideas, but will they be sufficient on their own to create a foundation of vocabulary for each unit we cover?)



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Thomas Sanders
tsanders.education@gmail.com
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2.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-28-2017 07:56
Most of the time vocabulary is taught by making lists of words and translating the words from one language to another. The textbooks also provide lists of words and now adding pronunciation of the words. PowerPoint is used and abused, teachers show pictures with the English and the target language tin writing. Students and teachers like this approach and it is very hard to change.

In my classes, I use a theme and develop the chapter expanding the theme. For example, the environment, students pair with another student and write few sentences using the target language. You need to provide directions for the first assignments. First, they make a list of vocabulary words related to the environment; then, they make a list of verbs (action words related to the environment). Finally, they write the sentences using any grammar, mostly describing a problem. In Spanish. I use this approach to teach the subjunctive. I ask the students to write to the city government about the problems in the city. Use the subjunctive to be respectful and not demanding on what you want to be done.

Also, I tell the students that I am their dictionary in case they need to translate a word.

The first assignment is difficulty at the beginning, but it works at the end and students, and they complete their compositions on exams.

I hope this helps.


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[Adoracion] [Berry] [Ed.D.]
[aberry@memphis.edu][Instructional Designer and Instructor]
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3.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-28-2017 14:28
Good afternoon Thomas,
I have two umbrellas full of strategies for you to help vocabulary "stick." The first is called Vocabulario Integrado and the second is Comprehensible Input.

I found a document in Spanish online years ago called VINT for vocabulario integrado. I can't find it online anymore, but basically it is a document of strategies to practice vocabulary which cause students to think about the relationships of words. I would do this instead of having students copy the words or look them up in a dictionary. They begin by relating the vocabulary words using methods such as: re-categorizing the words with new categories, re-ordering them by favorite to least favorite, putting them into a concept map. I will send you a separate email (and to anyone else who asks) with the VINT document. (I wish I could find the original creator, but I never have been able to find out who wrote it.)

The second umbrella is Comprehensible Input (CI) strategies. In our county we have a multiple-choice end-of-course exam which marries us to a set of vocabulary words driven by a textbook. This means we have to be a little more creative when we use CI strategies, and we may not be using it in the strictest sense. However, I have seen some amazing teachers use CI strategies with the vocabulary lists given. You can search for CI strategies online, and you will find many. The point of CI is that words, phrases and structures are repeated so many times in listening and reading that the students acquire them and can then produce them through speaking and writing.

I hope that these ideas will be useful to you.

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Myra Johnson
johnsonm12@duvalschools.org
World Language Specialist
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4.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-29-2017 11:03
​ACTFL created a new Virtual Learning Modules series titled BUILDING VOCABULARY, led by Laura Terrill.  The series contains five modules ranging from 14-30 minutes:
  • What makes vocabulary so important?
  • How do we select vocabulary?
  • How do we understand and learn the meaning of new vocabulary?
  • How do we work with new vocabulary in meaningful ways?
  • How do we assess vocabulary?
Laura will be leading discussion through this ACTFL Online Community through October and will host a live call-in discussion on October 10, 6:30-7:30 PM Eastern (register at: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2738172465841127426 )

Now through October 6 the series is available at a 20% discount: enter code VLM_FALL20 at check out.  Access "Building Vocabulary" at:  https://www.pathlms.com/actfl/courses/5339
Join in the conversation on building vocabulary!

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Paul Sandrock
ACTFL, Director of Education
psandrock@actfl.org
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5.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 10-02-2017 14:05
That looks like a helpful module! I will certainly look into it - thanks, Paul!

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Thomas Sanders
tsanders.education@gmail.com
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6.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 10-02-2017 14:03
Thank you very much for your response! I would anticipate moving in this direction in the next few years. Thankfully, as I am in control of the curriculum at my school, I can design the themes and expectations as necessary. I can already feel my students becoming uncomfortable as we start to move to more meaningful, real-world activities, but overall, they will be empowered when they realize all the tools and abilities they have.

Since I teach the equivalent of Spanish I over the course of sixth grade through eighth grade, I would certainly have to adapt your activities to my lower-level students. But overall, I expect that this will be the direction I move in, over the course of the next few years.

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Thomas Sanders
tsanders.education@gmail.com
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7.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-28-2017 12:01
I've been using the Leitner box schedule with my students (see Gabriel Weiner's Fluent Forever for details). Providing the structure of spaced repetition seems to make flashcards more effective.

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Wendy Witt
wendy.witt@sbcglobal.net
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8.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 10-03-2017 08:42
Thank you, Wendy. I've watched a video on Youtube that covers the concept. While it would be helpful for myself, I don't think my middle school students would have the patience or the grit to see the system through! I've found that Memrise does space-repetition as well, which I have used to some success in previous years.

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Thomas Sanders
tsanders.education@gmail.com
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9.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-28-2017 12:04
The vocabulary drill you need for all basic topics can be found in www.spanish-games.net

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Carol Ugonna
cugonna@atlanta.k12.ga.us
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10.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-28-2017 13:59
Hi Thomas. I do a podcast about language teaching called We Teach Languages, and recently interviewed an expert on vocabulary acquisition about this very topic. The scholar is named Joe Barcroft, and his book is:
Barcroft, J. (2012). Input-Based Incremental Vocabulary Instruction. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.

I very highly recommend this author and his approach. Check out his book! And my interview with him, which was so informative, will air in a few weeks, so check that out as well: weteachlang.com

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Stacey Johnson
stacey.m.johnson@vanderbilt.edu
Assistant Director for Educational Technology and Senior Lecturer of Spanish
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11.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 10-03-2017 08:47
This combines my two favorite things: language learning and podcasts. Looks like I've found what I will be listening to today - thanks a bunch Stacey!

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Thomas Sanders
tsanders.education@gmail.com
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12.  RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

Posted 09-28-2017 14:18
Hello Thomas,

Have you established how much prior knowledge your students have with the vocabulary words you think they should know? Do you see the same students every year, as well as year round?  I only ask because the way my district has operated the WL program has been inconsistent, with limited instruction and random assignments of classes each year in the past.  Just last year, it had been decided that the entire school would have each special class but only for one marking period on an alternate day schedule.  Let's just say, I had to get creative with my time and effort.

You can determine what vocabulary you'll need to focus on and/or introduce based on prior knowledge assessments.  I like using the website 'Quizizz' because it's easy to use, provides student competition, and can be accessed 24/7.  It also provides you with an excel spreadsheet for easy assessment.  If you prefer more performance based activities, I guess students could be given thematic topics, create a vocabulary list of words they recall and then record themselves performing the activity using that vocabulary.  If they can demonstrate proper use of the vocabulary, then you'll know they've got those words 'down pat'.  I don't know; I just makes sense to see what they know and that way you know how to plan ahead.  Save yourself time guessing their level and just have them demonstrate it in some creative way.  You have to know what you're working with.  If you need ideas for activities, projects, etc. just let me know and I'll do my best to help you out.  Hope this helps.

Sincerely,

L. Hill



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Lanise Hill
lfhill@trenton.k12.nj.usSpanish Teacher
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