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   RE: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom
 From: Paul Sandrock
 To: Language Educators
 Posted: 09-29-2017 11:03
 Message: ​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: )

Now through October 6 the series is available at a 20% discount: enter code VLM_FALL20 at check out.  Access "Building Vocabulary" at:
Join in the conversation on building vocabulary!

Paul Sandrock
ACTFL, Director of Education
Original Message:
Sent: 09-28-2017 07:56
From: Adoracion Berry
Subject: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

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.

[Adoracion] [Berry] [Ed.D.]
[][Instructional Designer and Instructor]

Original Message:
Sent: 09-27-2017 19:55
From: Thomas Sanders
Subject: Looking for Guidance in Teaching Vocabulary in a Proficiency-Based Classroom

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?)

Thomas Sanders

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