Teaching Methods for the High School Foreign Language Teacher. Mr. Patrick Wallace Griffin High School. Vocabulary. What is the best way to teach Vocabulary?.
for the High School Foreign Language Teacher
Mr. Patrick Wallace
Griffin High School
What is the best way to teach Vocabulary?
Over and over again the research clearly shows that in order for students to learn vocabulary they need multiple encounters with the word. Therefore, the most important ingredient in teaching and learning vocabulary is the number of times the learner has to retrieve the word.
When does a student know a word?
Knowing a word is like a light switch and a dimmer switch. Knowing a word involves knowing meaning but also its pronunciation, spelling, part of speech, definitions and usages.
Tent Cards: Multiple Uses: Take a vocabulary set. As a class activity, you could have your students create them. Use in drills for practicing vocabulary, Use in Games for creating sentences with them, or related words to them, Use in time sensitive Games.
Question & Answer: Good for sentence construction of questions and Answers. Questions and Answers you want to practice are given on one sheet to students. Students are placed in pairs. Students are given time to practice with one student giving the questions and the other answering. Have a competition to see which team can do it the fastest.
Memory Games: An old favorite, kids can create their own set per pair and play each other.
Bingo Games: Another old favorite, many are available through different companies…or you can create your own.
Riddles: Hand out a vocab list to students, assign one word to each student which they keep secret. They must devise a riddle or description to describe their word (in the language).
Word Repetition: Pick a word from a vocab list. One student leaves the room. Hide the noun “Map” with another student. When student comes in he must find the student with the object. Other students chant the word louder when he/she is close, quieter when farther away
Flyswatter: Vocab list is put on overhead or on powerpoint. Two students come to the board / screen, each student is given a flyswatter. Teacher says the word and the first student to hit the correct word with the flyswatter wins
Word Association: Focus on small number of words. Write word on the board / paper. Associate words that have something to do with the given word. Better for higher levels
Nonsense Sentences: Use vocab words in a nonsensical way. The funnier the better and the more memorable.
Jeopardy Games: Another old favorite. Consider using powerpoint jeopardy or Who wants to be a millionaire?
Write it: Two students go to the board. A word is said by the teacher. Students must either correctly spell the word / use it in a correct sentence that makes sense / or write its meaning or all of the above.
Fill in the Grid: Flash a grid with the vocab words written in it. Then cover it up and have students recreate it as best as possible.
Make a list. List all the uses of any given object, and all the situations in which you could see that given thing, similar to word association.
Make me smile: Two students set facing each other. The object is to say the vocab words in a way to make the person across from you laugh. Each takes turns saying a word. First one to smile…loses
A picture: Associate words with pictures. Have students say the word when you point or indicate the picture.
Word Relay: Give each student a word and a definition or sentence with word. Line them up / or just have them stand beside desk. Start with first student go through line with each student saying their words…if a student forgets, they have to start over….peer pressure is not always bad
Battleship: Hand out paper with two grids, tell students to hide certain vocab words in grid. Play like battleship game….good for practicing numbers and letters.
Hangman: A classic, still good from time to time
Pictionary: Another classic, divide class into teams
What’s my name?: Students are given vocab words for their name. One student says the name (vocab word) of a student and then that student must immediately name another. He who hesitates loses.
Charades: Another old favorite, works really good with verbs
Inspiration: Using inspiration software…Give students a broad vocab theme and have them create their own vocab using the software inspiration. Also known as webbing. Also sometimes called mind maps, you don’t need inspiration to do this.
Passwords: Each day give a password for points. Those that know it write it down and turn in.
Matching, Crosswords, Word searches: These you can create online…www.puzzlemaker.com
Throw them away: Give students a list of Vocab. They cut the vocab into strips and study them. They throw them away when they feel they know them.
Go Fish: Students create cards with vocab on them. They play a game of Go fish. I use this with past participles.
Vocab Report: Using powerpoint software. Students must find a picture on the internet to match with vocab word / upper levels must create a sentence and perhaps even a story tying the entire vocab together.
Internet Sites: There are many of them out there that are already set up for you to send your students to. Why should you have to do the work.
Cup game: Students go outside. Use a plastic or styrafoam cup. Students stand in circle and try to keep cup from hitting the ground, each time they hit it they must say a word.
Jumble. Each student writes down the vocabulary set without spacing as one enormous word. Change papers. Race to see who divides each word correctly with a spacing line. When all the students have finished, exchange the papers back and correct
Gap Fill: Students fill in gaps in a story with a vocab word that fits and makes sense.
Sort it: Give students several catagories, then read a vocab list. Have students place the word in the appropriate category.
Overlay Meanings: Use vocab that you can relate to each other. City and Occupations, Body parts and verbs, Classroom objects and verbs
What’s in the bag?: Students collect objects that have to do with a vocab word in a paper sack. They introduce the items in German, students have to guess the vocab word
Insight Words: Represent the characteristic of a word by the way you write it.
Sing it: Using a Rhyme or Rhythm, or even a song…combine the words you want them to know. You can also use acronyms. (prepositions, conjugations)
Describe it: Divide class into teams. One member from each team sits in chair facing away from the board. Another member of each team stands in front of the chair.(with the other student in it). Teacher writes word on the board. Students have to describe the word using actions , sounds or target language. Student in the chair to correctly guess the word wins.
Antonyms / Synonyms: Just like what you would imagine. Good way to expand beyond the initial word.
Analogies: Good, even at low levels
Vocabulary Word Maps: A vocabulary word map is a visual organizer that helps students engage with and think about new terms or concepts in several ways. The new term goes in the middle of the map. Students fill in the rest of the map with a definition, synonyms, antonyms, and a picture to help illustrate the new concept.
Find your Partner: You prepare two sets of cards, one with the word and part of speech, the other with the definition. Students mill about the room until they think they've found their partner. Partners now return to their seats, where they must write two original sentences using their vocabulary word. They then write these sentences on the board. With the class, you go through the sentences on the board.
Idioms: Gather a list of idioms that use or play with the vocabulary words your focusing on. Have students read these expressions aloud.
Spell it: Have a spelling bee with your words. Give prizes for those that win. Either surprise them with it or schedule it.
Translate it: Not all translations are bad. Sometimes these can be useful for students to learn vocabulary. Provide translations in which the words are used meaningfully. All learners translate at some point in their foreign language learning.
Vocabulary Note Book: Have your students keep a separate notebook just for vocabulary.
Be the clock: Have students come in pairs to the front of the room. Teacher says a time and the first student to correctly show the time wins.
Mystery Word: To introduce vocabulary, give each student a word along with its definition. Students must design at least three clues for what the word is. (Part of speech, a Sentence in which you would use it, etc) Give some time for students to come up with clues, then go around the room…Have other students guess the word.
Dictionary Hunt: Have students look up selected words in the FL dictionary. Have them note the gender, and part of speech. List related words that they find. This helps students develop the skills to find out what they need to know using a bilingual dictionary. Consider giving them half the words in English and half in the target language.
Word Walls: Post the target vocabulary on a board in your room at the start of each unit. Review with students daily.
Cognates & False Cognates: Many of our words in English originate from other languages and vice verse. Researchers who study first and second language acquisition have found that students benefit from cognate awareness. This is especially useful during first year.
Openers & Sponge Activities
Kino: A great little opener. Write the titles for 10 films on the board in the target language. Have students try to write what they were originally in English. The students who get the most right receive a prize.
Correct the Sentence: I write a series of sentences with errors in them on the board. Students must find the errors and correct them.
Word storm: Write a list of letters (generally about 10) on the board, have students brainstorm as many words as they can make from the letters in the target language.
Identify the people: Write a list of names of famous people in the target culture on the board, students try to tell why they are famous. I generally do this after I have discussed some famous personalities in the culture.
Identify the states and Capitals: My students sometimes don’t know anything about the geography of europe. I put a trace map on the overhead with numbers for each of the countries. Students must label the countries and their capitols if they know them.
Gender Identification Game: Students are divided into groups and each group is given a der, die or das card (in the case of German). Teacher then writes a word on the board, Teacher counts to four, when time is up all groups raise their cards at the same time. Groups that have the right answer get a point. It is helpful to go over some tips for telling the gender of a noun beforehand.
Write the plural: After I have reviewed plurals in German, I put about 10 words on the board, and ask students to write the plural for them. The students with the most correct answers get a prize.
Spell it!: To work on student’s ability to pronounce and spell correctly. I may do a little phonetics work at the beginning of class. I may focus on one set of sounds (such as dipthongs) or important consonant sequences. I say 10 words and have the students try to spell them from what they hear.
Identify: I write a paragraph on the board and I underline certain words, students must tell me the part of speech of the underlined word and what case it is in, or if it is a subordinating or coordinating conjunction, if a verb, what tense is it in?
Jump Rope: When discussing numbers one day, I have students come forward and while they jump rope the class counts in German. I give a prize to the person that jumps the most.
Riddles: Write a set of riddles on the board in the target language and see who can come up with the answer.
History or Geography questions: Write a set of questions about the history or the geography of the target country. Have students answer them…or give them a day and tell them to have the answers tomorrow for a prize or extra points
Describe it: I pick an object and place it at the front of the room. Students are given a few minutes to write a description of the object in the target language. We generally vote on the best description.
Storyboards: I put a set of storyboards on the overhead / powerpoint. Students must write a story for the pictures.
Mad Libs: I provide students with a list of words that are needed (parts of speech) student write these down, then I reveal a mad lib and have them take turns reading it , all the while putting the words they wrote into the story
Songs: Have students listen to songs in the foreign language. Provide copies of the text for the songs. Go over with the students. Listen to the song. Discuss what is being said. You may want to give your students a targeted list of vocabulary and grammar topics that are a part of the song.
Folksongs: Every language has a set of folk songs. Songs that, although they may not be modern, are an integral part of that countries culture. If you play an instrument…great, if not many of these are available on Cd or Cassette.
Cloze Procedure: Selected key words are removed from the text of the song and are placed in a word list that precedes the song lyrics. Students fill in the missing words as they listen to the song
Reordering: Particular phrases of the song are listed in an incorrect order. Students must number the phrases in the order that they appear in the song. An alternative activity is to write the song phrases on sentence strips. Students must then organize the strips in the proper order.
Spot the mistakes: Change some of the words in the lyrics and as students listen they have to spot and correct the mistakes.
Chants & Rhymes: I can’t tell you how often I have used a chant or Rhyme to get a point across or to help students remember an important point of Grammar.
Songs teach phonetics: You could select songs that focus on a particular phonetic sound.
Songs and Traditional Dances: Many songs are tied to traditional or culturally authentic dances. You may have to find a larger area for some of these.
Songs for Tasks: This is especially good for elementary learners. I had a song for telling the date, the time, and the weather, etc…..
Music for thought: Often when I would give an assignment in class the students would ask me to turn on some music while they worked. Of course, it depends on the type of work the students are doing, but I have found this to be a really nice way to fill in the silence with a piece of culture. The students enjoy it and so many of them, listen to music and do homework anyway. At least, I can control the music and the volume. Songs can also act as audio cues for tasks or even time limits. (Sometimes, I’ll say that they have until the end of the song to complete a task)
Music Videos: this is always a hit with my students. They are so interested in the music video scene in Germany. Be careful to select the right videos. Videos often try to tell a story set to the music. We listen to the song, then the song with the video. We examine the text and discuss what we saw.
Radio Plays: These are great ways for students to improve their listening skills and grow their vocabulary at the same time. I use Keine Panik & Ein Bisschen Panik among others.
Lip syncing Talent Show: Play students a selection of songs. Divide students into groups and have them decide which song the want to lip Sync to. Give them time to practice and then on a specific day…have them perform. (This works best with an especially outgoing class)
Create Songbooks: Create a set of songbooks for different levels. Use them throughout the year.
Wanted Poster: Students pair off and are given drawing paper. Students then are asked to sketch their partner using a pencil. Then, using a template, students are asked to describe the person’s physical characteristics.
Describing mystery object: Students bring an object to school in a paper bag. (Or you can assign each an object to bring related to the vocab). Students then write a paragraph describing the object and the other students try to guess what it is from the description.
Music and Adjectives: Have students listen to selected music and choose adjectives from list to describe it.
Locating adjective endings in a story: I give the students a short story and they underline the adjective endings and tell me what case they are in and why.
Skits: an old favorite, I have more success with upper levels. Especially good for Restaurant settings, buying and selling, or interviewing each other.
Advertisements: Have students design a product and then create an advertisement about it in German. Again, I use mostly with upper levels.
Puppet shows: Have students perform popular Fairy tales in the foreign language. I give them the words, they create the puppets and then perform the play. (I use Brementown Musicians, Little Red Ridinghood, etc)
Vocab Skit Challenge: Give students a list of vocabulary words and tell them to create a skit in which they use these words. The skit must make sense and the words must be used.
Mimes: Give students a situation and have them try to relay their situation without using words. This is a good activity to highlight the importance of vocabulary, but also places students in the role of a foreigner, who may need to get his/her message across non-verbally.
Student Newscast: Have students in groups put on a newscast in the target language. As a prelude, I generally watch a newscast with my students first, assign some to do the weather, some to interview and some to be interviewed, I include a celebrity interview. Can also include a medical and sports report. This can potentially be a lot of fun. Students must prepare well. Sometimes, I even tape them so that we can watch them as a class. (You may allow them to work on this outside of class)
Memorize Poetry / Oral Statements: have students memorize a paragraph from an important piece of poetry in the target language. Students don’t always enjoy it, but some of them never forget it and learn a great deal from it.
Wer bin ich?: Act out the role of a famous person from your target culture. (Prepare kids by first discussing the famous people that came from that culture.) I generally prepare students by telling them the day before that a famous person from the culture will be coming to visit us…I ask them what questions they may ask this person) I also say that a prize will be given to the students who can determine who I am.
Simon Says: An oldy but still a crowd pleaser.
We are not in Kansas any more!
In today’s world, Foreign language teachers are being challenged to find innovative and creative ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. The students in our classrooms live in the age of Playstation 2 and I pods. They are familiar with streaming video and many of them are very proficient with computers. The vast majority of instructors want to use computers to enhance learning without necessarily spending all their waking hours writing code and teaching students computer skills rather than course content.
How can I use Technology?
Power point Presentations: These are great from time to time when you are introducing a new grammar point and you want to start off with a 10-15 minute explanation of your topic. I’ve used these to explain the dative & accusative cases in German. There are some great resources on the web for these if you can’t create them yourself
Power point Biographies: Have students do a power point on famous people associated with your language
Power point on themselves in the target language: Give students a template and have them create a power point presentation on themselves using a guide given to them by the teacher.
Power point Review Games: Jeopardy / Who wants to be a millionaire? There are some great review games that can be created using Power point software.
Internet Scavenger Hunts: Some of these are available on the internet or you can create your own. Have students hunt down information on your target country. Great way to improve their research skills.
Correct the online translator: Give students a sheet that has some sayings to be translated into the target language. Teacher gives students the site of an online translator and students use it to translate the 1st saying….Teacher and students talk about what is wrong with the translation, move on to next saying. A great way for students to realize how bad or good these translators can be.
Visit Sites in the target language that have to do with vocabulary you are studying: When we did food in 1st year. I took them to websites for famous German restaurants and supermarkets…and of course McDonalds and Burger King.
Power points on Vocabulary: I did a unit on transportation and to start it off, I created a virtual visit to a German city. I included maps of U-bahns, S- bahns, the different trains, what a Bahnhof looks like and has in it. The entwerter machine, Kiosk that give tickets. It was much easier to talk about after the students had seen a picture of it.
Have students design a trip to the target country: Give them a budget and a list of minimum requirements then have students use the internet to book flights / make arrangements at hotels and rent vehicles. They can arrange train travel to different places. Be clear about your expectations and what you expect them to obtain as proof. (a list of websites they used). They even have to use currency converters and look at foreign exchange rates.
Internet Pen Pals: Have your students start an email pen pal exchange. We have come a long way since snail mail
Internet Recipes: You could do this per class, or as a club. Have students research recipes in the target culture. Collect these recipes and have students prepare some of them to bring in to taste.
Access to literature in the target language: A great many poems, fairy tales and other literature is available to your students online. Some come complete with worksheets to help students examine the literature.
Create Travel Brochures / Menus: Have students use microsoft publisher to create their own Travel brochures or menus. Be clear about your requirements.
* Make sure all students have signed waivers to use the internet / and monitor them.
* Limit the size of presentations to fit on Floppies.
* Repeatedly ask students to copy their work to two different places.
* Check on student work at the end of every lab day / give them a progress report on the project.
Conversions: There are many different kinds. Weight, Temperature, Foreign Exchange rates, measurements. I have students measure their height and convert to meters, their weight and convert to grams. Etc……
Math in the target language; Have students work with numbers, arrangement of the decimal point, additions and subtractions, fractions, divisions. Just about anything you can do in math, can be done in the target language.
History: Review historical documents in the target language, Consider a week survey on the history of the target country. I find that most students only know about Germany during the WWII era. Much has happened both before and after.
Occupations in Foreign language: consider spending a period talking about the occupations that may involve the use of a Foreign language. My kids didn’t know that some people make a living designing video games in other languages….the boys were Psyched!!! Consider taking them to Monsterjobs.com and typing in keyword German (or whatever), show them what is out there.
Outside Reading: I have my German one students read a book called “The Wave” as outside reading. I give them a week and I generally use at least one class period to discuss the book and have the students write a response to it. You may find a book, that helps to increase student’s understanding of a culture or of a specific event in a culture that is of great importance.
Drawing a House plan: Students draw a diagram labeling the items and rooms in their house. (They could design a dream home, or their own house.) Show them some sample plans before they start. Upper level students can write a paragraph describing the house and the rooms in it. (Good practice with adjective endings.
Fashion Catalog: Have students create a catalog with pictures drawn or cut out of different pieces of clothing. Have them include prices using symbol for Euro. Upper levels can write a description for each piece of clothing.
Creating a Menu: A good exercise when working with food vocab. Many teachers already do this. It can also be adjusted to fit different grade levels.
Creating a Monster / Describing an animal. Have students draw or obtain a picture of a monster or animal. They must then write a description of the animal in the target language.
Drawing a City plan: Have students draw a city plan (Stadtplann) and then have them label the places in the city. For upper levels, have them tell Directions to various places in their city using the target language.
Wappen (coat of arms): I generally do this about three weeks into 1st semester of German One. Students create their own Coat of arms. I give them a guide of what they must include on their shield. Students are required to present to the class. This is a nice way to get students to tell a little about themselves. I have also done something like this but using T-shirts and fabric paint.
Making a Map: A great way to use landscape vocabulary. Have students draw a map, complete with a key identifying geographical features.
Designing a Car: I recently did car vocab with my 2nd year students. First I copied a picture of a VW Bug and had them label the parts in German. The next day I asked them to design their own car (labelling the parts) and then writing a description of it beneath it. (Normally about two paragraphs)
Basteln: Every once in a while I like to do some oragami (paper folding) with my class. (I did more of this in elementary school). It is a good way to give instructions in the target language as well as talk about shapes and colors.
Incentives: Don’t forget to reward your students for good work. Consider a weekly student award, or simply publicly recognizing students when the exceed expectations.
Peer Evaluations: When I do writing assignments, I assign each student a peer evaluator who are supposed to review the work prior to it being submitted. The peer evaluator signs off on the writing and they share each other’s grade.
www.puzzlemaker.com (great place to make crosswords and word searches)
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/geography/abc/g.shtml(Great maps and other resources for class)
http://www.gamequarium.com/spanishvocab.html (good site for spanish teachers)
http://webgerman.com/Animated/ (some decent powerpoints for German)
http://www.uni.edu/becker/teacher3.html (some good links from here)