"You talk as if a god had made the Machine.. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hopes that are in my mind."The machine stops - 1909 - Forster

Sunday, January 2, 2011

VOCABULARY CHALLENGE: 5 WAYS TO STORE WORDS


I love words.

When I read the post The Two Week Vocabulary Blogging Challenge I thought I could share some of the ways my students and I store words.
I have to confess I am a big fan of word cards, the small pieces of cards that have the foreign word on one side and its translation on the other, no matter if that is a picture, a definition or anything which can help the memorization process . If you are interested in vocabulary cards you may like to take a look at this article:
EMO-TIONAL Verb Cards - Ideas for Teaching Vocabulary



Maybe I am vocabulary-obsessed. I spend a lot of time teaching vocabulary, mnemonic techniques, introducing words, practicing, recycling and using them in different and personalized contexts. I am convinced that storing vocabulary items in a systematic way can greatly help students remember the words. When learners acquire new vocabulary they need concrete, physical ways to collect and keep it, a "safe" and personal place they can refer to whenever they want. At beginner level we organize vocabulary through topics.
We choose the way at the beginning of the first year of Middle School and then we stick to it for all the three-year course. The students regularly and systematically test themselves ( usually at the beginning of each lesson ) to check the learning of new items. Quick, whole-class activities are also provided to help vocabulary retention as well as autonomous tasks to carry out, using both technonology and traditional ways.
What follows are some ways of storing words which have been tested in class.


Vocabulary Notebook

Students use a "Vocabulary Notebook", which is a sort of self-created Pictionary, for systematic organization of vocabulary notes. This process involves abilities which are also extralinguistic, it is multiple-intelligence friendly and it works well with multi-level classes .
Here is an example ( created by a Middle School student , in year 1 and 2 )








Word Wheels

 



They're easy to build and students can keep track of all the words they should know: you need just some pins and templates. Again, they can write the translation or draw a picture in the empty spaces.








Slot Book



Each student has a folder divided into 12 separate slots where the vocabulary cards are kept. They start by inserting the words in slot number one, from where they go to number two and so on until the last slot. The final aim is making all the cards end up in the twelfth slot , meaning that those words should have been learnt. This method is for individual memory training and it is based on the memory principle of spaced repetition: in the last stage words can be revised less frequently.









Transparent Folders



These are folders with pockets to be inserted in ring binders which the students fill up with word cards . They come in handy when revising in pairs. The students face each other with the folder between them: one reads the mother tongue words while the partner has to provide the English forms and the other way round.








Vocabulary Panel

The storage systems described above are for individual reference and study.
As a class, we have a vocabulary panel on the wall. It is home-made :), it's got some pockets and students in turn prepare the cards to be put inside. A lot of activities are done systematically ( usually as a warm up at the beginning of the lesson ) in order to recycle and retrieve vocabulary.



And here is a Web2 version of the vocabulary panel. There are links to speaking dictionaries where the students can listen to the pronunciation of words and see the images. It' s a work in progress ans I'll keep on adding new links whenever I find some interesting sites.



WEB2 Vocabulary Panel

20 comments:

Naomi Epstein said...

What a tresure trove of ideas! I will read this several times as good strategies need to be absorbed one by one!
Naomi Epstein
http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Naomi! Thank you for reading the post. Let's keep in touch :)

Naomi Epstein said...

Back again! Can you explain more about how you use the system with the "slots"?
I LOVE the word wheels!!! Am forwarding the link to your post!
Naomi

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Naomi,
the system is very simple.
The students put the word cards they have to learn in slot
number 1. Each lesson they test themselves: the word cards they can remember can pass to slot number 2. The ones they don't remember don't move. This happens every lesson. The cards pass from slot number 2 to slot number 3 and so on. If a word can't be remembered ( even if it's already in slot number 5 - just to make an example - ) it goes back to slot number 1 from where it starts again the "journey" to slot number 12. When the cards are in the last slot the students review them less frequently, that is once a month. Of course we also do a lot of activities to work with the words in context.
This system is simple, but quite effective. The students can memorize a lot of words, ...they just need 5 minutes at the beginning of each lesson. They can practice at home as well.
I think we could combine this method with the one you suggest..I'll give it a try :)

Naomi Epstein said...

Oh - yes! I see now! The two methods compliment each other! How many pupils do you have in a class?

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Naomi!
It depends...the average number is 25, and we never have more than 30 in a class. I'll try the two methods next week and I'll let you know.

Nadia Zaramella said...

Hi Daniela,
I’m fascinated by the way you use different mnemonic techniques to help students acquire new words.
I totally agree with you when you say that students need “concrete, physical ways” to learn vocabulary. I could never do without pictures, images, photos, flashcards… my own teaching wouldn’t be as effective. Another thing that intrigues me a lot is that you let your students’ imagination run. You ask them to be creative and to personalize their work thus enhancing memorization.
In recent years I have worked with mind maps (which I find extremely helpful and incredibly close to the way our own brain works) and other visual “tools” to show students how they can use vocabulary in different types of context. The following is a link I find very interesting: http://mappementaliblog.blogspot.com/
Here you can find some examples of mnemonic techniques and strategies I use with my classes:
http://alittlebritofus.blogspot.com/2009/03/at-seaside-summer-holiday-vocabulary.html
http://alittlebritofus.blogspot.com/2009/02/mappa-per-la-descrizione-fisica.html
http://alittlebritofus.blogspot.com/2009/02/lista-di-verbi-daily-routine-e-dintorni.html
http://alittlebritofus.blogspot.com/2009/01/simple-past-irregular-verb-pattern.html

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Nadia,
thank you for the links. They're extremely interesting and your maps look great! These days we're been dealing with physical descriptions and I could try your map with my students, if you don't object..of course, I'll give you credit for that.
And another thing..what about trying to create a mind map on the topic of teaching? The title could be something like " My teaching approach" or simply " How I teach English" ...It seems challenging! Those maps are wonderful, I'll definitely give it a try :)

Nadia Zaramella said...

Hi Daniela!
be careful... you could get addicted to mind maps!
Just joking: they're very easy to build and use and amazingly helpful for students. One good idea could be to let students personalise them (but I have never gone so far).
A map on "my teaching approach" seems a very good idea too.
If you are looking for a free software I sugggest the following: http://cmap.ihmc.us/
And probably one of the best authors is Tony Buzan. He's into mnemonic techniques too... Do you know him?
Cheerio :)
nadia

jploucky said...

Thx for your many great ideas Daniela! Glogster is great! Try combing my W-Words and V-Vocab sections as well as D-Dictionaries Galore for a few (understatement of the year) more ideas and programs to use in learning these at www.CALL4ALL.us --jploucky, JAPAN

Lisa's ESL Site said...

Hi Daniela,

You got some really creative ideas which I hope to incorporate slowly, but eventually into my class. Thank you for them! Just a quick question though, do you happen to have a list of the games/mnemonic techniques you use in a handout or a system you use? One of my challenges in teaching is that it takes me a long time to figure things out.

Daniela Tomatis said...

Wow!! What a great site,so many resources! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I'll definitely explore it thoroughly.Thanks again!

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Lisa,

thank you for your kind words. Yes, I do have a list of games/activities I use in class to work with words, but, for the moment, it's just a file on my computer, meaning that it needs editing and revision before I publish it online. Anyway, this is what I've been working on and when the product is worth sharing I'll do it, with great pleasure. For now, you may be interested in reading this article http://www.hltmag.co.uk/feb09/less04.htm. There are some ideas, there, although limited to the use of word cards. Thanks again.

Lisa's ESL Site said...

Hi Daniela,

Thank you very much for your thoughts, I was thinking of you the other day when I saw these links of "using tired words" and this will be the next project i'll be working on.

http://community.eflclassroom.com/resources/topics/baam-games-create-some?commentId=826870%3AComment%3A276183

http://pinterest.com/pin/243229742/

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Lisa,

thank you for bringing Pinterest to my attention..I've just had a quick look at it but I haven't figured it out yet . Anyway, I will definitely come back to it as soon as possible.
Your project sounds interesting! Let me know how it goes.

Sharon de Hinojosa (naturegirl321) said...

Love the fact that all your ideas are colourful and fun. MOre often than not I see students pouring over their notebooks and just memorising words.

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Sharon,
thanks for your kind comment...I do believe that students should personalize their learning and I agree with you; they won't learn anything which is boring and not relevant to them.

Philip said...

Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Sneza said...

Hello, Daniela,
I'm really impressed by your blog! So many interesting activities, I like them all. I must say I find it difficult to inspire my adult students to 'play' with words, will definitely try some of your ideas!
Sneza

Daniela Tomatis said...

Hi Sneza,
thank you for your kind words.
Yes, I agree with you..the most difficult part of a teacher's job is to find creative ways to keep students engaged, to make them "love" what they're doing..it's challenging, but also exciting, maybe it's what we need in order to stay "alive"
( professionally speaking, of course :) )