23 May 2016

Personal Vocabulary Blogs

Vocabulary can make my students feel insecure. Though I have abandoned textbooks, I have not entirely abandoned vocabulary lists. I tend to present them more in semantic groups with visuals or in contextual situations now, however.

My students kind of wish they had more, though, something they could refer to and refresh themselves on what they actually do know.

I think a record of self-selected vocabulary is the solution here, something that they decided is useful--for whatever reason--and want to be able to access easily. And since blogging worked so nicely this year, I think it's a great way to keep their vocabulary references in one place.

Here's my plan.

Weekly task

1. Pick 5 words each week.
Words can be new words used in class (in directions, notes, blogs, stories, telenovelas, etc.). Or they can be words they came across in their own exploration (Pinterest, self-selected homework). Or they can even be new words they just looked up out of curiosity.

2. Find and cite (or create) an image that represents each word.
A lot of my kids--regardless of artistic ability--prefer to upload their own doodles just to avoid citing an image. Otherwise, students can track down a photo or clipart that represents the MEANING of each  word (not what it sounds like), as long as they give proper credit. (We might interpret a text like this to get a little ethical and TL input at the same time.)

3. Copy a context sentence.
They can use sentences straight from any text they were reading or listening to: blog, story, show, or pin. (If they use a classmate's blog, though, they'll need to verify and/or improve sentences' accuracy, or go with Plan B.) Plan B, say if they can't remember or find the sentence--or it's one of those words they just wanted to know, well, that's one of the many things that makes WordReference so beautiful: contextual examples! Also: Google.

4. Write their own context sentence.
I want to keep this a quick and easy assignment, but I think it's important to see how students can use their vocabulary in context. A definition doesn't tell me nearly as much as the kind of sentence they write using the word.

Each week, they'll post their 5 words, pictures, and context sentences in a blog post labeled VOCABULARY.

As far as grading, my plan is to just give a 10/10 if all steps are included, even if their sentences are wrong. However, I would like to comment on at least every other vocabulary post with at least one question for them about what they've written plus a general AAPPL score to give them an idea of where they fall. No pressure, just feedback. I do want to build in time for them to answer my questions later, though.

Monthly reflection

Every grading period, I would like to have students take a break from adding vocabulary to pause and evaluate what they already have. In other words, I want them to sort and pronounce what they've got.

1. Create semantic groups.
I like to use the phone number rule: phone numbers (minus area codes) are seven digits long supposedly because that's how many digits our brains can handle. So each student will split all of the vocabulary they've collected into semantic groups with no more than seven words (and no fewer than two).

Semantic groups mean they're grouped by meaning, so they'll need to come up with a (target language) title that fits their reasoning behind putting those particular words in the same group (e.g. foods, compliments, boring activities).

2.  Create group infographs.
Once they've figured out their groups, they'll need to create an infograph (possibly with Canva or Piktochart, or just their own doodles) for each with
  • the TL title
  • the 2-7 words
  • pictures to represent the overall group meaning
Notice there is NO English anywhere. Their brains are going to have to work for the meaning, but they'll have plenty of clues to cue them.

3. Combine infographs in a VoiceThread.
Of course students will be able to pull up their vocabulary in chronological order if they look up their posts by the VOCABULARY label, but the VoiceThread is going to be their real reference. They'll have a page for it within their portfolio blogs for easy access.

They'll be combined in a VoiceThread A) for easy access (they can scroll through them or look at all at once to pick what they're looking for) and B) for audio capabilities.

4. Record pronunciation comments for each word.
Students will record themselves pronouncing each word in a separate comment on the VoiceThread. That way, I can record a response to any word that's not quite right yet to help with pronunciation. Then they can record a response to imitate it and improve! (Well before, say, final presentation day.)

With these steps, students should ultimately have a reference for almost 100 additional vocabulary words--one that helps get the vocabulary encoded in their brains for continued application.

And maybe they'll actually feel as smart as they are in their second language!

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