Making vocabulary decisions?

Some of us make our students memorize so many pointless vocabulary words. The word ‘luggage’ is in the first lesson of the Descubre 1 textbook… I’m sure that’s super useful to a freshman. #SaveTheChildren

We need to focus our vocabulary expectations so that we are using and assessing what really matters. 

Let’s try to comprehensibly circle with the most frequently used words with our novice learners, so we can communicate earlier in the SLA process!

TCI friends like Mike Peto, Bryce Hedstrom, and Terry Waltz, have shared a lot about the benefits of high frequency words. Feel free to checkout their links to learn more.

Core vocabulary is important because the top 300 words make up 65% of all reading material. Many people get by in life using only 500-800 different words a day. 400 splits the difference. Knowing the 400 most common words well (plus some cognates) will allow you to read and understand a LOT of Spanish.

Bryce Hedstrom

I believe that if our communication is authentic, the most important words will flow naturally. However, I also believe that I need some alignment once in a while. Therefore, I crated a new activity in my classes to focus on the Super 7 & Sweet 16 Verbs. It’s called:

The High Frequency Storytelling Challenge!

Basically, the teacher and the students have to crate a story using the selected target words or chunks in a predetermined order. Also, the students get to select an idea, noun, or verb to base the whole story on.
The Process:

  1. Be sure that your target words, structures, or chunks are posted for all to see and to keep track of. This demo video uses verbs, but pick your poison. The kids want to catch you avoiding or skipping one!
  2. Allow the students to select the order that the words will appear in the story. For this first try we used them alphabetically, because that’s how they were already hanging.
  3. Ask for a word to base your entire story on. ‘Milk’ was selected for this demo, and there are more examples pictured below.
  4. Create and tell your story with lots of comprehension aids. For example, draw, complete many comprehension checks, ask questions, use body and voice clues, make eye contact, and more.
  5. Follow-up with reading, a free-write, assessment questions, ordering, running dictation, student actors, creating a song, and so much more.

Click on the video demo above to see my first try from last week. Since then I have done 6 more stories, and they were a lot more student-centered in a  collaborative story-asking style. I don’t feel the need to come up with an incredible spontaneous story anymore, because I just ask the students how we are going to use each verb along the way. It kind of feels like a super detailed OWI.

Click here for the question words and high frequency posters I used!

I hope you take on the challenge!
Your kids will love to see you try to spontaneously make magic out of your high frequency selections!

See you soon!

The Milk Cycle
The Naughty Cow: Breaking & Entering
Besties Before Burritos
The Princess & Her Cellphone


Tell me something!

  • Today was one of those days…career fair day plus class meetings plus one day before spring vacation = lots of crazy energy! Needless to say, I was having a hard time keeping the attention of my students. I recently read this blog (watched the Vlog) and kept this idea in the back of my head…So today on the spot, I ditched my “plan” ten minutes into class and said “Give me an object. Anything” and just like that you saved my day. The students were so engaged! I just went with the first detail I heard each time I asked and in 20 minutes we had used all the super verbs and were laughing together. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is GOLD.

    • Melissa!
      I’m so happy to hear this worked for you!
      Laughing with my students is my favorite part of this job, and it’s even better when we get to create the hysterical content as a team.
      Thanks for the feedback!

  • You are so much fun to watch!! Question: How do you intro your rejoinders for the first time? And what do you do with the number of clicks that you give them for using the rejoinder? Can’t wait to see you at MittenCI!

    • Hey, Susie!
      I usually do just a couple a week, I use the new ones in context as much as possible, and I hand the new cards to Ss who are tasked with using it and passing it along. Over time, they accumulate on the board and the useful/easy/high frequency ones stick while some others only get used some times.
      After some random amount of time (a month? a day? a quarter?) I call time and the class hour with the most points gets a food party, a day outside, a movie, or something else I deep appropriate that they can select.
      Can’t wait to see YOU!!!

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