Sunday, June 28, 2015

Simple, Easy, and Quick: Introductory Vocabulary Activity

Here's the deep dark truth about TPRS.

Let me first say, I love it, I love asking a story and engaging my students in a collective collaboration.

Okay. The truth is...TPRS is hard. It's exhausting. It takes all my energy to ask a story. And I get very, very tired using that every time I teach new vocabulary.

So I don't use it every time. I always seek to teach comprehensibly, however, and I am always looking for more comprehensible ways to teach vocabulary so on days I'm tired, or know I'm going to be tired, or I just want a change of pace (my goal is always repetition without being repetitive!), I can turn to another method for establishing meaning and getting those repetitions in.

I was reading Martina Bex's wonderful and prolific blog on teaching comprehensibly and came across this post. The post inspired me to create this very simple activity for introducing vocabulary. I like it because it's easy to prepare (I've done it on a day I woke up sick, but not sick enough to skip work, in ten minutes before school started) and I think it's a really good and non-threatening comprehensible activity to try if you aren't really comfortable with asking a story (or not yet comfortable with it).

I simply created a powerpoint with several vocabulary words contextualized in a sentence and with compelling imagery. It's important that the images are not boring.

Then I projected the powerpoint on the board, and asked as many questions as I could about each slide using as much variety and personalization as possible.

This activity is comprehensible because of the questions I ask and the repetitions I get of my focus vocabulary from those questions. I aim for as many repetitions as possible, and by including my students in the discussion and finding unusual ways to look at the image and the contextual sentence, I can keep the repetitions from becoming boring.

Here's an example of an actual slide I used, but in English for those of you who don't speak Latin.

For this slide I might ask (and state):

Class, this is a book. Is this a book? Is it a book or a llama? Is there a llama on the book? Is there a llama or a boy on the book? Is the book happy or sad? Is Little Bobby in the book? Is Little Bobby a good boy or bad boy on the book? Are the girls on the book happy? Billy, do you have this book? Do you want this book? Oh, you want the other book? Class, Billy wants the book with the dinosaur. Do you have a dinosaur Billy? No? Are you sad like the dinosaur on the book? Class is the dinosaur on the book sad or happy?

I can add in repetitions by asking other students about the book, asking more questions about a possible llama appearance in the books, or even looking at possible interactions between the characters in the books. Even with the script I wrote above, that's already fifteen repetitions of the word "book". I'd want closer to thirty, but fifteen for about two minutes of writing is pretty neat.

The cool thing here is that it is a really flexible activity. If you don't have experience with this sort of activity, you can write your script ahead of time (even the personalized ones) and read off a page. That's how I and Keith Toda and Bob Patrick all started speaking Latin in the classroom. Eventually you won't need a list of questions.

The important thing is to help your kids get a true understanding of the vocabulary.