I just started a new semester. One question I’ve been asking myself is how can I help my students expand their vocabulary? Words are everything. If you don’t have words, then you can’t even begin to try and put them into a logical order. The idea popped into my head to create a vocabulary exchange activity that goes on throughout the semester to help students learn a lot of new vocabulary. I mulled it over in my mind, modifying, adding, removing, until I created this idea that I can’t wait to try out. This is why I love being a teacher, getting excited about creating and implementing a new way to approach learning. Hopefully, my students feel the same way about it.
The activity is an ongoing vocabulary building routine that goes on throughout the semester. Students will add to vocabulary flashcard stacks, practice the words, and rotate the stacks each class period. By the end of the semester, they will have learned a significant number of new and relevant words that relate to what we’re working on in class. Below are the directions.
Part 1: Setup.
- Start by making a model flashcard for each student in your class. It should have the word on the front, and either a definition or native language translation on the back. I chose native language translation because I have all Spanish speakers in my class and I want more space for sample sentences. If you have students from various language backgrounds, you can still use native language translation by having students write their native language translation next to other ones on the top of the card when the cards come to them. Also, write an example sentence on the first line on the back side.
2. On the first class you start this, give each student an example flash card and three blank flashcards. Tell them that their homework is to:
- Add a second example sentence to the example card I gave them.
- Create three new flashcards in the same format with three words they learned during the class or from a class reading, etc.
- Study the four words to make sure they know them well.
3. At the next class period, ask students to take out their stack of 4 flashcards and rotate it to the next person down on the roster list. (Give each student the name of the person they will always rotate their stack to and second down the list just in case the first person is absent. This will assure the cards go through all students before coming back around). Give everyone three blank flashcards and have them repeat the previous steps with their stack of 7 cards. (4 old and 3 new).
- Add example sentences to the four old cards
- write three new cards
Each class period, students will rotate stacks and get new blank cards. It won’t take long before the stacks grow and students have a lot of words to practice. When a card is full of example sentences, students won’t need to write one for that card; they will just study it.
The beauty of this activity is that they will be getting a stack of new or mostly new words each class period. The words will relate to what’s being learned, read, or talked about in class, which is a great way to grow relevant vocabulary. Once the cards have gone through the roster one time and come back, some words will start to be familiar, but students will get a chance to review them again. Students will be learning a lot of words, but they won’t have to be writing all of the cards themselves.
Also, you could use the cards to do a variety of vocabulary and grammar activities in class if you want. For example, you could have each student sort his/her stack into piles based on part of speech, meaning, connotation, etc. You could have a group of students use one stack of cards to write a creative story using those words. You could also have students check the example sentences for mistakes and correct them. I would recommend asking everyone to write the example sentences in pencil for this reason. The possibilities are endless with how you could use the cards.