Thursday, July 19, 2007

Student-centered vocabulary lists

By David Tillyer - Westchester Community College, New York, USA

For the past few semesters I've been having my Level 4 class create their own vocabulary lists each week. Their assignment from Monday to Wednesday is to come up with two or three words that they have encountered in the past week.

On Wednesday they each put their words on the blackboard. I try to limit it to 20 words as more would seem unmanageable. Each person is responsible for giving the class a definition. I then follow up with any further explanation that is needed.

I then use crossword creator to put together a crossword puzzle for the last task in our Friday class. Because all the words are customized, this provides an opportunity to make some of the clues refer to our class. This increases the "ownership" of the new words. The students enjoy and look forward to this activity and often try to work some of the words into their journals in the following week (not a mandate from me).

This is a very useful exercise and has many positive consequences. Some of the negatives are:

1. I'm on the spot on Wednesday to define words off the top of my head--not a new experience, but not easy.

2. some students participate more willingly than others-- not a new experience either

3. some of the words that appear have low frequency and some of them are irrelevant or just silly. This is our word list for this week: flustered, profile, detach, glance. homey, rim, ballpark figure, Samaritan, cunning, cunning, fragile, plot, blame, explicit, swallow, bless, tease, homemade, courtship, woo, legend.

These are not words I would have chosen and I'm not sure that they are useful words (yes, 'courtship' and 'woo' came from the same student - I don't know what he's been reading!), however, they are their words and they like the idea of putting together the list each week.

No comments: