A Comprehensible Input Approach – Vocabulary is more than just Flashcards

Posted on June 19, 2013 by


         This is the third post in my A Comprehensible Input Approach series. At the bottom of this post, I’m linking to the other posts as well as Rachel’s post on this topic too.

Keith Toda dedicated a day to an important piece of language acquisition: Vocabulary. All too often, (as can be seen in Bob’s cheesecake example) teachers assign a list to students and quiz them later. Keith provided some ready to use activities that help students practice and help teachers quickly test vocabulary in a CI way. I’ve listed the activities in italics with a short description after. All of these activities were done on mini white boards, but you can also do them on paper if you need to.

  1. Like Minds – Start by giving students a letter of the alphabet and a few minutes to write down every vocabulary word they can that begins with that letter. Then, have them get with a partner and compare lists (the key is to require each person to share their list verbally). They get a point for each word that they both have. This is a great review activity and gets kids really thinking about what they know. (Rachel calls this Scattegories)
  2. Different Minds – This is basically the same as the previous activity, but instead of getting a point for each shared word, they only get points for unique words. (Rachel calls this Scattegories)
  3. Fill in the blank – This activity is a good way to see where students are in vocabulary and how well they use a context to make sentences. Give students a sentence and a period of time to fill in any blanks you give. Limit it to just a few minutes. You can share any number of ways, but Keith had us get in small groups and share all our possibilities with each other and then, as a group, come up with one or two to share.
  4. 4 words 1 picture – This activity can be a lot of fun and can lead to some great discussion and stories. Choose 4 vocabulary words, the more random the better, and give students a few minutes to draw a single picture that contains all of them. Then, have kids hold them up. From here, you have lots of options. You can have student tell each other what’s in their pictures in small groups, you can have students share with the whole class, or, if you have a document camera, you can put one up on the screen and discuss as a class. (Rachel calls this Draw a Connection)
  5. Guess the Word – (AKA pictionary) This game would make a fun Friday activity or a good final exam review. Have two students sit facing the back wall (away from the board). Write a vocabulary word on the board for the rest of the class to see and have them draw it on their boards. Keep the time short, otherwise the game moves too slowly. At the same time, all students show their picture and the students up front guess. Whoever gets it right gets a point.

The point Keith made during this day was evident, flash cards are not comprehensible input. They are simple memorisation that helps some, but few kids. Flash cards enforce an idea students have that cramming before a test and then dumping that knowledge is an appropriate way to learn. Using techniques like this help students make connections and start getting kids to start thinking in the language (i.e. I say culina and you see a picture, instead of a word in your mind).

Links to Other Posts

Rachel’s Write up

Miriam’s first post – An Introduction to CI in the Classroom

Miriam’s second post – Various Methods of Delivery Under the CI Umbrella

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