This upcoming Monday with our video study group we are going to be talking about setting up TPRS curricula and how different people have ordered them. At the same time, MJ noted in the last round of comments on vocab that she’d be interested in seeing what words I’m churning out for my word lists. The truth is, in my opinion, these are two very closely linked activities, because if you are serious about sheltering vocabulary instead of grammar, the order you introduce various words to a big degree helps sequence your curriculum of what you teach and when.
Because I didn’t start creating a list of 25 words per quarter to really center on until second quarter, this year I’m only going to go through three lists. Each quarter we only focus on these 25 words outside of the scope our normal round of stories. Sometimes the words come up because I want to do a certain story, but sometimes I create a certain story because I need more reps on that word. My three lists are as follows:
needs, wants, can, must, has , loves, travels to, plays, sleeps, looks, takes, boy/girl, fast/slow, big/small, there is, says, friend, lives (resides ), was, beautiful, looks for, searches for, finds, eats, family, gives
stays, becomes, believes , should, buys, cries, calls (on phone), cooks, spends time, forgets, thinks, asks, answers, invites, costs, laughs, smiles, hurts, dies, waits, doesn’t know, only, possible, simple, maybe, actually
pays attention (watches out), lets (allows), tries, happens, uses, shows (points), starts, stops, receives (gets), again, together, always/never, same/different, because, so that, sometimes, nobody, somebody, every (each), holds (keeps), likes, looks like, belongs to, wears (carries), important
If you look very closely, you’ll notice that my first two lists are pretty closely based off of the word lists MJ has previously shared on this site with various minor tweaks. You’ll also note that I occasionally cheat by getting more than 25 words in by pairing up opposites; personally I think that is the best way to learn adjectives anyway.
So how do I come up with my words? On the one hand, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing words down that I notice showing up from authentic sources: song lyrics, films, readings, etc. If they are fairly high-frequency and I think I can spin something out of it, in the list it goes. On the other hand, I have a German frequency dictionary that ranks not only the most frequent 4000+ words that are in general use, but also provides top 100 frequency lists for all parts of speech (verbs, nouns, adjectives, phrases, etc.) I tend to favor verbs over other parts of speech for purposes of generating lists because they seem to give me more bang for the buck as far as story generation goes.
Overall, I’ve liked this approach because I keep seeing a situation where we are talking about something or reading something, and then a word off of our current list comes up. I stop things, point at our list posted at the front of the room, and then move on. After enough of this, the students in the room start pointing those out to each other as well (Hey, that’s on our list). In my experience, the students don’t really care about the list much until right after the first test they take on it and realize what their holes are. After that, it becomes general knowledge and more accessible.