It all started a couple months ago when I told people they could doodle on the backs of their vocab tests for extra credit. Some people always finish up before the other people, so I told them for one extra credit point they could use a word from the vocab test in a sentence and illustrate it. They LOVED it! After everybody was done with the test, I showed their creations on the document camera and we had a great time playing with the language.
Then I decided that this made actually a pretty fun idea to review for my tests, so about a week before the test, we did the same thing in the class using mini whiteboards. Again, this was a big hit and several people said that it helped them. This not only got up a bunch of reps on words, but it introduced a visual element that helped people process it.
So finally, it finally occurred to me that this would be a good way to not only study for the test, but could make an excellent FVR resource as well. I started out by writing down each vocab word (this last list had 30) on my board and underlined it. As each class came in, I asked them to sign their name under two of the words so as to make sure that everything was covered. When I had smaller classes or started getting saturation on a few words, I would put a big X under that word so the others got more coverage.
I took the papers, scanned them and then created a book out of the following collection of pictures. The picture on the right is for “nobody.” The captions read “Nobody likes the test”; “There is nobody in this picture” and “Nobody likes me.”
The beauty of this is that the creativity and ownership of these is off the charts. The “test” picture is nowhere near as technically good as the “likes me” picture, but they both do the trick just fine.
If a grammar point comes up like the difference between “neimand” and “niemanden” I will answer anybody who asks, but mostly they just need to see and process language in context. If I have a verb as the target vocab structure, I often will try to create sentences that conjugate the verb according to different subject positions “I try, he tries, we try, etc.” It’s so easy to leave everything in the third person that they need to see the different forms, especially for irregular verbs.
Another area where these vocab lists are useful is in modelling the past tense forms as well. In this set of pictures for the verb “belongs to” the captions are “The cow belongs to me” “Hey, that belongs to me” and “Flowers belong to girls!” Notice underneath the flowers caption I rewrote the sentence in the past tense, and put it into italics in order to make it stand out. In this way my students get to see the past tense forms.
In short, I like this approach because it allows me to create compelling texts that target the structures on our vocab list while making something worth reading.
Overall it took me about 45 minutes to scan and crop everything and another hour and a half to plug everything into the template I created. That’s a pretty good time outlay, but because I would only be doing once per quarter (which is how often I rotate my verb lists) it’s worth the investment to me.