Next Year’s Word Lists

This year I really enjoyed having a 25 word/phrase list for each quarter that my students were responsible from.  Because the words weren’t from the back of a chapter but rather high-frequency words, they allowed us to be talking about a wide range of topics and understand a wide range of readings by the end of the year.

The study stack flashcards I created each of my three word lists (I didn’t do word lists first quarter) are as follows:

List 1:

List 2:

List 3:

For my upper level students, who also had to learn the past tense forms of the verbs in these lists, I have additional online flashcards.

So now going into next year, I have my lists fairly well down for my upcoming German I classes because we worked them out this year.  I think there are some words I’ll weed out (never really got that much burn from visits, spends time, actually, etc.), while other words surprised me by cropping up constantly (stays, collects, only, tries, happens, looks like, nobody, belongs to, etc.).

For me a good word to include in a list is one that is high-frequency and opens up new things to talk about.  Some words like collects, ready, and finished  I put in there because I can force myself to use those in class as part of the daily routines, and so they learn them as a matter of course.  Free shipping!  Other words I hear in a song or something I’m reading and am reminded that “Oh yeah, that does get used a lot in German”; this includes words such as belongs to, pleases, always, etc.

The biggest thing for me, however, comes in really listening to my students.  What are they trying to say but can’t?  What words do they always ask you how to say?  What English words keep getting said with a German accent that they try and sneak in there?  What words do they keep asking me to redefine, even though I thought we covered them already?

As a result, listening for words like this becomes a form on ongoing curriculum planning.  What do they need to know so I can do what I want to do?  The problem is I that so much of my German vocabulary is so deeply learned that I don’t recognized it as useful; it’s parked in my hard drive’s ROM rather than my RAM.  But then I will see the word somewhere and say “Hey, that word comes up a lot; I could do something with that.”

Just last week I was reading a text with hätte  (would have) in it and realized with a shock that I hadn’t covered it recently with my upper levels, as well as wäre (would be) and würde (would).  Not only do these go on the list, but that’s at least month worth of hypothetical goodness that I’ve been leaving on the table.  I love these words not because they are major grammar points, but because how much more they let us express and talk about.

So even though our school year is all but done now, I’ve been writing words I like in a corner of my board for the last two weeks now.  My list (in no particular order) is:

It depends; enough; themselves (reflexive); there; part; somewhere; not yet; one more time; already; our; something; may; exactly; works; is missing; since; back/forth; otherwise; lifts; builds; fits; lets; against; through;__ years ago; wanted; was able to; would have; would be; would; otherwise; everyday; as soon as; quiet; now/later

I’ll need to sort those and figure out how many to get after next year and how to roll them out, but I wanted to record this while my brain is still in listening gear this year.


2 responses to “Next Year’s Word Lists

  1. Hey Nathan,
    You’re making me feel like a slacker! I am thinking in the same way you are but as yet have not gotten to the point where I can put any of it into a form I can access for future reference. So, I’m inspired by what you’ve done! I don’t teach German but I always check out the lists that everyone puts together to try and get my own lists figured out. I checked out your flash cards and am trying to remember if you put these in list form somewhere else on the blog?

    I appreciate all your energy and enthusiasm! It’s fun to hear about all the great things everyone is doing. At the moment I am just trying to get through the end of the year!!


  2. Hi Ruth,

    Yes, these lists (1-3 anyway) have been previously published — — but it’s always an ongoing process. I’ve streamlined my process to the point that if I’m in the middle of a class and a word occurs to me, I go over and write it in a corner of my board roped off for that purpose.

    I think a good list needs to be a blend of real time responses as well as high-frequency list anticipations. And if a word doesn’t make my list, I still will bundle it into a PQA/Story routine to make sure that my students have a fighting chance about it. Sometimes I think this process is most valuable to me just to help me notice words instead of just teach them.


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