Updated Word Lists, part I

Over the past year and a half I have become a huge fan of giving my students a list of 25 or so structures per quarter and using those to organize what we focus on.  The lists are primarily organized around what are going to be the most common and useful words I need in my classes.  I love that in my Level II and up classes that anytime I roll out a song or story, we are by this point almost guaranteed to know at least 70% of the words before we even start.  It opens up the playbook of what I can use in class because my students are very solid on the most frequent words in the language.

The structure of these lists–to be perfectly honest–is most necessary for me because it allows me to track what multiple groups at multiple levels should be able to know.  I don’t want to go out of bounds, and this allows me to always have in mind where the bounds for a particular group is at a particular time. I still am pretty freewheeling in that if I find a great song or an interesting story (or joke) then I’ll drop everything and play around with that.  But I think some of my students appreciate a rough blueprint of where we are going in a particular quarter, and these wordlists give them that reassurance that there is a plan.

My big project for the last couple weeks, then, is updating my word lists to be relevant and useful.  Here is what they currently look like:


needs; wants; has; loves; travels to; plays; sleeps; takes; girl; boy; there is; says; lives; was; fast/slow; is afraid of; big/small; beautiful; looks for; finds; eats; likes; can; must; sees


stays; buys; cries; receives (gets); reads; writes; feels; thinks (about); would like; invites; calls (on phone); does; hurts; wears; believes; should; shows; doesn’t know; happens; now/later; simple; maybe; looks (watches); may; heavy/light (easy/hard); only


pays attention to; pleases; tries; with/without; starts/stops; again; together; always/never; because; so that; sometimes; same/different; visits; looks like; belongs to; somebody/nobody; back; uses; before/after; understands; ready; becomes; forgets; his/her; still


It depends; enough; like/prefer/most prefer; part; not yet; one more time; already; our; something; exactly; works; at; is missing; otherwise; lifts; fits; allows (lets); against; through; wanted; was able to; had to; would; would be; would have; every day; as soon as


except for; during/while; almost; lays/lies/puts; explains; tells (a story); really; leads; anyways; there; somewhere; since; meets; sends; although; especially; back; is happy about; looks forward to; feels; decides; Excuse me!; safe/dangerous; because of; remembers

One thing that was fun about list V is that before I finalized it, I went through all of the words on it with a German II class and asked them what they thought about each one.  To a bit of my surprise, they thought that all but six of them were solid choices that they wanted to be able to learn how to say them.  I took the six choices they rejected (stuff like “should have done” and “when/if”)and moved them to my next quarter’s list. I liked the negotiation and buy-in this created and will probably continue to work this way moving forward.


4 responses to “Updated Word Lists, part I

  1. Nathan, this is wonderful (and so generous of you to share). As a novice CIer, I constantly struggle with the decision of what structures to choose/focus on. Your list will be a great help to me. Thanks so much!


  2. Pingback: Word List Ramblings | mjTPRS

  3. Glad to do it. Generating these lists has been a process of ongoing development, but I am still shocked at how wide a range of things I can discuss with my students who right now are only starting their 6th quarter of German instruction. I’ll probably keep tweaking and rearranging as I start to better recognize the potential of some words to enrich the classroom discussions.

    Some words I don’t realize how much I need them until they’re on the list, but because they’re on the list I continually look for new ways to use and emphasize them that quarter. But then they start popping up everywhere. For me it’s like when you buy a car; you never realized until you drive home how many other people have that same car. Those cars were there all the time, but you didn’t know that until you had ownership. These lists have that effect on me as a teacher, helping me recognize how much can actually be done with a few targeted words.


  4. Nathan, I too would very much appreciate your lists. [I have purchased both of Anne Matava’s books and Jim Tripp’s too.]
    My kids are excited about how much they are learning, but I feel like I often give the impression that the captain doesn’t know where the ship is going. Emphasizing word lists like you are doing will help me a lot. Also herzlichen Dank!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s