On vocabulary lists

I was just adding one more word to my “First 200″ list. It’s still a little out of order, in that words that seem like they should be really solid (because, then, who, why) are way down the list. With time, I’ll figure out whether I should just take those off or whether it will be good to make sure that kids know them in every circumstance. And maybe…the “why/because” combination can stay down there, because kids are not really ready to use them at length until their proficiency is higher than first-year, and then I will be reminded to really focus on getting kids to ask those questions.

Commenting on the specific list is not what I want to do right now. I wanted to say that I am happy with how I used it this year, for the most part. This comment goes back to a conversation I had with Diana Noonan about three years ago now, one that I’ve probably reported a number of times, but it might explain my approach. I was asking Diana about her Denver list of 200 words for Spanish and French classes (search here for “Denver public schools word lists”). If those were for the first two years, what were her lists for the second two years? She said that it would be the same list, just with more complications.

So this is what I’ve done with my list: I am using 25 structures per quarter. First year kids get the first 100. Those are so basic that they come up all the time. In the next three years (I have mixed classes from then on), we rotate, 25 structures at a time, through the entire 200. It will mean that at some point the Russian 1 and Russian 4 will be on the same structures. But the advanced kids will be dealing with the verbs in all tenses and modes, and the nouns in all cases, or at least the ones I want to focus on. And if a “little word” is on the list, I’ll make sure that I use it with a variety of expressions to give the kids the full sense of its use. That, in combination with a slow pace of Scaffolding Literacy, embedded readings and lots of verbal and written CI, should make things flow.

I still do backward planning with specific additional vocabulary that goes with certain readings, but this year following the list gave me some necessary structure, as well as letting the kids know what they were responsible for more clearly than I had done in the past. One of my level 3 turned in a make-up story the other day using almost all the structures from this quarter, and I nearly hugged her, looking at how correctly she used most of them (grammatically) in context. I was on the point of asking her whether she’d had Russian-student assistance, and then I noticed that the structures we’d used only in one case or tense were sometimes incorrect. She couldn’t manipulate what she hadn’t heard a lot as successfully.

I’m feeling pretty good about what I learned as I taught this year, even as I see all the places I could have improved. I’m so looking forward to next year, but first…I’m looking forward to this summer and creating the time to get outside in the garden, on the lake, into the woods, and onto the hills. Hurrah!


4 responses to “On vocabulary lists

  1. Thank you for the link to the Denver word list. I lost it with the move to the new school and searched all over the web for it without success. Now it’s on Evernote so I won’t loose it again. I’ll be looking over your and Nathan’s lists over the summer as well to plan for my next year.


  2. I have to pay you back for that link:) I stumbled upon this while looking through the resources for French on Denver’s site. From 10 minutes that I spent there, it looks very interesting. I’m adding this one to my summer list of “go through thoroughly” (can English spelling be more awful?!).
    Foreign Language Teaching Methods, 2010. This online methods course focuses on best practices for foreign language instruction at the high-school and college levels. The website feature video footage from an actual methods course held at the University of Texas at Austin, and contains interactive, media-rich modules by twelve different faculty members, including Français interactif developers Carl Blyth and Nancy Guilloteau.


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