Personalizing a second language classroom has been pretty interesting as I constantly try new things and ask students how they feel about it. One aspect of this experimentation has been the personalized vocabulary list. I have tried to make up generic one size fits all vocabulary sheets for units and although useful for the final evaluation, I wonder how much of it students actually take with them once the course has been completed. I used to teach a crime unit, and I staged a scene and had senior students involved as witnesses with scripts and Gr. 9 Core French students fumbling through questions trying to understand the clues and testimony of the witnesses so they could solve the crime. The students had fun, and learned how to ask questions but didn’t seem to need CSI vocab in their daily lives which I believe leads to them conversing like this later in life …
I have tried several apps for students such as Duolingo, 1000+ French words, and these 9 others who claim you’ll “Learn French like a boss” but have been luke warm at best with the long term progress of vocabulary acquisition. Many are game-based which I support, but so many are simply out of context which Eddie Izzard points out clearly in his stand up routine. ** He swears a couple of times so perhaps earbuds are best.
Exposing students to commonly used transition words and idiomatic expressions with specific situational applications is useful. However, a personalized lexique has proven to be quite successful to the second language learners I work with. I believe it’s important that students speak in all classes, about a wide variety of things that grip their attention. Then in groups we take advantage of cooperative learning strategies or visible thinking routines but students keep a sheet of paper with them with words they know in English, but don’t know in French. Once the activity is done, they are given a few minutes to look up the French words, write them down and share them with their group. If any members also want to be able to use the word they are free to write it down.
They continue to build this lexique and are able to have it with them during any conversation, especially ones focusing on interaction with another person or group. Apparently someone needs to repeat a new word 6 times over days, even weeks to get into their functional vocabulary – which is always weaker than what I call comprehension vocabulary. My goal is to diminish the gap between the two and I think the personalized lexique is one of many keys to this goal.
I have seen varying degrees of success, but from what I can tell, it has everything to do with the student’s motivation to improve and build upon their language skills. Is anyone doing anything similar with vocab and/or language acquisition? Have you stumbled upon any dynamite French language apps? If you have any suggestions, please share! If you know of, or are a teacher who would like to collaborate and share ideas on second language learning let me know!