Spanish Notebook Section 4: Vocabulary

As a new teacher, I gave an enormous vocabulary list at the beginning of each unit. Then I drilled and quizzed the life out of it– and still found that my students forgot most of it by the end of the year! Now, I always try to introduce vocabulary in context, and in much smaller amounts.

I have two main ways to record vocabulary. Most of the time, it’s in sets of three (pictured first, below) and the surrounding pages contain stories and input surrounding those phrases.

I also have a specific vocabulary section, where I keep little booklets by theme. These are a sort of catch-all for the vocabulary that comes up and needs a place to be written down. This is a reference section. I don’t really quiz the words, but just work them into the things we do all year. Some are not necessarily high-frequency in the scheme of the Spanish language, but pertinent to the students’ daily lives (like ordering food at a restaurant or classroom objects).

When I introduce new phrases, I usually do so in sets of three, and as part of a story (TPRS® style). The students copy the phrase, sketch it, and define it in English underneath. I like this because at-a-glance, everything is still in Spanish. If we do anything with the vocabulary, that work goes on the page, below the flaps. You could just have the students draw boxes of three, but the extra step of flaps make the students pause a little longer on the phrases, and signals a new set. (We put the story on the next page spread.)

This booklet catches all our beginning of the year vocabulary. We record classroom objects right away, so the students can stay in Spanish in class. Otherwise, we fill in the words as they come up.

With booklets like this, I often have the students record the language as it come up, over the year. It eventually gets organized because of the booklet, but I don’t have to do a specific unit that covers these basics.

This is another instance where graphic organizers keep the terms simple. This includes a family tree with names, so you can discuss them or play guess who, as well as space for a famous family tree made by students. 
Last year I did an IPA and unit on food. It was more themed than I usually do, but I had some students getting ready to travel to Latin America.
I like to use pictures (instead of English) when possible. I leave space for several definitions, as terms can vary so much. I didn’t do a traditional list-of-words and quiz. We saw these words in context so much, the students did really well.
Some teachers like their students to keep a dictionary per unit or per theme. This booklet come with my vocabulary pack, with space to record and illustrate terms.
This booklet took us the whole year to fill in, as we talked and read.

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