Throughout April, I am writing a short blog post per day on Revision and Exam Technique MFL Style to aid students to become more independent, have a range of strategies to encourage, motivate and remind them to revise independently of you their MFL teacher. You can read the other posts here. In this post I am focusing on vocabulary revision.
Vocabulary acquisition takes place throughout the entire language learning journey from the first lesson, and for some, through to the very last. Every single word in the course syllabus vocabulary pages, all 90 or so of them, can’t necessarily be well known and mastered in preparation for the terminal assessments can they? Plus, don’t forget there will be the inevitable ‘unknown elements’ that exam boards like to throw in to see how students cope, and overcome it.
Vocabulary can be taught in single words or in chunks but regardless of the differing opinions and strategies of how to teach vocabulary, please do teach it to your learners. Success within terminal assessments requires a good working knowledge of a range of vocabulary and good recall of specific language is required in order to answer the question or elements of it, and to gain access to the full range of marks, especially in gapfill cloze test questions and of course aids with the translation tasks.
Strategies for recalling topic based vocabulary ranges from rally robin, vocabulary tests, word association games such as Pictionary and Taboo but the use of a vocabulary book is something I have always encouraged for the weird, wonderful and not obvious words that student can’t alway to remember.
Despite teaching students coping strategies of how to deal with not knowing the exact vocabulary item in the exam / test / life and what to do in these circumstances rather than panic or leave a blank space, there is one very easy and simple strategy that is a brilliant thinking recall game and can be applied in many situations not just for revision and I have to thank Lisa Jane Ashes and our visit to Ghana for this simple yet brilliant idea.
For vocabulary topic based recall, hand the A-Z sheet to students of any age asking them to complete it searching their minds for 26 individual words or as many as they can on the topic. Some will be easier than others, I assure you having done this myself with students, its fun to get involved and test yourself! I have used this with the full range students to recall specific topic vocabulary such as environment, holidays, festivals and traditions to name a few. Students can either work individually, searching their minds for target language vocabulary related to the topic, or in small groups. We know the benefits of interleaving key vocabulary, structures, grammar to constantly remind students of specific language to use, to know and to have in their linguistic toolkit, be they chunks or single items, complex or simple. We know the importance of repeat low stakes testing and use of this is sheet for this is great, really great for that. Using Lisa’s A-Z sheet is brilliant to help students remember that language, grammar, single words or chunked items are not topic specific and are transferable.
Having spent time individually or in groups completing this, as a timed activity, recall practice, planning for an interesting written piece, for homework or as revision, students have and know these phrases and vocabulary items. They are showing you what they know and when they have to find something for each letter they are encouraged to think harder, recalling more, widening the range of language by recalling in this way and all in the target language. They can use their completed sheets continually, referring to it to extend current range, learn the unknown items (if completed as a group activity) so all have the range of vocabulary or they can add to it as time goes on. Equally students can use it individually to test vocabulary they should know on specific topics, grammatical elements, prepositions, complex phrases, weather phrases across three or four tenses whatever you want it to be or what they need to know. It can be used in a variety of ways as its simplicity is very user friendly. It goes without saying that this revision strategy doesn’t require a dictionary! Do give it a try, be creative with it and let me know how you get on.
The A-Z sheet is available to download should you wish to use it with your classes or encourage students to use it to revise. https://drive.google.com/open?id=132aYb_JYWpUSsWgX3RwbcHQQKvVjUxf6