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I continued interviewing students that are having difficulties in my multi-level French B SL class to identify needs, feelings, and impressions. The goal is to adjust teaching and design activities that are both meaningful and can give them a sense of achievement.

In common, they expressed their need of developing their vocabulary during and after class since there’s a considerable gap between theirs and other students’.

I immediately put into practice some simple vocabulary strategies to help them out  (a list and a Quizlet) and to demonstrate that I had listened to their needs and will respond to them. I also run an activity with images that would be beneficial to the whole group.

The problem is that they have to drastically increase the size of their vocabulary (active and passive). Although the reference numbers of vocabulary size by level are debatable, no Language Acquisition teacher would argue that they are not important.

It’s hard to find official sources for vocabulary size in Language Acquisition, but the estimate on the right can serve as a reference.
My observations indicate a clear discrepancy between the students in this particular class. Let’s say it ranges from 700 to 3000+ words depending on the individual. Based on this chart, all students in this specific group should be around 2500 words to meet the level requirements.

No matter what would be the ideal vocabulary size the students that I interviewed need to gain vocabulary at a fast rate to feel successful.

Other problems that immediately arise are how to tend to the needs of the students who are within the vocabulary range and still challenge the high flyers that are above the requirements?

I’ll have to develop creative solutions to [this] instructional challenge” and follow the Design Thinking approach focusing on “small changes in the right place” believing that they will have a significant impact in the outcome.

 

Inspired by “Bringing Design Thinking to Language Curriculum Design” I challenged myself to brainstorm about vocabulary tools that could help these particular students as well as others to develop their vocabulary.

I have frequently used some of these tools to teach and reinforce vocabulary acquisition. They are successful. Some others, are the product of research from some World Language and ELL websites that I listed below.

I managed to come up with 40+ activities that could be used either during class or independently. My next steps are: to involve some of my colleagues in the conversation and go back to my students for more feedback.

Meanwhile, I’ll try some of the new ones with the whole class and invite students to work on leveled vocabulary stations. I often use the rotation model in my classes, and I am considering adding “vocabulary development” as one of the ingredients for my Blended Learning.