Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Interactive vocab review

by Kirsten Fletcher

I heard some great ideas this week from my colleagues about creative ways to review vocabulary.

Mindy Perkins - APUSH
Mindy Perkins was looking for a quick way to review vocabulary in AP US History without creating a mountain of little vocabulary flashcards. Here's what she came up with.

She created 2 grids of vocabulary that will be on the final exam. Students seated in groups of 4. They were seated across from their partner and next to their opponent. The opponents shared an iPad and opened one of the vocabulary grids in Notability. Their partners opened the other grid on their iPad. Person A from Team 1 started by giving a clue for one of the vocabulary terms on their grid. If their partner guessed the term correctly, they colored in the word in their chosen color. If not, Person A from Team 2 gave a clue. They continued until someone guessed the word. Then Person B from each team gave clues. At the end, they simply counted up the number of boxes in their color to determine who won.

Student B game board


Mindy said that as they played, the students were engaged, excited, and on task. Since it was a student-led game, she had the time to correct definitions and clarify terms as she walked around. When the game was finished, she had students pull out their vocabulary lists and highlight any words that their group struggled to define. This allowed students to reflect on their learning in order to study more efficiently for the assessment.


Cliff Darnall - Japanese
I saw Cliff Darnall cutting apart cards with pictures for a vocabulary game that he plays, and he graciously invited me to observe his class in action. Cliff credits this idea to the 2012 ACTFL Teacher of the Year, Mr. Yo Azama of North Salinas High School in California.

The purpose of this activity is to have students using new vocabulary in context so they practice grammar structures while learning new vocabulary. To start, Cliff has students practice a model sentence that he projects on the screen.



Then, he divides his students into small groups. Each student has a vocabulary card with a picture or clue on one side and the vocabulary word on the other. The students stand in a circle holding their cards so the picture / clue is facing out and they can see the word.

Vocabulary card
At the beginning of the activity, the teacher sets a timer for 30 seconds. One student starts by reading the model sentence and substituting in their own vocabulary word, then the word of another student. For example, the sentence might read "I like Geography, but I don't understand Chemistry". The second student then says the sentence with their word first and another student's word. The conversation continues around the circle until the timer rings. The student who is still talking when the timer goes off is out. For the next turn, the timer is shorter (maybe 20 seconds) and so on until there is one winner left.

As I observed Cliff's class doing this activity, he modified it slightly for his students. Since he had extra cards he asked the student who was "out" to pick up a new vocab card and continue practicing. This particular class was not overly competitive, so they responded well to this change. Also, after a few minutes, he had groups swap cards so that they practiced more vocabulary. When he did this, he switched the prompt also.

For World Languages, this activity has a lot of advantages. Not only are students learning new vocabulary, but they are repeating sentence structures (without the boredom that sometimes accompanies rote repetition) and they are constantly practicing pronunciation and interpersonal speaking skills. Hot Potato is very guided. To use this in other subject areas, a teacher may have to adapt the activity to include definitions or sentence starters.

Check out how engaged Cliff's students are during this Hot Potato Vocab Activity !

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