It’s been three months since my last post, which I think shows how tough remote teaching has felt. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what teaching and learning mean to me though, and I am now coming back to this blog with a few posts on the topic. I’ve written something on vocab learning for somewhere else (I’ll link in once it’s available 🙂 ) so thought I’d restart with a post about vocab learning.
I have many thoughts about teaching, learning, using, and assessing vocab. It remains true that the environment most of us teach in requires students to learn decontextualised vocab. With this in mind, students often need some help getting started, or trying out new things once they reach saturation point using their original method. I’ve put together a list of ideas. If anyone has more ideas (or feedback on these) then I’d be delighted to hear from you. My next post on the topic will reflect on vocab lists and frequencies, and some of the work done by James Tauber on this (https://jktauber.com/).
1.) Look cover read (say) write check (this is what I used to do, but find unproductive now).
2.) Make flashcards with the English on one side and Greek on the other. Add notes where appropriate. Add in phonetic spellings to Greek to help you, and any friends you talk into testing you.
3.) Use a vocab testing program such as is available at www.memrise.com for languages including NT Greek. See also https://quizlet.com/en-gb . People may like to investigate Anki for flashcards. These can be made ‘intelligent’ to support vocab learning in a spaced repetition fashion. See this article for more information. http://augmentingcognition.com.) The Eton Greek Project is also useful (temporarily to be found here: https://www.werdz.com/etongreek/)
4.) Make links between words and English phrases e.g. ‘servus’ is someone who ‘serves us’.
5.) Learn vocab to a tune and endings to a rhythm. Recite verb paradigms in time with your footsteps / while on aerobic machines / while washing up.
6.) Make a list of English derivations, e.g. βαπτιζω > baptise.
7.) With verbs, make sure you learn all principal parts. Often the English derivation is based on the irregular parts.
8.) Write out words lots: write a list and fill in each line.
9.) Write lists and stick them on e.g. washbasin mirror / loo door / fridge where you have to look at them mindlessly.
10.) Put words on slips of paper and pull them out of a hat / cup to test yourself in random orders.
11.) Write lists in alphabetical order / unit order / part of speech order, so that you don’t only learn the words in order (and can then only remember them in that order!).
12.) Try to memorise the page as a picture (take a mental photograph), and then you can read off the meaning from the picture in your head.
13.) Try to focus on half a dozen a day so that it is a cumulative effort.
14.) Write lists of the words you don’t know, and as you learn them, write increasingly smaller lists. A sense of achievement is important! Once you’ve used them for a while, write out new lists of the words you still don’t know so that a.) you see them in a new configuration and are not just remembering them in context and b.) you can focus on the words you need to learn.
15.) Sometimes just stare at a page for five minutes. BUT NOT LONGER – IT’S NOT REALLY PRODUCTIVE.
16.) Write out paradigms with the stem / ending in different colours to help you see the pattern.
17.) Work out the rules for e.g. forming imperfects / changing adjectives to adverbs and try to learn them as rules / equations. These can be condensed to one line notes on cards / slips of paper etc.
18.) Try not to learn vocab with distractions on in the background, or you may find that you can only remember the word when prompted by the same stimulus.
19.) Where possible, put words on post-it notes and attach these to items that have something to do with the word.
20.) Record yourself reciting vocab lists and paradigms. Just doing this makes you focus. Listening back to it can help.
21.) Try learning words in groups of associated words, e.g. family terms together, so that you can see the relationships and patterns between them.
22.) Associated with pictures. For concrete nouns and action verbs this is easy, but can you make more interesting pictures too?
23.) Create a story to go with a word.
24.) Create a mnemonic to explain a word, e.g. γαρ (gar, meaning ‘for, because’) might be ‘give a reason’.
25.) Play a game like ‘matching pairs’, using word + translated meaning or word + picture as the two different cards / numbers on a list.
26.) Learn an example of the word in use so that it doesn’t feel decontextualised.
27.) Make up a song about a word, or appropriate a well-known song and change the words to be about the language (e.g. ‘a spoonful of sigma helps the future tense go down’).
28.) Take a really long word and see how many other words you can make out of it.
29.) Take two words of the same length and see if you can get from one to another by changing just one letter each time.
30.) Use an online wordsearch generator to create wordsearches of the words you need to learn, then solve the puzzles. You could swap these with your friends. This works for English characters (try transliterating Greek words): http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/WordSearchSetupForm.asp?campaign=flyout_teachers_puzzle_wordcross (Links to an external site.)
31.) Try playing something like Boggle / Wordz / Scrabble / Upwords in the target language. For some languages the letters need very little change. For others you might need stickers to change letter shapes / frequencies.
32.) Ask someone (or use an online generator) to make anagrams out of words. Solve them.
33.) For any word you are given, try to give another word starting with its last letter, and define / translate it.
34.) Think like Sherlock Holmes. He uses the mind palace technique to remember vocab. See if you can take a picture of a house, and put two or three words in each room. Do an imaginative exercise walking through the house and creating a picture in your head from each of those three words.
35.) Take a set of words you’re struggling with. Create a story which incorporates each of these words and helps you to remember them. Maybe create characters whose names incorporate the words and have something to do with how they speak / act / think / look etc.
36.) Link words according to their lexical fields, so that you understand groups of e.g. colours, family terms, animals.
37.) Write a dictionary entry for a word. What meanings are you giving? Why? What morphological information are you giving? Why? What examples are you using? Why? You might want to bring together 2-3 different existing dictionary entries and compare the different elements.