The Second Question related to “The Coursebook Conundrum”: Recycling Vocabulary

Unlike the situation described in my previous post, I have unequivocally found that teaching “unplugged” in the self-contained classroom has major advantages for the special-needs learner.

In fact, in my classes I have found that the pupils whose hearing loss is just one of a myriad of problems (such as an additional handicap, problematic home life, etc.) respond to it the best.

Let’s take, for example, the “rainy day” lesson I previously posted about. This group of very weak deaf 12th graders, ages ranging from 18-20, have difficulty focusing on the  best of days. I would never have gotten them to work from the coursebook after they got wet on their way to class from an unexpected rainfall. Yet by creating together, on the whiteboard, a 5 sentence story describing one of the girl’s experiences on the way to school that morning (why she had no umbrella and how she got wet…) I had the girls’ attention. They stayed focused when we finished writing the “story”, had 3 rounds of “disappearing text” ( I erased words from the story and they came to the board to fill them back in. Each time I erased more words) and then answered WH questions which I wrote on the board.

They practiced reading comprehension skills and grammar. I was thrilled!

But there’s always a “but”.

These 12th grade girls have a TERRIBLY small vocabulary.

In our vocabulary project I have a set of 50 irregular verbs that I wanted them to master and they spent months on it. One of the four still can’t remember them all.

I supplied the vocabulary needed to complete this “Rainy Day” story (for example, “wet”, “rain”, “umbrella” and “socks”). On one hand I was completely justified in doing so because the benefits were enormous and the girls learned a lot. The story HAD to be about what was on their minds at that moment and I supplied the vocabulary needed to make it happen.

But we haven’t used these words since. And if the lessons are not related to a coursebook at all, how do I make sure these pupils are exposed to the vocabulary items “recycled” in many ways, as they are in a coursebook?

9 thoughts on “The Second Question related to “The Coursebook Conundrum”: Recycling Vocabulary”

  1. Great post, Naomi! Your job sounds very interesting and challenging, I have to say…

    Maybe to recycle vocabulary, in a class sometime down the line, you could get them to reconstruct the story from memory, getting them to collaborate to reproduce it on the board, or in groups and then sharing their ideas, and then do vocabulary games with the vocabulary too.

    I love reading about other peoples’ lessons and thinking about ideas related to them! 🙂 Gets me all excited and wondering about how I could then incorporate the ideas triggered this way into my own lessons!!


  2. Lizzie!
    Reconstructing stories is a great tool. I’m concerned that I would have to be really organized to keep track of vocabulary items used so that I could find a way to recycle them. The beauty of the story we wrote was that it WASN’T planned in advance and related to current events in the pupil’s lives. So the vocabualryw ould have to be recycled into another activity.

    Could you write a blog post on treasure hunts in coursebooks & variations?

  3. What a great lesson Naomi… sounds like a lot of fun for everyone concerned.

    Recycling is something I’m thinking a lot about at the moment as well. I’m not the most organised person in the world so recording vocab that comes up and reusing it is something I want to get better at.

    One idea that lots of teacher’s seem to use very effectively is the vocab box/poster.

    If it was incorporated into most classes it would be very natural for the girls to write their new wet weather vocab on the poster/ vocab box card. The words would then be available for whatever vocab recycling game you next played. For example Cecilia’s ideas here:

    The collection process is totally spontaneous and unplugged, the review process is more structured but you’re working with their emergent language and also showing them that what they say and do in the classroom has long term worth. If you’re using a coursebook I guess that vocab from both your unplugged moments and the coursebook would be incorporated.

    I think that’s how I’m going to approach it next year anyway. Maybe you can hold me to it ;-p However you end up doing it will be excellent I have no doubt and I look forward to hearing about it and learning from your experience! 😀

  4. Recycling
    The all important spiral to encourage vocabulary retention.
    Yes to the vocab box or the weekly words written safely on the board for easy visibility.

    Randomly assign new vocab words to students so that all the words are covered and have them deposit them in a box, bag, something that you, the teacher can hang onto.

    With that pile of words, random vocab check-ups can be done. (I hold up the word “umbrella” – someone reads it, someone translates it, and another uses it in a sentence).

    Bingo can be a great vocab reviewer. Write 20 – 25 of your “bagged words” on the board – have them fill out a bingo card of 16 squares (4 x 4). And then play. Pull out a word – read it, ask for a translation as you go. A quick review method – good for late afternoon lessons.

    And of course, there’s the writer’s block trigger. Pull out any 2-3 words and ask them to create a sentence using them all. Ridiculous is okay as long as it’s grammatical.

    Right now, I have one Gr.8 Special Ed class still going strong and only the flashcard method gets their attention. However, I’m going to Bingo them a few more times so that I can award a prize to the champion.

    There’s nothing quite like offering a certificate or a home-baked cookie with their initial to round off the year.
    And personally, I’m a little burnt out from intensive SmartBoarding all year – I’m thinking unplugged

    – Judih
    Nofei Habsor

  5. Anna and Judih!
    I’m replying to you both together as I really appreciate the time you both take to give me this very practical advice!

    If I sum up all your suggestions it sounds as if you think that one can teach “unplugged” AND make sure vocabulary is recycled, it just requires some pre- planning. The link you gave was helpful Anna, as it related to multiple classes. Since I teach “little house in the prairie” style, I have an awful lot of levels!

    Like with all things -I will experiment!

  6. Hi Naomi,
    I’m having a similar problem with a post-Proficiency level student – feel like all I ever do is introduce new words, without ever practising the old ones!
    To make it easier to remember the words you use you could take a photo of the story (or ask the SS to) before you start removing it. You could also use the photo in other ways, such as getting the students to write the story then compare it to the original from the photo.
    The vocab box idea is good. Emma Herrod wrote a blog challenge about vocab – the link is in the post I wrote in response with ideas about vocab box activities.
    You could also create a word cloud after each lesson with the new words. Every few lessons pull out the word clouds and see how many of the stories they can remember / create a new story with the words.
    Hope that helps!

  7. That photo idea is really practical now that everyone has a camera in their cell-phone (except me!). With word clouds I’ll wait till I get an Internet connection…
    Will check out that link!
    Thanks so much for your helpful comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *