As I’ve learned more about teaching English in a Spanish-speaking community, I’ve realized how important explicit vocabulary teaching is. It’s important in all contexts, obviously, but being in an environment where my students have very few outside opportunities to practice English makes it especially apparent.
One of my favorite strategies that I’ve used quite a bit here is called List – Group – Label, from Janet Allen’s Inside Words. Students generate or receive a list of vocabulary words related to a certain topic, such as adjectives. They work in pairs or small groups to sort the words into logical groupings and then create labels for the groups.
As you can see in this example, students in different groups come up with different ways to categorize the same group of words. This provides great substance for discussion about reasoning and word meanings. I like this activity because it requires students to think carefully about what words actually mean, and about the relationships between them. It also requires some higher-order thinking skills, as students group words and justify their logic. My students really enjoy it as well, since it’s interactive and engaging.