Friday, February 26, 2016

Developing personal, self-selected vocabulary

 In my 4th-6th grade classes, I emphasize developing a personal vocabulary list during the course of a unit.  It doesn't take long for the children to see why this is important-what they want to say isn't the same as what I, the teacher, want them to say.  

We start the unit with a basic list of vocabulary and language chunks-or conjugated verb phrases, that the children need for the unit can-dos. This list, with a unit description and self-assessment are pasted into their class notebooks. Next to this are 1-2 blank pages for their own vocabulary list.  This list is developed over the course of the unit, based on the authentic videos, texts and recordings we use and of course, language collected through ¿Cómo se dice?  Generally, the children also investigate new vocab/language chunks through the course of in-class interpersonal and presentational writing tasks, too. What I notice, is that when the children want to and need to use language, they add it to the list and start using it regularly. 

Some of the children overshoot it a bit and want to write every word they hear, some add very little, but most do develop their own self-selected list of language that they start using, which extends past the unit of study. 

Here's one on day one of a new unit:

At the end of 3 months(my students meet 3x on a good week):
I noticed that during the unit on ¿Qué come el mundo?, one of my students added the work alérgica, allergic, because it's personal and pertinent to her when we go out to eat at a local Mexican restaurant.

So, how do I assess this?  Let me preface this by saying that 4th-6th grades in my school do not receive grades-so I can assess progress without grade assignments.  One way I look at new language use is through rubrics for performance on tasks. Below is my general class rubric that covers most tasks. As I see about 200 children, ranging from ages 7-14, having a general rubric on hand is helpful.  I include going beyond the task-the children know that this means, asking questions, including additional relevant information and new vocabulary/language.  On specific tasks, I use more involved rubrics for each mode I'm assessing, but for class work, or quick activities, I find this one works. 

My errors in grammar, word order, pronunciation and word choice rarely prevent communication.
My errors in grammar, word order, pronunciation and word choice sometimes prevent communication.
My errors in grammar, word order,pronunciation and word choice prevent communication.

Task Completion
I completed more than I was asked to do: using new/personal vocabulary, new/personal phrases.
I completed everything I was asked to do.
I completed most everything I was asked to do.
I completed little of what I was asked to do.

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