Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Unit Vocabulary List: Focusing on the Essential

I'm deep into planning the 2017-18 year and sat down to excitedly write a new unit on Global Citizenship for my 8th graders--something I've wanted to do the last couple of years. But, when I looked at the language functions/vocabulary section on the unit plan, I was a little stumped. It looked so sparse.

I went back and looked over all of the authentic resources and language tasks for the unit to again mine them for the essential vocabulary/chunks.  Essential vocabulary/chunks.  Essential.

I  worried that my unit was so light on the student vocabulary list, but again came back to that word: essential.  Really, what the students need for the new unit, and most of the other units I use, are those high frequency words and language of their choosing.  The students know what they need and want to say, and that's not the same for each of them.  And it works. Over the last two years, I've heard students using language in class I know I didn't have on any list, and phrases for which we never had a lesson. It was language they heard in several contexts and was needed and interesting for negotiating meaning.

Even knowing this,  I'm still sometimes filled with doubt when I don't have that long vocabulary and infinitive verb list I was so used to using in the past, and that I received as a student myself. I guess old habits and instincts take time to go away--but here we go. I'm starting the year trusting what works and trusting the students in their own learning.

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