Some textbooks provide the students with just a few vocabulary words so the students can practice the grammar point of the unit. For example, the textbook presents the verb “to be” and then provides five places the students can be. However, the students usually want to say a real place that they can be, not the ones that the textbook has selected for them. A textbook needs to offer students many vocabulary words so that the students can select those words that have meaning for them, that help the students to express what they want to say about the topic. When students engage in meaningful communication, they use words that are important to them.
Students can have active vocabulary, i.e. words that can use to communicate about themselves, family or friends and passive vocabulary, i.e. words that they can recognize when heard or read. I usually present my students with long lists of vocabulary for a topic and ask them to recognize all the words in the list but to be able to actively use at least six of the words to describe themselves, family or friends. For example, when I present personal adjectives, they have a long list. I quickly pronounce the words and have them pronounce the words. Then, the students scan the list to find words that actually do describe themselves, their father/mother, brother/sister or a close friend. They “study” those words. They prepare to describe themselves, family and friends. As they listen to other students describe themselves, family or friends, they passively hear many other adjectives.
Students can learn a handful of words that accurately describe themselves, family and friends. On the other hand, when teachers give students a list of thirty or more words for a topic and require the students to actively learn all the words, students often do poorly. Such a long list is not productive nor meaningful to the students.
Do you supply your students with sufficient vocabulary that they can communicate what they want to about the topic, not what the textbook wants them to talk about?
At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.
My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at http://bit.ly/tsmash. It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.
At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity. My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities, http://bit.ly/tsmash