Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vocabulary Acquisition and Flashcards, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed how flashcards are not the best way for students to acquire vocabulary, but that instead vocabulary must be presented in a meaningful and contextual way with lots of repetitions in order for acquisition to take place.

The reality though was that a number of my students really wanted me to do flashcard review with them, saying, "Our teacher last year opened every day with vocabulary flashcards (Latin to English), and that really helped." So I found myself in a quandary: was I not giving my students enough repetitions of vocabulary in understandable messages, hence, they did not feel like they had acquired anything? or was I dealing with a bunch of visual 4%ers who wanted something which felt comfortable?

So I embarked on the following "flashcard" experiment. Whether or not this is a CI activity, I do not know, so I would love to hear some feedback.

I always begin a new chapter with a dictatio (NOTE - at my school, I teach with two other Latin teachers who do not use CI, and they stick to the book and how structures/vocabulary are presented and in what order. Basically, I am bound to follow that much since my school is BIG on uniformity of a pacing calendar, but how I teach those concepts is completely up to me). On the next day, as a "bellringer," I project a vocabulary "flashcard" powerpoint with sentences from the dictatio and a visual representation of the word - new vocabulary words are underlined. Because of the dictatio and having translated them the prior day in order to establish meaning, most students are familiar enough with the sentences and know what the word already means. I read the sentence in Latin, and now ask for the meaning of the individual word in English. I do this for 3 days or so. An example below:

I can also circle questions based on the sentence in order to get in some repetitions in a context and for students to interact with the new vocabulary.

Then for the next few days, I transition to something different. I still continue to use the same visual representation as on the earlier "flashcards" but now the sentence is gone and has been replaced by an "either...or" sentence involving vocabulary - it is actually a variation of circling; I now read aloud the new sentence in Latin and ask students which Latin word it is. I do this for the next 3-4 days. An example below:

For the last 3 days or so, now all I do is project the visual representation of the word without any text. It is the same picture which has been used every day, so it is very familiar for students. Now I ask students to give me the Latin word itself. By the end, there are now about 12-14 "flashcards". An example below.

1) As this is only done as a "bellringer" class opener, it does not serve as my primary way for students to acquire new vocabulary. It takes up only about 3-4 minutes of classtime.
2) Students who asked for "flashcard review" of words are satisfied with this.
3) Associating the vocabulary with a visual really helped "cement" the word for my visual learners, as they saw now a picture in their minds, instead of a written word.
4) It served as another way to acquire vocabulary through repetitions in a somewhat meaningful way

So far, it seems to be working, but I would love some feedback on this.


  1. I'm getting a lot of really great ideas following you blog. I love this adjustment to vocabulary slides. Also, I appreciate how accessible you make all of this for people who haven't really immersed themselves in CI.

  2. I'm glad that you are getting something out of this blog. To be honest, I am still learning how to incorporate CI in my classes, but gosh, coming from a grammar-translation background and having taught the reading method for years, I am amazed at what I am seeing.

  3. Flashcards has been in practice since immemorial times, but Storytelling is one of the methods adopted by teachers from immemorial times. This method is effective in learning vocabulary words. But there are many other fun filled strategies of learning vocabulary. Unlock the strategies by visiting for an amazing learning experience.