Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ditch the Flashcards: 14 Other Great Ways to Reinforce Vocabulary

One of the hardest parts of teaching/learning a foreign language is the MOUNTAINS of vocabulary that must be taught/learned.  Yeah you can use flashcards, but those get old rather quickly.  Rather than resorting to the same old, same old.  Try these ideas instead:

1. Foldables
This activity has students writing out their trickiest vocabulary words.  Students who know their vocabulary only have to write it once.  Students who are struggling must rewrite the problem words more than once.

2. Diagrams
This activity has students drawing and labeling their vocabulary words in their context.  It taps into their creativity and helps them apply an image to each word.

3. Triangle Puzzles
This activity has students problem-solving with their vocabulary words.  They must put together a puzzle and the edges match if the English to French is correct.

4. Do you have what I have?
This game requires students to dip into their memory stores to come up with different vocabulary words from the unit they are working on.  By only getting points by NOT matching other people, students must think of the more obscure and lesser known words.

5. Charades
Who doesn't love good old charades?  Have students act out the different words on their vocabulary sheet.  This has students matching words to physical actions (TPR).  It definitely helps reinforce the vocabulary.

6. Tout le Monde Qui
This game is filled with running and fun.  Students put desks or chairs in a circle.  There should be one less chair/desk than there are people.  The leftover person will be in the middle and say "tout le monde qui____" (for example: tout le monde qui porte un jean).  Anyone who fits that description must move and find a new chair.

7. Tout le Monde Avec
This is a spin off of Tout le Monde Qui.  Instead of choosing things that apply to the specific students, put a ziploc bag or a sheet with different items representing vocabulary words at each space.  If the item the student in the middle calls is in your bag/on your sheet, you need to find a new seat.

8. QR Codes
Who doesn't love technology?  In using QR codes and having them either give clues to or match up to vocabulary words, you have students moving around the room and using technology to practice vocabulary.

9. Categorize
Whenever possible, do activities where you have students categorize their vocabulary words.  For example, whenever I teach a food unit, I always have them sorting vocabulary words into the food categories like vegetables, fruits, meats, etc.  You can even have them categorize by pronunciation sounds or by noun vs verb.

10. Scavenger Hunts
Have students apply vocabulary to their real life by requiring them to hunt for vocabulary words (maybe take photos or even jot down) at home or in the halls/other classrooms at school.

11. End letter/Beginning letter
Students must make a string of words by making the next word start with the last letter of the most recent word.  For example: Tondre, eplucher, ranger, raisin, nettoyer

12. Pictionary
No explanation needed! Who doesn't love making crazy drawings and trying to get people to guess the word.

13. 100,000 Pyramid
Students try to get their partner to guess the vocabulary word by giving clues to them.  Watch out! You cannot say the actual word or any part of it.

14. Word Searches
While this might not reinforce definitions, it definitely helps with spelling.

Vocabulary acquisition is crucial in learning a foreign language.  Students can be taught grammar and conjugations until they are blue in the face, but without the vocabulary, they will have a hard time forming sentences.

Feel free to comment with any more ideas you have!

                                                           (photo from

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