My student are not retaining vocabulary this year. If they hope to become competent Spanish speakers, they will need to spend time outside of class working on it. Our 55 minute class will not be enough for them to internalize the material, and allow them to develop fluency. If each student would spend 12 minutes a night reviewing and studying vocabulary, I would see a huge improvement. The problem is that most don’t. What most of my students do is spend 15-20 minutes the day before the quiz cramming 30-40 vocabulary words into their short term memory. This is enough for them to do OK on that quiz, but a few weeks later, they have forgotten many of the words they crammed.
The text I use in class does a nice job of recycling material, and this is how I know they don’t retain what they worked on three weeks or three months ago. Kids will look up a word on WordReference.com that we used in the previous lesson. Our text uses the vocabulary in context, and the material that they learn is useful for daily communication. I also ask my students to use Spanish to express themselves in a personal and meaningful way on a regular basis through project based assessments. However, it is still not enough for them to retain the material.
I keep thinking of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. In his book Outliers, Gladwell tells us that one indicator of success is practice, and 10,000 hours of practice leads to mastery of just about any skill. This is very applicable in a foreign language class. Anyone can become proficient in a language if enough time is spent immersed in it. If my students would spend 12 minutes a day, five days a week that would be another whole hour towards fluency.
I want to brainstorm ways that will promote this extra hour a week outside of class with vocabulary practice. I want my students to be able to select the manner in which they study the vocabulary, and I also want to see tangible evidence of the studying. If you have some activities or ideas that have worked for you, I would love to hear about them.