Last year, I printed dictionary pages for my students’ binders so that they had an organized way to keep track of the target structures that we learn. These were really simple– a column for Spanish words and a column for the English meaning, nothing more. Students took notes on the pages at the start of each unit, when I Introduced new Core Vocabulary.
I know that they could do this on any piece of lined paper, but there’s something about having a form to fill in that keeps things organized and…I don’t know. I just like it. It seems more official and I daydream that it will inspire my students to take better care of it… wishful thinking, I know.
A Dual Language Picto-Dictionary
This year, I reworked my dictionary page in order to give students an opportunity to process the meaning of each of our new Core Vocabulary terms and perhaps to even create connections with it.
In addition to spaces to write down the Spanish term and its meaning in English, I included two additional fields:
- A ‘contextualization’ box, in which students will write an example of the Core Vocabulary term used in a sentence
- An ‘illustration’ box, in which students can illustrate the contextualized sentence or the meaning of the word.
The boxes on the form are unlabeled, so really a teacher could use them for anything.
How many Dictionary Pages?
I distribute front-to-back photocopies of the pages to my students as needed. A two-sided copy, therefore, has spaces for sixteen words. As we work through the SOMOS Curriculum, we end up using about three copies per semester (three sides per quarter, since I hit about 25 new Core Vocabulary in 10 weeks)! Not too bad from the photocopying standpoint.
I still give old dictionary pages (Spanish/English only) to my students that want them so that they have a place to keep track of bonus words that pop up during class but aren’t ‘Core Vocabulary’ for the unit, but those are on-request only.
DICTIONARY PAGE FAQs
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS DICTIONARY?
In my classes, we focus on 3-4 Core Vocabulary structures, or ‘guide words’, in each unit. A typical unit length is one week. Core Vocabulary structures are words or phrases that will appear in almost every activity that we do during the unit, and students typically are exposed to them many, many times in each lesson. A lesson could be a reading and discussion, a TPRS® storyasking session, a MovieTalk, or a game.
We know that language is acquired by hearing or reading and understanding, and we know that we are able to use words and patterns correctly only after hearing or reading and understanding them many, many times. So that my administrators, my students, and their parents know what students will be expected to know and assessed on, I have students keep track of the Core Vocabulary on this dictionary page. It stays in the front of their notebooks, and they add 3-4 new structures to it at the beginning of each unit. These are the words that will most likely be used in the components of students’ assessments. By the end of the year, they have a dictionary that is quite a few pages long.
WHAT WORDS DO YOU ADD TO THE DICTIONARY?
My students will hear lots of words each week–even quite a few new-to-them words–but I only use some of those words when I am writing the various components for their assessments (reading passages, listening passages, writing prompts, etc.). For that reason, I only allow students to add Core Vocabulary structures to the dictionary. If they want to keep a record of other new words that they are exposed to (but that will not be used without glossing in assessments), they need to find a different place to write them down.
I keep a master copy of the Dictionary Page for each class, and students can copy my master copy if they ever lose theirs.
WHAT DO YOU PUT ON THE DICTIONARY?
I copy the pages front-to-back so that one sheet of paper fits 16 structures.
The students write the Core Vocabulary structure (which could be a single word or could be a phrase) on the line “Español” in Spanish. They write the English translation on the “Inglés” line.
In the left-hand box, students record a simple sentence in Spanish that includes the target structure. I always give students a very simple sentence that they can use, or they are allowed to write their own.
In the right-hand box, students illustrate the structure.
However, you can use the boxes for anything that suits your goals and purposes, so I did not label them.