I no longer teach traditional “thematic units” (ex: places around town, food & dining, etc.): instead, I plan my units around high frequency vocabulary and pull in other vocabulary as it naturally comes up. My students have had great success with this instructional focus, and there are a few tricks that I’ve incorporated to make sure that we still cover important, non-frequency vocabulary. One of my favorite way to do this is by covering my walls with posters that contain vocabulary that I want my students to use and learn. The operative word in that sentence is “USE”, because any poster that stays on my wall needs to be USED so that it doesn’t become white noise. Click here to view and download some of the posters that I have in my classroom (they are provided in French and Spanish).
The posters that I’m sharing today are location posters: common places that students talk about in normal conversation. This list includes places like school, store, restaurant, college, house, church, library, mall, and park. Because they are important locations in my students’ lives, I refer to them constantly as they appear in personalized class discussion, and students use them in their writing and when they make suggestions for class stories. I believe I saw this idea about five years ago on Ben Slavic’s blog, but I might have learned it from Bryce Hedstrom. Can’t really remember at this point. Either way, it came from greatness 🙂
To create these posters, I wrote the Spanish vocabulary term on a piece of construction paper (12″x20″), divided them up between each of my classes (I think I had 10 locations, so 2 per class, since I had five classes), and then asked for student volunteers to illustrate them (I wrote English translations on the back to make sure that students drew the correct location). I had at least two very artistic students in each class that were quite happy to have the opportunity to display their artwork. They took them home and brought back the completed illustration within a week. I laminated them, and they became a classroom fixture for the remainder of that school year. Check these out:
This poster, for “house” is fairly obvious, but some students might interpret it as “garage” or even “driveway”. For this reason, I think that it is important to still tack up a translation of the term on or near the poster until students are sure of the meaning: we want to eliminate ambiguity whenever we have the opportunity!
Because of this poster and the amount that we used it in class conversation, my students had already acquired it by the time that we reached our Biblioburro unit.
This last one (la universidad) cracks me up, because the student that made it was Samoan with family living in Hawaii, and she was less concerned about communicating the meaning of the word than she was about personalizing the poster. Also, I love that she wrote “…etc.” on the poster. I used it anyway because many of my students had family members and/or friends that had attended BYU, so they were familiar with that acronym, and “la universidad” is a cognate. If it weren’t for these two things, I would have asked her to re-do the illustration not because it wasn’t awesome, but because it doesn’t effectively communicate the meaning of the word.
Depending on how regularly you refer to these posters, you may only need to keep them up for a quarter or a semester, and then you can take them down and put up new word posters in their place. Never keep a poster on your wall that students don’t use!