Does your curriculum require that students memorize vocabulary? Vocabulary study checks in Spanish are a great way to keep your students on track!
I realize that many districts are moving away from vocab lists, prescribed themes and grammar and the like. But I also really do believe that students need to have high frequency words in a place where they can easily access them when needed. Vocabulary study checks are a quick and easy way to make sure students are memorizing key vocabulary.
What is a Vocabulary Study Check in Spanish?
A vocab study check is a very quick check to make sure students are memorizing key words. Assuming you have a vocab list, or a group of high frequency words you want your students to learn, study checks are perfect. Here is how I run them!
- Break the list into sections. I usually choose 8-10 words per section. Tell students when each study check will be.
- Practice in class with those vocabulary words. I try to stay to a familiar theme and work in those specific words into a variety of activities that cover speaking, reading, writing and listening.
- On the day of study check #1, I pass out a long, thin sheet of lined paper. I think this was called spelling paper when I was little!
- I ask the students to number 1-8 or 1-10, I always ask a few less than I requested they be prepared for. I say the vocab words in English and they have to write them in Spanish. Sometimes I give them a choice: “You can write the word for X or the word for Y.”
- I grade them. You can decide if spelling counts, and if so, for how much. Even with an enormous student load, these take very little time to correct.
What To Do With Vocabulary Study Checks in Spanish
This is up to you! I put them in my gradebook! I make them count very little in their overall grade, but for a lot of students, knowing that they will be in the gradebook works as a motivator for them to study.
Another idea: Allow students to put in their highest score out of every 3. I usually use the same spelling paper for at least 2 or 3 study checks, so all the scores are on one paper!
You can also simply use vocabulary study checks as a formative assessment to help students understand where they are.
But What About Moving Away From Memorizing?
Yes. World Language Instruction has certainly moved away from memorizing and sometimes even away from vocab lists.
My feeling is that when you are teaching a new language in a classroom setting, you simply cannot replicate what learning a language organically is like. We don’t have the time and in most cases, the urgency and need for students isn’t there.
I feel that when students can memorize some key things, they can build a vocabulary base that will help them when it comes time to apply. I want to make it clear that memorizing isolated words for a study check is NOT the end goal. The end goal is for students to USE what they have memorized for meaningful communication. It takes a lot of time and practice to build language proficiency. But the basics are having the vocabulary to express oneself or understand what someone else is expressing.
What My Students Say About Study Checks
Most of my students report that being held accountable for study checks really helps keep them on track and reviewing regularly.
A lot of them feel proud of their scores and like to see those high grades entered in the gradebook. It seems to get forgotten that they don’t count that much!
Some students report feeling anxious about study checks. Those students are often anxious about any test-taking and/or other things. We work together on strategies to boost confidence, improve study skills and reduce anxiety.
A few students have a lot of trouble with spelling. This is where we work to differentiate for students based on what is fair and reasonable for them!
Overall, my students don’t say they love vocabulary study checks in Spanish class, but they will admit their value! Good enough for me!