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Research shows that students who have an interest in a subject tend to retain more knowledge about it. Why then, do we force the memorization of large vocabulary lists when students will only retain the words that are meaningful to them?
Teachers need to take the interests of the students into consideration when forming vocabulary lists. I usually have a small list of “essential vocabulary” (words that are necessary for language production) for each unit of study. I then have the students pick from a large list of “personal vocabulary” that goes along with the theme of the unit. I always tell my students that personal vocabulary should include words for things that they will use for themselves, the people around them, and the world around them. It can include verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc.
One of the first things I do each year is to have the students fill out an interest sheet so I can tailor our lessons towards the activities that they suggest. I can even mesh their ideas into the prescribed curriculums that many of us must follow. Try and put your students’ interests at the forefront of your instruction!
Daily Interpersonal Communication
The best way for students to improve their interpersonal communication is to just do it. Daily practice gives them the opportunity to try out new words, practice pronunciation, and polish their speaking skills. One of the roadblocks for students during daily interpersonal communication is limited vocabulary.
One good idea is to let each student have a resource with them wherever they are that they can use to maintain a conversation. Each of my students has his/her own “cheat sheets” in their binders to help them through these conversations. It’s also a good idea to laminate a cheat sheet of common words and phrases and fasten it to each table or desk for quick reference.