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Making meaningless words come to life


Some foreign language teachers typically like to make sure kids learn sets of vocabulary, for example, school supplies such as ruler, pencil….or fruits such as apple, pear, banana etc.  On the other hand, you have teachers like me who use CI (Comprehensible Input) and storytelling in our classes who don’t teach vocabulary in the same way.  Why? Well, there are many reasons, but from my own experience in the classroom I can tell you that sets of vocabulary simply don’t fit well with storytelling.  For instance, my students have acquired an impressive amount of high frequency structures, such as conjugated verbs and common expressions through CI and storytelling but were not so strong on simple vocabulary like silverware, parts of the house, furniture, and even vegetables etc.   

I’ve always recognized the importance of these lists of words and I knew that if I could find a way to introduce as many as possible into my stories my kids would acquire them fairly quickly.  So… I came up with an idea.  Instead of teaching sets of vocabulary, or simply introducing a lifeless pencil into a story, I used these words as characters for my stories. So far this strategy has worked like magic for me.  For example: “Yes, the pencil kicks the ball and the ball breaks the window. The little hairy nose is not happy and screams: “You broke my window”. I use lots of images,  draw on the board (like crazy), use props and I recently decided to create many paper fingunnamed-1 2.44.29 AMer puppets for grades 1st – 5th (but I’ve also used them all the way up to 8th grade).  This has been so easy and wonderful that I plan to continue making more. Yes, make lifeless words come to life.  “Profe. hay una oreja bailando en mi pupitre”.  Give animals and “things” human abilities. Students absolutely love this and I’m in love with it too.


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