Vocabulary isn’t easy for learners, and you can't do it for them. But, any help you can give them will be greatly appreciated. I decided to help my students.
The goal was simple: vocab review tailored to only include the words they didn't know from the last lessons, bringing the vocab back again and again.
My learners love it (as much as you can love homework), and I like the feeling that I'm helping my learners succeed. Now, I'd like to help you help yours.
See it in action
I'm really proud of this and want you to have a look at what this can do. Here are some worksheets I made for a fictional English course.
Two things to note: first, you can setup a group to get fewer activities per worksheet. I'm just showing off here. And, second, if you teach any of these words--or the eight thousand other words I've already taught with the system--the translations, definitions, and gapfills will already be there. (But you can change individual ones if you don't like them.)
You start a new A2 class and do the introductions thing. By the end of 90 minutes you have 12 words to review and, after you setup your header to match your other materials, you make your first worksheet. It starts off simply with only one activity.
You continue teaching. In the next lesson, you talk about hotels and some other vocab also comes up spontaneously. With your second worksheet the magic starts to happen: the vocab from the first worksheet is still there, but in another activity.
It's your third lesson. You wanted to continue the travel theme, but the conversation got derailed and you talked about how to describe people in English. When you add the vocab to the group, the third worksheet is imposing: there is picture matching, but also the vocab from the first two worksheets comes back. Don't worry: the worksheets don't get longer than this.
The fourth worksheet you make will be much like the third -- no activities are added. But there is more. A student can't make the next lesson and you send the answer key for them to check their own work.
As the class vocab list grows, you can make more activities to fit into your lessons:
I’m a teacher first, not a coder. But, when students told me they “couldn’t learn vocab” or were “too old,” I knew that my standard speech full of vocab-learning tips didn’t help, it just made me feel better by making it their problem.
I teach adults: none of them needed to figure out what worked for them during their busy week. They needed a teacher who would step up and find a way to help.
I began to make structured review activities, to have something concrete to give them to do. They were a hit. Students saw their own success and thought I was a big part of it. It felt good to be a part of their success story.
But it also ate time. Lots of time.
The programmers I taught suggested automation (they always do!). So, I looked into hiring a programmer but, when I saw the cost, I taught myself to code. (Freelance work always has some dry spells, right?)
Very quickly, it went from a time-suck to a time-saver. I had time to help my students in other ways (see my collection of stories and other worksheets), but I still think of this as my greatest teaching idea, yet.
The best thing about automation is that it doesn’t just mean that I can produce great worksheets in minutes. It means that anyone can.