Stretch their vocab!

Posted by Megan Smith on April 10, 2013 in Family, Reading, Sub Plans, Vocabulary Building

Cómico. Interesante. Loco.

Those are the words my students always use to describe themselves… and their friends…and their school…and the video clips I show them. Ha! It can be hard to encourage some students to expand their vocabulary. If they know a few cognates for each unit topic they can still answer questions/give basic info. I mean, technically, what if everyone they know is funny, interesting, and crazy?!?

For the family unit I experimented a little to see if could get students to break out of their comfort zone and use new descriptions. Now, I’ll usually set aside some time to let student find their own vocab for the topic. Do they look up the wrong words in a dictionary and mistranslate sometimes? Yes, but deciding what words they need and searching for them is part of the learning itself. It’s good for them!

Anyways, back to my experiment. I was out sick for a day about a week or so before spring break. My students were learning how to describe their family. They knew adjectives, but really only words that describe themselves. I used WORDLE (for the first time) and created a jumbled mess of adjectives and left these instructions.



It was a simple sub plan, but I could tell students learned something new that day. Their end of unit assessments talked about “loud” and “strict” and “relaxed” family members. (I still saw “crazy” but there was more detail along with it.) They don’t always have the motivation to look up a ton of new words, and if that is the case with some of your students… Try a WORDLE. It’s a great way to get less motivated students learning. Give them a few simple tasks to get them thinking and they will pick up what they can handle.

A bunch of verbs: Circle 5 you love to do. Highlight 3 you do when you’re sick. Box 5 your mom always tells you to do.

Foods: Circle 5 foods you should eat but don’t. Highlight 5 foods you have eaten this week. Box 3 foods you eat for special occasions.

Months and holidays: circle months that you and family members have bdays. Box the months we don’t have school. Highlight your 3 favorite holidays.

If you’ve used WORDLE in another way – please share with us! I’d love to hear it.
( I know I could use more individual activities that require less writing! )

28 comments for “Stretch their vocab!”

  1. ahhhpoetry says:

    Me gusta!! I had heard about wordle but had forgotten the name of it, and you have now brought it back to light…gracias. I’m in the pret vs imp stage with my 2’s and I’m thinking making a wordle with preterite and imperfect verbs and have them identify with different colors would be a good idea too. Gracias!

    1. Nicole says:

      To extend this you can not only have them highlight the verbs but also include key phrases that are used with the pret & the imperfect such as ayer, todos los días, anoche, etc.

      1. Natalie says:

        Brilliant! Thanks for the idea!

  2. Logan says:

    Thank you so much, as always, for your great ideas! This time of year especially, my creative juices are running low. I have always liked the idea of Wordle, but wasn’t sure how to apply it to the WL classroom.

  3. Jeanne says:

    I use wordle for song lyrics when I’m looking for them to identify certain words. For example in a recent song (Beyonce’s si yo fuera un chico) I had them circle all the conditional they heard. (Obviously I include some that aren’t in the song.) I guess I pretty much use wordle any time I do a first listening comprehension exercise with new vocabulary.They love it, I only wish my copy budget ran to color copies so I could make the wordles look even prettier.

  4. Jeanne says:

    Oh another one, for furniture I have them circle what goes in a bedroom, underline what goes in a kitchen, and so on. They love it when I have them sort vocabulary that way instead of in the traditional labeled boxes where they have to categorize. I’ve also used it for clothing to wear in the winter, spring, summer and fall. I do all these as preliminary exercises, because otherwise they won’t learn to spell :). I cycle vocabulary year long this way too as quick warm up exercises.

    1. spanishplans says:

      Great ideas. Never thought of that!

  5. Amanda says:

    I love Wordle! I haven’t used it in a while. Thank you for the new ideas. I have used it in the past for helping understand word order in sentences…especially when doing reflexives or object pronouns. I usually project a scrambled sentence and have students unscramble it in a way that makes sense. I have also printed them and had them unscramble several sentences in small groups.

    1. Susan says:

      Hi Amanda, How did you use Wordle for reflexives?

      1. Susan says:

        … I see the part on scrambled sentences, is that the only way you used it? I was trying to think of something with conjugations. thanks!

  6. Melissa says:

    I used Wordle in a Spanish III pre-AP class as part of a literature discussion. I created a Wordle with words that related to what we read – many of which were new to them and given as vocab to go along with the story. I went around the room and they had to take turns choosing a word from the Wordle to talk about what happened in the story. Lots of great discussion and participation! Much more fun that simple reading comprehension questions, too.

  7. Elena Boshier says:

    At a recent Web 2.0 training, I learned how to use Tagxedo, which is similar to Wordle but interactive. Once you creat your “word cloud” you can hover over the words and these stand out. I have used Tagxedo to introduce new vocabulary with my 6th graders.

    1. Megan says:

      Love tagxedo! It’s even better than Wordle!
      Problem – how do I put my own words in? I’m embarrassed to say I can’t figure it out!

      1. Beth says:

        LOVE this idea, and is often the case, now I am off to rewrite part of my plans for tomorrow. I have used Tagxedo, but have often had a hard time getting it to work on Safari. Perhaps that would make a difference?

        It does seem to work in IE and Chrome. Here’s how I got it to work: on, click on “start now”. Then click on the “create” tab, then “load” on the left side of the screen. From there you can import a chunk of text from a file or site, or type in text of your own. From there it’s just a matter of choosing shapes, fonts, colors, etc. Save/print and you’re done!

  8. Crystal says:

    I saw the stamp sheet directions…do you have an entry about stamp sheets?
    Or may I request info from people who use a stamp sheet or other system for students who finish early?

      1. Crystal says:


  9. Brooke says:

    Hi there! Silly question (and maybe I’m reading too much into it): if you’re selecting for a madre and you have simpático, how do you reinforce the adjective ending? do you just remind them, or do you not mention it at all? I LOVE the activity!! I was just thinking about that as I was trying it myself a few minutes ago 🙂

    1. Megan says:

      I didn’t in this particular wordle, and some students changed the o’s to a’s on their own! I would probably just bring it up as they start to speak or write with the descriptions. I wanted this activity to be about figuring out new words – but if yours know endings are different you could put a variety of descriptions (loca, comico) and remind them before. (I personally just want hesitant students to feel successful – not like I’m trying to trick them!)
      Here we go! 2 versions – one basic and one “challenge” and see who wants the challenge and see if they can correctly choose adjectives with the right endings on their own!

      Thanks for making me think that through! 🙂

  10. Christina says:

    When students are searching for new words, do they often ask you how to say every word in the TL? What if its an obscure word you don’t know? I hate being used as a human dictionary! Any tips?

  11. I’ve used wordle for cognates and for an all about me review 🙂

  12. I use Wordle too, in many of the ways you shared here and with highlighter races. Did you know if you put a tilde between words they will stay together in the Wordle? For example me~gusta and me~llamo. I was so excited when I learned that

  13. Megan Green says:

    Love this so much. I just made a wordle for my Spanish I students to use as a sorting tool. Then I made a wordle for Sp II with personality characteristics and things kids do. Sp II is going to use it to create a Cuando era niño paragraph. Love it!!!

  14. Sarah says:

    For Family Vocabulary – Box family members you like, Circle family members you don’t see often, Highlight family members you dislike.

    This is a GREAT idea! I’ve only used Wordles to introduce literature and make the students guess what the story will be about.

  15. Pam says:

    Wordle, what a great idea! I teach middle school (240 students) and copies are at a premium. I’m thinking I could create a Wordle, put it in a Power Point, allow students to discuss/share with each other then have a few share out circling with color on the whiteboard. The possibilities are endless. Thank you for the inspiration.

  16. Lolita says:

    I continually return to your site looking for new and novel ways to engage my students. I have used wordle on the overhead for flyswatter but hated the fact only two at a time were engaged. I started printing different wordle versions on paper, put the sheet in a plastic cover, used dry erase markers that if they circled incorrectly they would lose the point but it could be corrected easily and put back in play. I started using tagxedo. After practice, I with ser and adjectives. I gave them a sheet with positive qualities listed (about 25). They had to list 5 from the learned vocab and complete the list with 7 new adjectives that were specific to them. Tagxedo is cool because they could choose an image, type in the words and it would fill the image. I made them write “I am (first and last name)” as part of the text. It’s really easy, they learned new words to describe themselves and created a neat product. I uploaded an image of Carlos Gardel, filled it with words specific to him and Argentina (my husband in Argentine) as an example. Lots of choices, plus, it can be saved and reused (you can even have things like tshirts etc. made with the image you create). I love your page, Blogs, pinterest and social media has really removed the information exchange barrier to those of us who live in rural areas. Thank you!!

    1. Kara Parker says:

      Great ideas Lolita! I would love to quote the idea of using a wordle for the flyswatter game in an upcoming post. I want to use the image idea too. Students could use this during independent learning time.

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