As I moved away from making and giving vocabulary lists, I had to focus on the function vocabulary instead of the seemingly endless detail vocabulary. Here’s how I looked at the unit goals to decide what vocabulary they really needed to accomplish those goals during the lesson plans.

First I’ll start with a traditional level 1 unit (novice high target) that I taught at JCPS that looks like a lot of other curricula. I went through the unit overview and underlined words that helped me to identify what the important function vocabulary should be.

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Here’s a list of the function vocabulary that was crucial to completing the goals at Novice High. These are the words that I focus on during the lessons and the words I hope to see them use during assessments. I also feel like these are words that give them a lot of power because they can be used for other topics too.

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This is where some generic adaptable activities come in very helpful (and a time-saver) for lesson planning.

Expressing opinions: Four Corners, Opinion CardsOpinion Starters

Asking/Answering questions: Ask, Ask, Switch, Fast Seats

Describe (5 W’s): 30 SecondsHighlight AwayGraphic Organizer

Comparing: Compare Culture

Narrating: Adobe Voice

Reaction phrases (like “Me too!”): Phrase of the Week

Reviews: Recipe Card Notes, Categorized Notes (pics below)

Recipe for a review

This was for an ESL class, so put in your TL.

Music review

Categorized notes to write a music review

The detail vocabulary is ENDLESS! Especially when the unit is focused on the students’ lives. There are so many ways they could answer “I like”… video games, parkour, football, mudding, rodeo, sewing, watching TV, eating and on and on this list could go. There are some detail words that I can predict that they will need, but again, this list is impossible to include everything.

detail vocab

To find an authentic resource that includes all the needed focus and detail vocabulary is next to impossible. This is where we found it helpful to refocus the unit. We like to lead with a related culture topic to cover the interpretive goals. So this “I like” unit can be refocused on topics like Hispanic Athletes or Cultural Games. They still get the crucial function vocabulary plus learn about the culture. It becomes so easy to find related authentic resources too.

Hispanic Board Games Unit

Then they can research their own related interests in the target language to get the detail vocabulary they need to accomplish the presentational goals. Show them how to do The Search so they can find what they need.

Please share your tips for focusing on the function vocabulary and leaving the list!