2 Ways Whiteboards Will Help You Improve Vocabulary Retention in Your Language Classroom

2017-01-17

Whether you teach English as a second language, modern foreign languages like French and Spanish or even an ancient language like Latin, one of the biggest difficulties you'll face is getting your students to remember the vocabulary.

Words are the building blocks that all languages are built upon; no matter how well you teach elements like sentence structure and conjugation, your students won't get anywhere without the core vocabulary. Linguist and language teacher David Wilkins summed this up succinctly when he said, "While without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed".

While some students learn well by reading, listening and repeating, many more need a bigger push to solidify these words in their memory. One of the best tools for helping these students are whiteboards, both individual and wall-mounted. Here are two ways you can use these great classroom aides to improve your students' vocabulary retention.

Use Wall-Mounted Whiteboards to List Vocabulary

Large whiteboards are most useful when they're organised. Have you ever found yourself with a mess of words and sentences all over the board? Neither you nor your students will be able to work effectively with a board that isn't methodically structured. To improve your language lessons, try using vertical and horizontal lines to divide your board into different sections.

One of the ways you can use board division to help with vocabulary is by dedicating a section to a 'words of the day' list. As you progress through the lesson and introduce vocabulary, write the new words you come across in the vocabulary list. Having the list handy for all students to view throughout the lesson will ensure that no one falls behind by forgetting important words, and it gives students plenty of time to copy down terms they feel they'll forget. 

Use Individual Whiteboards for Formative Assessment

Formative assessments are essential in keeping everyone in your language classroom up to speed. Since a foreign language can be one of the most unfamiliar subjects students will study, it's all-too-easy for them to fall behind without you noticing.

Many methods of formative assessment (including ungraded essays and one-on-one chats) are too time-consuming to use on a regular basis. Instead of dedicating too much time to checking vocabulary knowledge or ignoring formative assessments altogether, why not turn to individual whiteboards?

Also known as personal whiteboards, mini whiteboards and lapboards, individual whiteboards are one of the easiest and quickest ways to check whether all your students are up to speed on vocabulary. At the beginning of the lesson, hand out an individual whiteboard to each student. Then, simply give them a quick quiz on vocabulary.

You can ask the whole class questions such as, "How do we say this in our target language?" or "What is the meaning of this foreign word?" All you have to do is give them a few moments to write down their answers on the boards. Then ask everyone to hold their boards up for you to see.

Once everyone reveals their answers, quickly scan the whole class and see who knows their stuff and who needs more help. Jot down the names of struggling students, or use the class roster as a tick list. Then visit those students during the lesson to help them get back on track.

These ideas are just a few of the ways you can make use of whiteboards in your language class, but the possibilities are endless. From word games to vocabulary presentations, you can find infinite uses for big and small whiteboards. If you want to ensure your boards last as long as possible for repeated educational use, opt for high-quality products from Vista Visuals Australia.