*Original post published in 2012; see 2017 update with answers to FAQs at the end of this post!
Last year, I printed dictionary pages for my students’ binders so that they had an organized way to keep track of the target structures that we learn. I know that they could do this on any piece of lined paper, but there’s something about having a form to fill in that keeps things organized and…I don’t know. I just like it. It seems more official and I daydream that it will inspire my students to take better care of it…wishful thinking, I know.
I redid the dictionary page for this year so that students can write down better notes about the new structures. Instead of English and Spanish spaces alone, I included two boxes that I plan to use for (1) using the word in a sentence and (2) drawing a sketch. You could use them for anything, really, so I didn’t label them. Students will receive front-to-back photocopies as needed, and one copy had spaces for sixteen words–so we will end up using about three copies per semester (three sides per quarter, since I aim for 25 new target structures in 10 weeks)! Not too bad from the copying standpoint. I’ll still give kids my old dictionary pages so that they can keep track of bonus words that pop up during class but aren’t targeted, but I am optimistic about the more detailed notes for our target structures. You can download the new document here.
2017 UPDATE: FAQs
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS DICTIONARY?
In my classes, we focus on 3-4 “target structures” (also called ‘guide words’) in each unit. A typical unit length is one week. Target structures are words that will appear in almost every activity that we do during the unit, and I aim to use them many, many times in each lesson. A lesson could be a reading and discussion, a TPRS® storyasking session, a MovieTalk, or a game. We know that language is acquired by hearing or reading and understanding, and we know that we are able to use words and patterns correctly only after hearing or reading and understanding them many, many times. So that my administrators, my students, and their parents know what students will be expected to know and assessed on, I have students keep track of the target structures on this dictionary page. It stays in the front of their notebooks, and they add 3-4 new structures to it at the beginning of each unit. By the end of the year, they have a dictionary that is quite a few pages long.
WHAT WORDS DO YOU ADD TO THE DICTIONARY?
My students will hear lots of words each week–even quite a few new-to-them words–but they will only be held accountable for being able to understand and produce 3-4 by the end of the unit. For that reason, I only allow students to add target structures to the dictionary. If they want to keep a record of other new words that they learn (but will not be held accountable for knowing), they need to find a different place to write them down. I keep a master copy for each class, and students can copy my master copy if they ever lose theirs.
WHAT DO YOU PUT ON THE DICTIONARY?
I copy the pages front-to-back so that one sheet of paper fits 16 structures.
The students write the target structure (which could be a single word or could be a phrase) on the line “Español” in Spanish. They write the English translation on the “Inglés” line.
In the left-hand box, students record a simple sentence in Spanish that includes the target structure. I always give students a very simple sentence that they can use, or they are allowed to write their own.
In the right-hand box, students illustrate the structure.
However, you can use the boxes for anything that suits your goals and purposes, so I did not label them.