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Worksheet Wednesday: Taboo

For this week’s Worksheet Wednesday, I’m not sharing a worksheet. See you later, folks.

taboocardI kid, I kid. But really, there’s no worksheet. Rather, I want to talk about a fun technique I use periodically to review vocabulary. Maybe you’ve played the excellent party game Taboo, the fast-paced word guessing game. A quick primer on the rules: two teams compete to guess the most number of words from the game cards. Each round, one member of a team has 90 seconds to describe the target word at the top of a Taboo card to her team while avoiding the ‘taboo’ words on the card. If the team guesses the word, they get a point. If the current ‘it’ member passes on a card or says one of the taboo words, then the other team gets a point. All the while, a member of the other team watches the ‘it’ to make sure they don’t say one of the taboo words. Hilarity ensues.

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One of my vocabulary Taboo sheets for an intermediate class.

For my classes, I typically make a Word doc. with 9 text bordered text boxes aligned on it. In each, I’ll put the target vocabulary in a smaller box (or just underlined) at the top, then 4 forbidden taboo words under it. I’ll also include a number of fun words, like Gandalf or banana.

For struggling classes, I’ll change the rules a bit a let them use the taboo words as suggested clues. This lets the teams get more points from actually guessing the words instead of from the other team passing.

When I have large classes, I like to make 4 teams, pair 2 teams together, and give each of the 2 pairs a set of my Taboo cards. I’ll let them keep track of the time and points and float between the games, chiding them for L1 use or maybe whispering clues to a team that is falling far behind.

If you don’t feel like making your own cards, you can easily use the real game. You’ll need to weed out irrelevant cards; Taboo always has a lot of pop culture references that won’t resonate internationally.

Enjoy!

Better Vocabulary through Technology

One of the most classic, time-honored traditions in foreign language learning is the venerable flash card. They were absolutely vital to my passing high school French and college Russian; the walls of my cozy apartment in Seoul were bedecked in thousands of little index cards (you couldn’t find the standard American-sized ones there…) with a staggering array of words in written in Hangeul in the run-up to taking the standardized Korean language exam a few years back. They have done their duty many times over in my life.

Yet, when I moved to Istanbul three years ago, I wanted to find a less paper-oriented way of studying Turkish. I had tried a couple of flash card apps on my iPhone, and they were fine, I guess. And then I heard about Memrise. Memrise combines a flash-cardlike mechanic with gamification. Which is why I was intrigued by it to begin with. And lo! It was good!

There are a couple of different ways to use it. You can either set up your own word list, as I did when I was studying Turkish at Dilmer language school (you can see the word list I made here). Or you can search

abe-mem-memrise-language-german-learningfor lists that other people have already made; the one that I am currently just about to finish is a very spiffy one consisting of the corpus of the 1000 most common Turkish words, sorted into convenient levels and sections. One of the cool things you’ll encounter as you study are “Mems”. These are mostly text-image mashups that people have made to help them remember a word and its meaning.

MEMRISEOnce you’ve got the list you want to work on, you’ll begin taking short ‘lessons’ where a few words (you can set the number in your preferences) are introduced to you, and then you are quizzed on them in a variety of ways. You can even have audio quizzes if that’s what floats your boat, though most words that I’ve seen don’t have an audio file recorded. You’ll have to get the questions right enough times to continue. The system also remembers when you learned the word, when you last were quizzed on it, and how often you’ve missed it. Then, every few hours or days, it will re-quiz you on it to make sure you still remember it. If you miss it, then it will go into a more frequent rotation for a little while. Eventually, the system decides that you know a word well, and you won’t see it in your reviews for a long while (unless you choose to do a general review instead of its algorithmically-divined practice).

And because Memrise is steeped in gamification, there are points and badges and other little dopamine jolts here and there. Also, it has both a brain and a garden motif going, which don’t quite mesh thematically, but whatever.

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Memrise. Use it!

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