This is what we'll be making

A brief introduction

Wikis seem like a perfect place to build up vocabulary in a collaborative environment. Now, while you still need reliable methods to gather vocabulary-rich material, work it through it with your students and test their knowledge, wiki can help in organizing and intensifying the vocabulary work. Here is how.

  • Sidenote: At this point this looks like a lot of work. I recommend you peek into the result to see that it's totally worth it.

The concept: collaborative vocabulary work at highest possible intensity

The idea is simple: you let your students collaborate on creating a shared vocabulary for the class. All students contribute to a common word list and create a shared knowledge base that they nurture and develop together. This might seem like an easy task to a group of high-schoolers, but there is a twist.

Instead of just asking your students to work with words, pronunciation and translation of a given vocabulary unit, you expand the requirements. You can go from as easy as “words with similar meanings” to as far as requiring connotations, correct and incorrect use, synonyms and antonyms, forms, negatives and positives, original context, cultural overtones and more. So, instead of just building a table of translated words, you ask your students to work intensely with every word, as if they were writing a dictionary.

The structure: index page + template-based word pages

Here is how this works:
  1. Start off by laying out your index page. This doesn't have do be your wiki home page, just any blank page on your wiki site that is properly linked. On that index page, lay out the structure for the future vocabulary. How are you going to organize the words? Make sure your structure works for your course aims.
    • You can go alphabetical. Plain and simple, and pretty pointless, too.
    • You can split it up by verbs, nouns, adjectives etc. I don't see why, though.
    • Or, maybe, split up the words by topics you cover through the course (Example: Vocabulary structure with topic split). This makes a lot of sense from the communicative competence standpoint.
    • Or organize by contexts that you regularly find yourself in, if your course is context-based.

  2. Then stop and think on the task you will be giving to your students.

    In general terms, you will be asking them to create pages dedicated to each separate word unit in that vocabulary. That separate page is essentially a lexical task that a student performs individually. What will the student have to analyse and provide for each word unit? Below is a list of my suggestions, feel free to build upon that.
    • The word itself
    • Part of speech
    • Translation into your language
    • Or a definition, depending on your students' level and your approach
    • If the word sounds similar to a word in your native language, is it an adequate translation?
    • Pronunciation and stress
    • Synonyms and antonyms (at least 3 of each)
    • Meanings of this word, if many
    • The original context
    • Additional contexts found on the Web
    • Incorrect use of this word unit
    • Cultural context
    • Style and tone of this word
    • Give a word with same meaning, but different style or tone
    • Same-suffix / same-prefix / same-root words (3 of each)
    • The student's associations with this word unit
    • If it's a verb, conjugate in the following tenses...
    • If it's a noun, make plural

  3. As you plan, make sure each point of your task is feasible and applicable to every word you are about to work on. This is important: you are now laying out a plan for a task that your students will perform for EVERY word unit in the vocabulary. So it needs to balance complexity, relevance and interest. I would stick with the ones I've bolded out, but this remains completely up to you.

    Here is an example of what I came up with for my template.
  4. Once you've made peace with your task structure, create a wiki template page that will contain the outline and a thorough task description. This is essentially the Master Task for your vocabulary part of the course.

    Here is where you create your template:
    And here is the template editor, plain and simple. Just write whatever seems fit.

  5. Now go to your vocabulary index and throw in a handful of course-relevant words into into it, for a start.
  6. For one of the words you've added, create a wiki page with the template you've made in step 4. Try filling out the template, as your students would do. Just to make sure it works. You do this to have both a working template, and a living example of a well-perforned task.
  7. Finally, get in front of the class and give task instructions.

Giving task instructions

This section is under construction.

Checking and marking

Much like this one.