Target Vocabulary

How to introduce the target vocabulary – those words you want the students to grasp, internalize, recognize, and use – for a class or unit varies. For many practitioners of CI, an average of 4 new words is recommended each day. These same 4 words are repeated in a variety of contexts over and over, not just that day, but during the following days as well. Words need to be heard in at least 17 different contexts, and at least 70 times to be learned.

With units of thematic vocabulary (about 15 words at a time) the basis of my curriculum, those lofty goals aren’t attainable at present as I’m currently teaching and using them…

So, despite introducing more than 4 words in a single day (though mathematically I still introduce less than 4 words a day over the course of a unit), I still attempt to repeat the words as many times, in as many contexts, as I possibly can within about a 4-5 day time frame. Here’s what I do to introduce and contextualize the target vocabulary in the first two days:


Not my ideal – I was never a flashcard fan even as a student – but, very useful to use in review games and for individual review time. Some students even like them. I use Quizlet for my flashcards. Why? Because it offers everything I want in an easy to use format. Is it the best option? Up to you.

I create my flashcards, even in Latin I, with the correct dictionary entry on the front and an image on the back. I do not give English meanings on the flashcards. Why the dictionary entry? Because even though I wait for students to ask questions about what they see before explaining it as simply as possible, I want them to see the word as they would if they were using a dictionary – which, at some point in their studies, they will end up doing. Why no English? I HATE the idea that one Latin word equals one English word. Those types of rigid definitions eventually lead to so much frustration in upper level Latin when the student just won’t accept lumen as both light and eye (poetry is the bane of those students!).

When introducing the words on flashcards, I post the Latin word on the board. We, as a class, then brainstorm possible meanings based on cognates and derivatives, even false ones. I then flip over the card to show the image and we settle on a few good meanings and some accurate cognates and derivatives. I then ask the class to identify the part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, etc. I want students to connect what they know in English (water is a thing and thus a noun) to what they’ve just learned in Latin (aqua is also a thing and still a noun).

As a follow-up later in the same class or in another class, we play Quizlet Live or any of the other review games. I like Quizlet Live because it allows students to learn from one another and teamwork is always a good skill to practice.


Gimkit is another attempt at gaming in education. It lies somewhere between Quizlet Live and Kahoot. However, unlike Quizlet, students are offered multiple choice options and teachers have more editing power to create different questions – beyond just recognition of the vocabulary word. Unlike Kahoot, Gimkit is not timed nor can students disappear from the game mid-game without the teacher knowing. Students compete individually at their own speed. Students do earn points based on accuracy. In addition, students can spend the “points” (aka fake money) on extra points per correct question and/or limitations on other students.

I like this gamification much more than Kahoot, as an alternate for Quizlet Live, because at the end of the game, I can download a report per student and as a class – correct questions vs incorrect questions, correct answers per word, etc. Also, it is super easy to use as a teacher and a student. And, best of all, you can download your Quizlet flashcards into Gimkit saving time overall.

Scavenger Hunts

If nothing else, this gets the students out of the classroom, up and moving, and gives me a little break. For those days when you need a little time and the class is crazy hyper-active, I love this. It does require some set-up and planning, though.


As you can see in the above image, I use English to introduce the Latin vocabulary words. The correct answer, in English, to fill in the blank is provided so that when printed, it appears on the back for students to flip over if they need help figuring out how to complete each sentence.

In the upper corner, in bold, is the Latin word for a previous blank’s answer.


As the students hunt, they complete the worksheet, excerpted above. They fill in each blank (the sentences are the same) with the correct Latin word. In the space below the sentence, the students are asked to write a new sentence with the Latin word, in Latin. I even encourage the students to combine Latin words to create a longer sentence… their first step in composition.

There are two more activities I’ve begun using recently which I absolutely love… and so do my students. I’m going to leave a longer discussion of them for later posts, but in case you want a preview, check out:

Dictatio –

Movie or Picture Talk –


I need to re-think vocabulary. The more I think about it, why aren’t I introducing 4-5 words a day? Why do I need to introduce all the thematic vocabulary at one time? Those are good questions. I’ll get back with you after some serious soul-searching…

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