Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Memrise for Vocabulary Development in the FL Classroom

Well, I just found this empty title saved in my drafts, and I think it's time to bring it to the light of day.  Memrise.com is a vocabulary building site that I discovered several months ago. I absolutely fell in love with it, as did my students, although for different reasons. I love the fact that I can build my own vocab lists, and they are collaborative. By that I mean that I can start a vocab list on, for example, food words, and I can invite my students to add words that they are interested in learning that I left off my list. I also love the fact that sound files can be added along with each word, so students can hear the pronunciations as they study: a step up from your average flashcard. Memrise also has the capability for me (or preferably my students) to add "mems"to each word.

What's a mem? A mem is basically a mnemonic device: a short, often silly cue that student create to help them remember the word.  Something along the line of Every Good Boy Does Fine for music students to remember the names of the line notes, or "I before e..." to help remember a spelling rule. I tell my students the sillier the better, and I much prefer if the mems come from them, although I do have a few in my bag of tricks.

The last reason I really love this site is the way practice is structured. Each word is introduced along with its accompanying sound file and/or mem. Then a multiple choice question is asked to practice the word and its definition. A second word is introduced, more multiple choice, then more words, multiple choice becomes interspersed with short answer questions requiring students to type in the target language vocabulary word, and missed words are reintroduced and repeated more frequently.  Progress is tracked, and students who sign up for an account receive periodic emails reminding them to refresh their learning before their memories "die".

Now for the reasons my students love memrise:  learning takes place in a somewhat game-based environment.  Difficulty increases as students make progress.  Students are ranked and reranked based on the number of words they view and the amount of correct responses, so it is competitive.  Too much time away from memrise, and your ranking starts to drop.

I am very excited to use this tool more with my students next year!

What do you think?

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