When I was in school (homeschooled), I started studying French. I say started, because I never really became fluent, but that’s a subject for another post. (Actually, it’s a post I’ll probably write in the near future; it has a lot to do with my line of work today.)
One of the “bits” of French that did stick with me, however, was a line in my textbook that said “Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.” (And yes, I totally just had to look up the spelling of “oiseau”! And people complain that English vowels are confusing….) It means “Little by little, the bird builds his nest,” and it could be considered my defining motto in life, if I had a defining motto in life. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, and preferable with lots of mayonaise and Heinz ketchup!
So that’s become my attitude to the curriculum I want to develop. Little by little. A piece here, a piece there.
One of the questions I had when I first started thinking about how to design the curriculum was whether, in vocabulary, it was better to stick with the approach I’ve been using with the A Beka curriculum, of introducing words by letter, vowel, or special sound (all the t words are introduced when we learn the letter t; all the long a words are introduced when we learn long a, all the ch words are introduced when we learn ch, etc.), or whether it’s better to teach vocabulary “thematically,” i.e. parts of the body, family members, furniture, etc. Almost all the EFL programs I’ve researched teach vocabulary thematically, but they don’t really explain why. (I suspect it has something to do with it being easier to remember words if you first create a framework, a context, in which to store them. But I can’t find any research on the subject, so that’s just my guess.)
So I’ve decided to try including a bit of thematic vocabulary in my classes, and see which one “sticks” better. I’ll continue teaching vocabulary by letter as long as I continue using A Beka; it seems to be the best and most efficient way of introducing the words the students will come across in their A Beka reading. However, I plan to put less emphasis on remembering the phonetic vocabulary (or at least the less-useful, more frustrating words, like “tot”) and instead use that brain power to introduce a bit of thematic vocabulary.
It will definitely be an experiment, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out.