Learning and maintaining vocabulary in Spanish or any other language is an interactive and ongoing process. Or, at least I think it should be.
Interactive means that the student is exposed to new vocabulary, is provided with different ways to practice it, and those different ways interact with each other to help the student internalize it.
Ongoing means that the students is continually re-exposed to the vocabulary in order to remember it. The truth is that if you don't use it, you lose it. If enough time goes by without refreshing what was learned that quick recall of information and ability to use it fades.
There are many opinions about how new vocabulary should be learned. One of the most current is that students should be provided with a picture and only the Spanish word for it in order to ensure that they think in Spanish. This is a great beginning, but is is only a beginning. The student needs a variety of practice activities to ensure he/she can skillfully use it and internalize it.
At Spanish for You! students learn new vocabulary over several days via several methods that interact with each other to ensure solid learning. On the first day they begin learning a set of vocabulary by reading a page in their book that shows pictures of each word and listening to an audio to hear each word pronounced. Then they are instructed to make flashcards, one for each word. They are provided with a picture of the new word and are encouraged to write the Spanish word on the back. The value of making the flashcards is that the student actually begins to learn the new words because he/she is focused on them and doing things with them, i.e. looking at the pictures (maybe coloring them too), writing the words, and often saying them aloud since they have just heard the audio.
Once the student finishes the flashcards, then he/she is instructed to choose an activity to BEGIN learning the words on the flashcards. This is not about memorizing the flashcards. It is about having fun doing an activity that begins the process of remembering the words. An example might be to play ¿Cuál falta? (What's Missing?) where the student lays out 3 or 4 new words, studies them for a minute to remember them, closes their eyes, and has someone take one away. Then the student tries to remember which is missing. Another activity is to play Hangman. The student lays out several or all of the flashcards. Another person chooses a word and is the "Hangman". The student guesses letters until he/she figures out which word it is. And there are many other games to play just to BEGIN learning the words.
The next day, the student is instructed to review the new flashcards. Then he/she is provided with a worksheet that begins him/her writing the words by labeling or drawing pictures, writing the English translation (which is ok - this helps some students), and using the new words in context. When done at an appropriate level, this is a great way to really begin that internalizing of vocabulary.
The next day, the student is instructed to review the flashcards, and then is provided with a multi-sensory practice called "Using Your New Vocabulary". This involves listening to the audio and following along in Spanish to what it tells you to do. This could involve doing things, looking for things, writing or saying things, and so on. But, the student will have been prepared for this from all the prior vocabulary work.
The following day the student is advised to quick review the flashcards, and then does what is called "Interactive Use of Vocabulary". This is where he/she plays a game or does an activity with someone else to use the vocabulary in an interactive way with another person. If there are others in the family also using the curriculum, it gives them an opportunity to use the vocabulary together. For example, they can play Draw and Guess, where one person begins to draw a word and the other guesses. This works great even if the other person is not learning Spanish. Other games would be Simon Says, Bingo (also great for when they are just beginning to learn flashcards), One Hint One Guess (They give one word hints to each other), and there are many other games which are provided in their book or at this website.
By this point, the student knows the vocabulary quite well. Students can usually say a word when they see its picture, use it in context, and older students (grades 5 and up) can usually write them fairly accurately.
The next step is to keep the process ongoing in order to maintain what has been learned. This is done through a continual usage of the words as the student proceeds to learn verbs and grammar concepts that work well with the vocabulary, and then continual re-usage as the student progresses into later lessons in the book. The words never disappear. They keep showing up with opportunities to use them in context and in conjunction with new vocabulary, verbs and grammar concepts.
One thing you can do to help your student(s) maintain what they learn is to do quick flashcard reviews even after you finish a Spanish for You! book. You don't have to review all the words every time, but pull those picture flashcards out and run through a group. Just have your child say them aloud in Spanish and/or even a write a few. You want to keep those connections going in the brain.
If you ever have questions about learning vocabulary or any other aspect of learning Spanish, please feel free to send them my way either via this blog, or at my e-mail, email@example.com. I would love to help you with your Spanish teaching efforts!