GETTING STUDENTS [and TEACHERS] EXCITED ABOUT VOCABULARY
So we’re coming to the beginning of the school year…again…*sadface…and I realize that I need to get some stuff together to make my year seamless.
With that said, I was pondering what things I could amp up for the new year. I rummaged through my lesson plan binder from previous years (yes, I still keep them.; at least 2 years back), looked through my literary texts, even pawed through my bookbag.
And, I just put everything back because since I don’t start my full “Summer Prep for Back-to-School” for another few weeks, I didn’t feel like doing anything until I saw one of my students End-of-Year note to me and he missed used and misspelt a word.
And then it came to me! Amp up your vocabulary lessons!
I did a little self-reflection on what I’ve used in the past and researched some new stuff, and so here are 6 quick Strategies to help you (and me) with our vocabulary lessons next year.
- RHYTHM OR RHYME IT!
Yes, it’s a cliché, but it actually works. When students sing, rap, perform the words, they seem to retain it. They get really into it and once I remember a student brought his own soundtrack to rap to. Then, of course, the rest of the class borrowed his track, and ALL the songs…like ALL the remaining performances of the class period sounded the same. 😊
In any case, I also have them use it in their original poetry. After I’ve gone over a specific type of poem, I have them mimic the poet, but their original work MUST include at least 2 vocabulary words. I trips them up, but they usually produce some great authentic poetry.
2. LET STUDENTS CHOOSE THEIR OWN UNCLEAR VOCABULARY
It’s safe to say that education experts recommend WORD WALLS. You know, the wall in the back or front of the room that after Christmas no one remembers is there, or the one that never gets updated? I have no problem with these. However, I believe those walls limit how many words students will know for the year (or whatever the allotted time).
They are prescribed words, most times, that come from the readings or lessons. With that said, there’s nothing wrong with any of that, but students also DON’T know some of the words that DIDN’T make the words wall.
Have them keep their own running tally of words they DON’T know. Have them even turn it in for extra credit or something at the end of each semester or grading period.
3. VOCABULARY CARDS
Anyone who knows my class, knows I sing the praises of MY VOCABULARY CARDS all the time. I mean, I just think it’s the most exciting and original idea ever. http://tinyurl.com/MIDDLE-SCHOOL-VOCAB-LIST-UNIT
[Check out the link to see what they are and how they work].
These VOCABULARY CARDS allow students to cover several words from their list without feeling like it’s a vocabulary assignment. They interact with one word several times and so it begins to stick.
Any content area can use these and any grade level, and part of the lesson works well also.
I use mine for Bell Ringers or Class Openers. My students know when they come in the room, these cards will be in the front waiting. They grab a card from the bag, and get to work without my even saying anything. That would be the first time that they interact with vocabulary for the day; other activities will be infused as the day progresses. Trust me it works!
4. USE IT IN CLASSROOM CONVERSATIONS
Mandate it! Make students use it. I put it as a part of my instruction for some activities. “Hey, we’re discussing this play, but while I’m walking around to hear your discussions, I need to hear you use at least one vocabulary each time.”
In the beginning of the year, they sigh and carry on and think that it’s too much. Yet, as the year progresses, they see that it is not asking too much at all. The words start flowing off their tongues…not really…but at least they become more familiar with the words – pronunciation and usage. 😊
As a teacher or instructor, when I am aware of it, I make certain to use the words when I speak with students. It makes the words real-life applicable and current. They realize how words work right in front of them.
5. USE IT IN WRITING
Just as we had students use their vocabulary words IN THEIR CONVERSATIONS and DISCUSSIONS, we can mandate that they use the words in their writing.
This allow more thoughtful, critical writing, as students will slow down and figure out if a word belongs in a sentence. With that said, does it matter if the students use the words incorrectly? No. Not at all. That’s why we’re there to correct them, or they’ll start figuring out how to use it eventually.
These activities are not to be used once. They are ongoing streams of ideas and active learning that students NEED to navigate words and vocabulary.
6. GIVE AN OFFICIAL CLASS LIST
Now, here is where more modern and hip language teachers will come at me; this way of teaching is taboo. However, I beg to differ.
Giving students official lists gives them guidance and awareness of the words we need to cover for this period of time. They will understand the context as we can all refer to a specific list and locate a wrd.
Why not just use word walls, you ask? Well, for younger students, that might work well. For older students, I believe they should be able to walk around with a list of words to refer to.
I give a list of 20+ words every 2 – 3 weeks. These students interact with this list constantly. From their writing to their discussions, to their projects, students start becoming aware of parts of speech, intonation, pronunciation, context, etc. It helps them understand how words work.
Now, do I expect them to know EVERY LAST word on the list? Heck no! I expect them to become familiar with them. To recognize them in other spaces.
Also, even though we could make them use the dictionaries to find the words and write the definitions down, I do the leg work for them. My lists have the parts of speech and the definitions.
So students are equipped to use the words and the lists are given.
As I am writing this blog, I received a review from one of the products in my store.
Stefanie K.***** Extremely satisfied. My students enjoyed. Relevant and Rigorous that kept my students attention. Thank you!”
That really warms my heart, as I’ve used these techniques for years. Now others are seeing the great ways we can lead our students to use and understand vocabulary. Now, teaching it won’t be a drag nor does it have to be taught in isolation.
Can’t wait to hear the stories, Angry Teachers. Let’s give em hell this year!