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Friday, October 28, 2016

Using Higher Level Vocabulary in Math

We all know that in order for students to be as successful as possible, we need to be using higher level and academic vocabulary in our classrooms on a constant basis. I want to be perfectly honest here. I think that math-minded people, those that went to college just to study math, have an easier time with this. I was not such a person. I majored in education, and even though I was always really good at math, using higher level vocabulary was tough for me. I had to teach myself to develop very purposeful and strategic ways to make sure it was occurring often in my classroom.
One of these ways was to make sure I was using very precise academic vocabulary in my lesson planning. By thinking about it well in advance, I could prepare my mind to use the correct terminology. This made it easier for me to remember to use higher level vocabulary when my actual lesson was taking place.

Another way was using higher level and academic vocab in all of my anchor charts. I had all of my anchor charts hung up on the walls once we learned about the concept. They were laminated for use year after year. By having them always hanging on the wall, it enables the students to also be reminded about the correct terminology when they need a little assistance. Plus, it adds just that much more support for student higher level thinking.
Lastly, I always tried to keep up with a word wall. This one was probably the one I kept up with the least. It got tough to maintain constantly adding to it as the school year got busy. If I could go back and redo, I would definitely have a word wall setup like this one from Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher. This one can be done all in advance and easily changed out to fit the current lesson.

Not sure where to start? Pinterest it!! There are so many amazing ways to accomplish each of the above on Pinterest that you will surely find one that fits your needs.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Teaching Vocabulary with Games

This month, the Mob is focusing on vocabulary. There's no doubt that introducing, teaching, and reinforcing vocabulary is vital, but what is the best way to do it?

Umm, Don't Try This

Yes, you guessed it.    Giving students word lists, vocabulary word finds, and even crossword puzzles are not going to build their vocabulary.  Rote memorization doesn't work -- not in any real, meaningful way.

But What Works?

I'm not sure there is one perfect way to teach vocabulary.  (That's the good news!)

Since students all learn in different ways and at different rates, it's important to practice vocabulary in a variety of ways.  We know that repeated, meaningful interaction with words helps students learn, understand, and use them.

Try This:  Generate Word Interest

Help raise your students' awareness of the importance of word use by getting them out of their seats to play games!  Gather up your Scrabble board and borrow several others and play scrabble.  Even though your students aren't technically studying content vocabulary, they are searching their minds for words that contain high value letters and words that will fit on the board. 

Make a word wall -- or at least an "Interesting Words" wall.  Encourage students to add words to a blank piece of butcher paper on your classroom wall.  What words do they notice from their reading?  Allowing students to illustrate the word's meaning or initial their word finds can help generate interest and enthusiasm for word collections.

Subscribe and use Merriam Webster's "Word of the Day."  While I wouldn't recommend trying to keep up with a new word a day, you could choose a word of the week.  I love this resource because it provides an audio pronunciation and a bit of etymology for the word.

Try This:  Vocabulary Collector

When your students are reading, provide them with a vocabulary collector.  It can be as simple as a sheet of paper folded into thirds.  Ask students to jot down words and phrases that they come along in their reading.  These words could go on your "Interesting Words" wall or into a Vocabulary Catcher (see below).  Again, you are encouraging your students to become more aware of words and how they are used.
Vocabulary collectors are also helpful in practicing using context clues.

Try This:  "Vocabulary Catcher" Games

Remember fortune tellers? Cootie catchers?  Use them for vocabulary.  The great thing is that students can create several throughout the school year and use them for impromptu games.  I also like them because each one only has eight spots for words -- a manageable amount of words to gather and understand.

I have a Vocabulary Catcher freebie on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Be sure to check it out!

The Bottom Line

Vocabulary, whether it's content vocabulary or not, is important.  Getting students interested and engaged with new words is the first step!

So, what innovative ideas do you use to teach vocabulary?  Share your ideas below!

Happiness always♥

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Teaching the Vocabulary of Language Arts

In any English classroom, there’s a lot of vocabulary that has to be covered throughout the year.  In addition to the vocabulary from the stories and articles that you read, there is the vocabulary that is specific to our subject – and there’s a lot of it!  There are the story elements, poetry terms, genres of reading, types of writing, figurative language terms, terms about vocabulary itself, and more!

No matter how you divide it among the different units that you teach, it’s a lot of terms that your kids need to understand as they progress in their language arts skills.  The good thing is that, like with other language arts elements, these literary terms tend to come up again and again throughout the year so your kids will get a lot of chances to practice. 

Story Elements
Characterization, setting, plot, conflict, and theme.  What else? Maybe types of conflicts, plot elements, examples of themes – nearly every main story element can be broken down into its own list of more literary terms to teach! 

But to me, story elements are the easiest terms to teach because every story that you read is a ready-to-use mentor text.  Each time your students complete a story map, plot map, or other story organizer they are practicing using these terms.

Poetry Terms
You might include types of poems here, or sound elements of poetry, or figurative language, or maybe all three!  Of course, figurative language will fit just as well with fiction readings, and it can also be found in non-fiction, although this may be more for the older kids. 

For types of poetry, I like to have kids make a collection of their favorite poems of each type, maybe by making a booklet with their own hand-written copies of the poems, or a chart with a description of each poem and an illustration.  Sound elements are fun to search for, too, but can be a little difficult to find, so it might take a little time to set up this lesson.

Genres of Reading
Genres of fiction, genres of non-fiction, and oh yes, types of poems could be included here too!  My dilemma was always just which genres, and how many, to include – any suggestions?

One thing that comes to mind in this area is a library activity about finding different types of books on the shelves, along with suggestions from your friendly librarian for some good books in each genre.  Another idea would be to have the class, maybe one small group at a time, sort through the classroom library and organize your books by genre.

Types of Writing

Once I started to look at this group at a whole, the list turned out to be longer that I had thought, too.  Even a basic list might include:  narrative fiction, narrative non-fiction, biography, autobiography, personal essay, descriptive, informational, expository, explanatory, opinion, argument, and persuasive, prose, and poetry.

But in addition to these basic types of literature, kids also do plenty of daily writing, and so do many adults, that is more in the form of lists, charts, forms, social media comments, and writing combined with graphics.  Maybe these types aren’t as necessary to teach, but they could be used as a bridge into more sustained writing activities.

Figurative Language Terms
These are the fun ones, but they’re not easy!  How many times have you had to remind a student of the difference between a simile and a metaphor, or explain that all exaggerations aren’t automatically hyperbole?  And isn’t it fun to teach a word like “onomatopoeia,” – who but an English teacher would even try?

The fun part is when kids begin to really get the concept and appreciate the figurative language in stories and poems that they read.  To introduce each literary term, find a few great examples that kids can copy in their notebooks.  It will help them to remember the terms much better than just a definition. The example that has stayed in my mind all these years for the term simile is a line from “Old Friends,” an old song by Paul Simon about some elderly people passing the time by sitting in the park.  These “Old friends, Sat on their park bench Like bookends.”

Vocabulary Terms

Yes, there are even terms about vocabulary itself that middle graders will still need to learn.  Connotation and denotation, for example.  And don’t you know of a few kids who still get synonyms and antonyms mixes up?  Many kids already know prefix, suffix, and root, but how many of them know the term affix? 

Altogether, it’s a lot to teach.   Oh well, English teachers can handle it.  Anyone who can teach a term like “onomatopoeia” to middle grade kids can handle just about anything!

I’ve found it useful to have one big resource that I can go to as needed to introduce or reinforce each little set of terms as needed, and so I’ve collected all of my little bits and pieces of literary terms information and combined them into one big, organized PowerPoint presentation.  Literary Terms includes definitions and examples for 77 literary terms, and it includes student review slides at the end of each section as well as student note pages to print out with definitions for all 77 terms.  Check out the preview for more details if you think this is something that might be useful to you.

I would be interested in hearing which literary terms teachers at various middle school grades include.  Are there any categories that I could add to my lists?  Or any that don’t seem necessary?  Click on the comments below and let me know what you think.

Pin to save for later:

Blog post by Sharon from Classroom in the Middle where you can read more about teaching language arts topics like reading skills, the writing process, and vocabulary in the middle grades,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Using Digital Tools to Teach Vocabulary

Hi Everyone!  This is Lyndsey from Lit with Lyns, and I'm going to be sharing how my I teach vocabulary using digital tools.  I typically teach our content area vocab as I'm introducing that particular skill, but there isn't always enough time throughout the year to teach all the words that students need to know.

When looking for ways to ensure my students comprehend multiple words at a time, I came across this amazing website, called BoomWriter. BoomWriter is a FREE collaborative and interactive writing program that features 3 separate tools: StoryWriter, WordWriter, and ProjectWriter.

The feature I use for vocabulary is WordWriter.  As the website says, "WordWriter lets students apply, share, and assess their vocabulary knowledge in a new, fun, and interactive way." It's a great way to let your students practice the vocabulary words you assign them.  You can sign your students up yourself by entering their names one by one, or you can save time and have them do it by going to the following link:  Here, they will type in the name of their school, which will then display your name, as well as the name of your school (you'll have to register first, of course).  Once they have registered, then they can begin the activities. 

I use WordWriter to have students practice the vocabulary that we're working on.  To set this up, you will "create a new WordWriter Project."  Then enter the name you want to call it and the subject area.

Next, you will select the students you want to participate.  I typically choose them all, but this is also where you could differentiate, creating different vocab lists for different students, depending on their needs.  Then you will add the vocab words you want your students to use, in addition to your instructions.

After you have done this, you will see your word bank, which is all the vocab words you entered for this activity.   If everything looks correct, you will click, "I'm Finished." 

When students go in to complete the activity, they will see the words that they are required to use, and then must write a paragraph, story, etc. (whatever you specify in the assignment instructions) using all of the vocab words.  As students use the words, they are highlighted within the passage and turn green in the Word Bank.  

The pic below is an example of what students see when they first open the assignment.

BoomWriter has been a huge hit in my classroom, and is a terrific way to spice things up a bit.  It's also a great way to incorporate technology.  What digital tools do you use to help your students to master vocab words?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.