Building and Maintaining Vocabulary Throughout the School Year
Vocabulary is critical to building knowledge. The more words a person knows and understands, the better speaker, reader, and writer she becomes.
However, teaching vocabulary is not an easy task for teachers. What words should we teach? How many? How often? How exactly do we teach these words? Will students remember all the words and their meanings that are taught? Will students use these words in their speech and writing?
To answer all of those questions would take quite a bit of time and additional blog posts! For now, I will share a few ideas to assist your students in maintaining and growing their knowledge of the words being taught.
I have found a Word Wall to be extremely useful. After selecting a set of 4-6 words from stories and articles in basal anthologies or 2-3 words per chapter from novel study books, I create word cards with large, bold print. Also, on each card is an illustration or photo to help students understand the word's meaning. These cards are laminated for durability. On the back of the cards is magnetic tape. I use a white magnetic wall board for display.
Next, I introduce the words via an interactive slideshow. For each word, its part of speech and definition are provided as well as example sentences using the word. The illustration on the Word Wall cards is also on the slide. There are two slides per word.
Once the words are introduced, the Word Wall cards are placed on the magnetic board. I like to classify the words by parts of speech. Other ways to categorize are by story title or if reading a novel, by chapter titles or numbers.
Now, here's the key to success. Multiple interactions with these words is required if students are going to own them. Having a Word Wall allows you to direct your students' attention to a particular WW word at any time of the day. Below are some ways you can engage your students with these words.
Sample #1: Refer to the WW cards throughout the day making connections with the words. Let's say one of your vocabulary words is announced, and the school intercom comes on. Your principal states, "Due to the storm, the school will be on a "rainy day schedule." After the moans and groans from your students, ask them what Word Wall word describes what the principal just did. Once the word is identified, have students brainstorm other situations in which the principal might have news to announce.
Sample #2: Divide your class into small groups. Choose one member of each group to select a word from the Word Wall but only share it with his group. Spread the groups apart and have them create a brief demonstration or a very short play about their word. They can pantomime or use dialogue, but the WW word they selected cannot be mentioned. When the groups are ready, each presents their play, and the audience has to figure out which WW word is demonstrated. Students love creating and presenting these skits!
Sample #3: Gather your students by the Word Wall. They will need pencil and paper or individual whiteboard and marker. Have them number their papers #1-#5. Inform them that they will be detectives trying to figure out the Mystery Word based on the five clues you will provide. Clue #1 is always used -- "The Mystery Word is a word on our Word Wall." Each student will select a word and write it on their paper or whiteboard. For each clue you give, they must choose a word and write it down. If their word choice for Clue #1 fits the word choice for Clue #2, they write that word again. If their first word does not match the second clue, they must choose a word that does match. Each clue becomes more specific thus leading the students to the Mystery Word.
Check out the sample below which is part of a resource for teaching the roots man- and ped-:
(Mystery Word activity is based on Patricia Cunningham's game, Be a Mind Reader from her book, Month-by-Month Phonics For Third Grade.)
Sample #4: Choose a Word Wall word and announce this word as the Word of the Day. For example, you select the word, notice and its forms. Encourage students to use the word in their speech and in their writing throughout the day. Also, inform the class that for every correct use of the word, you will mark a tally on the board. Set a goal for the number of correct uses of the selected word. If your class meets the goal, reward them in some way.
Here's how Word of the Day works.
Soon after your announcement of notice as the Word of the Day, a student is helping a classmate edit his book summary. The editor says, "Marty, I notice that you have a couple of misspelled words. May I help you correct them?" Later during today's science lesson, your students write an observation of today's weather. One student has written: "Today I noticed a group of cumulus clouds. One in particular looked like a horse galloping across the sky." You, too, should use the Word of the Day when possible. For example, "I have noticed that many of you are getting antsy. Let's stand and do a little dancing!"