Tag Archives: Vocabulary

Word Art Generators for Learning

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Word Art generators are great online tools for brainstorming, building vocabulary , and even to showcase a theme or concept. There are so many ways that teachers can use word clouds for teaching tools and for students to create and practice learning. Here are ten ideas how you can use word art generators in your classroom for in person learning and remote learning.

1. Partner Sentence Creators – This activity is for partners of two only. Each pair will read the word art and write 5 separate sentences which must include the words within the word art. Students will share their sentences with the whole class. 

 2. Group Sentence Creator – This is an expansion of the partner sentence activity, however in groups of four or five depending on the class size. Here’s the catch, the rules change. Shorter rounds, longer sentences, longer exercise, and more vocabulary words. The team with the most vocabulary words in each sentence created will win. Of course, once you use a word, it can’t be used again. 

3. Story Time – This is an individual assignment. Each student will be assigned to write me a personal narrative (fiction or nonfiction) about their life, or a character’s life they made up. The students are expected to use 30 out of their 50 vocabulary words in the narrative.  

4. Missing Words – This is another at-home assignment. I will be giving all my students the SAME exact vocabulary word chart except they will be missing a few words. Their assignment is to figure out what words are missing. But this is not from the original list, this is using their minds and seeing what similar words they can come up with.

5. Vocabulary Review –  Use the word generator to review vocabulary.

6. Vocabulary Introduction – Use the word generator as a way of introducing a unit. For example, I would hand out a list of terms at the start of the unit and then students take a guess how the words are related or connected. Additionally, one could ask students to look up the definitions and create a word cloud. Students are to use a minimum of 15 terms.

7. Year Long Goals – At the start of the school year, have students create word clouds to illustrate what they hope to learn in the new school year. This can be an independent activity or a collaborative small group activity.  Students are to use a minimum of 20 terms. This would help set the tone for the year and establish classroom norms.

8. Final Assessment – At the end of the year, assign a final project in which the students are to use 50 words to create a word cloud. The 50 words they use are to be a culmination of everything they have learned. What words stuck with them? What words were the most memorable?

9. Biography or Theme Generator – Students create a word cloud of the biography of a famous author, scientist, mathematician, or figure in history. Similarly, students can create word art representing themes in a book or text.

10. Word Art Roulette – Another fun way to incorporate some vocabulary into the class. The student can blindly select a word on the word art and then present a 30 second or one minute speech about the word. 
There are many more ways to utilize these word art generators with your students, if you have a great idea share it in the comments section for others to read.
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Teaching Vocabulary in Context

In the picture book The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, a boy named Selig collects interesting words, and I want students to become as excited about discovering new words as Selig becomes.

“An avid word-hoarder, Selig delights in discovering new terms, recording them on paper scraps, and stowing them in pockets…”

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The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter

I am often asked how I teach vocabulary.  Do I give students weekly word lists or front load challenging vocabulary from readings? Do I have students use any vocabulary building apps or games online?

Research shows that proficient readers use different strategies to help define words they do not know and determine whether the definition is pertinent to understanding the text. As word detectives, students use context clues, SPROOTs (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots), Connotation, and even outside connections to help them determine the meaning of words within a text. Additionally, teaching students how to use the dictionary and thesaurus, and showing them the range of information it provides is crucial to vocabulary development. 

Rather than teaching students to be word collectors and word wizards with vocabulary lists, I believe that reading is what helps develop vocabulary. Vocabulary instruction needs to go beyond basic definitions and students must be able to apply the words in context.

What that looks like in my classroom depends on the reading and writing unit that students are working on. When studying the Japanese Internment there are key vocabulary words needs need to know to understand the complexities of this time in our history. I use active learning stations help to build background knowledge and word knowledge.

When designing vocabulary “lessons,” keep in mind the following:

  1. Avoid presenting a long list of vocabulary words to be learned before students are able to read the text.
  2. Choose only those words that are important to the meaning and/or will be likely to actually enter your students’ vocabulary.
  3. Consider a way of involving students in identifying their own vocabulary words.
  4. Try to give your students experiences in figuring out words in context, rather than simply memorizing them.
  5. If possible, devise a way for students to locate and define their own words, rather than relying on your choices and definitions.
  6. Consider alternatives to students’ learning definitions of words individually. Think about creating collaborative learning experiences, if possible.
  7. Find a way to evaluate what your students have learned without relying on a traditional vocabulary test (multiple choice or fill in the blank).

Considering ENLs, ELLs, and students with IEPs, word banks are helpful to front load important academic vocabulary. Students can use any of the Quizlet activities (Learn, Flashcards, Live) to learn new vocabulary words.  Go beyond the traditional word wall posting definitions by creating walls displaying Wordart.com or sketch noting vocabulary words. 

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Looking for more ideas, check out these additional resources:

 

 

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Word Wizards, Word Nerds, & the Importance of Vocabulary in the Content Areas

What are the essential vocabulary words necessary for students to succeed in your classroom? This can be discipline specific vocabulary or academic vocabulary. For example, you could not possibly comprehend a social studies chapter on the geography of Africa if you do not know the meanings of the words “desert,” “savannah,” and “rainforest.”

Vocabulary is at the heart of the content areas we teach.  Each content has its own vocabulary unique to the understanding of the content material taught.  Most researchers would agree that you improve an individual’s vocabulary knowledge and comprehension through students immersed in a wide variety of reading and writing activities. 

There is no one method for teaching vocabulary. Rather teachers need to use a variety of methods for the best results, including intentional, explicit instruction of specific vocabulary words. Teachers can also encourage creative approaches to spark enthusiasm. 

As a content area teacher, vocabulary is intertwined with reading and understanding a text. As a teacher, your task is to devise a way of teaching vocabulary in a way that does not interfere with students’ enjoyment and interest of a text. Each of our content areas has specific content area vocabulary that is necessary in building understanding of our disciplines. In the TEDx Sonoma County talk from Dr. Kelly Corrigan, “Reading Matters, Vocabulary Matters” she addresses how “word learning is a way to understand concepts more deeply, connect to topics and information intentionally, approach challenging words with strategies good readers use to make sense of complicated texts, and to transfer this understanding into consumption and creation” (Shaelynn Farnsworth).

 

I want my graduate students to understand the importance of teaching vocabulary in the content areas and be able to design and create word enriched lessons for their classrooms. I designed a vocabulary Hyperdoc and Choice Board to help them meet these objectives. This choice board is designed with three (3) rows and three (3) columns. Students choose one activity per row (Learn, Dig Deep, Apply) and track your understanding on the KUD Sheet. Vocabulary Choice Board

The KUD note catcher allows students to show what they Know, Understand, and can Do.

K: What Students Should KNOW

This includes information that can be acquired through memorization, such as facts or categories of facts, dates, names of people or places, names and details of important events, definitions of terms or concepts, academic vocabulary, steps in a process, or rules.

U: What Students Should UNDERSTAND

An understand goal is an insight, truth, or “a-ha” that students should gain as a result of acquiringcontent and skills. An understand goal represents an idea that will last beyond a single lesson or unit—it has staying power. An understand goal often makes a statement about or connects concepts. A concept is a broad abstract idea, typically one to two words, under which various topics and facts can fit (Erickson, 2002). They can be general or discipline-specific.

D: What Students Should DO

A do goal articulates skills that students should master. These can be thinking skills, organizational skills, habits of mind, procedural skills, or skills associated with a discipline (e.g., science, cartography, mathematics).

Have engaging vocabulary activités in your content area, share them in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Building Wordsmiths: 8 Activities for Teaching Vocabulary

Vocabulary is at the heart of the content areas we teach.  Each content has its own vocabulary unique to the understanding of the content material taught.  Some argue most vocabulary learning occurs independently. Most researchers would agree that you improve an individual’s vocabulary knowledge and comprehension through students immersed in a wide variety of reading and writing activities.

There is no one method for teaching vocabulary. Rather teachers need to use a variety of methods for the best results, including intentional, explicit instruction of specific vocabulary words. Teachers can also encourage creative approaches to spark enthusiasm.

Janet Allen, author of Words, Words, Words (1999), states, “Children and adults need to see and hear a word in meaningful context multiple times in order to know the word, somewhere between 10 to 15 times.” And with middle school and high school, variety is the key. Teachers cannot teach vocabulary the same way every time.

Reading is perhaps the most important element in vocabulary instruction.

So, how do I teach vocabulary in my English class?

Vocabulary is intertwined with reading and understanding a text. As a middle school English Language Arts teacher, I want to devise a way of teaching vocabulary in a way that does not interfere with students’ enjoyment and interest of a text. 

Here are 8 vocabulary activities to build wordsmiths in my classroom. The ultimate goals of all vocabulary development is for students to become independent word learners.

  1. Prefix Pursuit – All seventh graders in my school learn “SPROOTS”- Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots. Every day the bell ringer or do now requires students learn 3 new Sproots to help students understand the structure of words and give them the tools to deconstruct complex vocabulary words. Create a prefix pursuit and have students collect the definition of the prefix from their classmates. For example, find someone who knows the meaning of “dis.” find a person who can use a “uni” word in a sentence, find someone who know the antonym of “anti,” and find someone who knows two words that begin with “cent.”
  2. Vocabulary Pre-Assessment – How well do I know these words? Post words on the SMARTBoard and have students put them in one of the columns that best describe what students know about each one. Columns can read, “Don’t know at all.” “Have seen or heard but I don’t know the meaning.” “I think I know the meaning.” and “I know the meaning.”
  3. Vocabulary Word Maps & Frayer Models – Graphic organizers are great tools to help students build a word bank of Tier 2 and Tier 3 words in the content area. Graphic organizers can require students to define the word, offer synonyms and antonyms, use the vocabulary word in a sentence, and draw a picture to help visualize the word.
  4. Alphaboxes – The Alphaboxes strategy (Hoyt) help students reflect on what they have read while engaging in vocabulary expansion. Given a grid with all 26 letters of the alphabet, students work together to find words for each box that relate to the reading selection. This activity generates discussion, questioning, and collaboration.
  5. MadLibs – This is a perfect strategy for math, science, and social studies content areas. Students are given a text passage with missing words to fill in, students apply content area vocabulary words to help the passage make sense. Include a  word bank to help students complete an accurate text.
  6. Vocabulary SudoKu – Create a grid so that every row, every column and every 3X3 box contains 9 different vocabulary words. Stack the sudoku boxes for more complexity.
  7. Magic Squares – Create a 3X3 grid for 9 vocabulary words and then write out a definition or explanation for each of the vocabulary words below. Students select from the numbered terms the best answer for each of the terms. If the students got the vocabulary words correct the total sum of the numbers will be the same across each row (horizontally) and down each column (vertically).
  8. Anticipating Content Through Vocabulary – This strategy helps to front load vocabulary in a reading or chapter. Give students a word bank of terms. Based on the words, have students make a prediction how the word will be used in the text. Then, have students write ten sentences that support that prediction. The sentences become a guide for their reading. When students are finished reading the text, students can go back to their prediction sentences and modify them so they are accurate in terms of the content of the reading passage.
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All Depends On the Skin Your Living In: Building Text Sets & World Knowledge

This past March I attended the Long Island Language Arts Council Spring Conference and was able to sit in a great session on Writing About Reading. Kate Gerson, a senior Regents Research Fellow for Educator Engagement and the Common Core of NYSED,  presented the shifts in writing demanded by the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy; specifically how the Common Core writing connects to volume of text read, knowledge about the world and knowledge of words.  She mentioned that writing equals expertise and expertise is informed by language (vocabulary) and knowledge. Vocabulary is built through a person’s knowledge of the world. The more a person knows about something, they can read about it, begin to make sense of it, and acquire knowledge and vocabulary about it.

Not knowing words on a page is debilitating and slows a reader down. For ELLs and students with disabilities this can be a even harder challenge. Thus, if we want students to be strong readers with world knowledge and robust vocabulary, teachers need to expose students to information about the world and have the language to discuss it that is accessible to our students diverse needs. Consuming information about the world works best in chunks. Language and vocabulary is acquired over time. A steady growth of knowledge comes with daily reading, writing, and speaking. Teachers can use text sets and build their own text sets that are accessible and consumable for their students. These text sets can also help build student knowledge about the world and expose them to rich information.

Here is a text set that I have started to compile on race and racism in connection with all the racially driven police brutality present in the news. The text set includes a music video, poetry, and a short film that can then be paired with current newspaper articles and young adult novels. The key is that I am continually build text sets around the literature my students are reading and additional domain knowledge.

Poem “BLINK YOUR EYES” by Sekou Sundiata

I was on my way to see my woman
but the Law said I was on my way
thru a red light red light red light
and if you saw my woman
you could understand,
I was just being a man.
It wasn’t about no light
it was about my ride
and if you saw my ride
you could dig that too, you dig?
Sunroof stereo radio black leather
bucket seats sit low you know,
the body’s cool, but the tires are worn.
Ride when the hard time come, ride
when they’re gone, in other words
the light was green.

I could wake up in the morning
without a warning
and my world could change:
blink your eyes.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in

Up to the window comes the Law
with his hand on his gun
what’s up? what’s happening?
I said I guess
that’s when I really broke the law.
He said a routine, step out the car
a routine, assume the position.
Put your hands up in the air
you know the routine, like you just don’t care.
License and registration.
Deep was the night and the light
from the North Star on the car door, deja vu
we’ve been through this before,
why did you stop me?
Somebody had to stop you.
I watch the news, you always lose.
You’re unreliable, that’s undeniable.
This is serious, you could be dangerous.

I could wake up in the morning
without a warning
and my world could change:
blink your eyes.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in

New York City, they got laws
can’t no bruthas drive outdoors,
in certain neighborhoods, on particular streets
near and around certain types of people.
They got laws.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in.

French Rapper Stromae’s Music Video “Papaoutai”

KWA HERI MANDIMA – Short French Film/Memoir (Can Connect with other texts related to Violence in Sudan & Rwanda such as Linda Sue Park’s Long Walk to Water)

New York Times Articles “Thoughts on Race in American, a Backdrop to Ferguson” by Nicholas Kristof 11/25/2014

“Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist” by Nicholas Kristof 8/27/2014

To find out more about the National Text Set Project or attend one of their training programs, check out their website.

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Inferring Words Meanings: Teaching Students to be Word Detectives

When students do not understand an author’s vocabulary, they cannot fully understand the text.

Good vocabulary instruction emphasizes useful words (words students see frequently), important words (key words that help students understand the text), and difficult words (words with more than one meaning).

In improving vocabulary instruction teachers can help students by:

  • Activating their prior knowledge
  • Defining words in multiple contexts
  • Helping students see context clues
  • Helping students understand the structure of words (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots — SPROOTS)
  • Teaching students how to use the dictionary and showing them the range of information it provides
  • Encouraging deep processing — integrating new words into working vocabularies
  • Giving multiple exposure
  • Focusing on a small number of important words

Janet Allen, author of Words, Words, Words (1999), states, “Children and adults need to see and hear a word in meaningful context multiple times in order to know the word, somewhere between 10 to 15 times.” And with middle school and high school, variety is the key. Teachers cannot teach vocabulary the same way every time.

Reading is perhaps the most important element in vocabulary instruction.

So, how do I teach vocabulary in my English class?

I use interactive foldables with my students and early in the school year I give them a foldable to remind them of effective word detective strategies. These strategies include:

Context Clues – Read before and after words that might help explain the words

Word Parts (SPROOTS) – Look for word parts that are recognizable. Students can decode words by knowing prefixes, suffixes, and root words

Connotation & Tone – Take the word and apply it to the character and what the character is doing in order to understand the passage. Does this word offer a positive or negative tone?

Outside Connections – Have I heard this word in a song, movie, or maybe in foreign language? Connect the word with what you already know.

In addition to the foldable that students have in their notebooks to refer to throughout the school year, I mix up the different ways that I teach vocabulary. Here are additional ideas to teach vocabulary in any content area classroom:

Take a Poll – Using an online polling website like Polleverywhere.com I poll my student about a definition of a word. Students use their mobile devices to select the best definition for a word.

Idea Completions Instead of the traditional “write a sentence using a new word,” provide students with sentence stems that require them to integrate a word’s meaning into a context in order to explain a situation.

Questions, Reasons, Examples

What is something you could do to impress your teacher (mother, friend)? Why?

What are some things that should be done cautiously? Why?

Which one of these things might be extraordinary? Why or why not?

-A shirt that was comfortable, or a shirt that washed itself?

-A flower that kept blooming all year, or a flower that bloomed for 3 days?

-A person who has a library card, or a person who has read all the books in the library?

Making Choices – Students show their understanding of vocabulary by saying the word when it applies, or remaining silent when it doesn’t. For example: “Say radiant if any of these things would make someone look radiant.”

-Winning a million dollars.

-Earning a gold medal.

-Walking to the post office.

-Cleaning your room.

-Having a picture you painted hung in the school library.

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Alternatives to Traditional Vocabulary Instruction

Imagine that you are teaching “Use of Force” by WIlliam Carlos Williams.  As the teacher, your task is to devise a way of teaching vocabulary for this story in a way that does not interfere with students’ enjoyment and interest of the text.  

What ever text that you are teaching the old school concept of vocabulary lists on Monday, definitions on Tuesday, sentences on Thursday, and quiz on Friday are not effective in terms of student retention or usage.

When designing vocabulary “lessons,” keep in mind the following:

1. Avoid presenting a long list of vocabulary words to be learned before students are able to read the text.

2. Choose only those words that are important to the meaning and/or will be likely to actually enter your students’ vocabulary.

3. Consider a way of involving students in identifying their own vocabulary words.

4. Try to give your students experiences in figuring out words in context, rather than simply memorizing them.

5. If possible, devise a way for students to locate and define their own words, rather than relying on your choices and definitions.

6. Consider alternatives to students’ learning definitions of words individually. Think about creating collaborative learning experiences, if possible.

7. Find a way to evaluate what your students have learned without relying on a traditional vocabulary test (multiple choice or fill in the blank).

For more ideas about teaching vocabulary, Janet Allen’s Words, Words, Words and Word Savvy by Max Brand are fantastic resources. 

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