Monday, April 9, 2012

Authentic Vocabulary

Remember the days when vocabulary was just a list of random words that you had to alphabetize and look up the definitions for?  Not in this classroom!  To really learn new words, students need to get excited about them, notice them in everything they read, and USE them in authentic conversations!  Here is how we discover vocabulary in my classroom:

I have a "Discovering Vocabulary" Word Wall that is divided into sections for each subject area.  Throughout the day students add words to the wall.  For example students may illustrate a word card for "momentum" after a science lesson and add it to the wall.  Words can be chosen BY THE STUDENTS at the end of lessons as a sort of "cementing" activity. 

Our reading words are gathered in a very special way through teacher read-aloud.  I pick three "goldilocks words" (not too hard, not too easy) from the chapter we are about to read and put them on the wall.  As I read the chapter, students listen for the words and get to yell, I mean YELL out "STOP!" when they hear me say one. This keeps them engaged with the read aloud and the words we use will be more meaningful for them since they are taken straight out of the book.  Once we STOP, we use strategies to figure out the meaning of the word together and then keep reading on until we reach the other words.  Throughout the week students look and listen for these words and use them in conversations.  Each time they see it, hear it, or use it they make a tally mark on the word card.  So what if they are using it on purpose just to mark the word?  THEY ARE USING THE WORD!!!!!  Isn't that what we want?  They didn't just copy the definition and move on.  At the end of the week the word with the most tallies is crowned "Word of Fame!"  Additional vocabulary activities can be done with these words throughout the week to enhance learning.  After we finish a book we take all the words we studied from it and move them to our class word wall.   This is such a fun interactive way for students to get engaged with their vocabulary study!  I now hear students using these words all the time and they are even using them in their writing!!!

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