Saturday, January 3, 2015

Improving Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary is a fundamental component of reading and comprehension.  It is, therefore, a barrier for many students, particularly those for whom reading is a struggle.  Or those with auditory processing difficulty.

I love words.  I think about their origins, sort them, find synonyms and examples.  Make up songs about them.  Learn how to spell them.  Think about their parts of speech and how they are used in sentences.  I do these things alone, with my classes and for fun.  

All of these are excellent first steps, but I need to improve.  Here's why:

Often when we get lost in a new word in class it occurs on the spur of the moment.  There are ideas and resources that I lack on the fly.  Surely, I could anticipate these moments better.  Not always, but often enough to make the moment more teachable.

Typically, our discussion is oral.  What about the visual kids?  I need to have more visual input for them - pictures, the word printed, examples.  When all we do is TALK about the word, some kids are missing out.

Finally, I need a repository for all these wonderful words, maps, webs and examples.  Sometimes, I save the Smart File and we can refer to it later, or I can make it a PDF for the students.  But other times, we wrote on the board and it got erased.  Then what?  All of our hard work is gone.  Forever.

My 2015 Instructional Goal is simple - improve my vocabulary instruction.  To that end, I will:

1. Plan more effectively to anticipate the words we need to learn and prepare for discussion.
2. Provide more visual and tactile experiences for the new words and concepts.
3. Collect our words and work in a convenient place that students can access (Google?  Padlet?  Still thinking)...

Keep me accountable and I'll keep you posted...


  1. So good to read your thoughts again. Google is easy for kids to access anytime anywhere. What about Quizlet?

  2. Fantastic to have you with us for another challenge! I love words too and can completely understand your need to find ways to make the most of the teachable moment. A Padlet would definitely do that and whatever you create with the students could then be embedded in a blog etc. Great for showing parents, etc what you're doing. A Google presentation would work too - and you could keep adding to it and adding other media.
    Look forward to your next post! :)

  3. Oh, I love that goal. I loved teaching vocabulary in math/science classes because it appealed to many students who were more English Language Arts oriented than myself. What the students did not know that I was still teaching my content (I did interject *some* content-specific words) across in the vocabulary activities.

    I am sure you have already checked out Marzano's books, I used a math notebook for this, but I am sure you could make a template within Google for them to copy (Kasey Bell's post on how to have your students automatically copy a GDoc: ) - no erasing of others work if they *have* to make a copy first! :)

    Also, toward your goal, here is a recent list I put together after hearing a teacher state "I don't have to teach that":