Saturday, July 23, 2016

Word Wizards: A September Vocabulary Unit

Hello Friends! 

It is too crazy hot here in VA for my normal outdoor activities so I am stuck inside and  thought I'd hammer out a quick post on another flip from the 2015-2016 school year. Those who have followed my blog for awhile know that I am big into vocabulary instruction and believe that the direct and explicit instruction of words can make a huge difference in comprehension and overall reading achievement. 

My first go to book on this topic has been Isabel Beck's Bringing Words to Life. 
In it, she discusses how to build "robust" vocabulary practices into your day.
This little book made a big difference in how I approach the teaching of words. 
Along with Isabel Beck's book, I have been so inspired by the book, Word Nerds written by 
Brenda Overturf, Leslie Montgomery and Margot Smith. 
I love this book! 
The authors of this one are real teachers working with real students. 
They crafted and developed, tested and tried this vocabulary approach with the children in their classrooms.

This year I devoted time and effort into getting this vocabulary approach in place.
The kids were hooked and LOVED working on these word wiz activities.
This hands on and kinesthetic approach helped support and engage my active learners.
Everyone benefitted. Students were not only expected to know the meaning of the words, but also learned how to use these words in their everyday speech and writing.

We had an area in the room that we used as our word collection spot. These two pocket charts purchased from Target held our words, meanings and sentences for the two weeks.
I decided to introduce five tier two words a week and we worked with those words for two weeks. It may seem like that is too much time to devote to five words; however, the beauty of this plan is that those five words increase to about 40 words when you teach students the related words, synonyms and antonyms of those five initial words. The connection of words to words is a powerful and meaningful way to build a child's vocabulary. 
So, how did this work?
One day one, I introduced these five words by simply decoding and reading the words by themselves first. Then I displayed a cloze sentence and students helped to determine which of the five words would best fill in the blank. After figuring that out, I would tell the students the child friendly definition of the word. This began the explicit and direct teaching that is widely recommended by experts in reading instruction. 
The word with the sentence and meaning was left up and displayed for the week. 

On day two, the students began recording our learning about these words in their Vocabulary Journal. 
We wrote the word and its part of speech in the center of the page and defined it using a "child friendly" definition that they could understand. 

On day three we would revisit each word, discuss how the word could be used and created a meaningful illustration of the word in our journals.  We also came up with a gesture or movement that would represent the word. 
On day four, we reviewed definitions, examples and gestures and expanded our knowledge by linking the word with other related words, synonyms or antonyms. We recorded those in the next box of the journal. 
Finally on day five it was time to practice using that word in a 7UP sentence. A seven up sentence is one that contains at least 7 words. The idea here is to expand our sentence writing by adding adjectives or adverbs that will make our sentences more meaningful. 

So after the course of one week, the students have had MANY exposures to the word in directed learning experiences. 

The second week is devoted to working with these words in different contexts thereby increasing their exposures to the entire set of words. 
Word Nerds encourages the use of lanyards so that students can actually wear the words around their necks. At this point all words- the five initial words plus synonym, antonyms and related words are put on cards and worn.  So for a class of about 20-24 students, everyone is wearing a different word. In bigger classes, some words have to be worn by two students. I picked the more difficult words to double up.
I picked up my sets of lanyards pretty inexpensively at Oriental Trading Co. and they held up well. 
You can check them out here: 
I purchased the clip that attached to the lanyard and held the word at my local Walmart. 
Also very inexpensive. 

I started out giving students the printed copy of the words on lanyards but soon decided to challenge them by having them write the word and decorate it to depict the meaning of the word. 
This really forced them to stretch their brains and think in a creative way. . 

Another brain stretching activity mentioned in Word Nerds is to have students color the background of the card in a color that matches the meaning of the word. 
Here someone colors in the word "parched" with the color brown signifying the parched means dry. 
I always have students defend their color choice by explaining why the chose it. You can learn a lot about how well your students know their word through this explanation. 

The "Word Nerd" approach involves LOTS of communication and conversation. 
Students are very engaged and are learning from listening to one another talk about their words. 

After students have their card ready, it's time to have some fun with our words. 
Students meet up with another student, greet and introduce themselves as their word and teach the other student all about themselves. 
It goes something like this: "Hi, my name is Motionless."  
The other students replies with, "Hi, how do you do, Motionless?"
The conversation continues, "I'm great, but I'm very still. I don't move at all...not even a muscle."
"Let me demonstrate." At this point the student uses the gesture to teach the other child the meaning of the word and has the child "mirror" the movement. 
The idea of mirroring is a "Whole Brain" practice which worked great with my students this year. 

Then the students would switch and the other would lead the introduction. 

Later in week two we would also play the "Link Up" game. Word Nerds calls this activity "Scramble".   Wearing a word, students would form a big circle in the room.  They would be given a chance to survey the students and words and then on the command: "Link Up", students would find other students who they could connect with. They may link up because they were related words, synonyms or even antonyms.  We would go around the circle and explain who we were with and why. 
Again, more conversation and more exposures. 

We often began our reading workshop with one of these quick activities as a way to "warm up with words". 
I also built in vocabulary practice sessions during reading station time. 
I used an approach similar to "The Daily 5" to manage my students while I was working with guided reading groups. One of the rounds students would go to would be a Working with Words station. I would simply leave a set of vocabulary cards, a Win a Word spinner and some markers and dice and students would play a word game. Here they laid out the cards to form a game board and moved their markers around the board if they could successfully complete an activity based on the word they landed on. 

At the very end of the week, students would be asked to do a written response to show their understanding of the words introduced through the two week cycle. 

Finally, the words would be written on post it notes and added to our Vocabulary Vault so students could refer to them throughout the year. 

I've begun putting the actual words I teach into documents that I can share with you all.
The first set of words are ones I like to teach in the beginning of the year because they relate to
citizenship and the second set includes words that are connect to our focus on healthy mindsets.
As the year goes on, we focus on more tier two words. These are words chosen because they appear in a good number of third grade texts and students can use them in their everyday conversations. 

I am offering my September word set in a Teacher Pay Teacher file that you can access by clicking the link below. 

Also be sure to check out the book Word Nerds! There are so many great ideas included in this book.
You and your students will love trying them out!

I just love hearing from others...please share your vocabulary ideas in the comments below or by emailing me 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing all these great ideas! The book you mentioned is on my "To Read" list, but I had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder!