It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Teaching Tuesday” post, but I’ve gotten some emails lately asking how I teach vocabulary, so I thought I’d share a little bit about that today. Quick and easy. Here we go…
In truth, I’m a total vocab newbie. In the past, I have fallen in the camp of people who believe that the best/only way to learn vocabulary is to READ so – largely because of that, but also because I just felt like I had so many other things to fill my curriculum with – I’ve never prioritized actual vocabulary lessons in my classroom. This year, however, while I still believe vocab is best learned in context, my students told me on last year’s end-of-year evaluations that they actually wanted more vocabulary study (I know, what kind of kids do I teach?!) and – more and more – I’m seeing the value in it for SATs etc. as well. So, here I am teaching straight vocabulary for the first time in my career….
Choosing my list of terms was the easy part. Based on what I heard from my students, and the fact that 100 seemed liked a reasonable number of words to cover in a year, I chose the SAT 100 put out by the Princeton Review (PDF Here). The list has 100 words (actually 104 if you want to be technical, which kind of drives my Type A personality crazy) that are organized in order of frequency on the SAT. I took the list and divided it into ten smaller lists of approximately 10 words each to cover throughout the year.
Once I decided to teach vocabulary, the next step was to figure out how. Naturally, I took to the internet and found some great resources. In the end, I adapted my lesson primarily from Eileen Simmons ideas in her article titled “Visualizing Vocabulary” (PDF Here). I like that she makes vocabulary more about learning language and owning words instead of just memorizing definitions. In addition to this though, I also really wanted to hold my students accountable for actually learning the words, so I decided to use Simmons “vocabulary cards” as a study method, but to still test students every two weeks (or so) on the words we have just learned + a few random choices from week’s before (to keep everything fresh in their minds). I also determined to quiz students on their ability to place new terms within the context of a sentence (which is how the SAT does it too) instead of simply having them match the term to its definition.
Here’s the hand out I made to explain the study and quiz method for my students:
We are only on List 1, but so far, things are going well. We make 2 or 3 cards together (for now – I will eventually have them make them individually or with a partner instead) at the start of every class, and I will leave one or two class days for some simple review/ review games before the actual quiz. I also have students hole-punch their cards and keep them in their binders so that they can easily flip through them all year long (which is especially important since “old” words can show up on any future quiz at any time).
And, that about does it. It isn’t perfect, but it’s something…
Now it’s your turn. How do you teach vocabulary?!? Please share your ideas in the comments!!