Yesterday I encouraged using visuals to help raise comprehension and retention of vocabulary words. Today I will provide two more suggestions, one visual and one written, that allows students to continue to develop their vocabulary repertoire. Both ask students to think creatively about the words and how they can be applied to real world scenarios and how words are interrelated.
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Headlines: After independently studying the assigned words, I provide the students with four recent headlines from the New York Times. For example, last year they were given: “For the Dishwasher’s Sake, Go Easy on the Detergent” and “High Fructose Corn Syrup’s Got a New Name.” Both headlines are vague enough to allow for interpretation. Their task is to choose a headline they can best work with and write an article using 7 vocabulary words appropriately and effectively. Typically the articles are roughly 5-7 sentences and are fairly creative and inventive. The students are creating the content, so each “article” varies greatly from one student to the next. Also, depending on the selected headlines, it also allows students to practice their persuasive writing skills. For a headline like “High Fructose Corn Syrup’s Got a New Name,” the students are essentially creating a sales pitch for something often disparaged in the news. After sharing several responses I then read them portions of the article to satiate their curiosity.
Mindmaps: You know we are a big fan of bubbl.us and have referenced it as a great way to test reading comprehension. It can also be used as a great way to determine what relationships exist within the list of vocabulary words. After the students have become familiar with each word, ask them to examine how they are intertwined by placing them on a mindmap. Mindmaps are similar to graphic organizers. By asking students to scrutinize the natural relationships within a set group of words we are basically asking them to evaluate context, effects of, and conditions in which the words typically appear. This is tough stuff. To complete the mindmap they have to synthesize their knowledge of their words. This is quite difficult and I will usually allow them the freedom to choose which 7 of the 20 words of which they are going to relate. The students can use bubbl.us to create their mindmaps or you can provide them a blank template to fill in. However, the key is to ask students to describe the relationships on the lines themselves.
What I like about the approaches described over the last two days is that they require the students to really think about the words and what they mean, not just memorize them. However, these can also be used as comprehension activities to build knowledge of the words, not just assess them. Consider applying these techniques when teaching the words, too.
Finally, so much of the above activities are really just modified versions of reading strategies activities. When struggling for ways to incorporate vocabulary into your classroom try digging into your bag of anticipation guides and pre-reading activities to see how you can modify them for word usage.
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