Fun vocabulary instruction is NOT an oxymoron!

Applying visualization in my classroom

I loved Eileen Simmons’s “Visualizing Vocabulary,” an accessible, jargon-free article offering easy-to-teach techniques for more effective –and interactive– vocabulary instruction.  I am inspired to try these ideas soon:

ABC books – Using vocabulary words as part of an autobiographical ABC book, students write and illustrate one page per letter, using whichever word most aptly describes them. I already assign my Juniors (whom I am teaching for the first time) an autobiographical PowerPoint presentation; perhaps ABC books would be a good way of having my Seniors (who have already been my students for one year, and are thus veterans) write about themselves in a different way. I could also implement ABC books as a capstone to the junior year of vocabulary study.

Biopoems – I would transform biopoems into Vocabpoems, perhaps incorporating a visual component, through the use of concept illustrations (where the word’s visual representation responds to its general meaning and not its literal definition).

Vocabulary cards – I would adapt this idea by transforming the cards into Vocab Stickies. My students already know how much I love post-its, so I think they would appreciate using sticky notes to further their vocabulary study. I would also simplify the information included; my Vocab Stickies would focus on prefix, root, and suffix(es), as well as part(s) of speech and definitions.

Vocabulary-related activities to share

Quizlet.com – This free online tool allows anyone to create word lists, play games with the words, and print flashcards. You can combine multiple word lists too. The premium service also allows you to upload visual representations for each word.

Discuss vocabulary word variants – When I discuss vocabulary with my students, we discuss denotations and connotations along with how to change the given words to its variants. This allows the students to practice broader grammar and word-sense skills, because they need to pay attention to the gender, number, tense, and part of speech.

Vocabulary Squares – I was inspired by English teacher (and author) extraordinaire Jim Burke to try vocabulary squares with my students. It’s a simple, straightforward strategy that my students enjoy. Download the template from Burke’s site: http://www.englishcompanion.com/pdfDocs/vocabsquares.pdf and try it. It’s flexible – you can adapt each of the square’s parts to suit the level and the difficulty that’s most appropriate for your students.

Read the Simmons article at http://www.writingproject.org/cs/nwpp/lpt/nwpr/403

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