Anyone that knows me well knows that I often have my nose stuck in a book. It is definitely one of my favorite past times and during the summer, I can frequently be found on the back patio with a book. (Of course, that often leads to my mom teasing me about having a great tan on the front of my legs and the back of my legs being a bright white!) Thanks to the #MTBoS and some great clearance sales at Half Price books last week, I have at least 25 edu-books in my to-be-read pile plus an uncountable number of fiction books waiting on my Kindle.
A few days ago, a tweet from Kathryn Freed caught my eye:
Kathryn's tweet started me thinking about some of the vocabulary books that I had in my "Summer Reads" pile. This upcoming year, I will be teaching AP Statistics and Geometry, both which are heavy on the vocabulary. In Geometry, I anticipate several ELL students as well, so I wanted to work on strategies to help all students be more successful academically.
One of the books in my pile happened to be "101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick", which I received as part of my ASCD membership:
Note: If you love to read edu-literature, I highly recommend joining ASCD. For $69 a year (or less if there happens to be a coupon), I am a "Select Online" member, which gives me access to the awesome Educational Leadership magazine plus 5 free e-books per year
Overall, this book had a very nice organizational structure. Chapter 1 dealt with the various types of memory structures in our brains before diving into the actual strategies, which the author had split into 3 chapters. Chapter 2 included strategies for introducing and encoding new vocabulary, then Chapter 3 worked with rehearsal strategies, and Chapter 4 dealt mainly with review and retrieval strategies. Many of the strategies were interchangeable throughout the "make it stick" process. Finally, Chapter 5 wrapped it up with how to assess vocabulary retention and how to plan for successful vocabulary instruction.
The book had some really good take-aways, which I'll get to in a minute, but my biggest disappointment was that "academic vocabulary" was rarely used to mean "content area vocabulary", rather it was more in line with what I would consider "SAT type words". This is definitely a book I would recommend to my AVID colleagues as well as my ELA friends because I know that in our AVID classes, we really work hard on academic reading & writing and "owning" those words so that kids are comfortable using what the author calls "Tier 2" and "Tier 3" words while speaking and writing. The strategies in this book would be extremely useful for any teacher that wants to develop a vocabulary-rich classroom.
With that said, here are some of the strategies and ideas that I will definitely use:
Open with a Cloze -
I've done this before, especially in AP Stat. In this strategy, you create sentences that leave out a key word and try to have students complete each sentence. I often use this during AP Review to remind them of all of the vocabulary we have learned throughout the year. I typically provide a word bank to help students out.
This is a modification of the typical KWL chart, but with the extra "W" for Word at the beginning. I've never been a fan of KWLs to be honest, mainly because of the "Want to know" heading, so I will probably modify this as a pre/post idea of WKL - Word, What we Know about the Word, What we Learned about the Word. I think this could be a great strategy in Geometry because often we have words that kids have some familiarity with from previous courses.
I'll admit, this is a strategy that makes me wish I was teaching AVID again! Vocabnotation is basically Annotation for Vocabulary. While reading a test (AVID Weekly, anyone?), have students circle the words they don't know, underline and draw a line from a word to a student created definition written in the margins, note (with a musical note) any important words, and draw arrows to words that connect in the text.
Dump & Clump -
I'm pretty sure I've used this strategy at some point, although I don't recall using this name. It may be related to one of the strategies from the AVID Critical Reading strand. Give each small group a piece of chart paper, markers, and a topic. Have the students brain dump words, ideas, etc onto the chart paper individually, then as a group, clump the words and ideas into subtopics. Finally have the group write a summary sentence for each subtopic. I think this could be a useful strategy when preparing for a test to activate their prior learning.
Out of Sorts -
If you ever take a peek into my cabinets, there's no doubt that I'm a huge fan of card sorts. However, the author talks about using card sorts with more of a word / definition / picture / example matching activity. One thing I've never done though, is have the students glue or tape their card sort to their notebook, so I will probably try doing that in Geometry. I think this could be easily adapted to a Desmos card sort as well.
Affix Organizer -
This graphic organizer is somewhat similar to a Frayer model. The author intended it as a way to think about prefix / suffix with words that have the same prefix / suffix and to compare those words. In my head, I started thinking about how I could use it more as a graphic organizer such as:
Enriching the Vocab Experience -
This strategy was a fun little memory test. Each student gets a blank piece of paper. The teacher says the first vocabulary word and the students write down related words / ideas, but NOT the actual word. This allows students to make deeper connections. After 10 or so words, ask students to flip over their paper and see how many of the original words they can regenerate. This reminded me of "Taboo" in reverse :)
Frayer Model for Self Reflection -
This was probably one of my favorite take-away ideas from the entire book and it had nothing to do with the students! When thinking of vocabulary instruction, most of us are familiar with the traditional Frayer model of Word, Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and Non-Examples. In Chapter 5, the author challenged teachers to use this model as a structure for self-reflection. As an example, the author had used the term "Vocabulary Instruction" in the middle spot where we typically would put the word. Then for the four corners, she asked teachers to self reflect with "Current Habits - When do I teach this? How do I teach this? How often do I teach this?"; "Facts & Characteristics - What strategies do I use to teach this?"; "Examples - Best lessons"; and "Non-Examples - Worst lessons"
I'm glad I picked up this book. It was a quick and easy read, but still provided a lot of food for thought. I will definitely recommend it to my ELA / AVID colleagues and if I ever have the chance to teach AVID again, I know I will be re-visiting this book! :)