Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bringing Words to Life: Introducing Word Meanings AND What I'm Wearing Wednesday

Wow, I can barely believe I'm actually posting two days in a row! Of course it helps that I'm on summer break AND don't have company. This is our first "normal" week of summer. Now I'm just crossing my fingers that I also have time to actually READ some of your posts before Keagan wakes up. I'm WAY behind and feel like I've been the world's worst bloggy friend ever since March! I promise I care, and I do try to read at least some of your posts, even though I don't always have a chance to comment!

But now it's time to get down to business. Chapter 3 is Introducing Word Meanings, so hopefully there will be a lot of real application that you can take home from this post. And remember, I'm just skimming the surface of this book, so if you want to dig deeper I recommend getting it! I actually just bought the companion, Creating Robust Vocabulary, which includes extended examples and also answers many FAQs. I can't wait to dig into it!

But back to Chapter 3: We need to first answer three important questions.

When? It is usually best to introduce new words before reading. That way students are able to focus more on comprehension as they read. If you are reading together, however, and come across an unfamiliar word in the middle of the text, you may QUICKLY stop and explain it. But be careful to keep it short and simple, and don't do it too often because it will mess up the flow of the story. You can also introduce words AFTER reading. This is the perfect time to discuss those words that may have appeared in the text but weren't necessary for comprehension of the story.

How Many? Here is your magic number. Ready to write it down? The authors recommend sets of 6-10 words over a span of 5 to 9 days. That doesn't mean introduce all 10 words on the first day, though! It's best to gradually add words, maybe 3-5 per lesson. Then build on these words WHILE still doing meaningful activities with the first words.

How? This is the tough one, and the book gives quite a few examples.

First off (and I'm guilty of this), do NOT ask students, "Who can tell me what ____________ means?" How many of you are with me? I hung my head in shame. The problem with this tactic is that students begin guessing wrongly, and then we have to undo those connections they made, which is very difficult. Plus we just wasted a lot of time that could have been used more wisely. Oops! Only do that if you're pretty sure the students do know or can figure out what the word means.

Second, don't start with the dictionary. I'm sure you have seen students copy down a definition, and they have NO IDEA what it means. I especially cringe when it takes up about 4 lines, and it might as well be written in French. Not only did they waste time, but they just wasted paper and are no closer to understanding the word than before they began.

Instead, create student-friendly EXPLANATIONS. Did you notice that I didn't say "definition"? Yes, students need to understand the meaning of the word, but they also need to be able to see how it is used. I've seen a teacher (myself included) give a student-friendly definition, but they don't provide enough explanation for the student to use it properly. Then I look at a sentence they create, and it makes no sense because they don't know how to use it properly. I need to start saving examples of these, but I'm sure you've seen them. Something like, "I am controversy" when they really mean "My friend and I had a controversy over how she treated another girl, and now we aren't friends anymore." The second sentence not only uses the word correctly, but it also provides a clear example of what a controversy actually is.

ONE LAST VERY IMPORTANT THING: It's imperative that we don't simply give them these new explanations and then throw a few worksheets their way and hope it works out. We need to create meaningful activities for students to PRACTICE using these words and understanding them fully. The book gives quite a few examples (Word Associations, Have You Ever..?), but I'm just going to share one.

Which Would...? 
This is an activity where you ask students what they would prefer if given two alternatives. For example: "Which would you rather anticipate - your birthday or a trip to the dentist? Why?"

Whatever activities you choose, it is important that students are engaged and have to process the meaning in order to use the word appropriately. This is not easy to master when we use a simple worksheet that was already created for us.

And that wraps up Chapter 3! I hope you're getting as much out of this as I am. I've been very encouraged by your comments. Come back next week to read about bringing vocabulary to the primary grades.

And if you're still with me...

I'm finally getting the hang of the mirror selfie (although it's a good thing I was quick at the gym. A lady with no shame came out of the shower a few seconds after I snapped the first shot. Eek!!), although I still feel silly doing it!

Old Navy has kind of been my go-to place recently. I found a few cute work out clothes there, which makes going to Body Pump that much more enjoyable. Btw, this was my second class in a week! I'm hoping this go again Friday and keep it up. We don't go on vacation until the end of August, and I plan on looking hot! The top on the right is from Old Navy last year, and it's still one of my favorites. Flowy, cute, and easy to dress up or down! What are you wearing? Go link up!


  1. Ahh I did body pump once and it kicked my booty. In a great way.
    I'm not currently a member of a gym since our apartment has a small gym and yoga studio but I miss classes!!! Keep it up and I'll live vicariously through you ;)

    p.s. love your red top! I just spent some money at Forever 21 and you have me wishing I went to Old Navy instead.
    Fourth Grade Lemonade

  2. I love Body Pump! I used to hate it... but only when I didn't go regularly because I would not be able to move the two following days! LOL Old Navy has some super cute workout clothes, and I love that top from last year too!!! Thanks for linking up!
    ideas by jivey

  3. I am SO glad the naked lady did not hop in the picture. I don't want to be blinded by naked ladies from the gym. That used to scare me to pieces when I worked at the YMCA...naked ladies with no shame strutting around the bright locker room! You look cute in your Old Navy finds!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  4. Just came across your blog! Love it! It's so fun that you work in Richmond...I teach in North Carolina, but I'm from Williamsburg! I did some Body Pump last made me HURT! I remember trying to walk up my apartment stairs and bursting into tears from the is no joke! Keep it up! I look forward to reading more of your blog! :)