Sunday, March 4, 2012

Differentiation with Vocabulary

Differentiation with Vocabulary

            As a former Latin teacher, I love teaching vocabulary in my Humanities classroom.  Words are powerful, words are interesting, and words can be wildly entertaining. I want my students to maintain and utilize an academic vocabulary in order to help them in high school, college, and beyond. My goal is that my students remember the words well beyond next week’s quiz.
            I use Jane Bell Kiester’s The Chortling Bard as my grammar and vocabulary warm-up to start each class. Specifically, I use the warm-ups from her version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The vocabulary is rich and a good mix of words. Many of my students perform well on assessments, but I want all the students to perform well and also retain the information after the assessment.  I’ve been varying the processing activities and differentiating groups based on previous scores of vocabulary assessments and word choice in their writing. Here is a sampling of what I’ve been doing:

Activities for not yet proficient students
Activities for on-target students
Activities for TAG/highly capable Students

1. Making flash cards
2. Quizzing with a partner
3. Drawing/ graphic representation of words
4. Practice with assessments from previous years
5. Small group check-in with teacher

1. Writing pseudo-assessments: true or false, fill-in-the-blank, matching, synonym and antonyms (I sometimes use their questions on the assessments)
2. Exploring the parts of speech with vocabulary
3. Small group vocabulary charades

1. Writing linear arrays[1]
2. Writing analogies
3. Writing stories with vocabulary words
4. Compare/
contrast words
5. Word families
6. Etymologies

            For whole group instruction, I use vocabulary graphic organizers[2], class discussion with emphasis on root words and prefixes/suffixes and visual representations of vocabulary words.  Often I’ll type the vocabulary list into Google Images search and we’ll discuss why a particular image came up. Caveat: do not do this “live” in front of students. Even with the usual school safety settings in place, I’ve seen some unseemly images! Making your own vocabulary puzzles is another great idea- I use crossword puzzles because they are self-checking[3]. If you have a small class and/or enthusiastic class, you can do whole class charades with vocabulary. I’ve used “Mad Libs” as a practice activity for vocabulary, and students love it.