Teaching in High Heels

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guest Blogger..Abby

Hi Everyone! I am Gladys's guest blogger today, which I am thrilled about! Don't you love her blog (and her)?!! My name is Abby Alley, and I am a 2nd grade teacher in Chicago - Chicago Public Schools. I've been teaching at the same school for all five years I have been a teacher. I've taught 2 years of first grade and this year is my 3rd year in second grade. I love primary! My blog is called Ms. Alley's Class (not very creative, I know), but I would love if you would come over and visit/ follow!
Ms. Alley's Class 
Ok - on to my post...I am going to talk about teaching vocabulary for two reasons. First, I don't know about all of you, but vocabulary has always been one of those things I just don't know if I'm doing right. I seem to change it every year and nothing has seemed to be the perfect method. I've tried using the words from the basal, choosing my own words from the "story of the week", having a class "interesting words" board that we add to when we read/ hear interesting words, and this year I have a Fancy Nancy Word Wall for "Fancy Words." Of all the years, this one has been the best - I think because the kids are so engaged in reading all of the Fancy Nancy books - but I still wasn't satisfied. What was the proof that my students' were actually learning words? 

About a month ago, I took a 1 credit elective to finish my masters in reading. The class was on teaching vocabulary! It exceeded my expectations to say the least! The class consisted of attending a conference with Margaret Mckeown and then one class with my favorite professor in the world (Sunday Cummins) to debrief and extend our learning. 

It could take all day to tell you everything I learned...so I'll just highlight some key points (sorry if you already know all of this!!):

*Kids need 12 interactions with a word to remember/ internalize it

* We should be teaching tier 2 words (words like reluctant, dazzling, ravenous) - not to be confused with tier 3 words (hibernate, orbit, colonize) - words that are specific to a content area and will only be found in that context

*We should be talking about and taking into consideration when planning a read aloud (especially for ELLs): cognates (favorite/favorito), idioms (it's raining cats and dogs), multiple meaning words (clear, trunk)

*We should teach vocabulary using quality literature - both fiction and nonfiction

*We should be intentional about the way we speak - using words on purpose

***Vocabulary knowledge is directly linked to schema about a topic, which is the largest contributor to comprehension...so it's important! 

One of the most interesting things I learned is that by reading a book, it helps us learn words that were not in the book. Now, at first that makes no sense...but after learning that we think about words as concepts and in our minds we create imaginary ties and connections between words, it makes more sense. Our goal is to create more and more links between more and more words so that our students have a deep understanding of words. For example, think about the word: "compassionate" - I bet you can come up with a definition easily and can give many examples of what it means to be compassionate. That's because you have had a lot of experience with that word (especially being a teacher :) ) Now, think about the word: "abjure" - if you're like me, you may have heard it once or twice, but don't really know how to talk about it. We want our kids to be able to talk about words like we can with "compassionate."

Soooo I have been giving this a try in my classroom -- and although I am not a pro yet -- I have already noticed a difference. The first thing I did was notice how often I say, "Clear off your desks." That sparked a conversation about the word clear and how many ways we use that word. My kids just loved talking about it! They are so curious about words and can't wait to use them in new ways!

One thing I've been trying is making one of my reading mini-lessons a vocabulary mini-lesson everyday (as opposed to twice a week...oops). I use a read aloud throughout the week to focus on 4-6 words depending on the book. I try to throw in a little comprehension too! Monday I usually just read the book for enjoyment and then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are learning the words, and Friday is review/ and a possible activity. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the important teaching days. I have of course chosen the words ahead of time through a careful reading of the book. I always introduce the words first. Then we talk about how each word was used in the book and we come up with a "kid friendly" definition. This is the most important step - getting them to use the word in their own context. This is where so many students "mess it up." So often I find students either misuse the word or use it in wrong context, which does not help them internalize what the word really means. For example, last week we had the word, "cozy." I had a student say he was "cozy while riding my bike with no hands." It was so important that I disconnect "cozy" from that experience and re-connect "cozy" to other words and experiences! Sometimes I have my students act out the word if it's appropriate or talk about a time when they were _____. It just depends on the word. On Fridays, once they have learned all of the words and had a lot of practice with them - I try to assess them by forcing them to use the words together. For example, "Would it be more pleasing to you if someone demanded you to give them your toy or requested that you give them your toy?" The bold words would be the vocabulary words. This really forces students to understand the meaning of the words!

This week we have been reading The Amazing Bone by William Stieg. I love his books - especially for vocabulary! (We read Dr. De Soto last week.) 

We are learning: regret, ravenous, replied, imitate, and amazing

On Friday they are going to use this "bone" template to use one or more of the words in writing as another opportunity to use the words and a great way to assess. Feel free to download it and use it in your classrooms! If you do - I'd love to hear about it!!

Thanks, Gladys for letting me post! And thanks to everyone for reading!!

Thank you, Abby! I absolutely LOVED your post! We can always use some tips on teaching vocabulary...you did a great job!

P.S. Finally...I have the winner for the Vocabulary SpellingCity Giveaway! Pamela Fulk (#36) is the lucky winner! Woohoo...congrats, Pamela! Please email me so that I can give you the contact info...thanks everyone for participating...and thank you Vocabulary SpellingCity for this AMAZING giveaway! Love, love, love your website!



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