Monday, September 2, 2013

Academic Vocabulary

Our students may be unusual in that they have a very limited vocabulary.  (Somehow, I can't imagine that we are the only school whose students do not have the vocabulary for post secondary education or for the business world.)  So, a goal for my students this year is for them to not only be exposed to a more academic vocabulary, but to use it on a daily basis.

I started with the word "annotate."  Every time I used that word in class, students were to do a "Wooo!" (Kind of like Pee Wee Herman's Secret Word.)  We talked about how important it is for them to mark up their texts with questions, comments, and paraphrasing for understanding.  This isn't about me guessing what is going to cause problems.  This is for them to dig through the text and find their own meanings and questions.  (Thus, they are doing the work.)  There was a lot of woo hooing in English II.

To encourage them to use the "Words of the Week," each class has a piece of paper on the front board. Every time a student uses a word correctly in discussion, they get a gold star to put on their hour's paper.  The competition has been heated between a couple of hours, and even students who find the vocabulary difficult have been using the words.  SCORE!  (This idea came straight off of  If you haven't discovered that gem yet, be sure to check it out.)

I choose four to five words a week as academic vocabulary. I also give them derivatives and challenging synonyms.  The words go up on our front board for the week, so they can see them daily.  At the end of the week, we add them to the word wall.  The next week, they get new words on the front board.

What have I noticed?  Challenging words (think synthesize, literal, allegorical, etc.) are making their way into their daily discussions.  And to be honest, I think there are a lot of students who are quite proud of their growing vocabularies.

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