Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vivid Vocabulary, Common Core, & Tech Integration Tools

Research shows that vocabulary acquisition plays a huge role in student learning, therefore requires attention in the classroom. With the shifts of the Common Core, students need to spend time learning both Tier 2 and Tier 3 words in a variety of ways.


Reading more text exposes students to more words and phrases. Students learn vocabulary in multiple contexts through multiple connections. By interacting with vocabulary, students absorb the word's meaning and learn to appropriately use it in a variety of contexts (Common Core Appendix A).

Below are a few ways to promote active engagement while interacting with vocabulary.

Increasing word choice or Tier 2 words with word clouds

Word Clouds are fantastic for checking word choice and targeting Tier 2 words. Students can copy and paste their written work into a word cloud maker such as Wordle or Tagul. Words used most frequently are larger than words used less often. 
Students can check their word choice easily with this tool. If the word "good" is one of the larger words, they can go back and use better word choice, considering the nuances of words they'll choose.

Likewise, Tier 2 words from text published online can be copied and pasted into the word cloud, and the larger words can be used to create target vocabulary lists.

Click here to learn more about creating word clouds with Wordle from the Edublog Teacher Challenge.

Online dictionaries
  • There are several online dictionaries. One of the easiest to use is the Google search box and type in "define:(insert word)".
  • Lingro is an online dictionary. You can look up one word at a time, or copy and paste text, then click on the words you're wanting defined.
  • There's a built in "define" and "research" tool that is easily accessible when in a Google Doc. Just highlight the term or word, go to "Tools", then select the tool to use. 
Google Docs Tool Menu

Learn new vocabulary through Memrise

I first heard of Memrise through the Edublogs Teacher Challenge. This fabulous tool helps with learning new vocabulary. A mem helps make connections between a word and its meaning. It uses mnemonics, audio, photos, videos, cartoons, sentences, etymologies, and witty remarks to make those connections.

There are many courses already created to select for learning a new language, vocabulary for a specific domain, and Tier 2 words. You can also search for words and create your own courses.

Here's an example (however, you won't hear the audio):
Attribution and permission to use from Memrise

Exploring concepts and vocabulary through Instagrok

Instagrok is a research tool that explores the topic and its big ideas while constructing knowledge about Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary. After typing in the topic or word, it shows related topics in an interactive concept map.

It shows related topics; key facts (you can pin these facts for later, and can click on "more" to go to the source and definition); student-friendly websites, videos, images; the facts you pin; quiz related questions; a page to write your own notes; and a glossary. Use the "difficulty slider" to adjust the difficulty of the material. 

The "general" account is free, while the teacher/student accounts require a fee.


Vocabulary exposure through Free Rice

Free Rice displays a word with four answer choices. The game adjusts its difficulty level based on student responses. For every correct answer, they donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program which feeds countries in need.

This could be used individually, in partners, or as a whole class. When students work individually, they could look up words they did not know to expand their vocabulary. As partners or a whole class, they could look at root words and eliminate choices to derive at its meaning.

Student creations to explore vocabulary

Students can work as groups to create vocabulary presentations or word matrix boxes.
Publish the student work online for others to learn from.
Word Matrix Box

Text dependent vocabulary targets and questions

With the Common Core, students will read with higher text complexity, obviously impacted by rich vocabulary (words and phrases), and answer text dependent vocabulary questions.

Here are some of the targets and questions that could be asked:


Derive meaning using the word web strategy

While students read, they can create word webs. A word web is a strategy for an unknown word where student use context clues to think of possible synonyms that could replace the word. 

Example of a traditional word web
A more in depth word web could be achieved through Wall Wisher or Lino It, by having students write down their synonym and the contextual clues (or knowledge of roots/affixes) used to make this educated guess.

Click here for a free tutorial on Wall Wisher, courtesy of the Edublog Teacher Challenge.
This interactive word web was originally created in LinoIt. Click on the dots for more information.

Other options to promote student discussion, thereby allowing them to learn from one another, could be a forum or blog.

Final thoughts

Teachers need to be deliberate when choosing academic vocabulary to teach, limiting the number of words, and allowing students to dig deeper into those words. They should target words the students will work with frequently.

Students need to experience new vocabulary through active engagement tasks in a variety of ways, before, during, and after reading text. They need multiple opportunities to engage with the vocabulary so it becomes internalized and starts to be used in their writing.
  • How do you actively engage your students in learning vocabulary?
  • What other ideas should be added to this list?
  • What task would get students writing with those new vocabulary words?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Voting for Edublog Awards

It's an honor to announce four of our AJUSD members and several of those I nominated have been shortlisted as finalists for several Edublog Awards.
Voting is open until 11:59 pm (USA Eastern Standard Time) on Sunday, December 9th.
  • You can vote once a day, for as many categories as you want.
  • Only one vote will count per day, per IP address. For those at AJUSD, that means only one vote counts from the district network, so please vote from home.
Here's how to vote: 1) Go to the Edublog Awards Voting Page. 2) Use the drop down menu to select your category and choice. Then press vote.

Below are the voting categories and blogs of our AJUSD people and friends. Take some time to explore their blogs and what they contribute to education.

  • Best Twitter Hashtag for Education: So happy that #comments4kids is on this list. If you are not sure how Twitter Hashtags work, read this post by Kathleen Morris.
  • Best Use of Videos and Media in Education 2012: I love how students help create educational posts on Mr. Avery's Classroom Blog.
  • Best Free and Open Professional Development For Educators in 2012: Love seeing Edublogs' Teacher Challenges listed here. This is how I learned to blog, through their free PD.
  • Best Individual Blog, Best Ed Tech Blog, and Best Teacher Blog: There are so many awesome blogs here, but I want to point out the blog I nominated Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom, Kathleen Morris' blog, is in all three of these categories. I am honored to have my blog, wwwatanabe, listed here as well.
It's an honor to be nominated and shortlisted for voting. I'd like to encourage you to vote for your favorites to celebrate what is going on in education around the globe.
  • What are some ways you contribute and celebrate education and learners? 
  • How do the Edublog Awards raise awareness of fabulous 21st century learning around the globe?