Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Teaching Vocabulary

I have employed a teaching strategy for vocabulary enhancement this year from which I am getting really good results. This is not a part of any particular curriculum but is a hodge-podge of ideas I have picked up over the years and meshed together.
First, I select a set of vocabulary words for each week. I choose around 20 words in all from our current literature study, science, and social studies.
On Monday, I introduce the words through pictures. This could be done in a variety of ways, but I find public domain pictures online, save them to a file, and create a power point slide show.
The following are pictures used to define comfort, shabby, vexed, and pliable:

The boys and I discuss each picture. I ask a lot of probing questions.
For example, "Why is the woman holding the person in the first picture?"
"Would you want to live in the house in the second picture? Why not?"
"What do you think just happened to Mickey Mouse?"
"Would you enjoy touching the material in the fourth picture? Why or why not?"
Then we state a simple definition in kid language.
We defined comfort as "helping someone feel better."
Shabby was defined as "in need of repairs... many, many repairs."
The boys said that if someone is vexed, he is "so upset he can't stand it!"
Pliable was "easily molded or shaped."
After stating a definition, I play the power point through once more, having the boys read the words as it plays.
On Tuesday, I show the power point pictures one at a time. I create these so that I can reveal the word after the picture is shown. If you have the 2007 version, you do this by custom animating it. If you do not have power point, you can use picture cards, or save the pictures as a file on your computer, like you would family pix. They can be deleted at the end of a unit. As I show each picture I have the boys state the word and define it verbally.
On Wednesday, I have the boys write a meaningful sentence for 5 words. To do this, I first have them create an idea chart for each word. Here is the table I use:
After the chart is complete, each boy composes his own "meaningful sentence" for each word. A meaningful sentence is one in which the vocabulary word could not be replaced by anything other than a synonym and still make sense.
For instance, The house is shabby. is not a meaningful sentence. I could replace shabby with old, beautiful, green, any number of adjectives. However, the sentence The potter added water to the clay on his wheel so it would be soft and pliable for making a beautiful vase. is rich with defining context.
The first year I attempted this, I did most of the writing. As the boys became more and more competent, I handed over more and more of the writing responsibilities.
Also, at first, children tend to write run-ons with this method. The key to success is constant evaluation and feedback. I have an editing session with my boys as soon as they finish writing and discuss improvements that could be made each week.
On Thursday, the boys share their meaningful sentences with each other and offer feedback. We also review all the words using the power point one last time.
On Friday, I give them a quiz. I write the words for the week on the board. For each word, I give a synonym, a definition, or a meaningful sentence, saying "blank" in place of the vocab word. I do this verbally, and they write their answers on notebook paper.
At the end of six weeks, I give a cumulative test. For this, I test them individually. I give them the word, and they give me a synonym for 1 point, a definition for 2, or a meaningful sentence for 3 points. 50 points equals $0.25 in extra allowance.
This system has worked so well, that my boys notice their vocab being used everywhere. They even listen for times that our Pastor uses a word they have learned in his sermons! It does take some effort on Mom's part but is worth the effort if you stick with it.

1 comment:

Christy@MercyEveryMorning said...

Wow, Dawn! Your homeschooling posts are so inspiring...You're a GREAT teacher!