Do your lessons need a vocabulary boost? Are you tired of using the same strategies to build vocabulary? If you are, you may want to try out these two strategies from the book Inside Words: Tools for Teaching Academic Vocabulary, Grades 4-12 by Janet Allen. It is chock full of ideas on how to build academic vocabulary.
Concept Circles is a vocabulary strategy where circles are divided into four sections. Each section contains a word or phrase that you would like to have students think, talk, or write about. It provides students the opportunity to “categorize words and justify the connections between and among words” (Allen, 13-14). It can be a great formative assessment tool or writing strategy. The teacher can give them the four words, or students choose their own four words and discuss why they are key to the topic they are studying. Students can shade the words that connect and tell why they connect and why the others don’t connect. Students could write a summary or paragraph using the words in the circle.
Here are two examples of Concept Circles:
Another terrific strategy from Allen’s book is called Categories and Labels (Allen 26-28). This strategy builds technical vocabulary that is necessary for students’ comprehension of a topic or story. It also builds background knowledge.
The teacher places specific words form a story, article or any reading material in a word bank. The teacher reads aloud each word in the word bank and students repeat the words back. Students can ask questions about the words, but the teacher should not provide exact definitions right away. The teacher may remind students where they can find information about the words (internet, apps, books, glossary, etc.). Students then form groups. The groups discuss the words and use resources to discover more about the words. The group categorizes the words into any logical group that they choose. The group then assigns a label to the group (i.e. adjective, location, refers to a person, etc.). The groups must justify their categories and labels to the other groups.
This can be a great background knowledge strategy where students have never seen the words before. It gives them the time to explore the words and make predictions as to what the story is about. It can also be used as a tool to dig deeper into words or as a formative assessment.
Vocabulary development is key for all students. Hopefully these two strategies will give a boost to your current vocabulary teaching!
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
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