Refining Word Meanings for "Seventh Grade" Words to Know

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Students will be able to clarify the meaning of new vocabulary words by making Frayer model vocabulary tabs to have a solid, concrete understanding of definitions.

Big Idea

Words, words, everywhere, and not an idea of what they mean until they become mine.

Showing the Meaning of Words through Images

10 minutes

I am a big fan of using the Frayer model for vocabulary cards.  I learned about this model from Robert Marzano and have used it for many years. A major part of both Marzano and the Frayer model is images. Words alone don't always convey the meaning of a word, but a picture?  You know how that ends. And in the spirit of that idea, here's a video to show, not tell! Marzano's six steps to vocabulary development. 

Before even teaching this lesson, though, I had to do some prior work. I gathered visual representations (pictures) of the vocabulary words to show the words' meanings. There are two ways I do this gathering of images.

  1. I use pictures that students themselves have drawn.  The hand-drawn pictures you see in the PowerPoint were drawn by my own students. I simply took pictures of their artwork and inserted them in the PowerPoint.
  2. I conduct images searches using Google images or Pixabay.  With Pixabay, you get fewer search results than Google, but honestly? That's not a bad thing. 

I told students that they would be matching definitions and pictures and that they should not worry about the actual words yet. I showed the first slide to the students and had them read the definitions and raise their hands when they think they know which definition (not word) the picture represents.  I could have also had them do this in cooperative groups.  I revealed the word and part of speech by clicking through the PowerPoint and asked students to write the word and part of speech in the definition box.

I repeated the process for each word, giving students plenty of time to view the pictures and read the definitions.  Inclusion students often need more processing time, so I often count to ten before prompting or calling on a student. There will be plenty of awkward silence as students think, but don't try to rush it. Very often the meaning of a word is abstract, so students need thinking time.  I try to count to ten before even thinking of providing help so I make sure I'm giving students enough time.  After all, ten seconds is an eternity when you're twelve.

Refining Meanings with Vocabulary Tabs

15 minutes

Yesterday students shrunk dictionary definitions to a manageable size and meaning. today we continued to work on refining our understanding of the meaning of those words by making vocabulary tabs based on/inspired by/adapted from the Frayer method and Marzano.  I've adapted the four parts for two different kinds of vocabulary cards and tabs.  The cards are suitable for students who are responsible enough to keep track of tiny pieces of paper.  The tabs are more suitable for students who lose everything, heads included.

Most of the hard work has already been done. Students had the meaning explained to them, they restated the meaning, and they saw images to show the meaning.  The next step is to take all that information and turn it into a study tool, a vocabulary resource.

Step 1: Students wrote the word (correctly) and rated their initial understanding of the word.  This part was done yesterday, so woo!

Step 2: Students wrote the shrunken definition.

You can see step one and two in the first picture. The next picture shows the picture drawing in step three.


 Step 3: Students drew a picture, symbol, or graphic to represent the meaning of the word.  They immediately asked if they could use a picture from the PowerPoint, and of course, they could.  If you're into TPR (Total Physical Response) you could also have students think of movements to accompany the meaning.  I did this once with skiing terms, and after one hour of this type of vocabulary with TPR, I know more about skiing than I ever will.

    Step 4: Students wrote synonyms and antonyms.  This is the part where they consider what the word means and what it doesn't mean.  Examples of the word and examples of what the word isn't.  This is where the synonym and antonym part of Wordnik can be an excellent tool. If not all students have access to the technology, you could also use Wordnik to help you create the list of synonyms and antonyms. Students could then choose from a list which ones fit best with which word. It's like a scavenger hunt for meaning.

Responding in Writing

5 minutes

Yesterday I asked students to write a short paragraph about the words they'd learned.  Today I asked them to swap papers with a partner.  Using the same words, I asked students to write a response to that person. I gave students a few suggestions to help them out. If the first person started telling a story, the second person could continue it. If the first person was off on the meaning of a word, the second person could help them out. Write a note to the first person using the words.


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