Making Vocabulary Meaningful

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Objective

SWBAT define words using a child friendly definition while adding an action in order to retain the meaning of new words.

Big Idea

In first grade we teach children how to decode in order to read. Children also need to know the meaning of words in order to gain reading comprehension. This routine will help students learn and retain the meaning of new words.

Teacher Background Knowledge

While learning how to be a Common Core Coach for the state of Tennessee, I learned about some important research regarding teaching reading from Gough and Tumner.  I found a Powerpoint presentation by Antonio Fierro  Antonio Fierro The Neck of the Hourglass.ppt that shows this model.  Click on the powerpoint and go to slide 6. This model shows there are two major domains for teaching reading: Printed Word Recognition and Language Comprehension.  These two domains can be broken down into five components, one of them being vocabulary.  The model also states that if there is a weakness in one of the five components, then reading comprehension will suffer. This is why teaching vocabulary is essential to teaching reading. So as long as we have to learn vocabulary, we might as well make it meaningful. 

Today, in one of our first lessons of the year, students will work as partners, taking turns defining the word, using a complete sentence and acting out a motion to go with the word.  During independent work students will define the word in their own terms and write a sentence using the vocabulary word. These activities address both language and speaking and listening standards.

For today's lesson you will need your list of vocabulary words, either posted on your Smartboard or written on flashcards - just something for the students to refer to. You will also need to make enough copies of the Vocabulary Worksheet Vocabulary Worksheet.pdf for each student in your class.

Modeling Section (I Do)

5 minutes

I use this routine every week in my classroom and I love it.  I think it's a great way to teach vocabulary and keep students engaged.  My district has adopted Pearson's "Reading Street" as our reading series and each week we have a new set of vocabulary words called "Amazing Words."  I use this routine with our "Amazing Words" and we are also going to use it when we begin reading and writing nonfiction stories.  You can also use this in your social studies and science lessons.  It works with any content specific vocabulary.

Before I even start the routine, I want to make sure my students understand why we learn new vocabulary words each week.  I say to them, "We're going to learn some new words today.  When we learn new words, we'll understand what these words mean when we see them in our reading and be able to use them when we write."

It's best to set this routine up in the beginning of the year.  As the students are learning the routine, it will take a longer period of time.  Once the students are used to the routine, they can accomplish the routine is a shorter amount of time.  You'll want to preview the words for the week and think of a kid-friendly definition for each of them.  This is how the routine goes:

  • Say the word, teaching the students the correct pronunciation.
  • Have the class repeat the word.
  • Tell the class the definition using a complete sentence.
  • Have the class repeat the definition.
  • Add your gesture.  Say the definition again in a complete sentence, adding your gesture.
  • Have the students repeat the definition with the gesture.
  • Practice the definition and gesture several times until the class feels more comfortable (I usually practice it three times with them.)
  • Have student partners take turns teaching each other the definition with the gesture.
  • After partners have taught each other, do the definition and gesture one more time as a class.

We have a lot of fun with this routine.  We've made noises together for words like chirp and snort, and we've put our hands over our throats and acted like we're near death for the word poisonous - the possibilities are endless if you are creative enough.  I model the routine for the first word and explain each of the steps and then the rest of the words go more smoothly for our guided practice section.

Guided Practice (We Do)

10 minutes

I teach my vocabulary before we dive into our story for the week.  I want students to have a strong understanding of the vocabulary when they encounter it in their reading, thus helping their comprehension. I know it's important to switch partner groups because my students need to work with all their classmates, not just their good friends.  I have some resources here sorting sticks.pdf, PartnerPickingCards.pdf, and fun_ways_to_group_students.pdf that may help you to switch your partner groups up and keep your students engaged.

This whole vocabulary routine is guided practice. Again, this is the process:

  • Say the word, teaching the students the correct pronunciation.
  • Have the class repeat the word.
  • Tell the class the definition using a complete sentence.
  • Have the class repeat the definition.
  • Add your gesture.  Say the definition again in a complete sentence, adding your gesture.
  • Have the students repeat the definition with the gesture.
  • Practice the definition and gesture several times until the class feels more comfortable (I usuall practice it three times with them.)
  • Have student partners take turns teaching each other the definition with the gesture.
  • After partners have taught each other, do the definition and gesture one more time as a class.

I've also uploaded a video Vocab Routine.m4v so you can see my students doing this routine to give you a better idea of what it looks like in the classroom.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

After we've done our guided practice, it was time for independent practice.  I post the words on the Smartboard and pass out the Vocabulary worksheets to my students. The students write the word in the first box, define the word in their own way in the next box, draw an illustration of the word, and then write the word in a sentence in the last box.

If students have a hard time remembering the word they can turn to their partner and repeat the routine if they need to.  What I have found during independent work time is that I will see students acting out the word and quietly say the definition to themselves before they do their written work.  There is something about the action that really helps the students to remember the words.

After completing the work, I collect it and check to see how the students retained the information or if they have any misconceptions.  If they do, I go back and reteach those vocabulary words during small group reading.

Closure

2 minutes

My closure is short and to the point.  I am always aware of the Simple View of Reading and how important it is to teach vocabulary.  I want my students to know why vocabulary is important too.  I ask them, "Why do we learn new words?" My students had a hard time answering this question at first, but they're beginning to understand that if they learn new words, they'll understand the meaning of the words when they see them in their reading.