Sounding Super Smart

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SWBAT learn ten new "sounding super smart" vocabulary words, and are then challenged to use the words in conversations they have with adults as a homework assignment.

Big Idea

"...if all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest." -Daniel Webster

Vocabulary Six Review

30 minutes


For this week's vocabulary, I was fortunate to stumble upon the article "11 Words That Will Make You Sound Super Smart" at  Because we did not gather words from our weekly reading nor our discussions, I had planned to return to Barron's test-prep list of "commonly tested words."  However, I thought it would be both fun and productive to address the "sounding super smart" words instead.  I have chosen to leave non sequitur off the list, as I may feature a set or two of Latin words and expressions as vocabulary in the future.

Through the Vocabulary #6 powerpoint I provide my students with either examples of the words (such as with paradox and oxymoron) or sentences using the words.  I have also begun including parts of speech in most vocabulary reviews, so that it helps prevent the "square peg in a round hole" usage of the words (EX:  forcing a noun to be an adjective, etc.).

Vocabulary is always a central focus in my classroom, and I am constantly on the look-out for ways to help my students "own" the words they learn. The homework for this set of words is fun, and I have given my students a few days to complete it.  I want them to  casually slip each word into the conversations they have with their parents, teachers, or other adults of influence in their lives.  Then I ask them to write down the sentence they spoke and have the adult initial next to it.  At this point, of course, they can come clean and admit to the adult that they are fulfilling a homework assignment, but the goal is to try to use the words naturally.  I even tell them that if they have the means to film the conversation, so that we can watch the reaction of the adult when the word is used, then we can view the recording on the document camera as a class on the day the homework is due. 

Three More Vignettes

25 minutes


When the vocabulary review is complete, we turn back to The House On Mango Street.  I explain to my students that after the exploration of the four females from the previous vignettes, we return again to Esperanza.  I tell them that Esperanza has a few things she wants to tell us today, and that we will even hear from her mother, a voice that has not had much air play thus far in the book.

The vignettes we will read out loud, as a whole class, are "Bums in the Attic," "Beautiful & Cruel," and "A Smart Cookie."  I have grouped these three together as a stopping point, because they return the focus to Esperanza, which sets my students up well for introducing their end-of-unit essay (for their essay, they will be revisiting the prompt I gave them for their diagnostic writing sample at the beginning of the year).

When we have sufficiently discussed the vignettes, I transition my students into a pre-writing exercise for their essay (But We Haven't Finished the Book . . .?).

Bubble Mapping Esperanza's World

15 minutes


I give each student a blank piece of white paper and tell them to draw a circle in the center, referring to the model I have drawn on the whiteboard (Esperanza Bubble Map).  In the center of their circle, I instruct them to write "Esperanza's World ---> Dreams & Aspirations." 

I then explain that I have started the process for them, creating a sort of hybrid bubble map.  In the first realm of circles off the center circle, I have identified incidents, characters, etc. from Esperanza's world that I think have been key to shaping her dreams and aspirations.  In the second realm of circles on the map, I have briefly indicated how/why these events have shaped her dreams and aspirations. I walk my students through my thinking process in terms of why I have selected the two events I have thus far on the model--her first job and the vignette "Papa Who Wakes Up Tired . . .".  I am conscious of using the same language of the essay prompt my students will be working with, in order to make the eventual transition from Esperanza's world to their own worlds as seamless as possible.

I then tell my students that they have 8-10 minutes to identify at least three more incidents, characters, etc. from the book that they think have been key to shaping Esperanza's dreams and aspirations.  I give them copies of the book to consult, but allow them to work from memory as well, as many of my students seem to know the book well enough by now.  After the assigned amount of time has passed, I ask my students to share one of the entries they have made with the whole class. I allow as many to share as time will permit, and then instruct my students to keep their bubble maps until our next class, when we will be adding the next step to them (Student Sample).