Learning Vocab by Writing Stories (Day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word by using their vocabulary words in sentences and stories.

Big Idea

How do you learn new words? By using them!

Getting Started

5 minutes

Things have been off-track lately, between snow days and trying to finish Great Expectations before February vacation. To deal with the schedule, I have neglected the weekly vocabulary words. But that's all going to change today. We will spend both class periods today reminding ourselves of the old words and preparing ourselves for the new words for the week. It might seem like overkill to spend two class periods on vocabulary, but the best way to learn new words is to use them.


In the first few minutes, I will ask students to give examples of sentences using some of the vocabulary words we have neglected, such as propensity, cogent, and relegate.


At this point in the year, students don't like vocabulary words (they will appreciate this work in the long run), because it signals a quiz. But they do like writing stories, so today we will try to balance what they don't like with what they do like: they will write stories using the last three weeks of vocab. They already have these words, parts of speech, and definitions in their notebook. Today will be about using the words in context.

Writing Stories

35 minutes

Students will work in pairs to write their stories (W.9.10.3 and L.9-10.4d). The primary perimeter of these stories is that they should include the vocab words, but it should also have characters and a conflict (W.9-10.3a). They can pick their pairs, and their subject, but they have a limited amount of time to work because I want to leave time for presentations. Typically, I allow students to pick their own partners when they are writing creatively because it can be a vulnerable process, but I always let them pick their partners when time is limited because I need them to chose someone with whom they already have a report. They need to work quickly and effectively.

While students write their stories, I will circulate, ready to answer questions about words they have forgotten. For instance, I expect questions about how to use the word "caveat" correctly. It is always a tricky one. Once I know the topic of their story, I can usually give them help on how to use the word correctly.

Sharing Stories

10 minutes

Sharing stories is as important as writing the stories. It can be really helpful to hear how others interrupt the words. It is also a good time for me to clarify meaning; usually when one group uses a word incorrectly, others will make the same error (SL.9-10.1c). After a group shares, I can both congratulate their creativity/ knowledge and clarify any usage errors. When I clarify, I ask that others words find said word and make sure that they are using it correctly.


Here is a sample reading.


Hearing the words in context can also act as a stepping stone. Ultimately, I want students use these words in life, and I think that today's lesson gets us closer to that. They aren't merely memorizing words, they are learning how to use them, which just might translate into their vernacular.

New Words

5 minutes

At the end of the hour, once students have reviewed the old words, I will give them the next three words and the commonly confused words:

  • dissipate
  • belligerent
  • lamentable
  • lay v lie


As always, the vocabulary words come from the texts we read and common SAT words. I try to time them so that particular words line up with our reading, but it doesn't always work that way.