I am a terrible vocab teacher
There, I said it.
Admitting the problem is a big part of solving it, right? Sheesh, I hope so!
Despite being terrible at teaching vocabulary, I am co-leading a school wide vocab PD on Tuesday. Eek. Talk about pressure. Each period anyone who is off for their PLC time will come to me for “Beginner/intermediate” ideas and my colleague, Lesa, for “intermediate/Advanced”. On the upside, while preparing to lead this collaboration hour, I have found a lot of ideas for my own classroom.
I have finally come up with a plan and starting next week I plan to begin implementing it.
- Students already have notebooks that we use almost daily for Notebook Time, so I am going to ask them to keep a log of words they stumble upon.
- The words can be interesting, unknown, or nice to the ear.
- They can found anywhere: in our shared texts, AoWs, independent reading, articles, Tweets. Wherever.
- Every other week I will ask kids to fill out a form with two (I’m not sure about this yet) words from their list.
- I will use these to compile a master list for us to study. Sometimes I might sneak in some words I know are coming up that will be tough in our reading–just a teeny bit sneaky.
- We will complete a Knowledge rating chart on day one and add the words to our word wall.
- Over the course of the next week or two (I haven’t worked out the details yet), we will play with the words. Say them, study them, use them.
- I haven’t decided if I want to quiz kids over them. I really don’t. Maybe our “quiz” will be a piece of writing or a concept circle activity or something.
- Bonus: my students are in groups (their “home base groups”) and we’re going to make names and “flags” for them. Then, and this is a BIG CHANGE for me, we’re going to have an ongoing competition (not sure what the winners will get). When it comes to vocab, this could include competition in games like Kahoot! Or as simple as using the word correctly during discussion or something. Whenever teams earn a point, I’ll add a sticker to their column on the wall. This is so out of my comfort zone, y’all don’t even know!
So that’s the loose plan for now. Thoughts? Suggestions? How do YOU teach vocabulary? I’d really love some feedback on this one!!!
3 thoughts on “A Plan for Teaching Vocabulary in High School English”
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I’m not a big fan of vocab instruction, probably because I’m not good at it. All the literature says vocabulary grows through constant exposure when reading rather than drill and kill in school which kids forget after the quiz. And on the high school level–or any level when kids are supposed to learn things in context–I don’t see how lists of random words has a place.
I did have a positive vocabulary experience this year. I’ve been incorporating rhetorical techniques into writing. The kids like having something that they can actually do and practice that makes their writing more effective. Like anaphora, which is repeating a word/phrase at the beginning of consecutive sentences. Like parallelism, which is repeating sentence structures. Like chiasmus, which is repeating a structure in inverted order. You invert the order in which you repeat a structure.
So my vocabulary this year was terms for rhetorical techniques. We’d add on to the list as we learned them. Two or three times a week I had a 4-word quiz for the terms. What the kids liked is that there was no grade. It was a learning tool rather than an assessment tool. Now you’d think that, without a grade, the kids wouldn’t try. But they did. They wanted to get the term right for the sake of knowledge. They told me in the end-of-the-year feedback assignment.
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