I have been struggling with two things in particular lately.
1) How to best use the limited technology that I have available to me
2) How to increase my students’ vocabulary
I am trying at all costs to avoid: looking words up in a glossary, copying definitions, matching words and definitions on a test, and completing worksheets to teach vocabulary. It’s boring, it’s ineffective, and I’m not seeing results.
Vocabulary instruction like this does not help kids make connections and any memorization that may occur…simply doesn’t last.
I wanted something authentic, interactive, and hopefully technology-based for use in our small, fairly outdated computer lab.
I spent over two hours researching ideas the other night and ended up with way too many of the same old ideas, nothing that I envisioned as I started out, and a headache.
Feeling overwhelmed and guilty I wasted two hours of my night during the busiest time of year, I took a break and came back to the computer after dinner with a plan in mind.
I used the “Polls” on Edmodo to create 6 vocabulary-based questions for our upcoming novel, Stargirl.
I chose some particular vocabulary words that I knew I would need to explain to my students as we were reading the novel: mesa, saguaro, ukulele, cactus, canyon, and porcupine. Students also had to understand a little about Arizona and where it was located.
Here are my six questions: (and their votes)
What is a “saguaro”? Research the word and make your choice. Find a picture and insert it into a Word document. Be sure to label the picture.
- a type of boat 0 vote(s)
- a type of flower 0 vote(s)
- a type of cactus 75%, 3 vote(s)
- a type of car 25%, 1 vote(s
Which of these would not be found in Arizona? Find pictures of the three found in Arizona.
- canyon 0 vote(s)
- mesa 14.29%, 1 vote(s)
- grass 57.14%, 4 vote(s)
- cactuses 28.57%, 2 vote(s)
What animal has quills? Find a picture of this animal.
- a shark 0 vote(s)
- a muskrat 0 vote(s)
- a porcupine 100%, 7 vote(s)
- an octopus 0 vote(s)
Which state does not touch Arizona? Find a map that shows this.
- Utah 0 vote(s)
- California 12.5%, 1 vote(s)
- Texas 87.5%, 7 vote(s)
- New Mexico 0 vote(s)
What instrument is a “ukelele” related to? Find a picture.
- a trumpet 0 vote(s)
- a guitar 100%, 7 vote(s)
- a piano 0 vote(s)
- a harmonica 0 vote(s)
What is a road runner? Find a picture of a famous one and a real one.
- a type of internet service 0 vote(s)
- a very fast bird 100%, 5 vote(s)
- a type of race 0 vote(s)
- a car part 0 vote(s)
I reminded my students how to enter a search term in Google, locate an image, and create a mini-poster using Word. We’ve been working on computer skills lately, so this was good practice of the steps for inserting a picture and formatting the picture.
The students had to answer the poll questions while doing their research. Because there was no “right answer” given, students were not as likely to share answers with their neighbors.
Students had two windows open on Firefox and a Word document open. They had to turn in the assignment on Edmodo when they were finished.
It may not seem like a lot, but for my students this was a big task. These kids were multi-tasking and learning.
When we return from break, they will share their posters on the SMARTBoard.
So, this is not the most traditional use of a poll, but it provided enough motivation and variety for my students to keep it interesting and help them learn the vocabulary.
Here is what I loved about this activity:
- Students didn’t touch a single worksheet during this lesson.
- Students were not asked to memorize or write a definition.
- Instead, students found their own definitions by researching.
- Students had to use some logic and reasoning skills to eliminate and determine search terms.
- Students practiced computer skills (Word, Google search, and Edmodo)
- Students now have a visual for when we start the novel after break. Students will share their products on the SMARTBoard when they return.
- Students were engaged for two 40-minute periods in an authentic learning activity.
- Students have made meaningful connections with half a dozen words that they had little prior knowledge of.
- I am inspired to create more activities similar to this one.
How do you teach vocabulary? Do you have some ideas that will meet my goal for authentic vocabulary instruction? Share your ideas with the comment link at the top of this post.