New Vocabulary Word Group Strategy

Happy Friday! The lost awaited school post. Although I have been blogging about food and fitness for the past couple of weeks since I was on vacation, I did originally start this blog for teaching.

Vocabulary.

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Eeek. I’ve tried many a strategy. We all know that having students look up words in the dictionary is ineffective, but I remember being told to do it. Who uses a dictionary anymore??? If want to know a word, I Google it.

I find that my students don’t know many on level and even below level vocabulary words ( I had many students in 9th grade last year who were unaware of what ‘courage’ meant). But you can’t teach students EVERY word in the entire world that may or may not be on a standardized test.

I’ve always heard that the best way to learn new vocabulary was to read more. Duh. But how should you approach vocabulary in your classroom? I’ve tried things like:

The Frayer Model

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Our American Dream Frayer Models on the articles we read:

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I’ve tried Marzano’s six steps:

 

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Also, teaching root words, suffices and prefixes seems to be popular with the common core today. I used the method two years ago while teaching 7th grade English. It was semi-effective. Just because I tried it once and it didn’t work that well doesn’t mean it definitely doesn’t work, but what I noticed is that even if the student knew the root, it didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to decipher a random word containing that root. Case in point:

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Even if the student knows that BIO means life, they still need to have extensive knowledge of the suffices to understand what the world means. And again, you can’t teach them EVERY prefix, suffix and root in the world.

I’ve even tried having students pick their own words from the books they are reading to look up, study and take quizzes on, and that didn’t seem very effective either.

I decided to try a new strategy this year that revolves around what I call word groups. Students don’ t need to know the full definition of a word (how often do you recite the entire dictionary definition of a word when you hear it?). They just need to understand the basic connotation of the word. I give students a list of words that all mean something similar to study. I have had this poster in my room for a couple of years and it seems to be successful. Students look at the poster when thinking of words to write instead of ‘sad’ or ‘mad’. So this is where the idea of teaching the word groups came from.

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The first word group I did was ‘sad/negative words’:

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I created a sequence of activities for students to complete for ‘bell ringers’ at the beginning of each class surrounding these words. The idea to work with the same set of words for five days came from a co worker of mine, who is doing the same thing but using root word groups instead. I modified her idea to use my ‘connotation word groups’. The sequence goes like this:

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Students aren’t necessarily working with ALL of the words each day, but my goal is for them to just sight recognize them on the quiz so they can tell the difference between that ‘sad’ word and another word that they may or may not know when answering multiple choice vocabulary questions.

I just finished my first round of this and the quiz grades were great! The strategy seems to be successful. We just started our second word group today.

Question: What strategies have you tried for vocabulary that have worked or failed?

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6 thoughts on “New Vocabulary Word Group Strategy

    1. aburgwin

      For the quiz I asked them to use three of the words in an effective sentence. Then I had two excerpts from a poem we read with multiple choice questions that asked them to determine the feelings of the narrator. I mixed up the ‘sad’ words with other words they may/may not have seen to see if they could recognize the sad words.

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  1. thatwritinglady

    Thanks for sharing these ideas! I’m a big fan of Marzano’s strategy, too. I also find that having kids act words out (especially verbs) works really well for helping them remember a definition.

    Reply