Wednesday, June 21, 2017

23 Effective Vocabulary Activities

        Teachers know that having a rich vocabulary is an asset to students as readers and as writers. We know that students who are avid readers, tend to have more advanced vocabularies than those who don't and that vocabulary acquisition is a wonderful side effect of reading quality books. 

        One of our jobs as teachers is to not only encourage our students to love reading, but to provide instruction and activities which promote vocabulary development. 

        Since students need repeated exposure (experts say 8 - 12 times!) for words to be able to be understood and used successfully, students need lots and lots of practice interacting with words. Variety is key, as the more fresh and the more fun we can make it, the greater the engagement.

        Here are 23 vocabulary activities you can use with your students to help reinforce vocabulary. Most activities may be played as a whole class, in small groups, or for center times.

1. Roll the Dice
Students choose a word (from a list, from the board, from a card) and the first student rolls a dice. The student who rolls does one of the following based on the roll:
1 = Define the word.
2 = Use it in a sentence.
3 = Say a synonym for the word.
4 = Say an antonym for the word.
5 = Draw a picture example (on scratch paper or whiteboards).
6 = Act it out.

2. Concentration
Use two different colored paper/cards. Write definitions on one color and words on the other. Place all cards face down. The first student selects a definition card and a word card. if they match, he/she takes an additional turn. If not, the cards are returned to their places and the next person takes a turn until all cards have been matched. The person with the most cards wins.

3. Posters
These work especially well with content area vocabulary. Students write the word in large bold or bubble letters, define the word using their own words, and add several pictures which illustrate the word. 

4. Word Pairs
Make cards with two words on each. The cards should have words which are either related, are synonyms, are antonyms, or are unrelated. Place the cards in a pile. One student reads the card and everyone writes what kind of relationship the words have (if any) on the whiteboard. To add an element of fun to it, have students who answer correctly take a move on a game board or even a hand drawn Tic-Tac-Toe. 

5. Jigsaw
Put students in small groups of 3 - 4 and assign each a vocabulary word. The student should be given time to research the word and to prepare some type of short presentation for his/her group. It might be an art piece, a rhyme, a song, a short drama, or simply an easy way to remember what the word means. Teaching vocabulary words is an excellent way to master that word too!

6. Quiz Quiz Move
Each student is given a card with a word and its definition. Students take their card and move around the room to find someone to quiz. The first student says the word and asks what it means. The second student either gives the definition and is congratulated, or says "I don't know," and is then told the definition. The process is repeated with the second student, and then the students both move to find new partners to quiz. 

7. Tell Me About ________
This is a teacher led activity. Start by asking the students a question using the vocabulary word. Make sure to begin each question with the tag line, "Tell me about..." Allow several students to respond and then change the question.
For example:
Tell me about someone who is loquacious...
Tell me about a time when you were frugal...
Tell me about a situation where a person could feel triumphant... 

8. Charades
Put vocabulary words on cards and students act them out, without using any words. You can play this as a whole class or divide the class into two teams. Make sure to give a time limit (2 minutes???), so students stay involved and don't get restless.

9. Pictionary
This game is played exactly like charades except students draw an example of the word on an easel or on the board while the whole class or that person's team tries to guess the vocabulary word.

10. Fly Swatter
Purchase new fly swatters (at the Dollar Store) for this activity. Place words on the board or on cards stapled to the wall. Divide students into two teams. The first person from each team goes first. Give a clue, definition, or example for one of the words. The first person to swat at the correct word wins a point for his/her team, and then the next two students take a turn.

11. Matching Words
Write a word on a card and its definition on the other card. Hand out a card to each student. Students walk around the room until they find their matching card. Once all have found their match, the cards may be re-shuffled and the game played again.

12. Semantic Map
This is another great activity for so many concepts. For vocabulary practice, choose a word. Students activate their prior knowledge to brainstorm related words or concepts on scratch paper. The word may then be put into categories (done easily by underlining each category in a different color) and then placed on a poster. The main word goes in the center. The subcategories are drawn in circles around the main word and related words may be drawn off of the subcategories.

13. Bingo
Give students a blank Bingo template with 9, 16, or 25 squares and have them write a vocabulary word (from the board or a printed list) on each square. Instead of saying each word, give students a clue (definition, example, synonym or antonym) for each word. The first person to have an entire row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally wins.

14. Acrostic Poem
Acrostic poems are written with the focus word in capital letters going down the page on the left side of the paper. Students write the vocabulary word as the subject of the acrostic poem and then write short phrases which start with each letter and are related to that word, beside each letter.

15. The "W" Game
This is another teacher directed activity. Ask students questions which start with the letter "W", like who, what, when, where, why, or which.
For example:
Which animal might be considered homely?
When have you felt conflicted?
Who can give me an example of a person who is compassionate?...

16. On the Spot
Put your class into two teams. The first student from the first team goes to the front of the room and sits in a chair facing the class with his/her back to the board. This person is "on the spot" or "It". Place a word on the board so everyone can see it except the person in the chair. One at a time, team members give the person clues about the mystery word. If the word is guessed before two minutes are up, the team gets a point and it is the other team's turn.

17. Word Association
This teacher-led activity helps students connect new words to familiar ones to build connections in their brains. Place vocabulary words on the board. Ask students questions using more familiar vocabulary. Get all students involved by having them write their initial answers on whiteboards. You could call on volunteers for the follow-up question.
For example:
Which word sounds a lot like a circle? (circulate) Why do you think that is?...
Which word would go with a movie critic? (recommend) Does that mean the critic liked the movie or didn't like it?...

18. Comic Strip
Students use one or more vocabulary words to create a comic strip, adding the words as a part of the dialogue in speech bubbles. You could use a template, or simply have kids fold a long strip of white construction paper (maybe 6 in. by 18 in.) twice, to make four different panels.

19. Word Wall
Rather than having a static word wall, add new vocabulary words and take them down once you feel most students have mastered the words. Not only is this a good reference point for students, it is great for transition times when you have a few spare minutes. You can play a quick game of "I'm thinking of a word that...means lucky, rhymes with towel, is the opposite of chaotic, is how you feel when you spill your drink..."

20. Word of the Week
Students may suggest new words, you may find them yourself, or you can get them from sites like WordCentral (Daily Buzz Words). Make it a fun game and challenge kids to use the new vocabulary word each day in conversation.

21. Create a Crossword
Students use vocabulary words to create a crossword puzzle on Discovery Education's Puzzlemaker website. When finished, students may solve their own or trade and solve another student's puzzle.

22. Vocabulary Sorts
Provide students with a list of words on small pieces of paper, sentence strips, or cards, and have them move the words into related groups. Student pairs can each sort words and then play "Name My Category."

23. The Frayer Model (Four Square)
Give students a simple template with four squares and a box for the vocabulary word in the middle. Have them add the definition in the top left square, facts or characteristics in the top right square, non-examples in the bottom right square, and examples in the bottom left square.

If you'd like additional materials for vocabulary practice, I have the following resources in my TpT store:

Context Clues Task Cards Bundles (3 Sets for each) for 2nd Grade3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, and 6th Grade.

Latin and Greek Entire Year Unit for 3rd - 6th Grades 

Hope this list has given you some ideas that you can use in your classroom! If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a teacher friend and if you have other fun vocabulary ideas, I would love for you to share them here.

Thanks so much and happy teaching!

I'd love to connect with you!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Summer Schedule for the Not So Productive Teacher

Summertime is a sacred time for teachers. This is a time for us to escape our classrooms and all school related responsibilities. We relish in the simple comforts of summer, such as sleeping in, using the bathroom whenever we like, and taking our time to eat our lunch. We spend time with friends and family, take trips, binge watch our favorite shows, get things done around the house, and spend some days doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!

BUT,  if you are anything like me, then you know that even in summer, it is impossible to completely escape the ever looming approach of the next school year. Usually after a couple of weeks, I start to get this nagging feeling that I should be doing something, ANYTHING to prepare for the next school year. I constantly battle between wanting to enjoy my summer and knowing that I should be doing something productive!!

If you struggle with this same battle, then I have some good news for you! I have come up with the perfect schedule for enjoying summer, while also staying productive...

One of my favorite things about summer is that I finally have the time to catch up on all of my favorite shows. Some of the best summer days are those when I stay in pajamas all day, order takeout and binge watch an entire season of a show. So this summer, I plan to use some of that binge watching time to prep for the next school year. Cutting out task cards is the perfect, mindless task to complete while watching television. Other things you can do while watching TV include cutting laminated items, folding flip books, and sorting back to school papers. So, if you find yourself spending countless hours sitting in front of the television, grab some scissors and get to work!!

During the school year I never have the time to read, especially when it comes to reading all of those amazing professional development books that I see teachers sharing all over Instagram. What better time to catch up on reading for professional development than during the summer. To make it even better, take your PD poolside!! This summer, I am catching up on books on guided math and non-fiction reading. I am also waiting for my copy of Disrupting Thinking to arrive. So grab a towel, some sunscreen, and maybe even a fruity drink, and head to the pool for the most relaxing PD you will find anywhere.

It's so important to go into the school year with a good, solid plan for the year. Longterm planning is essential for a smooth school year. I always dread this task of mapping out my next school year, but know that it's something that must get done. This summer I have decided to pair this task with lunch! If my colleagues and I need to spend the time planning, we might as well enjoy a yummy sandwich, an iced tea, and some off-task conversation to go along with it. So schedule those lunch dates, and don't forget your calendar. Planning is always so much better with lunch!

Every summer I prep my sample interactive notebooks for the upcoming year.  I love coloring and find it to be very calming, and somewhat therapeutic. But at the same time, it does take forever to get them all done. I have decided that this summer I will pair this task with one of my favorite times of day. Before my kids wake up in the morning, I love to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee before the craziness of our day begins. What better way to enjoy my quiet coffee time, than with some calm coloring. Think about the different teacher samples you want to provide for your students next year, and grab a cup of coffee and lose yourself in some therapeutic coloring.

Summertime is the perfect time for teachers to relax, unwind, and rejuvenate for the next school year. But, that doesn't mean that it can't be a time for productivity too!! Teacher friends, I hope you are able to find some balance this summer between peace and productivity. Happy Summer!!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

7 Back to School Read Alouds

7 Back to School Read Alouds for the classroom

It is very important that teachers take the time during the first weeks of school to begin to establish a  community of respect. It's very tempting to simply tell students to open up their math book and start working. Please don't do that. Instead, take the time to get to know each other. Take the time to discuss what are your expectations and allow students to share what are their hopes/goals for the year. I always tell my students that we will be a family, because we will be learning and growing together for an entire year.

The first few weeks of school are full of you teaching and students practicing rules and routines. I find that students remember lessons that books teach better than when I just talk about the rules. Below is a list of 7 books that I believe will help you and your students start the year off on the right foot.

> Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
My daughter checked out this book from her school library, and she kept talking about how she loved the book. As she read the book to me, I thought about what a great back to school read aloud this book would be! Teachers always talk about why following the rules is SO very important. This book talks about when it it okay to NOT follow the rules. It's a great discussion starter for you and your students :)

> WOLF! by Becky Bloom
This is a very cute book that also has a wonderful lesson. Learning to read is not an easy task and is made up of more than just saying the words really fast. I would use this book when starting to launch reading workshop.

> What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick
This book provides a great visual of what would happen if everyone didn't follow the rules. This is a great read aloud as you discuss rules and create a list for your own classroom.

> How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague
Students always want to share their summer activities. After reading this book, students are given a brainstorming paper to list their favorite summer activities. Students are then told to pick one or two events to write about in detail. Students will then revise, edit, and illustrate their stories. This makes for a great display :)

> Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
I fell in love with this book back when I taught 1st grade. It is such a sweet book that talks about how everyone is special. It's also a great book to discuss how words can hurt and how important it is to respect each other. You can also take the time to create a cute name craft and decorate a bulletin board.

> A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook
This is another great read of when it is okay to bring something to the attention of a teacher or any adult. It's not as cute as the Library Lion, but it provides several examples of what is/is not tattling .

> You Are Special, Little One by Nancy Tafuri
I have two little girls at home, so I have plenty of 'mommy loves you' books. I love taking these family books to school and reading one each week. They are bedtime story books, but my third graders love this time! They get so excited and say they love our 'story time'. This particular book talks about how each animal is special in their own way. It's a sweet book that also uses rich vocabulary words to describe each animal ;)

Download the list by clicking the image below. The download also includes a free template to help you organize your back to school read alouds. Enjoy!

Click to Download the List and a Planning Sheet