My district is making a big push for three different instructional strategies: 1) Summarization, 2) Graphic Organizers, 3) Vocabulary.
My second year teaching, I really worked on summarization. Now, it happens without even trying. It’s not perfect, but it’s really helping my kids. This year, we’ve been breathing graphic organizers. My kids hardly do anything without a graphic organizer. Next year, it’s Mission: Vocabulary. My main focus will be on content-specific vocabulary, building off of what I’ve done this year.
Namely, I created an interactive vocabulary wall for reading, and another one for math. I finally got it up in March (only due to the nagging of administration, if I’m perfectly honest), and I’m kicking myself for not doing it earlier, because the kids love it and use it constantly.
The administrative requirement was to have all content vocabulary displayed on the walls so that everyone in the room could see it. In truth, I didn’t really love this directive because it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I was compliant, but frequently delayed getting new vocabulary up because it just wasn’t a priority to me. Truth. Just having the words displayed won’t ensure kids understand what they words mean, especially those words we used back at the beginning of the year. So I brainstormed a lot of different ways I could comply with this directive in a way that worked for me and my class.
Many teachers used pre-made vocabulary (4 to a sheet) with pictures and definitions that, in a lot of ways, are way better than mine. I had access to their source files and thought about printing them out myself. A few problems I had: 1) the vocabulary word itself was much to small to see from across the room; 2) I couldn’t figure out a way to visually organize these so that students could quickly find the words they needed in a given context.
So I pulled out all that awesome card stock my kids brought in at the beginning of the year (my team was smart enough to put it on the supply list before I was even hired for this position, go them!). Due to a plethora of snow days, one of our upper grades Instructional Assistants was trying to make up time by working in the evenings and helped me out a ton! And an idea was born!
The card stock was cut in half across the length. Then those sheets were folded hot dog style. Definitions and examples are beneath the flaps. They’re also color coded within the common core standards bands. Yellow: NF; Red: MD; Blue: OA; Orange: NBT; Green (not pictured): G.
The kids were so excited about this, and really understand where to look for things. This has been coupled with some really amazing crossword puzzles, cloze activities, and riddles (again, my team is awesome!). The kids spend so much time at this wall, looking for words that match the words in their activities. And they love it!
The ELA vocabulary wall is pretty similar. The colors are broken down into the different strands: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. Then within those categories, pastel and bright shades of the same color are used to indicate literature vs. informational texts. You can see in this picture, left is literature and right is informational.
Because I did this so late in the year, I did cut a few corners. For one, I didn’t include vocabulary for language or writing standards. A couple reasons for this: 1) This was a 10+ hour task with help, and I just couldn’t do it all; 2) If I was going to cut something, I knew it should be the least tested and the thing that comes most naturally to my students (more on why my kids are so awesome at language and writing later; but I swear, it’s purely by chance!). I know that’s not the best rationale in the world, but it’s the truth. There’s plenty of that around here. Next year, these will be added in, but since I was so late in getting these up in the first place, I focused on the essentials: reading and math. I’m looking forward to reusing these next year, so then adding on will be easy. Also, if I had kept up with it throughout the year, adding as I went would have been a lot more manageable.