Sunday, November 21, 2010

Creating Vocabularians: Word Connoisseurs!

Teaching kids how to voraciously devour books to acquire vocabulary can be quite a daunting task. I am constantly looking for simple, effective ideas to promote a love of words in my classroom without monopolizing classroom time. This post will explore a few ways that we have brought words to life in our third grade classroom. It’s only November, and already, my students are constantly adding words to our class charts, word jar, word wall, and continually saying, “Mrs. Nickerson! Mrs. Nickerson! Look at this word! I can’t wait to look it up in the dictionary!” It’s music to my ears. Words. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook

Miss Alaineus Word Parade:
I tore a page out of Angela Bunyi’s book, and our class had a “Word Parade” on Halloween in place of our traditional party. It was a HUGE success, and I was extremely pleased with my students’ word selections. My favorite words were herpetologist, hypochondriac, formidable, illuminate, and foliate. Although, honestly, all of the words were fantastic. If you are interested in this idea, I suggest reading this post by Angela Bunyi at her Scholastic blog: here.

Prior to the word parade, we naturally read Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier. We completed several activities leading up to our culminating activity. One day, the students chose a magnetic letter from a bucket. They found the pages in their book with their respective letters and chose one word from the sentences around the borders beginning with that letter to examine and define. Afterward, they engaged in a Tea Party activity. Students had ten minutes to float around the room and discuss their words together. Whenever they finished a discussion with one student, they raised their hand, looked to make eye contact with someone else who was raising their hand, met up, and discussed their words. This activity was really fun and the students were exposed to 26 new words in the process. I collected their individual word sheets afterward, and shot it through the copying machine for a “Miss Alaineous Vocabulary Alphabet Book”. The students really enjoyed having their own copies to read, and a few copies were placed in our classroom library in our “Classroom Texts” tub.

My students were also placed into two groups. Group one was responsible for examining the text and finding sentences that had words that were both nouns and names. Another group was responsible for finding common nouns in the book and writing their own definitions for them, while trying to make them sound as much like a dictionary definition as possible. The groups worked together to complete the task on chart paper, and then shared their work with the class.

Donovan’s Word Jar:
We read Donovan’s Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross shortly after our Word Parade. My students LOVED the book, and they asked if we could start a class word jar. Of course, I was obliged to make a special trip to Walmart for a large jar. The students have been collecting words during independent reading and during our core classes. The jar is quickly filling up. I will be pulling one word out of the jar each day to do a quick vocabulary mini-lesson for the students. Then, I want to have students add the word to our “Expanding Vocabulary Chart” to make our learning visible and permanent. This is a truly organic, fun, motivating learning tool. I will definitely be using the word jar with future classes.
Word Sorts… and Word Hunts… and Fun… Oh My! 

Don’t underestimate the power of word study lessons. While we’re exploring spelling patterns and sounds, I always take the opportunity to discuss interesting words and sneak in a little vocabulary instruction. I especially love word hunts, because the kids read the room, read books, and scan dictionaries in search for words with a particular spelling pattern. They always end up finding million dollar words that we can briefly discuss and add to our vocabularies. The kids are enamored by words, and that makes me a very happy teacher!

Miscellaneous Ideas
- Expanding Vocabulary Class Scrapbook
- Interactive Word Wall (flashlight reading, student contributions, etc.)
- Vocabulators- (Check out Melissa Forney’s website for more details. I’m planning on using mine for synonyms… mainly for overused words like “said” to spice up writing in my classroom. Victoria, how do you use yours? I know you use them as well.)
- Vocabulary Bracelets- We will be making bracelets when we start Freckle Juice after Thanksgiving Break. Since we study characterization during this story, I am going to have each student choose an adjective that they think describes them the best and make a bracelet to display the word. They will need to explain why that word reflects who they are, and they will not be permitted to use words like “nice” or “good”. I’m thinking about using it in Social Studies and Science as well to highlight key terms. You could give each person a word to create that is a synonym, antonym or homonym and have them go out to find their match. You could give them terms that you learned in class and have them find words that are on the same topic before doing a jigsaw activity. You could assign them each a word to make a bracelet, then have them look it up in the dictionary for dictionary skills before teaching the word to the class. I’m just throwing out ideas, but I think this activity is really adaptable and fun. Take that Silly Bands!

What other activities do you do in your classrooms to promote a love of words? I’d love to hear your ideas!