Thursday, June 27, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 3 {& Freebie!}

 As you read this, I am likely sitting in my car, headed to West Virginia to see The Oldest's college and get her registered for her first day as a college freshman in August! (How in the world did that happen??) So as I wonder, quite frequently I am sure, "Are we there yet?" (because we're DRIVING for 9 hours!), enjoy this post about our summer book study!

Once again I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for our summer book study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. Don't forget you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse and there is this handy little study guide you can use as well. 

I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me. To find all of my posts for the book study, click here.
 Chapter Three: Making Introductions
Chapter two really left me hankering for more information about the vocabulary routine set up by the authors. Almost makes me wish school was back in session so I could get going on this (almost...but not quite).

In Chapter Three, we get a real look at how the authors set up, introduce and begin their vocabulary instruction in their classrooms. They offer two different scenarios, for K-3 in the Primary realm and 4-5 in the intermediate (I would argue that 3rd could fall into either category--where I am, it is mostly considered to be intermediate). The routines are very similar, just adapted a bit for the younger students.
Primary Vocabulary
1. Prediction - Students gather together in a common space and engage in a cloze activity put together in a pocket chart. The teacher engages students in a lesson to predict which words fit with the sentences on the chart. The teacher says "My turn (word), your turn_____" and the students fill in the same word. Then they break down the syllables (very important I think, because many kids still don't "get" syllables), before students predict the meaning of the word. You can get as in depth as you like here, even going into the part of speech that the word is before giving a kid-friendly definition for the word.
2. Trying the Words -- Once the students have gone through the prediction activity, they can complete the cloze activity. You can add in total response techniques here as a student makes a guess as to which word belongs in the sentence--students can agree or disagree with a thumbs up or down and sideways if they aren't sure if it is correct. The teacher doesn't simply say "yes you are right" or "not that's not right" but rather asks the students to point out context clues that helped them decide if that word is the right fit. Additionally the teacher teaches the students to try the word out in EACH sentence before making a final decision in order to decide which word is really the best fit for each sentence.  I love that the teacher has them look at all of the possibilities before they make a final determination because so often on tests the kids are given two words that are so close and both could be accurate depending upon the context but only one is really the correct answer. It's important to teach the kids how true this is for vocabulary too. I emphasize this during our weekly reading practice that even if we know answer A fits, we still have to read B-D just to make sure. It makes perfect sense to do that with vocabulary too.
3. Primary Vocabulary Journals -- A two pocket folder with brads that contains a bunch of modified Frayer vocabulary model sheets. This is gone through with the students so that they are putting down the right information for the words. Students are directed to use a "7-Up Sentence" (a sentence with at least 7 words) for each word to ensure they are hitting as many parts of speech as they can to describe the word. At the beginning of the year, the teacher guides everything including the picture but as students gain confidence and skill with the routine, they can create their own graphic. Love the idea of a 7-Up sentence. Many of my ELL kids this past year (4th/5th graders) wanted to give me 2-3 word very basic sentences. I'm going to steal this idea.
Intermediate Vocabulary
1. Sentence Prediction -- This is very similar to the Primary cloze activity except the kids don't see the word cards, instead they use their vocabulary schema to predict the words that might fit in there. LOVE THIS IDEA for big kids! It really makes use of all of the previous vocabulary they have encountered.
2. Word Prediction --  Next you pull out the actual vocabulary word cards and go through a similar process as in the Primary lesson where the students try to decide which word fits in the sentence. The teacher NEVER gives the correct answer during this portion of the lesson but rather allows the children to explore the words by trying out their meanings and how they fit in the context of the sentence. LOVE!
3. Trying Out the Words -- This is the time when the children actively try to figure out which words belongs in each sentence. Using test-taking strategies like Process of Elimination, the students decide where the word fits best. They even turn it into a game by saying "Ding, ding, ding!" if they think the word fits and "waa, waa, waa" if its wrong. What kid wouldn't love playing a game like that??
4. Vocabulary Journals --  Again this is very similar to the primary version although the kids are able to come up with their own sentences if they feel ready. They are also welcome to use the sentence from the cloze activity.  If I was doing this with intermediate kids, I would likely have them use the cloze sentence and try to come up with another sentence on their own, at least at the beginning of the year. This would ensure they had a sentence that was accurate and provide them with some background to help them create the new sentence. Perhaps by mid-year this step wouldn't be needed but I can think of several kiddos in my classes over the past couple of years that would have likely benefited from having both sentences.

Investments in Vocabulary
While the authors are quick to point out that this process is time consuming, they also advocate for its use. So much happens during a word study lesson! The students are studying affixes, parts of speech and making connections between words. That instructional time is really giving you a bang for your buck. Kids get used to the routine really quickly so what might take 30 minutes at the beginning of the year will take only 10-15 as the year progresses as the kids are used to playing with words.    
If I hadn't been sold already (and I was), I definitely would be now as we got a glimpse of how the routine looks in both of these teachers' classrooms. I love the idea of the cloze activity because students generally like them and what's best, the kids are really leading the learning because they are using what they already know about words. The teacher is more or less acting as a "Vanna White" and moving the cards around as kids are making their guesses and predictions. So much of the learning is active as the kids love to guess and adding the game show sound effects is sure to excite even the most reluctant of learners.

Here's a copy of a modified Frayer model for use as your Vocabulary Journal! I added the part of speech to the  definition section and for sentence, I made it a 7-Up sentence!

Stay tuned for my thoughts and reflections on Chapter 4 next week!
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 2 (with a freebie!)

 Once again I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for our summer book study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. Don't forget you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse and there is this handy little study guide you can use as well. 

I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me. To find all of my posts for the book study, click here.

Chapter Two: Classrooms that Foster Word Confidence

This chapter pushes forth with the idea that students should feel confident and comfortable enough in their classrooms to take risks. Additionally, we want to encourage our students to be discoverers and have self-reliance. I'm super glad that I picked this chapter to host because it is a great one! So on we go!

When you teach impoverished children, they often don't have much routine and structure at home. This isn't to say that their parents are loosey-goosey parents, but rather they are often shipping their kids from place to place so they can work multiple jobs to make ends meet. So routines are very, very important at school (really they are for all kids but especially for kiddos who fit in this arena). We all know that students do better in a classroom that has structure, routine and established expectations. It's harder to mess up if you have been taught explicitly and directly what you need to do in every situation. The authors emphasize the need for establishing these routines even though they may take time.

Classroom Management and Self Reliance
The best quote of all in this section is "Students being raised by caregivers who are young, inexperienced or overwhelmed by the stresses of poverty may come to school with underdeveloped emotional responses." (Overturf, Montgomery and Smith, 2013, pg 20). The angels are singing down on me right now!!! This is one hundred percent TRUE. These children are often the "unruly" ones. It isn't because they are bad, it is because they have never been taught any different. The old adage of "monkey see, monkey do" applies vastly for many of these kids. It is why structure is so important if you work with inner city kids or kids who come from high poverty. (And also why, in my opinion, some folks just aren't cut out to work with kids like these.) The authors mention how they actually allow their students to practice getting excited, even going so far as to let them jump around, and then teaching them how to calm down and refocus. The students need to know how to be excited and then come back down from that excitement and get back to work. This is a "you had me at hello" moment for me. YES, YES, YES! This is something I often lament about--I can't let my classes have fun because they can't handle it. They don't know how to come back down. This gives me some hope that this is a skill I can also teach them, let them practice and then when there is something exciting happening, they will know how to handle it appropriately. This section also discusses the importance of making sure your classroom is student-convenient. When kids can only access materials once the teacher gets them out, that sends a certain message. Of course there are some things that you can't keep out all of the time but basic supplies should be accessible for kids to use if we want them to be self-reliant and able to work independently without needing us for everything. 

Literacy Design with Vocabulary Development
Vocabulary is important in all areas of the curriculum, not simply in language arts. There are tons of words in math, science and social studies that we need to use and emphasize as well. By using shared and guided reading, word study, self selected reading, interactive read-alouds, we have a plethora of opportunities to engage students with using new as well as familiar vocabulary.   The authors suggest breaking things up as so (very similar to a Four Blocks/Balanced Literacy model):

  • Whole Group Shared Reading (this should be grade level text and could be used with a basal reader or anthology) - this is when you want to introduce and/or reinforce a specific comprehension skill or strategy. Embed vocabulary instruction here.
  • Small Group Reading (leveled texts on the students' level) -- in addition to reinforcing
  • Writing Workshop
  • Trade Book Reading
I really liked this section because this past year my district began to emphasize using Shared Reading for our whole group instruction as we taught a literacy strategy. I think this is especially important for kids who come to us "language impaired" or lacking in robust vocabulary. They get so much more out of the reading if you do it together as a class. I also really liked how the authors emphasized reinforcing vocabulary instruction during the small groups. I believe this is vital, especially for the kids in our lower groups who often just don't read unless they are with us. By emphasizing vocabulary and reinforcing it in these small groups, the students learn that vocabulary isn't just something we do during "X" time of the day--we can and should use it throughout the day. During writing workshop, I love the emphasis on checking for the use of the learned vocabulary. When I taught 2nd grade, one of our big focus areas was to see if the kids had been using the word wall to spell their high frequency words correctly--if the words are used and are posted somewhere, it makes total sense to keep the kiddos accountable for using the words in their writing. Of course they also emphasize the read aloud with trade literature to ensure that kids are exposed to the amazing vocabulary often found in these sorts of texts.

Academic Discussion
In this section, the authors talk about how they embed the speaking and listening strands of the Common Core into their vocabulary instruction through academic discussion. This begins with instructional conversation (cited from this article by Tharp and Gallimore...worth the read!) which the authors promise to provide more information about in Chapter 3.  They do mention that they provide many opportunities for kids to have academic conversations with each other (for which I am definitely thinking about how I can incorporate my participation techniques!). They emphasize modeling different conversational styles so that students understand how to work together in multiple ways.

Choosing Your Words
They again refer back to Bringing Words to Life to help you determine which words to choose. They have a commercial reading program but have the flexibility to change vocabulary words as needed. (Yay their principal!) Ultimately they choose 6 words to teach over a two week period, a mixture of both Tier Two and Tier Three words. They chose content specific words as well as general words they knew their students may not have heard before.  The authors point out that many students aren't doing well on standardized (or classroom!) assessments because they shut down over the vocabulary. Using domain specific vocabulary is very helpful to boost the kids' achievement because they aren't getting bogged down trying to figure out what the vocabulary means. How do you choose Tier Two words? Three key considerations:
1. Importance and utility -- they appear frequently across multiple domains
2. Instructional potential -- students can use them to apply to multiple situations
3. Conceptual understanding -- these are words that they may have some understanding of but apply specifics to a concept

I think it is vastly important to select words that are going to give you the most bang for your buck. In this day of accountability, you have to maximize every second that you have in your classroom, not wasting a single second of instructional time. By selecting words that fit into the 3 key considerations, you are much more likely to maximize the word building for your kids. I especially like thinking about how well the word can work across the curriculum. We definitely want to build vocabulary that students can use in all aspects of their education.

The Vocabulary Routine
 The vocabulary routine is established with the start of a vocabulary cycle. This cycle never ends. The words generated and studied are continually used throughout the year. The words selected for the cycle are emphasized in a specific lesson with a sentence, two synonyms (or examples) and two antonyms (or non-examples) for each word and a picture or visual representation. A reading coach in the authors' district helped them put all of these ideas into a Vocabulary Planner.

I am entirely in LOVE with the Vocabulary Planner featured in the book. So I made one for you to download and use!

The 5-Step Vocabulary Routine
1. Use kid-friendly definitions on sentence strips, a pocket chart and the words on a card for students to predict and try out. Begin using a vocabulary journal.
2. Add synonyms or antonyms. Finish the vocabulary journal
3. Use the words in whole and small group activities. Practice the use of synonyms and antonyms.
4. Engage in whole group activity to celebrate the word learning
5. Assess
I'm digging the idea of using a vocabulary journal with my class and trying to think of what this would look like in my room. I'm super excited for the next chapter!
The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Total Participation Task Cards + Freebie

 Happy Tuesday!

I've been plowing right through my reading pile and was so inspired by Total Participation Techniques, I decided to create the files and make them available for you! Check out some of the tasks available with this product!

Students participate in classroom discussion through the use of True/Not True cards. Optionally add in the "True with modifications" or "unable to determine" cards to really push their thinking

Processing Cards -- Cut the outline and fold to make a table tent so you can always see where your kids are in their thinking

Appointment Agenda -- More sophisticated than the old standby of Clock Partners

 I am super excited about this product and will definitely be using it in my classroom this fall. I love that you can simply copy, laminate and stick things in a folder to keep at the students' desks for instant use whenever you want!

You can access this file at Teacher's Pay Teachers or Teacher's Notebook.

On Sunday, I linked up with The Applicious Teacher and forgot to add my freebie file when I first made the post so I'm including it here if you'd like it. One way I manage student papers without names (of which I still get tons of even in the upper grades) is with Speeding Tickets. There isn't really a penalty but my paper helpers LOVE putting these notes on the papers and sticking them in the Speeding Ticket Folder. Personally, I like the little Police Officer! Click here to get this item for free on Teacher's Pay Teachers or Teachers Notebook.


The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 1

 I am super, super excited to be linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for a book study on Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. I picked this book up awhile back based solely on the title! I love words and I'm a self-professed Language Arts nerd so I knew it was fate. Then I discovered that the fabulous Sabra was going to be hosting a book study on this title and my dreams came true! 

Officially I am hosting Chapter 2, however, I will be blogging about each chapter as we go along and Sabra will be including a linky each week on her blog as well so you can share ideas, tips and questions you may have after each chapter. Super fun! I'm so excited to be a part of this book study!

Don't have a copy of the book? Remember you can read the whole book for FREE at Stenhouse! I also found a super awesome study guide to go with the book if you are wanting extra discussion questions and/or a better synopsis of each chapter. You can find that here.
I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me.

Chapter One: What's the Big Deal About Vocabulary Instruction?

This chapter really sets the stage for what is to come. Why do we need vocabulary instruction? Really, what is the big deal? The big deal is that we all need to know how to learn new vocabulary whether we are 5, 15 or 50. Some people pick up vocabulary relatively quickly -- this is especially true for those who are raised in households that have robust vocabularies. Students in inner city and urban environments need explicit vocabulary instruction in order to really ensure that they are getting the most of each and every lesson and not becoming bogged down with vocabulary they don't know or understand. 
The authors point out that we must engage in "School Talk" with our students if we want them to truly use rich vocabularies. This means using words like hypothesis instead of guess and onomatopoeia instead of words that sound like sounds so that our students will know and use these words as well. I will never forget when I first started teaching and sitting through a PD session where they talked about the word selection (as in a reading passage). Teachers in that session were baffled that students would continually ask what selection was when they saw it in the directions. It made perfect sense to me that this was a word that needed to be added to our daily vocabulary--kids needed to know what selection meant so that when they saw it on standardized tests, they weren't wondering what in the world that word meant. Kids got tripped up in the directions because they didn't know that selection was the passage they were about to start reading!
Connections to the Common Core Standards are emphasized throughout this chapter, including specific areas where you can find where vocabulary is mentioned within the standards. If you are in a Common Core state, this information will be very useful.
Vocabulary Instruction: What Not to Do vs. The Right Approach
Brenda offers insight into her first approach at vocabulary instruction. The kids got a list of words, looked the words up in the dictionary, wrote the definition and maybe a sentence. Sound familiar?  The old standby of word lists, definitions and sentences doesn't allow children to transfer the word meanings to real life use. Brenda, of course, realized that many teachers have no idea how to really teach vocabulary.

The authors identify 10 key components to effective vocabulary instruction:
  1. Some words are more important than others
  2. Students have to learn words at more than one level
  3. Students learn words when they experience them multiple times
  4. Asking students to look up words in the dictionary and write the definition does not help them learn words
  5. When students learn words, they build patterns and networks of meaning called "word schemas"
  6. Students can learn some words through the use of wide reading
  7. Students can learn some words through rich conversations with adults and peers
  8. Students can learn some words through word play
  9. Students can learn some words by direct instruction
  10. Most students need word-learning strategies to become independent readers
The first key mentions the book Bringing Words to Life (Beck, Mckeown and Kucan, 2002) and the use of word levels Tier One, Tier Two and Tier Three. (I will admit reading this chapter prompted me to go dig out my copy of Bringing Words to Life!) We have to remember to use a majority of our words in Tier Two with a sprinkling of words in Tier Three as they relate to content specific vocabulary. 

I especially love key 5--I am constantly telling my students to engage their schema and this is yet another one to use a powerful word they will hear over and over again. Our word study will build itself into schemas about various words, either by their parts, their sounds or what we know about the word (such as if it is in a content area). We have to embrace these keys in order to help us be effective instructors of vocabulary so our students can be effective users of vocabulary. 

Explicit and systematic vocabulary instruction has been cited countless times as a way to address the achievement gap yet most teachers probably were never taught how to teach vocabulary. Additionally, many teachers don't spend much time teaching vocabulary directly. Several sources are cited as providing a pathway toward providing vocabulary instruction that is meaningful for students. 

Michael Graves provides a four-part process to teaching vocabulary: provide rich and varied language experiences; teach individual words; teach word-learning strategies and promote word consciousness. Additionally, the authors provide guidelines that teaching vocabulary should be intentional, transparent, useable, personal and a priority (pg 17).  Teachers have the job to provide students who have limited experience with "school talk" with the opportunity to build up their word confidence so they will begin to use the vocabulary we are teaching and find ways to substitute robust vocabulary words into their everyday language.

I have to say that reading this first chapter has me more than fired up for reading the rest of this book. Haven't we all had a moment (or a year or two??) where we did that classic vocabulary trick of having them look the words up, provide a definition and use a sentence? Cringe-worthy, right? Alas, we know it doesn't work and thus, we are seeking an alternative. We are looking for ways to truly engage our kids with vocabulary and give them the word confidence they so desperately need. I feel very connected to the authors after reading this chapter because they are serving the exact population I serve: urban, inner city students who are immersed in a cycle of poverty. My entire career I have had people ask me why I "bother" to teach these "unteachable" kids. Sure they come in behind their suburban counterparts (with exceptions of course) but that doesn't mean we just give up or continue to do what our teachers did for us 10-20-30 years ago. The time for change is now and just reading this first chapter I am more than fired up to make real change in my own vocabulary instruction.

Stay tuned for Chapter Two next Thursday!
The Caffeinated Teacher