Quick question teachers – are you a fan of “pern-cipal” Gerry Brooks? He’s an elementary school principal who has developed a following among teachers because of his hilarious YouTube videos about what it’s really like to be an educator. His latest video is frequently a topic of conversation among my colleagues at lunch, with one talented co-worker who is especially skilled at imitating his voice. So naturally, when it was our team’s turn to be “Keepers of the Lounge” we decided to celebrate our love of Gerry Brooks by having “Goodie Table Tuesday” in April. Don’t know what that means? Check out this hilarious video and get informed!
Vocabulary As A Barrier to Learning
We’re less than 2 months out from completing another school year, but we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal just yet! My students have been working hard on a Social Studies unit about democracy, and let me tell you – there is some serious vocabulary that comes with that topic! Constitutional. Inalienable. Democracy. You don’t have to watch the news for longer than 3 seconds to know how important it is for these young citizens to grasp the concepts fundamental to our form of government. But how can they understand if the vocabulary acts as a barrier?
Graphic Organizer to the Rescue
A simple graphic organizer is what I created for my students when we studied national symbols. There were 10 vocabulary words that I had selected as key to achieving our learning goal. I gave my students this graphic organizer in booklet form (super easy – just double-side copy, fold, and staple) on Monday. I modeled how to complete the organizer for one word, of course, and then they had the rest of the week to finish the other remaining words. Some kids created a plan – they researched two words each day in order to done by Friday. Others just worked on it as their schedules allowed. Since this was our first time with the organizer, I also gave them the choice of working solo or with their computer partner.
While we certainly have access to print references (dictionaries, a thesaurus), I had my students use online resources as they are more likely to have some of these domain-specific vocabulary in their database. Here are the resources we used:
- Collins Dictionary – great at giving students a definition they can understand
- Thesaurus.com – for when you need synonyms and antonyms
- Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary for Kids – designed with kids in mind
Levels of Understanding
One of the strategies my school uses throughout all grade levels is from Dr. Hattie’s work – assessment capable learner. I wanted to incorporate this practice with students (not always an easy thing for me to do yet – I’m still learning!). Once the graphic organizer was completed, students had one final step to do – assess their understanding of the word/phrase. Here’s a poster of the levels and what they mean:
Be sure to emphasize to students that it’s okay for them to circle a 1 or a 2 – this won’t hurt their grade. It’s just an easy way to identify which words we still need to study before the quiz on Friday. Once they understood this aspect of the process, they had no trouble being honest with their assessment. As students completed their booklets, they focused on studying those words they had circled as a 1/2 with someone who better understood the word. Also, they could go back to our online resources and work some more on learning what that word meant. Students who receive language services could also take these with them to therapy for extra practice.
Recipes and Freebies
We had our first Goodie Table Tuesday earlier this week, and I think it was a great success! Below I’ve included links to the two treats I brought (no freeloader here!) as well as a link to the graphic organizer and poster shown in this post. Happy teaching!
- Easiest Fruit Salad – hey, it counts! There are marshmallows in it!
- Chewy Fudgy Brownies – it’s derr-licious!
- Domain-Specific Vocabulary Graphic Organizer and Poster