Vocab Acquisition

I had a discussion with some students the other day about vocab review.  Oddly enough I had the same conversation with Juniors and 8th graders.  The topic:  Using notecards to review for vocab.  I have students at both levels that prefer to do the notecard method of review – word/part of speech and a sentence on one side, then definition and picture on the back.

Front of notecard.
Back of notecard.

I make them write the sentence and draw the picture, and if this is the method they prefer, I have no problem with that.  With both classes I addressed my concern for those that want to do nothing more than word on one side and definition on the other.  I infer this as someone who wants to simply do quick memorization for a quiz and then forget it later down the road. – a.k.a. short-term learning.  Of course, that’s never my goal.  Also understand that my vocab quizzes include multiple sentences with blanks, where they then have to use contextual clues to put the correct word on the blank.

What methods do I use in my classroom?

We practice several different methods to acquire vocabulary and build it into our vernacular for long-term learning.  In all of these methods all 15 vocab words must be used correctly and pronounced correctly.  If it’s an adjective, it must be used that way, etc.

  • Vocab Plays – Students must write a script and perform it in front of the class.
  • Vocab Rap/Newscast – Students must use Garageband (we’re a Mac based school) to record a rap with a soundtrack or a newscast with sound effects and transitions.
  • Videos – If students prefer not to do a live play and want to be a little more creative, they can use iMovie to create a short video.
  • Any presentation where they must use the words within a specific context.
This last December, we become a 1:1 school with iPads in grades 9-12.  Adding the iPads has allowed even more creativity and freedom to produce dozens of ways to put the words into context through the use of apps.
  • Toontastic
  • Sock Puppets
  • iMovie
  • ShowMe
  • Garageband
  • etc.

Once we have done all of these different methods at least once, I allow them to differentiate and choose which method they want to do for their review.

The Reasoning for My Methods?

I found this website:  Ten Best Vocabulary Learning Tips.  On this site is listed some of the best ways to get students to build and incorporate new vocabulary into their everyday language.  I know basing your reasoning on any random website is naive, but the designers of the website as well as the review strategies they use are consulted closely with an Educational Consultant (check the About Us page).  The strategies I promote in my class attempt to hit all of the tips found on this website.

Making Vocabulary Acquisition Fun

I have incorporated these methods for a while now, and even my Juniors get into a bit.  In class, it has now become sort of a game to try and incorporate old and new vocab words into the group discussions.  When someone does, everyone acts impressed and we do a little applause.  Don’t ask me how this started, but it’s actually made it fun for me too.  I now like to sneak in vocab words (intentionally) on tests and quizzes to see if students will say something.  Some even circle them and label them VOCAB on the quiz.

For a vocab review, one group decided to do a satirical piece about the clapping we do in class.  It’s funny, and incorporates all 15 words from that week’s vocab list.
Would we be having this same fun if we simply did word/definition on notecards?  I don’t believe so.  I’ve done that, and we didn’t experience what we are experiencing now – and that is vocab acquisition for long-term learning.
Keep having fun with words for the rest your lives!
Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!
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2 responses to “Vocab Acquisition

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