Time to Ramp up Again – Here’s the one thing that will make the most difference this year!

I took a break from blogging this summer. I hope you took a break from planning! However, I bet you couldn’t stop thinking about what you need to do differently, or better, or again this year. My brain also kept spinning, especially since I kept feeding it ideas from research.  Here’s my take-out from this summer’s reading and thinking, intended to help you get off to a productive start:

  1. Building enthusiasm and skills for word learning from the get go is the best way to guide your students to overall success. Because… as Draper and Moeller put it “We think with words, therefore to improve thinking, teach vocabulary.” — A. Draper and G. Moeller goo.gl/UMd6Ga
  2. There are thousands of great ideas for building word awareness, skills, and knowledge. Too many actually! Another list of top 10 ideas can be more overwhelming than helpful.
  3. Today’s teaching environment is full of pressure to cover more content and more skills. Which in turn means that more than ever, teachers need to cling to the indisputably worthwhile and well-proven “less is more” approach. This approach is the key to both survival and success. Choosing/prioritizing your teaching pathways carefully is crucial. Building word knowledge supports learning like no other approach.

So how can I help you with these 3 challenges?

  1. In each blog, I will introduce one key concept for word learning and a single application for putting it to use. I will choose the best and easiest to use tool or idea for each concept from my arsenal. See this month’s key concept and application below.
  2. I have established a Google community where you may ask for help on specific issues with teaching words. For example, do you have unique needs for your grade level, are you struggling to address a certain learning need or style, having differentiation challenges, trouble with word choices, etc. Whatever your needs are, you may ask for ideas from me in the Word Lab Google Community. I am also counting on you to share your ideas with others in this Word Lab Google Community. Invitations will go out soon!

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FYI – For those of you who were able to keep up with the blogs and emails related to The 90 Minute Challenge last year, I promised 3 things this year:  to keep it simple, to create a better interactive site for sharing ideas, and to provide more ideas for the lower grades. This first blog has begun to address the first two issues. To address the third, I have a bank of resources specific to the lower grades that I will be sharing in my blogs.

For now, here is this school year’s first “key concept” and “application” idea (for K-12):

Key Concept: Students must be able to recognize which words they don’t know within a text. This takes practice and a willingness to admit to lack of knowledge.

Most students prefer not to look up a word or even ask about it during either their own reading or a read aloud. They much prefer making a guess so they can keep going, hoping for the best. Sometimes their guesses work out fine and sometimes not.  Many poor readers have such an ingrained habit of guessing that they don’t have any idea why they don’t understand a passage. This guessing-so-you-can-keep-up-with-everyone is a common survival tactic. After all, don’t we teach our kids to make inferences?

Application: Word Find

Begin by showing students that there is a “world of words” around them-online, in magazines, newspapers, books, letters, and in conversations, to name only a few. Then proceed with a word collecting activity, such as Word Find.

Here’s a summary of the activity:

We already teach classroom routines and learning processes at the beginning of each school year to help students build successful and efficient learning patterns in our classrooms.

Why not also prepare your students for finding words they don’t know by making “finding words you don’t know” an official strategy. Word Find is an interactive whole-class + partnering pencil-and-paper game. Word Find makes it a fun challenge to find unknown words within both challenging and easy texts of yours or your students’ choosing.

Use Word Find to get your students excited about all the words they will be able to learn.

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