I'm Back!!!!.... and teaching vocabulary!

Saturday, February 7, 2015
I'm back! I totally apologize to all my readers for disappearing for the last couple of months.  I took my first real grad class this fall and had no time to breathe.  Something had to give and unfortunately it was my blog.  But, the class is over and I am back!  I have so much to tell you but instead of one long post, be looking for short posts over the next week or so to catch you up!

The class I took was TONS of work but also very rewarding.  In Massachusetts, if you have even one student in your class who is and English Language Learner, you need to take a class called Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL). It's basically an intro to ELL and walks you through tried and true activities that helps ELLs succeed in the classroom. Being my second year in district, I found the class to be EXTREMELY helpful and my biggest takeaway is direct vocabulary instruction. I have always felt that vocabulary is such an important part of teaching social studies and last year I just knew I wasn't cutting it. My students were just understanding vocabulary on the most superficial of levels and I knew it was because I was teaching a population I had never really experienced before.
In the class they taught us a vocabulary activity called the Seven Steps to preteach vocabulary. Here is a fabulous example of Seven Steps from an elementary teacher:

I knew this was exactly what I needed but I decided to tweak it for my class.  Now, almost every day, my kiddos walk in and we preteach a word or term they are going to need in order to understand the upcoming content (Tier 2 and Tier 3 Words). We do it in the same order every day:

  1. Introduce word and have them pronounce it twice.  Ask if they know anything about the word and identify and prefixes, suffixes, and/or base words.
  2. Have them write down a student friendly definition.
  3. Tell them how we are going to use it in content.  I also like to tell them how it is used in other contexts (for the word "convention" this week, we talked about the Constitutional Convention but we also talked about ComicCon).
  4. I show the kids a YouTube video that better illustrates the word or a visual.
  5. Lastly, the students are given a sentence stem that they need to finish with the students in their table groups.  We then share out as a class.
This method has truly revolutionized my class!  Not only are the kids truly understanding the vocabulary, it has allowed me to frontload my teaching.  As an example, I taught the term Articles of Confederation three days before we really learned about the Articles of Confederation.  The kids absolutely love it and have been acing their vocab quizzes like champs.  They can use the words weeks later in a sentence and I really feel like it has helped me make bigger connections in my content. 

I showed two different videos with this term.  The first clip, I explained to them, is how the British knew how to fight and the second video was how the Americans learned to fight from the native Americans.  We were able to compare and contrast the two styles and this whole lesson took less than ten minutes of my class.

If you're interested, I have started to gather together these vocab lessons and have made them available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Head on over to TPT to check these out and look for more as I progress in the year!

1 comment

  1. Kara,

    Great work here. I am currently tly taking the retell course in Attleboro, and find these vocabulary strategies very helpful. I think j it's really great that you have created something tangible for teachers to use. I teach 8th grade social studies in Attleboro (fall of Rome to the Enlightenment) but will be purchasing your 7th grade sets for the other teachers in my building. I would love the chance to speak with you more about these strategies. My email is abenharris@attleboroschools.com...I would live to hear from you!