Pardon me if I act a bit supercilious or sound a bit bombastic in my reflection, but it has been a stupendous, exemplary, exhilarating, and quite raucous six months here at Vocab Gal.
I have always been a lover of lexicon; wielding words is like gamboling through a piece of writing-I become exuberant the more I can articulate my exact sentiments with artful prose.
This year truly has been a type of zenith for me-getting to write a weekly column on vocabulary strategies, procuring interviews with my heroes of the children’s and young adult publishing world, and attaining an alter-ego as Vocab Gal-WOW!
So what am I trying to say in this reflection of 2011? Essentially-thank you! To all the hardworking teachers who stumbled upon this blog somehow and hopefully keep coming back for more-your support is appreciated, because my ideas are only as useful as the amount of teachers who actually apply them in the classroom.
To all the folks at Sadlier who believed in my ideas and enthusiasm (zaniness perhaps might be a better term), thank you for allowing all the past blogs and letting me continue into the future.
To all the awesome authors who let me interview them, thank you, thank you, thank you-your kindness toward all of us fellow teachers and thoughtfulness on the subject of vocabulary continue to inspire and humble me! May you sell more books because someone has seen our conversation about words.
I think author Patrick Carmen made my case quite well when he said “Words are more in use now than ever before in history-texting, facebook etc…so the more words you know, the more powerful a communicator you are.”
Therefore, as I continue the blog in 2012, I will keep providing more ideas, activities, games, and awesome author videos to help my fellow teachers and their students become the most powerful communicators we can be!
Last week, one of my favorite teacher bloggers started her post 5 Fantastic Things to Do Over Winter Break with this, "You need a break or you'll break... literally." My initial thought was that the statement was a great opening sentence... it definitely grabbed my attention! After spending a few moments staring at the phrase however, I decided it was a powerful and much needed Call-To-Action. So repeating the sentiment I will also remind you to use your winter break to actually take a break.
10 Priceless Gifts Teachers Can Give Their Students via @TeachHub
Here are 10 priceless gifts we can give to our students! What would you add to this list?
Teachability Member Maximizes Benefits of iPads in his Classroom via @Teachability
One high school English teacher maximizes benefits of iPads in his classroom. Check out this article detailing Mr. Wilson's iPad adventures!
Children at a Manhattan Public School Learn Techniques to Relax via @HuffPostEdu
I thought this was such an interesting article (any teacher who has had rambunctious students will)! At P.S. 112, teachers Lisa Zachariah and Emily Holdridge periodically take their second grade students through breathing and relaxation techniques.
Winter Reading Lists and Ideas via @SadlierSchool
Spend a few minutes clicking through these links over at Edutopia! With book suggestions, popular YouTube Videos, and Community discussions at your fingertips, you're sure to be enlightened.
10 holiday wishes for administrators, teachers, and students via @eschoolnews
In a recent “Question of the Week,” eSchool News asked readers: “’Tis the season to be giving! If you could give just one thing to your students/faculty/peers/school or district, what would it be?” See the 10 best responses!
Sara Zarr is AWESOME! I interviewed her in St. Louis and then saw her at NCTE and she was so cool-she introduced me to her husband, and we chatted for a few moments. Our exchange reminded me of how awesome children’s and young adult author’s are-they are always so kind to their fans and so humble-no one I’ve met has an ego or has been unwilling to talk to me!
Sara Zarr is a great writer with four books to her credit; I’ve read all but her latest one, and they are great realistic fiction! She was a National Book Award Finalist for her first book, Story of a Girl and all of her books have won tons of awards and starred reviews. Check out her website-SaraZarr.com.
You can tell from her interview that Sara is a funny and thoughtful writer who doesn’t take herself too seriously, but has some great points for students on the importance of writing.
Keep in touch with Sara Zarr and get updates here:
Are you officially on holiday break? Whether your break has started or not, I want to tell you congratulations. I congratulate you on reaching the halfway point! Hopefully you can take the next couple weeks to relax and get rejuvenated. Make sure to spend some time pampering yourselves, reading a good book, and downloading all of my awesome resources. Start your holiday break off right with my latest Education Link Loves!
Developing Students' Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap via @edutopia
Blogger Ben Johnson shares strategies for developing students' academic vocabulary that help decrease the achievement gap.
Charles Dickens: Six things he gave the modern world via @Sadlierschool
With the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens approaching, one writer reflects on he lasting legacy of his works and his causes!
The Teacher Report: The Power of Teachers via @WeAreTeachers
Teachers change lives. But sometimes we wonder if kids know that. Well, according to this article and ChildFund Alliance, they do! Check out there findings after surveying 5,100 children from around the world.
Vowels Control Your Brain via #engchat
This is a fascinating article! Robert Krulwich writes, "...the big news is that it's old fashioned to think of vowels as just sounds. They are more than that: they are little strings that pull on our brains and it turns out, "I"s pull us to different places than "O"s."
The Vocabulary-Rich Classroom: Modeling Sophisticated Word Use to Promote Word Consciousness and Vocabulary Growth via @readingrockets
You may find it surprising (or not) that a teacher's use of language is an important model for children's vocabulary development!
When I attended NCTE, I went to an awesome workshop led by Jennifer Onopa and Jason Zanitsch. Both are NYC teachers who enjoy using drama games in the classroom-kindred spirits I think! One of my favorite games they adapted from a book by Augusto Boal, entitled, Games for Actors and Non-Actors (Routledge, 1992).
The game is fascinating and asks kids to think about power dynamics –so you are tapping into symbolic and thematic discussions and character analysis as you play. I am adding the extra component of vocabulary to spice it up and give kids another avenue to participate in, especially if they aren’t comfortable in a kinesthetic role.
Overall, what I love about this game is that there is a great deal of vocabulary being thrown around (and therefore reviewed!) by the students, while tough conversations about themes, symbols and characters are being had with more ease than usual. Students are grappling with tough, complex standards, yet enjoying the conversation because they are having kinesthetic fun playing with chairs and power-roles and describing the scene as it changes.
Quite a fun, yet thoughtful activity-perhaps one to play the day before a holiday break, as I know we’re all just trying to stay sane!
Common Core Standards:
Language Standard 5. Demonstrate understanding of work relaionships and nuances in word meaning
Language Standard 6. Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases
Reading Standards for Literature 2. Determine themes of text
Reading Standards for Literature 3. Analyze development of ideas in a text
Speaking & Listening Standard 1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations
Today I read on TeacherVision that it's National Poinsettia Day! After reading about Nat'l Poinsettia Day and watching this short video from the Smithsonian, I got an overwhelming urge to go out and buy poinsettias. I'm thinking some potted poinsettias will make my holiday season even more merry and bright!
Poinsettias aside, here are some amazing resources for teachers I found on twitter last week.
30 Incredible Blogs Written By Students via @edudemic
Did you know that students as young as 6 are actively blogging? These student-run blogs can give teachers great insight. Here is a list of 30 blogs where students write about interesting lesson plans and life in the classroom!
Social Media In Classrooms: A Case For Why It Belongs via @HuffPostEdu
Can banning social media platforms for students prohibit them for being successful professionals in fields like accounting, chemistry, the arts and more?
5 Ways to be a Better Teacher in Today's Classroom via @SciLearn
Sherrelle Walker, M.A. states it perfectly when she writes, "The success of our students and the effectiveness of the education system as a whole starts and ends with the teacher!"
Common Core: Seven Opportunities to Transform English Language Arts Curriculum via @edutopia
This three-part series examines the English Language Arts CCSS features and opportunity for educators to transform their teaching.
What is a sure fire way to get students excited about vocabulary? Ask them about cars.
Car names can be vocabulary words! I will never forget the student who had a Mitzubishi Mirage –and every time the vocabulary word mirage would come up, she would get so excited that we were talking about her car (that wasn’t even real, I would tease her).
More recently, my husband and I rented an SUV to transport additional family members, and it turned out to be a Buick Enclave. Enclave is one of my favorite vocabulary words (yes, I have many favorites), and I thought that Buick’s use of the word as a car model was perfect-an SUV really is a secure, enclosed space where one can escape from everyone else!
This led me to start googling for other car model names, but I couldn’t find any other good vocabulary words as car names (feel free to list your favorites under comments, because I kept finding “Gremlins” and “Jettas” –not very scholarly)!
After a while, I thought that instead of bringing the car names to the students, they should create their own to bring to me. Students can create a car model name (and perhaps even a car brand, if they get ambitious). Then they create the car visually and write a paragraph detailing the features of the car that highlight the vocabulary word’s meaning. You can give the students my example for more clarification, if you want.
In terms of the visual aspect, I created a template of cars that you can download and print off, or you can have the students draw their own (perhaps even coordinate with the art teacher).
As a variation, if you don’t have much time, you could simply ask for a car name and a slogan that explains the relationship between the car name and it’s attributes. In my example, my title is, “Toyota Indomitable: Making YOU Master of the Road” –which explains that my SUV is large and undefeatable!
The Toyota Indomitable: Making YOU Master of the Road!
The road has many hazards these days. Chaotic roadwork, careless drivers, and hazardous weather conditions all make for a war zone kind of commute. What better way to assert yourself as undefeatable on the battleground of the highway than in a Toyota Indomitable. In an Indomitable, you can feel superior with 8 airbags, 2 extra-large metal bumpers, bulletproof tinted windows, a stainless steel “Caterwaul” airhorn mounted on the roof and colossal rotating tire rims.
People will know that you are number one as you ride in style with leather interior, 10 extra-large cup holders, a Bose surround sound speaker system, two mounted TV/DVD players in the rear, and a mini fridge in the driver’s side compartment-all standard features in your Indomitable.
Additionally, thieves will know that your family’s fortress on wheels is impregnable as your Indomitable comes with a patented Brinks anti-theft security system installed with its logo emblazoned across both sides of your enormous SUV.
To let your fellow travelers know that you are indefatigable, your family’s crest can detailed across your Indomitable’s back windshield in neon-making all those more stick figure families and monogram decals look callow in comparison.
Ultimately, everyone will know that you are the king of the road as you maneuver your Indomitable throughout life’s journeys.
Underlined words are other vocabulary words used in your ad
Italicized words are synonyms for your vocabulary word, letting other readers truly understand how your car amenities match the definition of your car’s name.
Bold your car name/vocabulary word each time you use it
Common Core State Standards:
Language Standard 4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases
Language Standard 5: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings & distinguish among the connotations of words.
Reading Text Standard 4: Craft and Structure: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
It's December, which means the semester is winding down! Recently I started thinking about how truly blessed teachers are during the month of December... Not only do we get to deal with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we have the added joys of semester projects, testing, and grades. With teachers and December on my mind, I decided to begin my Education Link Love post with a poem by John Clare. It helps me remember that the despite the stress, I really do love December!
"While snow the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o'er the pitcher's rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm;
Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
Sits there, its pleasures to impart,
And children, 'tween their parent's knees,
Sing scraps of carols o'er by heart."
- John Clare, December
What is the point of an English class anymore? via @thenerdyteacher
How do you measure success in your English classes? Do you become so focused on preparing students for their state exams that you forget to prepare them to be thinkers? This post from The Nerdy Teacher is sure to get you thinking, 'What is the point of an English class anymore?'
Digital Storytelling: Extending the Potential for Struggling Writers via @AdLit
Tapping into new literacies like digital storytelling could be just what you need to motivate students that struggle with writing!
A Wounded Lover of Writing Prompts via @finleyt
Not all prompts are created equal! In this article English teacher, Todd Blake Finley, PhD. discusses the struggle to find clever writing prompts for his classroom.
Classroom Management: My Miracle Motivation Plan via @TeachHub
Another great article from TeachHub! As a teacher, I am always looking for strategies to better manage "behavior concerns" in my classroom.
Patrick Carman is a truly amazing and prolific author! He has three series of books where kids go online at certain points during their reading to watch videos and listen to audio files in order to figure out the mystery, which I find a totally amazing approach to get nonreaders to read and keep them hooked! His first two series, Skeleton Creek and Trackers, were huge successes and his most recent series-Dark Eden, involves audio files, videos, and you can even get an app for the book!
While you would think he would be a totally ubercool, above Vocab Gal’s radar kind of guy, he’s actually an amazingly laid back author from Walla Walla, Washington, who took the time for a quick interview.
His insightful answers about why words are more important than ever before really drove home my mission, and I think you’ll enjoy sharing the video, and his awesome books, with your students!
Check out Patrick's website!
Follow Patrick on Facebook
Follow Patrick on Twitter