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Collecting vocabulary - When Kids Can't Read

I'm going to try collecting words students have questions about (p. 191) during a reading selection instead of me always trying to "guess" which ones my students will stumble with while they read.

I can see the students writing the words on index cards and or writing them with marker on easel paper. During the lesson, I could see us stopping to figure out the definitions. Maybe some students already know what the word means, so it can be shared with the whole group.

Maybe other times I can reinforce using context clues and we can get to the meaning by using the text. Othertimes, I can maybe type the word into Google Images and a definition can be found out that way too. And if all else fails, the dictionary is always an option.

Do any of you use this approach? Does it work for you? Or is it too open-ended and chaotic?


I have a number of tools I've used for student chosen vocab. In fact your idea this morning about the double columned bookmark is one I've used for vocab. On it students record the word, the page, how it is used in the sentence, their prediction, and fianlly what it meant when they looked it up. This is a fun discussion because I think the students discover they often have the same words chosen.

I've heard of teachers posting the words on what they call the vocabulary wall. I've thought that would be cool, but I've never done it.

Yes, word walls are cool. If you do a word wall, then write the words on notecards or post-it notes. It is great to have kids categorize the words differently--parts of speech, prefixes, suffixes, greek and latin roots.

We use word walls extensively in our school. I've found them to be most useful for words that are easily misspelled (homonyms, the list of "demon speller" words). I'm not sure if I think the vocab wall would be interactive enough for kids to actually acquire the words. if you use it, you should let us know how it goes!

I've used word walls for six or seven years. I write words on the bulletin board paper of words that my students ask me to spell.

I could add these words that the students want to learn their definitions on this word wall too. There wouldn't be room though for the definitions. I could have students write the definitions on separate pieces of paper or even the overhead.

One way that I really like to teach new vocabulary is using vocabulary boxes. You draw a rectange and divide it in 4 parts. In the first box, you write the new word. In the second box, you write a definition or the sentence from the text. In the third box, you draw a picture. In the last box, you can write make connections you have to the word, etc.

My students like to write these on overheads and teach them to the rest of the class.

I tried a lot of this with ONE book last year - A TALE OF TWO CITIES - because I'd just returned from seeing Beers present and because I thought the vocab in the book would be difficult for my students. My struggle - and this is a response to a lot of the comments - is sustaining my efforts when it comes to teaching spelling, vocabulary, grammar etc. - the less sexy parts of the English teacher's life. I can look at a set of books and form a year and think large-scale, but I have a hard time formulating grammar or spelling or vocabulary plans for the year. I know I should do more with diagnostics at the beginning of the year as well. I also know that a lot of the grammar/ vocab/ spelling stuff has to be in context and in response to what I learn from my students, but I would like to have the same kind of plan for those aspects of the curriculum that I have for the literature and for writing.

Thank you guys.
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