“Comma splices,” one student had written down. The little vocabulary angel in the back of my brain--who has grown much bigger and stronger throughout the 7 weeks of meeting with 8 colleagues to discuss The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction by Michael F. Graves--gave me a nudge. So I asked the question.
For the first couple of meetings, I had to quick, on the day of the discussion, be sure I did something in class that I could talk about. By the last several meetings, I had so many things I could have talked about that I had to choose which ones to use so I didn’t monopolize the entire time.
I’d encourage anyone to start a similar discussion. Find a good professional development book. (I’ve done this with Cris Tovani’s books on teaching reading strategies, I Read It, but I Don’t Get It and Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?, Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding by Nancy Frey, et al, An Essential Guide to Public Speaking: Serving your Audience with Faith, Skill, and Virtue, by Quentin Schultze, and Teaching Matters Most: A School Leader’s Guide to Improving Classroom Instruction by McCann, et al.) Talk it up with some colleagues. Order the books. Set a time and place. Have food. Then read and talk and try things and have fun learning and growing together.
- Rich and varied language experiences (reading, writing, listening, discussing)
- Individual word learning (of course)
- Word-learning strategies (using context clues, word parts, and reference tools; developing a strategy for dealing with unknown words; and adopting a personal approach to building vocabulary)
- Fostering word consciousness
Most noticeably right now, my own word consciousness has been fostered, making me able to foster my students’ more effectively. For instance, as I read the edited papers I collected on Wednesday, I came across these 2 lines from students who are quite fluent, but whose first language is not English:
- Repetition...is seen in this song evidently. It had never occurred to me that while evident means clear, evidently does not mean clearly. Adding the -ly makes it almost ironic.
- People’s tendency to commit such felonies spoils the initially perfect world God had made…. While sin, crime, and felony are synonyms of a sort, the progression moves from broad to specific, and while crime could go either way (Shoplifting is a crime, and so is what they charge for things these days), felony cannot.
What a huge word-learning task our students have! I need every available tool for helping them. Never forgetting that one of those tools is humor.