Friday, October 24, 2014

Talking about Words

Introducing vocabulary lists can be one of the deadliest activities to invade a classroom, but it doesn’t have to be. This week I pulled out a simple activity I remembered a workshop facilitator using several years ago: 

  • I handed out the list of 20 words and definitions taken from the novel.
  • Students looked it over and came up with the number of words they were already familiar with, from 0 to 20.  
  • Students lined up in order of the number of words they already knew.
  • We folded the line, so in the class with 24 students, for example, #1 matched up with #24, #2 with #23, #3 with #22, etc.
  • Students asked their partner questions about the words they were not familiar with. 

Five minutes of engaged conversations ensued, and questions that couldn’t be definitively answered by the partner were referred to me:

  • Is “bondage” a good word or a bad word? (There’s always a good number of students who understand that it’s the noun form of “bond,” and team bonding is a good thing….)
  • What’s the difference between “dispirited” and “listless”? (It might look the same on the outside, but “listless” could have any number of causes—physical, mental, or emotional—but “dispirited” is always emotional.)
  • Some giggles over the difficulty of saying “listless” 3 times fast. (It’s okay—we don’t really pronounce the middle “t” when we say it.)
  • When I heard students pronouncing con-TRACT (“decrease in size, number, or range”) as if it were “a signed agreement” (CON-tract), we had a little discussion about English words that change pronunciation when they change part of speech. 

Just a little no-prep activity to get kids engaged with words. 

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