Reaching English Language Learners in Every Classroom: Energizers for Teaching and Learning, by Debbie Arechiga, is filled with practical tools, strategies, and real-world vignettes to help you teach reading and writing to a diverse student population. This tip is designed to provide teachers with techniques you can use to flood your students with vocabulary throughout the day to improve student comprehension and literacy skills.
To Start the Day:
Every day, students discuss a vocabulary word for the day. There is a word collector jar where students share interesting words that they have heard or seen. Teachers should select a word from the jar, write it on the board, display a meaningful sentence, and then invite a discussion about the word's meaning and connection to their lives. All students record the word, write a definition in their own words, and draw a picture in their word-study notebooks. Teachers should then encourage students to find opportunities to use the word in daily conversation.
Shared Writing/Morning Message:
At some point during the day, teachers should write a message with their students and invite discussion about print conventions, grammar, usage, and word meaning in context. They capitalize on opportunities to use previously discussed vocabulary in this rich context for review and application. For example:
Dear boys and girls,
What mathematical operations will you use today when we solve our word problems? Will you combine two or more addends together? What will you do if you need to find a quotient? You might need to multiply to find the product. If you are dealing with money and you spend some of it, then you will have to figure out what you have left, or the difference.
There are always opportunities to discuss word meaning when reading from a rich context offered in read-aloud texts. During a read-aloud, the best opportunity to discuss a word’s meaning is during the reading, when the word is mentioned in context. Teachers can discuss not only the meaning of a word, but also use this opportunity to interpret alternate ways in which a given word could be used, or any figurative or metaphorical language.
During a small group or shared reading of a text in a large group are multiple opportunities to discuss vocabulary — before, during, and after the reading experience. Teachers can front-load important questions to prepare students for their reading, use pictures to shape the reading process, and link unfamiliar concepts to familiar concepts.
When students write they will often rely on the vocabulary well-rehearsed and mastered from their speaking vocabulary. In order to break the cycle of "write as you speak," teachers must provide learners with new labels for concepts they already know. These tools will allow the writers to be specific when making choices about what words to use in their writing. Teachers may provide a word bank of synonyms associated with common feelings (both positive and negative), that students should keep on hand for future reference.
Learning about words is a complex process. Students must study the patterns that make up words, how words work in a grammatical context, and the multiple meanings associated with a word. Students can work in pairs and provide clues for the retrieval of sample words from a word wall. Partners can practice different raps or musical tunes for spelling the words and then generate meaningful sentences for how to use words in the appropriate context. Students can finish the lesson by recording two different examples of how to use five of their target words in their word-stud notebooks. For example:
My mom went through my backpack looking for my homework.
I was not through reading my book because I had a baseball game last night.