Friday, December 12, 2014

Let the Students Teach the Vocabulary Lesson

Teaching kids vocabulary is a critically important skill.  If you understand the vocabulary of any given subject, you will better be able to understand articles or textbook pages on the subject, lessons taught by the teacher, videos watched online and even the tests given on that subject.  There are tons of ways to practice vocabulary – practicing flash cards, playing games, writing sentences, etc.  However, we need to stop and ask ourselves, how much of this vocabulary do we want our students to remember?  In order to truly remember vocabulary words, students have to be doing more than reading the words, copying the definitions, or writing sentences with them.  True, a combination of these different activities will help memory.  This is the reasoning behind my ESL Vocabulary Packets and my Spelling Patterns Vocabulary Packets, giving students the ability to work with words in at least 5 different ways.

However, for key vocabulary words, especially in a content area like Math or Science, the best way for students to truly remember important vocabulary words is to create with them.  Students who create lessons, videos or games with their vocabulary words cement those words and their meanings into their memories because they have had to think about them to such an extent that their brain has carved out a special neurological path for them. 

vocab game

My sons created vocabulary games this trimester for key Math words.  My second grader created board games and memory games using the pieces in my Vocabulary Game project.  My 5th grader, however, got fancy and used an iPad app called GamePress to create three short video games with key vocabulary words in each of his languages.  Each of the kids tried out their games with each other, and with some friends who came over.  This gave them a chance to be the teacher, the expert and the one cementing these words into their memory.

Since my sons are learning Math in three languages – English, French and Arabic – vocabulary is especially important for them to understand what questions are asking of them.  The same can be said of our ESL population in public schools in the US.  Without these key words, students loose meaning in problem solving, on tests and in general lessons.

What vocabulary words could your students benefit from teaching others?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources