Sunday, September 23, 2007

A to Z Taxonomy

An A to Z taxonomy in the first few days of a unit works well to activate students' prior knowledge and get them excited about the overall theme of the unit. Students love this creative and fun activity.

Strategy steps:
  1. The teacher gives the unit's theme to the students. The theme needs to be broad enough and real-life enough that students can use their prior knowledge and cultural background to complete the task.
  2. This tasks works best in groups to really build excitement.
  3. The group's recorder starts lettering a large sheet of paper with A, B, C, D . . . . X, Y, Z.
  4. Group members create a list of words that they think are examples of the main theme or illuminate the theme in some way.
  5. Students do not need to progress sequentially through the alphabet. They just fill in the blanks as they think of words or phrases that start with a given letter.
  6. If students have difficulty completing the list, the teacher may allow one member per group to wander around the room for one minute and "spy" on other posters being created.
  7. The teacher may or may not allow the use of a dictionary and a thesaurus.
  8. Once all groups are completed, then the teacher may have people share their lists with the full class or have the class come up with an agreed-upon word or phrase for each letter.
With Brave New World in my World Literature class, students made an A to Z Taxonomy of science and technology issues they felt the world would be facing in the future.

I’ve had equal success with this activity with the word “relationship” with Othello. At the end of the Othello unit, students revisited their A to Z Taxonomies to see if Shakespeare had addressed all of their relationship words. With a little creativity and successful use of synonyms, students found that they could find an example from Othello for each word in their A to Z Taxonomy. Students really learned that Shakespeare is timeless and universal.

I will have students revisit their Brave New World Science and Technology lists too. They will then evaluate just how much of a futurist Aldous Huxley really was.

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