Friday, February 27, 2009

Engaging Vocabulary Strategies

My students spent the entire class today learning vocabulary words from the novel, Things Fall Apart, that they begin reading on Monday. The lesson went great for a Friday afternoon.

First, groups of four students created 4-square vocab quilt squares for their assigned 2 or 3 words. Here's the 4-square vocab format:
They then used their group's two or three assigned words to create a skit incorporating the words. Groups performed the skits for the class, and we used the applause meter to determine the winner.

To keep the vocabulary celebration going, students participated in "Give one, get one" where they circulated around the room with their vocab square, stopping when the music stopped to pair up and "give one" vocab word (explaining their word), and then they would"get one" vocab word before the music started and they moved around searching for new words to learn.

For homework over the weekend, I assigned creating a Thinking Map that further illustrates their word from 4-square. Students can create any Thinking Map that they want that illustrates or expands on their assigned vocab word. For example, they could make an analogy on a bridge map, define the word with a circle map, describe the word with adjectives in a bubble map, analyze the causes and effects of the word in a multi-flow map. Click on the double bubble map to the left to take the map to full screen to see a comparison of Kola (the vocab word) with coffee that the students and I created quickly as a model in class today.

A follow-up vocab strategy that my students can’t wait to do is to compete in an "I have, who has" vocab contest with the other English 10 classes for the fastest time. I even heard some students state that they were planning on studying words already this weekend.
To use the "I have, who has" strategy, a teacher simply needs to create a circular recitation of vocab words and definitions. One student says, "I have (insert vocab word). Who has (insert definition of another vocab word)?" The student who has the sheet with the vocab word that fits the previous definition responds, "I have----who has?" And so on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thinking Maps Software

EHS and Valley View recently received a campus community license for Thinking Maps software. This easy-to-use program will allow teachers to easily create Thinking Maps right in class that are projected on the big screen for all to see.

The community license also allows teachers and students to install the software on their home computers.

Teachers and students can also create thinking maps that can be exported as PNG or JPEG file formats that can be uploaded to blogs, inserted in PowerPoints, and pasted into Word documents. In PowerPoints and Word the exported picture files appear in the same high quality that the files appear when viewed in the original Thinking Maps software. However, when the files are uploaded to blogger much of the clear focus is lost when enlarged. See the below comparisons of the quality of the inserted file formats when uploaded as "large" pictures in blogger.

PNG Format

JPEG Format

The easiest work-around for the clarity issue is to upload the picture files in "small" picture size in blogger. The "small" size allows blog readers to click on a picture to take it full screen. Then the Thinking Map is clear and easy-to-read.
Try that below with this png file in small size.

Also, by having students insert the map in "small" size on their blogs, they can wrap the text that they've composed from their pre-writing map right next to the Thinking Map. This technique has the added bonus of promoting that the end product of writing is a desired outcome from using thinking maps, and that the Thinking Map is a mid-level tool that should be used before writing, speaking, discussion or other creations.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Literacy Strategies Website

Kelly Wheaton, literacy coach at Valley View, found a great website the contains links to a number of literacy strategies. Many of the strategies collected there are the same strategies that people have learned from NUA.

Click on the Adolescent Literacy website to check out their descriptions of a number of strategies.