Vocabulary Ideas From NCTE

Already, NCTE seems like a long time ago. However, as I reread my notes and think about some of the lasting learning, I have more to share!

NCTE sessions tend to fall into various categories for me; some sessions are validating, some are inspiring, and some of full of instructional ideas that I can’t wait to see happen in classrooms. Vocabulary Matters, presented by Valerie Geschwind, Shana Frazin, Katy Wischow and Char Shryock was one that was full of strategies to use in classrooms of all levels. To emphasize the importance of vocabulary, Valerie began with a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein:

The limits of my language are the limits of my world.

No question this quote motivated everyone in the room to think about the importance of building vocabulary of all students! They presented several ideas for teaching vocabulary in meaningful ways:

  • Teach vocabulary within categories
Characters Settings Character Actions Character feelings
  • Offer opportunities to debate vocabulary. We are always looking for ways to develop debating skills. Shana gave the example of which word means fire more, spark or flicker? When I shared the idea with a teacher at home, we generated all sorts of vocabulary-oriented debates from the charts in her room: in science, would you rather be a liquid or a gas? Or in social studies: which is stronger, a continent or an ocean? Which matters more in a book? a setting or a plot?
  • Have a game bank of vocabulary games that can be used as five minute fillers whenever there is time. Even though we all know there’s no time and instructional minutes are over-accounted for, sometimes there are pockets of time and it’s great to take advantage of them. Katie Winschel shared some great ideas!
    • In a given time period, see how many words you can make with a new vocabulary word- 1 point for a sentence, 2 points for using the word in context, 3 points for illustrating the meaning.
    • Play “would you rather?” with new vocabulary words. For example, would you rather be full of envy or full of rage?
    • Offer students the opportunity to try out open word sorts. See how they group a list of new vocabulary words. Some of the choices might be surprising!

In a fast paced, quickly changing, multi-cultural world, I don’t think we can over-estimate the importance of developing vocabulary in the lives of our students. I loved the different ideas Shana, Katie, Valerie, and Char shared.