Monday, November 11, 2013

Word of the Day

Earlier in my career, I was always questioning the best strategies for exposing students to appropriately leveled vocabulary words.  Some companies or programs feel as if they know which words 5th graders should be familiar with, but who are they to decide?  No offense intended (which typically means offending somebody is coming in the near future), but I don't want adults in an office somewhere making those decisions for my students.  I don't want teachers across the country making those decisions and I don't even want to make those decisions.  We are not the ones who should be determining the direction of vocabulary instruction.  Our students should.

A couple of years ago, my co-teacher and I were introduced to a vocabulary strategy from TeacherTube (I wish I could credit the appropriate teachers) known as Word of the Day.  One word was selected each day and besides looking at it from a vocabulary standpoint, it was also used as a classroom management tool.  We all have experienced students beginning to transition as we wind down our final directions, but now our students know not to move until we have given the signal; the word of the day.

Additionally, our students actually determine what the word of the day is going to be.  As they are reading their independent reading books and come across an interesting or unfamiliar vocabulary word, they write the word and the sentence on a sticky note and place it in our word of the day bin.  Each morning, a word is selected and our students lead the discussion on how to chunk or decode the word while also discussing the part of speech as well as the meaning of the word (they use context clues first and then dictionary skills if they are not able to determine the meaning from context).  Each student tracks this information in a notebook so they are able to look back at previous words and discover various patterns (examples include noticing that words that end in -tion are typically nouns and various vowel and consonant patterns).

Our word wall is surrounding one of our favorite Donalyn Miller quotes, "Reading is the inhale and writing is the exhale."  With students pulling words from their reading and then using those words in their writing, this strategy mirrors Donalyn's quote perfectly.

The picture makes it somewhat difficult to decipher some of the words, but some examples include: vicariously, pandemonium, equilibrium, neurotransmitters, ostracized, tantalizingly, vexation, and the list continues.  It's hard to believe this is just from less than half of our year and we still have plenty of great words to investigate, which our students will decide of course!