concepts and vocabulary

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1



Introduction


“I have observed teachers with a passionate interest in words and watched how they share
this love with children, and I find it very hard to describe how they do what they do. No book on
vocabulary instruction or set of activities can accomplish what these

teachers do, spontaneously
in the classroom.” Thus, Ellin Keene in
To Understand

provides teachers with a reality check
before engaging with the following material.

The word study activities offered here are simply recipes for preparing students to inges
t
words in a variety of ways. Choose and use what works. This guide is designed to increase word
consciousness through robust vocabulary instruction so that, in the words of one state’s
standards: “Students use the power of language ethically and creativel
y.”

Relying heavily on Janet Allen’s philosophy, “…as a teacher I should not be teaching one
way to teach vocabulary for all words, for all my students, for the whole year. Rather, I should
be creating a language
-
rich environment with lots of reading, t
alking, and writing in which
varying levels of instruction occur.” This guide seeks to help teachers create that environment. In
Allen’s books (
Words, Words, Words

and
Inside Words
) she lists the ingredients to help students
learn and use academic and spec
ialized vocabulary.


If teachers desire language
-
rich classrooms, they need to:



Build background knowledge



Teach words that are critical to comprehension



Provide support during reading and writing



Develop a conceptual framework for themes, topics, and uni
ts of study



Assess students’ understanding of words and concepts.


It is wise to listen to Ellin Keene again before studying the succeeding pages. She
reminds teachers that,




We have long understood the need for vocabulary instruction that creates
a


conceptual base for new words, helps children build a personal set of associations


for the words they know, and encourages students to use increasingly subtle and


complex words in their spoken and written language. Sadly, there is still

too much


focus in American classrooms on handing out long weekly word lists, then asking


children to look up their meanings and write sentences that use the words in an


appropriate context.


To counteract this negative focus, Keene describes a lively snapshot of teachers who
continually gift their students with the joy of words:



They pause during a read
-
aloud to marvel at an author’s word choice; they reread lines


just to let
children appreciate the cadence of the language; they interrupt everyone during


composing to share the word one writer has chosen because it perfectly captures the meaning


he strives for. There are words and quotes posted throughout their cla
ssrooms, pulled from


children’s writing and well
-
loved books. They share their pleasure when the words the author


uses surprise them. They wisely select a few very relevant words to study at a given time,


helping children to build a
conceptual (rather than a definitional) understanding of each


word, associating other terms with it. They create situations in which kids discover and teach


each other words, and they ensure that children are hearing

and using

an ever more



sophisticated vocabulary as they speak and write.”



Peter Johnston’s
Choice Words

also is a valuable guide to understanding the power of
words. It is our hope that teachers will discover new ways to enrich their students by unlocking
the power

of words.



2





RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHING VOCABULARY


Adapted from
Words, Words, Words

by Janet Allen



Increase

Decrease


A language
-
rich environment



The variety of instructional
approaches


Opportunities for learning new
words through wide reading


Strategies to learn unfamiliar words


Language/word awareness


Building of background knowledge
to increase vocabulary


Highlighting
relationships between

difficult
y of words and
comprehension


Direct instruction


Awareness that context clues vary in
degree of helpfulness to readers


Awareness that knowing a word
means more than knowing a
definition of a word


Exposure to words in meaningful
context


Immersion in vocabulary discussion


Teaching of word parts



Looking up definitions as a single source
of word knowledge


Asking students t
o write sentences for
new words before they’ve studied the
word in depth


Notion that all words in a text need to be

defined for comprehension


Using context as a highly reliable tool
for increasing comprehension


Assessments that ask students for single
definitions


Drill
-
and
-
practice methods

3





Instructional Strategies and Tools



Within the following pages you will find Word Study tools designed to develop word
consciousness in students. The instructional strategies and tools are not an end
-
all but a
suggestion fo
r use. The expectation is that you will take them and use them in a manner that will
foster life
-
long word study skills.



The FRAYER MODEL


This graphic organizer takes some time, so you would probably choose it when you are
introducing a concept or be
ginning a unit. The teacher would directly teach the critical attributes.
This could become an anchor chart and used as a reference throughout the unit, adding
information as the learning progresses.



In the example that follows, the teacher is introducin
g the word “anarchist” preceding a
unit on the 1920’s.








Frayer Model


Define the Concept





Is different from similar concepts


An anarchist is someone who



Someone who criticizes authority


advocates (supports or defends)




or government, but wouldn’t want


the absence of political authority




to destroy it.



Examples of the Concept are



Nonexamples of the concept are


Sacco and Vanzetti





A patriot

Emma Goldman





A senator or representative

Some rock groups like




Anyone who votes or runs


The Dead Kennedys





for office



I’ll remember the word by


I know that “
-
ist” refers to a person, like a “dentist” or “pharmacist”.

“an
-
“ means without and “
-
arkos” means ruler.

In comic books th
ere sometimes is an “arch” villain. An anarchist would maybe not care if
others got hurt if they got in the way of the overthrow of authority.


4





CONCEPTS AND VOCABULARY: CATEGORIES AND LABELS


This activity helps students focus on the particular vocabulary for a unit or novel by
asking them to see connections, patterns, and relationships between the words. They decide how
to categorize the words into logical groups.


One of the best ways to use

this strategy is to have the words on cards and allow the
students to work in groups. As they arrange the cards, they will explain, argue, persuade, and
teach themselves and each other a great deal. This involvement with the words will help them
create a
structure to remember the words.


This procedure is a good way to introduce a unit or to review at the end. The following
chart can be used instead of, or along with, the cards. Once a group has their organizational
pattern completed, they can present the
ir rationale to the whole class. Many different possibilities
provide further awareness of how the words relate to each other and to the topic itself. If this is
an introduction, students can create questions about the possible use of the words.


The examp
le that follows could be used by a teacher introducing or reviewing a unit on
the Civil Rights Movement. Multiple categories are possible.



Concepts and Vocabularies

Categories and Labels


Read and think about each of the words you have been given. Now, g
roup the words into
categories that make logical sense to you. Ask yourself which words would logically go together.
After you group the words, give each list a label. Be ready to explain or justify the rationale
behind your groups and labels.










Labels and Categories:

Events That Brought About Change

Negative forces

Inspirational People


More
Info Needed




Lunch Counter sit
-
ins



KKK



MLK, Jr.


Lyndon Johnson


Bus boycott




Separate But Equal Rosa Parks



Emmett Till




George Wallace Little Rock Nine


Brown V. Board of Education

Jim Crow laws


Langston Hughes



Garbage Workers


Strike





Ruby Bridges


March to Selma






Jackie Robinson


Four Little Girls







Words
:

Lunc
h counter sit
-
ins Bus boycott Langston Hughes

Martin Luther King, Jr. Emmett Till Ruby Bridges

Rosa Parks

Brown v
. Board o
f Education

March to Selma
Separate But Equal Little Rock Nine 4 Little Girls

Jackie Robinson
Garbage Workers
’ Strike
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5








LEAD: EXPERIENCE
-
BASED VOCABULARY INSTRUCTION


The three steps in this

strategy are:



L

List

specialized or academic vocabulary related to the topic



EA

Provide students with an
experience

activity

where they would use the




specialized words highlighted



D

Discuss

the topic using the specialized vocabulary


This might
be a good way to introduce students to the intricate vocabulary of
The Scarlet

Letter
,
The Odyssey
, or
Great Expectations
. The teacher would first go over the specialized
words; then provide an activity that generates involvement with the words; and then,
through a
discussion, create even more interaction with the new vocabulary.


The following
LIST

is planned to introduce the Queen Mab speech in
Romeo and Juliet

to students before they see the film clip of that scene.



LEAD

EXPERIENCE
-
BASED VOCABULARY IN
STRUCTION

L = Listing



EA = Experience Activity D = Discussion



List

Queen Mab

Rosaline

midwife

court’sies breaches

Romeo parson


fairies


plagues ambuscadoes

Mercutio

monologue

agate stone

tithe

Spanish blades

Mercurical courtiers

traces parson


benefice

Anon dreams atomies suit fathoms



Experience Activity

Work with members of your learning group and discuss

what you know about Mercutio and
Romeo so far. How many of these words can you figure out? Has any one seen a pirate movie?
Which would fit swashbucklers? Mercutio is not a pirate, but he uses some crazy images to
distract Romeo from his latest crush (
not

Juliet!) See if you can figure out any of these words
before we watch the film clip.



Discussion

After viewing the famous Queen Mab scene,
how many of these words can your team figure out
now? Anyone know anything about dream interpretation? Do you belie
ve Mercutio? Does
Mercutio believe himself? Could you draw this fairy midwife?



6






VOCAB
-
O
-
GRAM


In this strategy, students are given a list of words for a story they are about to read. They
then make predictions about where these words will be used within the structure of the story.
Working in groups, they speculate about the elements of the story an
d make connections
between and among the words in the word bank. Any words that don’t seem to fit anywhere can
be placed in the Mystery Words box.



In the following example, the students are preparing to read
The Scarlet Letter
.



VOCAB
-
O
-
GRAM



Use the vocabulary words in the word bank to make predictions about the book we are reading. You can use the words more than
once to make
your predictions. Think about how you think the author of the book will use the words in the story. Help each oth
er define the words. If you use a
dictionary, you may have to do some interpretation.


List words that you think will go with each categ
ory of the story structure. T
hen use those words to make predictions and answer the
questions about the structure.
If there are words your group can’t use because they are too unfamiliar, list those words at the bottom as Mystery
Words.


Word Bank:

t
hrong



calamity

hussy



penitence

s
epulchers


edifice


primeval


imp


p
ortal



dank


melancholy


spectre

i
llegitimate


o
racles


depraved


gallows

s
caffold



amiss


beadle



physiognomies

b
lighted



paternity

parishioner


retribution


Setting

How will the author describe

It will be dank and blighted…It’s primeval.

the setting?


Characters

What predictions can you


There’s a hussy and she’s probably melancholy. There’s an

make about the characters?

Illegitimate child. A parishioner might be involved.


Conflict

What will the conflict be?


We think the paternity suit is the
conflict.

Who will be involved?


The hussy! A crowd (throng). Something’s amiss.


Plot

What will happen in the story?

Some calamity will take place. Is there a portal to another





world? Maybe that’s where the imp comes in…and the beadle.

Resolution

How

will the story end?


Badly!

Someone might get hanged in the gallows. Someone





Who is depraved gets retribution!

Questions

What questions do you have

Is there time travel? (oracles?) Are there ghosts? (spectre)?

about the story?


Dead bodies? (sepulchers)?


Mystery Words



physiognomies..that’s a mouthful!


7








PORTABLE WORD WALL


This strategy needs little explanation. Use it with any subject at any time. Students can
collect words
they want to know or that the teacher wants them to record during a unit.



WORD SORT

This is an activity where students are asked to sort words into categories by placing
words into groups where the words have a common element. The teacher creates a bank
of words
that will be used in a unit of study.


The data collected can be a valuable springboard for conferring with students about their
choices for grouping and their thinking for their decisions.




Sample W
ord Sort (7
th

grade)



Participant’s Name

t潲搠卯牴⁔楴汥l

t潲搠卯牴⁇o潵灩湧

ga摥

Suffixes (
-
nch,
-
elch,
-
tch,
-
ouch,
-
each)

hunch, branch

belch

catch, match, hutch

couch

reach, teach, beach

Moran

Suffixes (
-
nch,
-
elch,
-
atch

-
ouch,
-
each)

branch, hunch

belch

catch, match, hutch

couch

beach, reach, teach
.

Tim

Word endings (
-
tch’s,

-
ach’s,
-
ch’s)

match, catch, hutch

beach, coach, reach, teach

belch, couch, hunch

Jo

ABC order and sounding
the same

beach, belch

branch, match

catch, couch

hunch, hutch

teach, reach




8




SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

This helpful tool allows students to interact with the vocabulary to gain a better grasp of the meaning in a
text. It could be used before reading and annotating. In this approach, students are required to determine which word
would not survive with the ot
hers in a given list. The teacher formulates word clusters containing at least one word
from the work (synonyms and one antonym). Working in small groups, students discuss which words would be
eliminated and why.


Dictionaries and thesauri can be used. Th
e teacher may require students to formulate a new word to replace
the eliminated one. A last step could be to have the students decide as a group how they might label the clusters.



Survival of the Fittest

Read and discuss the words in each of the cluster
s of words. Determine which word does not fit with the other words
in each cluster. Eliminate that word and then create a label that would include the words that are left in the cluster of
words. For a challenge, generate a new word that would replace the
eliminated word and fit with the remaining
words in the cluster.



“Casey at the Bat”


“Largest Amount”








“Dead colors”

1.

extreme






6. pallor



s
evere









bloodless



l
imited


greatest







pastiness



m
aximum










sallowness



i
ntense








ruddiness


pale



u
tmost









colorlessnesss




“Circular”










“Never
-
ending”

2.

wreathed







7. eternal



curved








endless




t
urned










infinite


r
ounded








lasting


l
ooped











terminable


forever


s
traight

ring
-
shaped








enduring



“Physical Features”








“Hurt”

3.
featureless


aspect






8. harmed


a
ppearance







well

unwell


l
ooks








injured


v
isage









stricken


c
ountenance










wounded


f
eatures








overcome




“Minimum”









“Helpful”





4.

minute








9. supporters


r
are







well
-
wishers


s
traggling








patrons


m
any

less







backers


s
parse








fans


m
iddling


op
ponent

helper



“Large Group”








“Beforehand”

5.

mob









10. go
before


s
lew







pave
the
way


h
orde








preceding


o
odles










followed


lead


h
andful

many








go in
advance



9







LIST
-
GROUP
-
LABEL




This brainstorming and categorizing activity provides students with an opportunity to
think about, discuss, categorize, and label words related to a central
concept. This allows
teachers to assess students’ background knowledge prior to beginning a novel or unit of study.


List
: Each student brainstorms and lists at least seven words they think of when they hear certain
terms relating to a theme.

Group
: Stude
nts then work with a small group to discuss and group their lists into logical
categories. Looking for word patterns allows students time to think about the concept. The goal
is to have one list encompassing all words, and for all students to achieve a bet
ter grasp of the
themes.

Label
: The last step requires students to label their categories. These categories could then
become a basis for the creation of a word wall.


List
-
Group
-
Label



My brainstorming list for
tolerance

putting up with people


conflicts

accepting


patience


willing




ignore differences

no fighting




attitude


Word patterns our group discovered…

Tolerance









t
emper

w
illing




patience



listening

a
ccepting

putting

up

with

people


cool

down

conflicts

Ignore

differences




no

fighting



Based on our words and labels, we can make the following statements

about this topic:




Tolerance is ignoring differences among people



You have to accept and be
willing to be tolerant



Tolerance is putting up with people


10








“I’M THINKING OF A WORD….”



Need to review vocabulary, terms, events, characters? This charades
-
style review
activity is
engaging enough to sustain the interest of the students and “solidify their
understanding of specialized vocabulary words (Allen, 2007). The teacher chooses words,
concepts, and terms taught during a unit or from the Word Wall. It is an excellent format
ive
assessment; the teacher can quickly identify student needs to determine future lessons.


Janet Allen gives the following explanation:


The activity

begins when the teacher says, “I’m thinking of a word….”

The teacher

completes the

thought by providi
ng st
udents with a context, such as “
I’m thinking of a

word that we discussed in our

study of colonial events in America
.” Or “
I’m thinking of

a term authors use to….” Or “
I’m thinking of a

word that we often use in math class
.”


The teacher allows
a few wild guesses and then moves forward by giving students

examples and

non
-
example
s

and continuing to repeat each previous clue (following the

graphic organizer). At this

point, students will probably have several guesses. If they

have guessed the
word and can explain or

describe the word’s meaning in the context the teacher has created, then the teacher moves on to a new

word and begins the game again.


After a few example

and non
-
example clues are given, the teacher would provide a richer,

more

detailed context by saying, “
This word would always/usually…
.” and “
This

word would never…
.”


By this time, the students will have narrowed the possibilities and

should be ab
le to name and define the

word.



“I’M THINKING OF A WORD….”



I’m thinking

of a word (device) that…





…playwrights use to reveal a character’s thoughts and feelings.


Examples of the device are…



Non
-
examples of the device are…




Mercutio’s speech in Act 1.5





…Romeo and
Juliet’s first


…Romeo and the party
-
goers





conversation at the end of Act 1
















Any ideas?


This device would always/usually….


The device would never….


…be spoken to characters on stage



…be one or two lines long


The word is
and it means…




monologue: a long speech delivered by an actor to others on stage



11







I SPY: A WORD SCAVENGER HUNT



This is an engaging activity designed to “provide students an opportunity to apply and
discover…” vocabulary, terms, concepts in a more “real
-
life context.” This activity is based on
the belief that middle and high school students should have “deeper expl
orations with language’”
(Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 2002). “I Spy” provides the multiple exposures needed to shape
word meanings to increase student understanding and the ability to actually use the word
fluently.


Have you every played “I
-
Spy”? Then you
know basically how “I Spy: A Word
Scavenger Hunt” works. Students are given a list of words or concepts and must find examples
of the word somewhere. In the example provided, students chose unfamiliar words from
Heart
of Darkness

and formed a Word Wall.

At the end of the novel, students generated a list of their
10 favorite words and went on a scavenger hunt. For one week they actively sought these words
in their reading (academic and leisure) and listening (conversations and television).




Modified
Steps from
Inside Words
by Janet Allen:


1.

Create a list of words or concepts that are specific to the text or unit of study.

2.

Options:

a.

Give students the list of words and explain that they are looking for
examples of the word and the actual word. It is a
bonus if they find
the actual word, but you really want to discover the word in action.

b.

Generate a list of vocabulary or, as in the example provided, have
students generate a list of words and hunt for the word in action.

3.

Students work in groups and as a

class, documenting where they discovered
the word.

4.

If possible, students bring an artifact to show the word in a new context
(When studying Franz Kafka, students found and shared
Kafkaesque

examples). The artifacts could be anything from newspaper clippi
ngs to
photographs to television or online videos.

5.

Individually, students write what connection the target word in a new context
has to their understanding of the word or concept.

6.

If you have a word wall, artifacts can be displayed under each of the target

words as a visual reminder of the word, its meanings, and its applications.



Examples from students’ work with
Heart of Darkness

were “tumultuous, fisticuffs,
lugubrious, jocose, diaphanous, sagacious, obsequious, harlequin.”


This activity is

engaging for students and teachers. Here they go beyond memorization
and discover the words and concepts that often seem inaccessible are accessible. The words and
concepts are “brought to life” and, in turn, fluency is increased.




12







PREVIEWING CONTENT VOCABULARY





What does it mean to know a word?
Inside Words

by Janet Allen lists these “Levels of
Word Knowledge”:


1.

I’ve never seen the word before.

2.

I’ve heard the word, but I don’t know what it means.

3.

I recognize it in

context and know that it is connected/related to _________(word or
concept).

4.

I know the word and can use it appropriately.



“Previewing Content Vocabulary” is a way for teachers and students to assess students’
background knowledge of the words and conce
pts encountered in a specific reading assignment
or unit of study.



Instructions modified from
Inside Words
:


Using the graphic organizer for Previewing Content Vocabulary or a format similar
(student journal or notebook page), guide students through this

activity.


1.

Read the title of the chapter, text, or name of the author and ask them to brainstorm or
freewrite words and/or concepts they think they will encounter during the reading.

2.

In the example, students were preparing to read an article on the histor
y and myth of
the Trojan War. After freewriting on the words and concepts they may encounter,
they were given the word list at the bottom of the page (Content Vocabulary). These
words were taken from the reading.

3.

Before reading, students individually deter
mined their level of knowledge of each of
the words, filling out each quadrant of the organizer.

4.

Students then worked in groups to share their knowledge of the words and define
unfamiliar words.


Another use for this activity is similar to a pretest (but
less intimidating). For example,
write “Literary Terms” as the title and have them brainstorm a list of all the terms they know and
can define. Then provide the list you want them to know by the end of the study, semester, or
year and complete the organize
r as explained above.


This strategy allows the teacher to determine not only students’ various levels of word
knowledge, but also their general background knowledge. It is a valuable formative assessment
for how much pre
-
teaching might be needed. Marzano
reminds us, “What students already know
about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information
relative to the content.”





13





Previewing Content Vocabulary


Chapter XII: “History and Myth Come Together: The
Trojan War”




Based on the title, words I would expect to read in this text:


Based on this title, I believe that it will be about the Trojan War, so words like “war.” They
may talk about rulers and the importance of the Trojan War.






I’ve never

heard the word…



I’ve heard the word, but I don’t know










what it means:




fomenting






Capricious






I think the word means




I know the word…


or is related to…



…metropolis: paradise




…exquisite





Content Vocabulary


discord


infinite


intervening

fomenting


trivial



dispirited

compelling


reverberate


ingenious

sinister


comeliness


valor

riveted



interminable


amassed

coveted



capricious


metro
polis







14






AFTERWORD:




Over and over in
To Understand
,

Ellin

Keene urges us to “incorporate the most basic
instructional principles: Focus instruction on a few key concepts, teach them over a long period
of time, and have students apply those concepts in a wide variety of texts and contexts.”


If teache
rs genuinely want to bring students and words together, they must commit to this
mantra and especially commit to the transfer of new understanding to the next experience.





Carol Ann Tomlinson, in the Foreword to Sandra R. Whitaker’s
Word Play
, expresse
s
the feelings of teachers who love words: “It never made sense to me to ask students to memorize
lists of words. That would have been like asking them to memorize the phone book instead of
learning about the people in the town.”








Whitaker guides us
further with a caution to
stop

“thinking that every word students will
need to understand a text actually appears in the text.” Instead,
start

“thinking about the
background knowledge students…need as they encounter a text.” Create a “productive
vocabulary

the words we produce to communicate our own ideas….Without transfer of new
vocabulary into speech and writing, can we really say a student owns words?”








The examples from Janet Allen’s
Inside Words

offered in the preceding pages were
chosen because

of their supportive scaffolding. Properly assisted, students can develop their
productive vocabularies and build their background knowledge about words.



Tomlinson commends those who forego “the inclination to provide teachers with a ‘bag
of tricks’ tha
t is rooted in nothing more than the desire to have something to do Monday
morning.” It is the hope of the builders of the Word Study portion of this literacy notebook that
these exercises will not be perceived as contents of that bag.

We agree with Tomli
nson that, “[U]nderstandable as that desire [to provide the tricks] is,
it doesn’t help us grow deep roots in the disciplines we teach.” We offer these examples with this
caveat: Plant them in good soil that has been carefully prepared, or there won’t be t
he growth we
hope to see.




May your students and you go beyond the names and definitions of words to know the
excitement of truly owning words; they have as many stories as the people in a town.





15






References



Allen, J. (1999).
Words, words, words:
Teaching vocabulary in grades 4
-
12.



Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Allen, J. (2007).
Inside words: Tools for teaching academic vocabulary.

Portland, ME:

Stenhouse.

Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2002).
Bringing words to life:
R
obus
t vocabulary

instruction.

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