Monday, July 30, 2007

Vocaulary Hell

This year we're getting in-service credit for collaboration time with other teachers.

Mrs. Eagle and I find this to be extremely amusing because we collaborate all the time anyway and now we're getting credit for it. It's like getting paid to eat chocolate.

Which isn't a bad idea, come to think of it.

Anyhow. A few years ago we made laminated vocabulary cards, with one card with the word and another card with the definition. The idea is the kids would get a plastic baggie with these cards in them, lay them out on their desks, and sort and match them. We called this activity word splash, but I'm others out there have a different name for it. In any case, it took forever to make these cards; we copied them onto colored paper, laminated them, cut them out, and sorted them into the baggies.

And our students promptly made a huge mess of them.

Our idea was to spend some time on these cards this summer and get them put back into some semblance of organization. However, what with Mr. Eagle's accident, and Mrs. Eagle spending most of her summer with him at the hospital, this was the first chance we'd really had to work on them.

So today we took my plastic shoeboxes for of baggies and cards, Mrs. Eagle's plastic bags and baggies with cards, and the latest, greatest copy of our Scope and Sequence for the year and attempted to get these all organized.

Oh good gracious.

It would help if our scope and sequence unit numbers didn't change every year. It would also help if it didn't skip and hop around the book like a deranged hamster. For example, we have a unit that includes material from "chapter 3, section 1, chapter 3, section 3, and chapter 11, section 1". ARGH. Some units include information from 4 different chapters. It's maddening.

We did finally get them somewhat organized. Sort of. At least the boxes I keep them in are labeled, and we put aside in a "not tested" box all the words we aren't going to use this year because they aren't necessary. Every year we learn a bit more what's expected and every year we change and tweak. Of course rumors are abounding that they're going to be "reviewing" our standards at the state level so things will probably change yet again.

In the meantime, we're trying to come up with ways to help our kids on vocabulary, keeping in mind that we're losing ten minutes a period with our new schedule this year. A lot of the vocabulary techniques that many teachers in language arts and reading use with great success are a bit unwieldy and not as effective with science vocabulary which tends to be a bit technical. Try doing a Frayer model for "endoplasmic reticulum". So, we're leaning towards more vocab crosswords, word searches and word splashes. We'll just have to find the time.

In the meantime, if any of you fellow science teachers have any great ideas, let me know!


The Science Goddess said...

You have to be picky in your use of Frayer model for science terms, fer shur. :)

I would suggest something akin to what Marzano has in the "Building Background Knowledge" book. Kids keep track of the most important vocabulary by drawing a symbol for it (their own choice---just something for the right brain to hang onto while the left brain tries to grasp the written part) for a sentence...etc.

I also highly recommend word walls that kids can manipulate. It would be easier to have one giant set of your vocabulary cards than many tiny ones. When possible, attach physical samples to the cards. (Yeah, I know endoplasmic reticulum ain't gonna work...but a bryophyte would.) Have them on velcro strips or in pocket charts so that they can be physically manipulated into different arrangements and groupings.

amanda said...

I am a middle school science teacher in Texas and also struggle with vocabulary! A couple of things I have found helpful are to have each student creat a word wall in ther lab book and I also do a class word wall with the term, the definition, and an illustration if possible...all done by the class not me:) Good Luck on your new year!

Mich said...

If your kids have access to a computer & the internet at home, you could load your vocab lists to Quizlet ( A colleague of mine (English teacher) suggested it, and I'm planning to use it for religious studies.