Choosing, Chatting, and Collecting: Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy
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The vocabulary self-collection strategy involves having students choose the words they want to learn, chat about their rationale for selecting words, and agree upon words for a classroom collection. This strategy is an effective approach to help students understand the meanings of new words, use them in conversations and writing, and make personal connections with words while reading. The strategy also encourages students to use the words for authentic tasks and on a regular basis in their writing. In this lesson, an online Shakespeare text is used as an example; however, the strategy can be applied to any content area reading.
From Theory to Practice
- Self-selection of vocabulary enhances students' motivation and achievement in learning new words.
- Students' rationale for selecting certain words adds to their understanding of the process for learning them.
- Students can build their vocabulary knowledge through active participation in "word discussions" and activities related to word learning.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Art supplies and drawing paper (if creating a print dictionary)
- Computer, PowerPoint, scanner, and printer (if creating an electronic dictionary)
- Content area texts at an appropriate reading level for students, such as a reading anthology or website materials
- Overhead projector and pocket chart (optional)
- Student vocabulary notebooks
- Varied dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster Online), thesauri (e.g., Thesaurus.com), and idiomatic phrase books
|Preview the text that you are planning to use with this lesson. The text should correspond with the content area topic you are currently teaching in class. As an example, access Shakespeare for Kids and scroll down to the script for The Tempest. This online text will be used to model how the lesson strategies and activities can be implemented. The lesson can easily be modified and used with other content area topics as well.
|Prior to the lesson, students should have a general familiarity with the topic being read. In this case, students should already be familiar with Shakespeare and some of his writings.
|Students should already have experience with dictionary use and synonyms. These skills will be needed when students write definitions in their own words and reread sentences from the text with synonyms in place of the vocabulary words.
|Set aside and copy several pages from the selected text to use for whole-class modeling of the strategy. In this case, download the script for The Tempest and make copies for use in class. In addition, copy the directions for Act 1, scene 1, onto a PowerPoint slide or overhead transparency ("A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard. Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain").
Although this lesson covers only two 30-minute sessions and is part of a unit on Shakespeare, it is intended as an ongoing motivational activity that could be modified and reused with other content area topics throughout the year. By using the lesson repeatedly, you can instill in students a word awareness that is necessary for vocabulary growth. In addition, the critical evaluation that goes into selecting words and developing a rationale for word selection should help your students with comprehension as well.
- Expand and deepen their knowledge of content area vocabulary words
- Identify interesting words, idioms, figurative speech, and unusual phrases in a variety of texts and other sources for vocabulary study
- Discuss and justify their selected words or phrases by chatting with other students
- Engage in authentic tasks to increase their understanding of new vocabulary words
- Become instilled with a word awareness
|As part of a unit on Shakespeare, ask students if they have noticed the interesting words and phrases that Shakespeare uses in his writing. Can they give a few examples? Explain that students are going to begin a new way of learning vocabulary. Instead of using the words from the teacher's guide or from their spelling books, they are going to try a new approach called "The Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy." Students will be developing their own lists of words to learn and will come together as a class to agree upon the ten most important words to learn each week.
|As an example for modeling, share the handout that includes the script for The Tempest. You can display the instructions for Act 1, scene 1, on the overhead or PowerPoint and read it aloud, "A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard. Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain." Identify the word tempestuous as a word you don't know. Look up the definition and write it as "violent or stormy." Then reread the sentence aloud by replacing the word with its definition, "A violent noise of thunder and lightning heard." For boatswain, the definition is "a sailor in charge of the hull of a ship, so the sentence might be reread as, "Enter a Shipmaster and a sailor."
|After introducing the text and asking students to make predictions about what will happen to the Shipmaster and Boatswain during the storm, gather students into groups of three to five students each depending on class size. Ask each group to find two or three words in the text that are either unknown or unfamiliar to them. These can be words that they think they have seen or heard before, but are not sure of the definitions. They can also be words they have never seen before. Idiomatic phrases and words with multiple meanings can also be identified. You may want to give your students further examples or do a few more examples together as a whole class before having students proceed in their groups. You should also circulate among the groups and coach those students who are struggling or having difficulty with the task.
|Ask each group to write their word choices on sentence strips to share with the class. A spokesperson for the group should then come forward and place their words in the pocket chart or write them on the board or overhead. Each group should be prepared to "defend" their choices by telling why they selected the words that they did and why they want these two or three words to be part of the class list.
|After all groups have shared, the class can agree on 8 to 10 words for class exploration. By discussing the words with students and referring back to the text, you can help the class arrive at a consensus as to which 10 words to study. For example, you might have the word tempest and tempestuous. Since those two words are related and one is derived from the other, you may decide on one or the other for the class list. Students can be involved in setting up the rules and process for the selection of words, in addition to selecting the words themselves. Modifications and revisions to the process can occur as you use the approach on a regular basis.
|Once the class agrees upon the words they will study, either as a written or oral activity, ask students to cite the exact sentences where the words or phrases they originally selected were used and predict definitions for them in their groups. [Note: It is likely that some words will appear more than once in the text passage, so be prepared to decide whether students should examine all sentences that contain the words or only the sentences where the words are first introduced.]
|Have students remain in their small groups to discuss the definitions of the words selected. After listening to predicted definitions, ask the group to agree upon a definition for each word. The group should then check the dictionary (e.g., Merriam-Webster Online) to find the actual definition and revise their own definition accordingly. Students' written definitions must be in their own words, not copied verbatim from the dictionary. In some cases, the dictionary definition may be listed as a single word and rewriting it another way would not be possible. Students will need to use their judgment, so long as the written definition makes sense to them. Students can then write the words and their definitions in their vocabulary notebooks or on the Vocabulary Selection Worksheet.
|Review the vocabulary words by having each group share their words and definitions, and the reasons they selected the words. Then ask one member from each group to read the sentence from the online script for each word and replace the word with its definition. Have another student from a different group judge whether it makes sense or not. Discuss further if necessary, and help students make corrections where needed.
|After making sure that the definitions of the vocabulary words make sense in the text and to enhance students' understanding and use of the words, have them work in pairs to develop a class "illustrated" dictionary. Each pair of students would have one word assigned to them. The dictionary can be created traditionally using drawing paper and art supplies or electronically using a scanner for the drawings or a software package and PowerPoint. For this example, each word entry would include:
|As a closing activity, each group could take a portion of the scene or text selection where one or more of the words they have been studying are used and "act them out" for the class so that the meanings of the words can "come alive."
- Have student find and select additional words to learn related to the topic they are studying using online sources. In the case of Shakespeare, the following websites might be appropriate for students at this grade level:
- Shakespeare is Elementary
This student-created website includes several of Shakespeare's works and students' responses to them.
- Shakespeare for Kids
This site includes a lot of information and activities related to Shakespeare's works, including the script for The Tempest, which is used as an example in this lesson.
- Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
For a social studies connection, this website may be used to find information on Shakespeare's life and times.
- In Search of Shakespeare
As a source for both teachers and students, this site contains additional lesson plans, information, and excerpts for Shakespeare.
- Continue students' curiosity about words using Word Central, a website that features a word-of-the-day section. Click on the link for "Daily Buzzword." Ask students to predict the meaning of the word before disclosing the actual meaning. There is also an archive of words to choose from, or for the students to choose from, and the entire lesson can be used with these words.
- Once students have learned a considerable number of new words or at the end of a unit where you have a "set of words" related to a specific content area, you could try having students work together on open and closed word sorts as a review activity. Students can compare words selected for their language arts unit with words selected for their science unit to look for relationships and comparisons.
- Some students might become interested in the origins of the words they are learning. Researching the origins of vocabulary words could be implemented as a learning center or become a choice during independent reading and writing time.
- Have students use the Letter Generator to write letters to their classmates about the topic they are studying using at least three of their new words in the body of the letter.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Each week, when the groups select words for the class collection, you can evaluate their process when they present their selections to the class. Why did they choose the words that they did? Does their Vocabulary Selection Worksheet have all of the required components?
- The partner work for the class dictionary can be evaluated for accuracy of the definition, use of the word in the original selection, and illustration of the word's meaning as it relates to the text. The dramatic performances of the text by groups can also be evaluated for comprehension of the meanings of the words.
- Once a week, if appropriate to your situation, you can assess students' knowledge of the 10 words through oral or written questions about their meanings. For example, for The Tempest and if the words tempest and tempestuous had been studied, you might ask, "Based on the first scene, does the title 'The Tempest' seem appropriate?"