What is in a Word?

What is in a word? What is the importance of vocabulary practice for kids? I would love to tell you...oh just squeeze it in here or there. Truthfully though, children must be immersed in it...all day, every day.

I believe most of that begins a home...but for us teachers...that can be a scary thing. Some of our students don't have parents home at night (I know, remember...I said scary.) That's okay though...we can give our children meaningful vocabulary practice all day, every day...and they won't even realize it. (insert evil teacher laugh) :)

I believe the first and most important thing to remember is vocabulary knowledge is the foundation for comprehension success. Our ultimate goal is for children to be strong readers, because with strong reading comes so many things...success in school, social success, confidence, and even speaking and listening skills improve. Without reading success...well, in the words of Meredith Grey...the road is "dark and twisty."

Now, the question you may be asking is...HOW...HOW do we fit this into our already busy...I mean slammed schedule?

Exposure. Yep, that's it exposure.

Guided Reading is a HUGE way to give the kids exposure to vocabulary. With each guided reading lesson I teach...I have a vocabulary portion in my lesson plans...simply choose some words from the text you are reading...and then do a quick mini-lesson with those words. Look at the brief example in one of my plans.

Have the students look at the words, talk about the words, define the words (or try to define them), then discuss the words with them. Have the students use the words in a sentence, draw an example of the word, just expose the students to the words. Honestly, the words won't stick the first time...they usually don't; that is okay though...the students will the be at least familiar with the word each time you talk about it during the story. See, simple...but so important!

Another way to immerse the students in vocabulary is through Word Work. Many people feel Word Work is only for younger grades...no way, we even do it with our fifth graders! During Word Work, the students need to be reading (from a book of their choice or a passage you provided is fine.) The point to Word Work is having the students use context to help them with the word.

We have our students find three words a week from their personal reading...then they must write the definition, a synonym and antonym of the word, and use the word in a sentence. The students love doing this because they are finding meaningful vocabulary from their books (that they want to know more about) and then they are learning new words!

We also have our students complete Word Work pages after a reading passage. The words are chosen from the passage based on what we want to students to learn, then the students complete the activity by providing the definition (also helps improve their dictionary skills) and then using the word in a sentence.


And remember, nothing has to be done alone...group work is our friend...well sometimes. lol.

I might have laughed out loud when I read this though... :)
Anyway, moving on...and the last tip I have for exposing the students to daily vocabulary practice is through a Word of the Day.
I do all three of the things I have mentioned but this one is probably my favorite. I love it because I can see exactly what my kids are understanding about the word and I know the word is grade level appropriate for them! These Word of the Day templates glue down great in journals and we do one each day. The 5th grade one is, of course, more extensive than the 2nd grade one would be...but I have shown an example of each below.

With each word (depending on the grade of course) students are getting practice with a new word, part of speech, synonym and antonyms, sentences, examples through illustrations, rhyming words, guide words and analogies.
Now, in a 2nd or 3rd grade room, this might take 5-10 minutes...in a 4th or 5th grade room, probably 15-20 minutes. I know that seems like a lot...but man it is so worth it in the end! I have seen children grow by leaps and bounds through vocabulary!
Truly, take some time and evaluate the care you devote to vocabulary practice in the classroom! I did not spend enough time in this area for a few years, now I can't imagine why! If you give it a chance and map it out each day...I believe you will see a huge improvement in the confidence of your kids and their understanding of literacy!
Happy Teaching!

Reading Comprehension by the Month!

Well, I certainly have missed blogging! But with a 4 year old and a 10 month old, teaching full time and TPTing...well, life is BUSY! :)

Many people have asked me how I use my Reading Comprehension Bundles for each month! Truly, these have taken off far more than I anticipated and boy am I excited about that! Why? Well...the fact that other teachers out there are enjoying the materials I am using too makes me really happy! It makes me feel like we are linked...almost like co-workers...across the globe! Yes, I love it!

My monthly bundles have so much flexibility, I almost hate to give a play-by-play...but, I will! Just know that the way I use them isn't how YOU have to use them. You can do anything that fits your kids, that's the beauty of teaching...it's all about the kids!

I'll use my February bundle as an example since January is on it's way out the door! lol. These bundles are lined out by weeks (four total.)

Monday: I start with the guided passage, this is an example of Week 3 which is an informational text week. The guided passage is great, it has "think about it" tags/questions on the side column for the students to be thinking about while they are reading. I use this as a model lesson with the students. We work through it together, jotting down notes, underlining important information and DISCUSSING! The discussing is so important! Then we follow up with the Open-Ended Question page, I let the students do this alone but we go over it together afterward so we can discuss our answers on a deeper level.

After the students finish the guided passage and questions, they work on the writing topic for the day. These writing topics are not surface level, they require some thinking and some detailed writing! The kids love them!

Finally, to wrap up Monday, we end with an Exit Ticket that asks them to reflect on the day's lesson! When Monday is done, I want to know that my students have been highly engaged and THINKING!

 Tuesday: We begin with word work...while the students have the passage from the day before in front of them! The words for the word work are from the previous day's story, so they use this story to help with the definitions and I also encourage the students to look up the words. Word work is not quiet...the students are talking and discussing at their tables about the words. Some students are even debating! lol. Those multi-meaning words can really be a good source of debate with the kids!
After word work, the students work on the Reading Comprehension Task Card. These task cards are meant to be more open-ended then the reading passages and I encourage the students to work in partners or groups on these task cards! The students usually love the topics and enjoy the discussions! The graphic organizers allow me to see what they learned and of course, their thinking!

Then we are back at another writing topic! Why so many writing topics? Well, writing encourages thinking...and if you haven't noticed a theme here...I want them thinking...all. the. time. :)

Then we wrap up again with a different Exit Ticket. It's quick, but...they are thinking! :)

Wednesday is very similar to Monday, but the students are reading the passage completely independent and answering the questions independently. I do this because I need to see what they are thinking on their own, not just when I am prompting them. I don't do a hard and fast grade on this, but it is a great tool for assessing them!

The passage and the questions take a while, so we end again with a writing topic, great for when some students are done earlier than others. Then an Exit Ticket right before we move on!

 Thursday is exactly like Tuesday, just different words, different task cards, different prompts. I worried the students might become bored with this routine...but nope. They love knowing what they are going to do...and they actually look forward to the different activities each day!

 Finally, we are at Friday! (Can I get an AMEN?) :) Friday's are light and fun! I do an open-ended assessment of the student's learning during the week...and I also like to know which activities they liked the most, so there are a few of those questions in there too!

After the students are finished, they work on their Book Bingo! They love this! Students choose an activity to do on ANY book...complete the activity, color in the square, then after they get the squares filled in (I do 3 in a row) they get a prize...mine love a NO HOMEWORK Ticket! lol. The Book Bingo is very similar to my Choice Board Activities! The kids get so creative with these! I love seeing what they complete!

Keep in mind, I always, ALWAYS allow time for read alouds, and independent reading! Never neglect that!
 When all else fails, I do have a lesson plan in the bundle as well!
Just a reminder though...we are all teachers, who love our kids...this bundle is meant to help you as the teacher and to help your kids! You can use it so many different ways! So just print, enjoy, and watch the kids learn! :)
I will be doing a bundle for each month! Don't miss out on my yearly membership which saves you over 50%!
And as always...
Because...we are awesome! :)

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