Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Musings about Vocabulary Instruction and awards

Confession: I feel guilty when I don't have any "real" photographs to go along with my posts.
So, here's a random picture from my three mile trail of sweat:

Part of my walk takes me by a farm, and this is all that is left of what once must have been an expansive rock wall.  I love it.  I love how it still stands.  I love how the rocks are all jumbly, yet smooth, and fit together so well.

On a side note- the walk is killing me.  It doesn't seem to be getting easier to heave myself up and down hills.  And in the end of it- my pedometer says I've burned 300 calories.  300!?  Are you kidding me?  I could burn 300 calories "aggressively kissing" for half an hour.  Shoot.  And it would be more enjoyable than this walk.  And right there is probably the reason for the weight gain folks- you stop kissing and you blow up like a balloon...

Ok- let's get educational.

I've been reading Laney Sammons Book, Building Mathematical Comprehension.  I wrote a post on the first chapter regarding why you should infuse reading comprehension techniques into math.  There is also a book study going on through Primary Inspired that I'm linking up with- but they are way ahead in the book reading than I am.  I'm just here on chapter two. Beth from Thinking of Teaching hosted this chapter.

Chapter two is about vocabulary instruction.  A very meaty chapter- as is most of the book.  And I think a struggle I had with this chapter is guilty feelings about not really teaching vocabulary in any significant way- or even thinking about it much for that matter.  This last year I had a high school student teacher helper put up a word wall for me- and it was sort of a mad disaster.  Colorful- but completely unusable.  And then I felt guilty about taking it down, I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I just left it up.  And I just sort of decided I'd do a better job of it next year.

Another motivator for having a word wall in this next year is that Flamingo Fabulous made me word wall cards in my color scheme. 

But here's what makes me hesitate:
I don't want my walls all covered up. I didn't get rid of three fourths of my hoard just to clutter walls.  Even if the rest of the room does look nice and tidy, a cluttered wall completely throws the whole thing off.

Now, I thought at first I'd go and find pictures of word walls on Pinterest and flash them up here and say- SEE- I don't want THAT.  But then I thought, that is way sort of mean, sister, curb it.  So I'm just going to say this- it's a personal choice of mine, not to have a lot of things on my walls.  So when I do have a word wall- I plan to only have certain words up at a time.  For instance- just the sight words we're working on at that particular time, and then when everyone has mastered a particular word- "retiring" it into a class book and replacing it with the next one we're working on.

But sight words aren't VOCABULARY words.

The first quote in this chapter that really got me was this one on page 46, Laney quotes work by Thompson saying " as teachers we should consider every student a mathematics language learner regardless of his or her level of English language proficiency".  This one hit home for me because 90% of my class every year IS an ESOL student- so from the get go, I've been depriving them. This was the hook that got me to really focus on this chapter.

She talks at length about DIRECT vocabulary instruction and what this should and should not look like.  Definitions for example.  NOT to be found in the dictionary.  They need to be created as a class in language that the kids understand and can manipulate in a conversation.  Because if they can't TALK about the word, they won't use it and they won't understand it.

There is also discussion on representing these words in both linguistic AND nonlinguistic ways.  Enter the graphic organizer.  In addition to many other types of organizers, she also suggested a Frayer diagram:
The word, clearly, goes in the middle there.  But that got me thinking- if this is really what the kids need to "see" a word- that's a bit more than a word on a wall.  In this case, I'm definitely going to have to have a revolving system of words on the wall- and "retiring" them not because they are mastered, but because I need the space.  But I also don't want to give the impression that the word isn't necessary anymore, so I will need to keep a class book of vocabulary words that is available to the students and that I refer back to often.
And there is also a significant piece on having the students play games where this vocabulary is part of the review.  Now, on one hand- I can incorporate this into my word work time during reading.  And I can also create a center rotation that is about math word work during math time- but that pushes me further into the realization that I'm going to need to do this with vocabulary in all areas of my curriculum- not just math.  Not just reading.  Everything.  How do you play games to make vocabulary fun?  And am I just being poopy about it because it doesn't sound like fun to me?
There is a nice piece about games you can play with your word wall- but nothing overly specific about independent game practice.  So I am going to have to go a'hunting.
I do appreciate that the book does really go into how to deliver direct instruction on the words- with how to pick your words, form questions, drive the discussion, scaffold and move it into the realm of student independence.  And I know at my school a lot of their assessments they have to write why they did what they did to solve the problem, and they aren't super good at this.  The quote I love about this subject is on page 64- Laney says, "Before expecting students to record mathematical ideas independently, it must be modeled - not just once, but repeatedly.  Until students have a vision of what is expected, it is unfair to ask them to attempt it on their own."  And I FORGET this all.the.time.  This was another quote that just centered me in my thinking- and now I know.  First quarter, don't worry so much about what they write down as their answer- just model, model, model.  Keep my own super big book of mathematical thinking right up there here we always meet for group discussions and constantly refer to it.  Perhaps this will help me to decide what looks/works best in math journals, and actually be able to create one with the kids that is useful.
But, WOW, what a complete hunk of newness.  You know, I read these books and I get really gung-ho and I just want to do everything and it ends up being too much.  I know last year I wrote a post on taking baby steps- just picking one thing and going with it until I felt strong enough to add in something else.  I guess at this stage, I'd have to say that incorporating in the vocabulary instruction would be as much as I could handle- but I'm only on Chapter TWO!  My word, what else will I be in for?

Let's lighten the mood here:

Christina at A Tale of Two K Teachers, Kristin at Fifth Grade Ramblings, and Victoria B at Enchanted in Elementary each nominated me for a Liebster award.  And I do love getting positive feedback.  But, as mentioned in an earlier post  I feel like a complete cheater since it's supposed to be for bloggers with under 200 followers.  And I'm over that- it just looks like less because they are split between Blogger and Bloglovin'.  However- it would be great if folks that are following me go and check them out and share some follower love.  And also, I love answering the random questions.  Spread the quirk, you know?  I won't answer all 33 though- maintain an element of mystery and all that- I picked four from each person who nominated me.

1. If you won the lottery would you still teach?
A very important question- and one I have fantasized about at length. To the point where I've already picked out my "claim the winnings" name, since I want to maintain a bit of anonymity. At this point, I still believe I would keep teaching.  I'd want to bask in being able to buy my whole class iPads and things like that.  And also, I really do love what I am doing now- and I can't give that up for money. (I would however, start heavily vacationing during my summer weeks off).  Another reason I would keep working is based on the fact that not too long ago I was unemployed and on welfare for two years.  The first paycheck I got at my new job was the best day of my life.  I called up social services and cancelled my benefits and vowed never to go back to that place in my life again.  Now, of course, winning the lottery isn't the same as being on welfare- but there is a POINT to contributing to society- and it's my personal feeling that I need to continue to do that.
2. What's your favorite thing to wear?
Shoot, kittens, at this point in the stage of being Mrs. Claus- elastic waist pants.

3. Have you traveled?
I have visited my sister in New Zealand.  It was a great trip, and the only vacation I have ever taken all by myself.  I'd like to do it again- but Traci and I have discussed that she and I would visit other locales about the world.  Do they still have the game The Amazing Race?  She and I could rock that, I think.

4. What made you start blogging?
Reading other blogs and being constantly on Pinterest.  Also, my undergraduate degree is in writing- so this seemed like a great creative outlet for me to reflect on my work. I've kept on doing it because I've started to make virtual connections with people that I really enjoy collaborating with.  I know this award is about followers- and I know that getting more followers means getting more comments- but for me, one great connection is better than 100 people clicking "follow me" and never hearing from them.  So don't worry about the numbers, kittens- just love the relationships.

5.  Favorite all time movie?
I actually love love LOVE movies- so it is hard to pick one.  However- hands down, I will never give up on the Empire Strikes Back. just minus the Degoba scenes.  But this is when Harrison was HOT HOT HOT, and Mark wasn't whiny anymore or super creepy yet. And I'm sorry- but those Ewoks totally did something to Carrie while she was with them and they ruined her.

6.  What is your favorite food/thing to cook?

7.  Ultimate destination vacation?
Ok, so I saw this pin the other day and have decided I must complete all ten:

8.  Coffee, tea, or neither?  What gets you movin' in the morning?

It's evolving.  I did at one time love love love the cold Starbucks double shot drinks you could get at the gas station in the morning.  White chocolate being my favorite.  And then I noticed that the calorie count wasn't helping me.  So then I switched to hot green tea, and became, um, used to it, but can't say that it ever seriously pleased me.  And I love Pepsi, but it does at times feel wrong to have it in the morning.  So at the moment, I'm all about mixing my own lemonade with real lemon juice and adding some real fruit bits before I get in the car for my commute.

9. What is the best piece of teaching advice you have received?

10. What is one thing on your Summer to-do list that you haven't gotten around to yet?
I haven't been cooking meals like I wanted to yet.

11. When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Indiana Jones of the ocean searching for buried treasure. Yep. Totally serious.

12. You just found $100 in an old coat pocket, what do you spend it on?
Crayola crayons, elastic-waist pants, a 44-ounce Pepsi from 7-11, and then the rest on stuff on my TpT wishlist, which is probably thirty pages long at this point.

And before I go- here's two other blogs I came across in the past week that are under 200 followers and need some attention:
Marcy from Searching for Teacher Balance is a fellow moose lover- and this raises her to the highest pinnacle of my esteem.  And she has also inspired me to try out yoga in the classroom this fall.  Which will be HI-larious people, watching Mrs. Claus try to "balance" this basketball.

And I heard from Laken at Whole Brain Teaching in the Ladybug Club today- and am very excited to find out that she is a fellow second grade teacher in Virginia AS WELL AS totally being into Whole Brain Teaching, which I absolutely adore.  Please go check these two ladies out, and the three above and love, love, love on them all!

Searching for Teacher Balance


Peace out, kittens!


  1. Hey Girl. I use the Frayer Model for VOCAB.

    I just got back from va-cay and guess what? I saw a moose. Okay, a moose head - taxidermy. Not a whole moose, not a live moose...but I've never seen one in person - so this was cool. I did see LIVE buffalo, deer and a zebra - yup a zebra!


  2. I loved reading your responses! Thanks for linking up!
    Fifth Grade Ramblings

  3. Loved reading all your responses. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting. I will get in touch with you next week when I have a day off from summer school, or maybe over the weekend.

    I live in Maine, so moose are a bit like deer here. I have seen them a few times close to the city! Actually saw one running near the mall once and headed for the highway. I had to call the police to see if they would come and do something. He disappeared before I ever saw anyone respond.

    Diary of a Grateful teacher