I emphasize vocabulary in my classroom during all content areas because I strongly believe that vocabulary can be a huge barrier to comprehension and understanding. One way that I try to bring a focus on words is through my Words, Words, Words board. This practice works very well with the demands of common core and the tier 2 vocabulary that we are supposed to be teaching.
So How Does It Work?
I use read alouds frequently in my classroom for all subject areas – not just reading. I read my chosen mentor text ahead of time and determine what I want to focus on, point out, and so on. Also during this time I choose about 3 to 4 tier 2 words that I want the students to learn. I never choose more than four words a week – students just can’t learn too many words at once – not truly learn them. Then I write those 3 to 4 words I chose on a sentence strip for my words, words, words chart.
During my read aloud as I come across one of the words I had chosen, I will stop, bring focus to the word, and reread the sentence from the book that contains it. Then I will create a sentence “out of my head” that would use the word. Finally, I ask students to think of a sentence that uses the word and have them share with a partner their sentence. Then I place the word on our chart.
My students know that they are to be on the lookout for these words in everything – reading, writing, and talking! If students hear or read one of the words on our chart, they write the sentence down with the word on a post it note to share with the class. Once they have shared, we place a tally mark next to the word on the chart. As a word starts to become “famous” we will sometimes quiz the class. A student who has found the word somewhere will read his/her sentence but leave out the word from our chart. Then classmates discuss and determine which word from the chart they think it is. I never do this though until the word has been heard multiple times.
Sometimes we will review the words together using the Anita Archer method, where I say the word, they say the word, and so on. Once a word has been on a chart frequently or has many tally marks I remove it from our board. I do not remove any words that students are really struggling with still. I try to make room for new words frequently. Sometimes you will pick a word that you think will be wonderful, but find it’s rarely used or found. That’s okay. If after several weeks it’s still not around, go ahead and just remove it from the chart.
Words that I remove from my Words, Words, Words Chart go on a separate wall – like a word wall – that I can reference later. I like to occasionally review old material so it’s not “lost” forever. I believe in Sharon’s book she called one wall the ‘active wall’ and another the ‘retired’ wall. Either way, the emphasis is on exploring words and noticing them everywhere.
I have found this method very exciting and a springboard for other discussions when students find them in our everyday activities. I feel it is very successful and for some kids, it’s just a huge scavenger hunt!
The Words, Words, Words board is not my own personal creation. I learned about it one year while attending a reading conference. The original creator is Sharon Taberski (the author of Comprehension From the Ground Up and On Solid Ground).