Planning Day – The Vocabulary Project Takes Shape

IMG_7320Great excitement! Today was the day that Paul Dufficy and Cindy Valdez-Adams were coming to help Lina Taweil and me to plan our Action for Vocabulary Development. 

Like the two eager students that we are, Lina and I were keen to share everything we have planned so far and gauge our coaches’ reactions.

We showed them the lesson outlines, the focus vocabulary that we had decided upon, and the activities that we had found and created to help the students practise the chosen Tier 3 and Tier 2 vocabulary in many and varied engaging ways.

Our pre-testing was done in Week 1 so that we could make a start on teaching the vocabulary. Each child in 4/5 T was asked to read the focus words. If they could read them they were asked what they knew of the words’ meanings. Their responses were all recorded. Another test will be done at the end of this project as well as formative assessment throughout.

Word No. Ss read No. Ss knew No. Ss used
word meaning morphology
compost 19 8 0
decompose 10 2 0
organic 11 2 0
fungi 16 3 0
bacteria 12 4 0
humus 10 0 0
alternating 8 0 0
aerate 5 0 0
beneficial 10 2 1
carbon 16 2 0
fermenting 12 1 0
actinomycetes 0 0 0
wilting 15 2 0
rotten 20 14 0
landfill 20 5 0
biodegradable 8 0 1
micro organism 8 1 3
macro organism 6 1 3
discard 18 5 0
aerobic 7 0 0
nitrogen 6 2 0
nutrients 6 4 0
putrid 10 2 0
grunge 6 0 0
lush 19 6 0
rancid 11 0 0
rich 20 14 0
bedding 15 3 1
moist 13 5 0
stinking 16 13 0

Cindy and Paul were very kind and encouraging about our progress so far and our choice of words. Then they began to ask us the questions to guide our thinking;

What is your goal? What essential questions are you going to ask? What’s your big idea? Have you asked the students why they think this learning is important? 

So we asked … What do you want to see? To which they replied … It’s your research, you are leading it what do you want us to see? 

We decided together that our main goal is: To teach vocabulary explicitly in a robust way so that our students develop and love and curiosity for learning new words. 

Some of our long-term goals are:

  • for our students to develop morphemic and etymologic knowledge about English vocabulary so that they can apply this to new words.
  • for our students to transfer the skills across all learning to boost their love of reading as well as their ability to comprehend.
  • to embed what we, as teachers, are learning into the teaching practices of our school and inspire others to teach vocabulary explicitly. 

Our big idea for our teaching unit is: How does composting work? Into this idea come concepts like the importance of composting, reducing waste, the components of soil and the needs of plants.

Paul and Cindy encouraged us to use the students’ work and ideas in our program, to lean more towards the Science side than the creative side, to look for authentic ways to use the vocabulary for writing and to constantly scaffold and differentiate our lessons.

Before talking to Cindy and Paul, our slides looked like this:

IMG_7316After Cindy and Paul left, we reworked the lessons bearing in mind what was talked about and the same slide changed to this:


We also designed many more small activities and opportunities for playing with the vocabulary to lead up to this lesson.

There will be a large art book with the 5-6 focus words for the week, plus sentences and pictures to accompany these words. The students will have opportunities to show their learning by writing their own sentences using the focus words in the art book and this will be a way of assessing their learning. We have developed barrier games, cloze passages, writing lessons, spelling activities, etymology challenges and hands-on manipulative activities to practise these words in many and varied ways.

Next Monday, Paul and Cindy will come to see the lesson that we have planned and may modify before next Monday. We know what the students need to know before they reach the point of participating in that  lesson. We are going to take many photographs, reflect, assess as we proceed through this experience.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in our vocabulary journey 🙂



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