Action for Vocabulary Development – Lesson Study #2

This past week has really been action packed! Packed full of new vocabulary about compost, the consumers that live within it and the students talking through the construction of the alternating layers of compost bins and their purpose to other students. Miss Taweil and 4/5T had the opportunity to explain the procedure of composting to another class when they were filling our brand new compost bins. The deluxe rotating model that can be seen in the photo was a ‘freebie’ from Fairfield Council.

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The more that we find out about composting the more new words we need to learn. This project is becoming as big as Ben Hur and somehow we are going to have to reign it in a little. Still, the students do not seem to mind. In fact despite all the ‘new learning’ those who are usually less engaged are the keenest and light bulb moments of understanding are visibly popping!

IMG_7455We now need to spend some time to give the students activities to practise their new vocabulary so that through ‘recycling’ they can master these words. This has become apparent because even after a lesson of introducing and successfully using the vocabulary, the students have trouble recalling the words a few days later.

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Cindy Valdez-Adams (@TESOLoz) and Paul Dufficy (@CHEAPedagogy) watched our lesson again this Monday and we spent time with them afterwards, reflecting on our progress with our pedagogy and thinking.

Paul began with the question, What new ground are you moving into? 

Lina reflected that she had become more aware of explicitly teaching vocabulary which had led her to incorporating vocabulary games into her reading groups. She was also feeling a little concerned that the introduction and revision parts of lessons were taking far longer than she anticipated, because the students did not have as strong a grasp of the new concepts and vocabulary as she had hoped from previous lessons, and wondered how to manage this.

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This was where Paul and Cindy suggested devising activities where the students applied, practised and recycled their knowledge using the passages already dealt with by turning them into vanishing cloze passages. Flow charts were also suggested to help with recycling and clarifying the Tier 3 vocabulary especially if the students were to try to design them themselves.

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Another question that Paul asked was, Could you talk to me about how you respond to a correct answer? 

From here ensued a really helpful conversation about the use and benefit of different types of praise. Do we want the students to seek praise with their answers or to seek recognition? Are the students answering to look good in the eyes of the teacher or are they working for their team, their class, and answering for the group? Our long term goal should be for our students to become intellectual communicators. Instead of saying, Great answer! We might think about saying, You’ve made that clear for the class. We want them to become proud of what they are learning and to keep wanting to learn for the satisfaction of gaining knowledge rather than becoming people pleasers who are satisfied with a pat on the head.

Where to now? We need to backward map to gain control of this exploding body of knowledge and its vocabulary that we are discovering. Our students cannot learn every single word that we come across and so we need to refocus on the vocabulary that we are teaching. Practise of the structure of informative texts and the rheme and theme of ideas across paragraphs would be useful. We could achieve this by cutting up texts and ordering them. The students require more ‘hand over’ to practise and recycle the vocabulary that they are using. As well, activities have to be designed to  encourage substantive conversations around vocabulary choices so that the students recall the vocabulary to learn when and how to use the words and their different forms.

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Why the snails? Well, this past week we began to look at the organisms in the compost bin and we discovered primary, secondary and tertiary consumers! Talk about mite eat mite! Its a jungle in there!

More next week.

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