"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Science Word Walls

Word Walls are a way to display key vocabulary. We know research tells us that in order for their vocabulary to be "established", students must have many interactions with the words. Word Walls would be one way to accomplish this. Eric Jensen writes in his book, Environments for Learning, that new concepts are often best when presented above eye level on a side wall.

Space is limited in our classrooms and we want to make sure we don't overpower them with too much clutter, so what can we do? I am no expert, but one thought might be to have a content word wall on a side area of your room. I would think in order to avoid clutter and in  keeping with Mr. Jensen's ideas of putting something out there a few days before you actually get into studying it, that you would only put one unit's (or topic of study) words at a time. You could display the new list on the current test day. Then, they are exposed to them before the actual introduction.

I read a Reading Rockets article on word walls that suggests you display the words in bold, black letters with any color background. I have seen many with picture clues as well. I like those especially for younger children.

The key to word walls is that they are used. Interact with the words on a daily basis!!!!!

I love the ones below from http://www.ashleigh-educationjourney.com/ . She has a unit list here. Very neat!
Below you will also see the link to her word wall post and a wonderful notebook page she made. I had been thinking of making one, but she has already made it perfect!!!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Levels of Word Knowledge

According to the book Reading Strategies for Science by Stephanie Macceca, there are three levels of word knowledge: unknown, acquainted, and established. 

Unknown words are words that students neither recognize nor understand. An example would be... Few early elementary students would be able to define oviparous (animals that hatch from eggs).

Acquainted words are those that students may recognize but must consciously think about to determine their meanings. 4th grade students are acquainted with the word mineral, but they may not be able to define it in detail.

Established words are those words that the students recognize and can define easily and automatically. The word disease should be well established in the vocabularies of every 8th grader.

Our goal should be to move new science vocabulary into the established level for our students. They should be able to use them in their speech and their writing. Research has shown in order for that to happen, we as teachers must expose students to the new words a number of times and in a variety of contexts.

The author of Reading Strategies for Science also suggests that knowing a word completely involves skills such as:

  • recognizing the word automatically
  • knowing the denotations (specific meaning) and connotations (a suggested meaning)
  • knowing synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, and analogies for the word
  • associating the word with different experiences and,
  • being able to explain the nuances of a word (multiple uses and meanings)

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some ways to give those numerous encounters with words needed for students to have an established science vocabulary. The posts will be in no particular order...just whatever suits my fancy and my time limit:)

The first post of ideas that will start tomorrow will be on displaying science vocabulary in a word wall, and the realist in me knows there is limited space, AND I am big on brain research about being in a cluttered environment. Until tomorrow.........

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sparking Creativity

I came across a powerful video about sparking creativity. It is really food for thought. It is 18 minutes long, but well worth the watch. It really makes you think about ways that WE can spark innovation and imagination in our students. I loved the presenters's innovation engine, and I was in awe at the end at how she gathered all the pieces of it and shared how it could be used to teach.


Just think if you only changed the environment of your classroom....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The keynote speaker for the National Space Club's Goddard Memorial Dinner this year was a student from the University of Illinois. A must listen...it is why we do what we do!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Spring!!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful spring break. It wasn't exactly sunny and warm, but it allowed me time to do some much needed spring cleaning. The life of a teacher! It is so hard to be the teacher everyone expects and keep the home organized, neat, and serve a hot meal each evening. Makes me tired just thinking about it. Anyhow, I do hope all of you rested to gear up for this last nine weeks. On a more positive note, I loved having Easter at the end of the break. I had a glorious day yesterday.

I made eggs by myself...My kids are all grown up, but he did agree to pose with them.

Now, that we are back at work, I hope to start sending out those ideas for vocabulary in small snippets. If you missed the why, read here.

I did come across something that is worth sharing. Miss Hypothesis has a post about frogs. It is filled with picture books (which  I love) and some great ideas for teaching about life cycles this spring.
Check it out...it is definitely worth visiting her page. She makes me almost want to teach kindergarten, but I am pretty sure I am better suited for the intermediate grades. You K teachers have a job and a half.

Be back soon.