Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some Great Read-Alouds That Feature Word Learning and Word Usage

I had the great privilege this week of working with some wonderful teachers who are utilizing research-based indirect vocabulary expansion techniques. Of course, one of the great things that teachers can do regularly to expand and refine students' vocabularies is to expose them to rich, well-written literature through read-alouds. The teachers asked me to share some of my favorite read-alouds that specifically focus on characters who are learning about vocabulary, who learning to use vocabulary more effectively, or who are getting excited about words. I promised I would post my favorites, so here they are:

Baloney (Henry P.) by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (2001, Viking)

Henry P. Baloney needs to come up with a very good, very believable excuse for being late to szkola yet again--or he's in big trouble with his teacher Miss Bugscuffle. But never fear! Henry has a doozy of a story. You see, it all started when he misplaced his trusty yellow no. zz zimulis. One thing led to another, and before he knew it, he was on a razzo blasting off into space, where he eventually landed on the planet Astrosus. All went well there, as the intrepid explorer entertained the Astro guys with his funny piksas--until they decided Henry and his piksas would be entertaining to eat. Things go on in this vein until somehow, miraculously, Henry P. Baloney ends up back in his classroom, a mere seven minutes late--but still one writing utensil short! This is a great book to introduce the concept of context clues.

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Leslea Newman (2007, Tricycle Press)

Roger, a quirky, enthusiastic boy, is fascinated by the world around him. On the way to school, the clothes in a shop window catch his eye and he stops to exclaim over everything in the "fabulous" store. When he arrives late, his teacher yells at him, admonishing him to go straight home at the end of the day. Roger tries to obey, but he finds more "fabulous" things to shout about and doesn't get there until after dark. His parents are at a loss and end up sending him to bed and banning the word "fabulous" from the household. Roger wants to abide by their wishes, but during a family trip into town he is swept away by "a world too wondrous to ignore" and, in turn, leads the adults on a rollicking, adjective-filled journey through the streets until they come to understand and appreciate their "fabulous" son. This is a great book to introduce and/or reinforce the need for synonyms.

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter (2006, Schwartz & Wade)

Some people collect shells or stones; young Selig collects words. Whenever he hears a new one he likes, he jots it down on a slip of paper and stuffs it into a convenient pocket, a sock, a sleeve, or a hat. When you're a kid, such eccentric behavior doesn't go unnoticed, and soon his classmates have given him a new name, "Wordsworth," and a new word to add to his collection, oddball. Ouch! But with the help of a friendly genie, who calls him "Voidsvoith, a lover of voids," Selig finds his life's purpose and romance, to boot. This book can help students discover the fun of being a wordsmith!

Donavan’s Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross (1994, HarperCollins)

A gentle, thoughtful story of a young African-American boy's discovery of the power of words. Each time a word strikes Donavan as special (e.g., extraterrestrial, orchestral, perseverance, boisterous), he writes it down on a slip of paper and puts it in a jar. When his collection no longer fits in its container, he asks several people (Mom, his teacher, Dad, Grandma) what to do, but in a serendipitous way comes upon the solution himself. While visiting his Grandma, the other senior citizens in her building find that reading the words they pull from the jar is just what they need to cheer them up, and Donavan realizes the pleasure of sharing. Deciding he'll start a new collection right away, Donavan concludes, "It would be fun finding new ways to give his words away." This book serves as a nice springboard for becoming word conscious.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor (2005, HarperCollins) – and the entire Fancy Nancy series

For Nancy, there's no such thing as too, too much; she loves her frilly bedroom, her lace-trimmed socks, and her pen with a plume. Nancy teaches her family how to be fancy, too. Then following Nancy's lead, the fancied-up family heads for a festive night out. A messy food mishap puts a damper on Nancy's joy, but her supportive family smoothes everything out. O'Connor, the author of the Nina, Nina Ballerina stories, delivers a delightful story of dress-up and cozy family love, with a charming protagonist who enjoys, and enjoys sharing, glamour. Nancy's perky narrative, in short, simple sentences, incorporates some "fancy" vocabulary for kids to absorb (stupendous, posh), along with a sense of the rewards of a family doing things together. This is a great book to introduce students to the idea of searching for richer language to replace overused words.

Frindle by Andrew Clements (1996, Aladdin)

Ten-year-old Nick Allen has a reputation for devising clever, time-wasting schemes guaranteed to distract even the most conscientious teacher. His diversions backfire in Mrs. Granger's fifth-grade class, however, resulting in Nick being assigned an extra report on how new entries are added to the dictionary. Surprisingly, the research provides Nick with his best idea ever, and he decides to coin his own new word. Mrs. Granger has a passion for vocabulary, but Nick's (and soon the rest of the school's) insistence on referring to pens as "frindles" annoys her greatly. The war of words escalates--resulting in after-school punishments, a home visit from the principal, national publicity, economic opportunities for local entrepreneurs, and, eventually, inclusion of frindle in the dictionary. The two sides eventually come to a private meeting of the minds and the power of language triumphs over both. This is my personal favorite “vocabulary-themed” book of all-time! I use this book to get students excited about the power of words. This book never fails to get kids to start creating their own “secret words.” This book can also be a great introduction to morphological word studies and word origin studies.

I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson (2002, Candlewick)

The authors break the Pledge of Allegiance into digestible phrases or words and explain their meaning along with some history. As the text defines and explains each phrase or concept, the illustrations bolster the passages with child-friendly images. For "allegiance is loyalty," readers see a dog wagging its tail while, for "liberty" (described as an individual's freedom "to make his or her own choices"), individuals literally choose their own path as they step out onto stripes of various colors. The authors also include interesting background, such as the meaning behind the colors in the American flag ("Red is for courage. White is for purity and innocence. Blue is for loyalty and fairness") and the pledge's origins (it was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 as a poem for children). Simple without being simplistic, this cleverly designed volume spells out the concrete meaning behind the words in the Pledge of Allegiance while deftly communicating the democratic spirit and principles that inspired it. This is a great book to help students understand the need for making meaning out of technical vocabulary.

Max’s Words by Kate Banks (2006, Frances Foster Books)

Max's brother Benjamin collects stamps; his brother Karl collect coins. Max wants to collect something too; he decides to collect words. He begins with small, familiar ones--ate, who, big--which he cuts out of magazines and newspapers. Then he finds longer ones--alligator, baseball. He collects words of things he likes to eat, words that describe colors, and strange words that he finds in the dictionary. When his collection grows too big for his desk, he spreads his words on the floor. Lured by the creative power of words, his brothers rearrange, change, and move the words to create a story. This book serves as a wonderful model of USING vocabulary, not just memorizing words and their meanings.

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier (2000, Harcourt)

Sniffling and coughing through a week at home with a cold, Sage (one who shows wisdom, experience, judgment") misunderstands one of Mrs. Page's vocabulary words in the homework assignment, and the resulting embarrassment in front of her fifth-grade class leaves her "devastated: wasted, ravaged. Ruined: destroyed. Finished: brought to an end." Miss Alaineus is not, as Sage determined in her "defective and delirious" mind, "the woman on green spaghetti boxes whose hair is the color of uncooked pasta and turns into spaghetti at the ends." Sage slumps home after the vocabulary bee fiasco, to her mom's comforting, if seemingly impossible words: "There's gold in every mistake." Fortunately, and as always, mothers know best. This is a fun book that can be used to help students understand the need to not just copy dictionary definitions, but to make sure that they have concrete understandings of newly acquired words.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Literary Elements of Fiction

In order to comprehend fiction at high levels, students must internalize the predictable story structure of fiction -- namely, that readers will always be introduced to three basic literary elements at the beginning of a story: characters, setting, and problem. The middle of a story will always be the major events where either the problem is growing or the characters are attempting to solve the problem. The ending of fiction is always a resolution -- how the problem is solved or how the characters grow to accept the problem.

To help students internalize these basic literary elements, I frequently engage students in a Probable Passage. I have gone through the story and chosen passages (words, phrases, or sentences) that have something to do with each literary element. The students then go through the passages and make predictions about which literary element each passage probably best helps readers understand. They record their predictions on the Probable Passage sheet (see link at right). After predicting each passage, the students then weave the passages together to create their predicted gist of the story. As students share their predictions, the level of engagement is heightened. Subsequently, their comprehension is greater as their brains are actively making meaning of the story -- even before they begin reading!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creating Classroom Communities

I had the great fortune to work with an exceptional group of educators today. Our focus was on establishing and maintaining a sense of community in the classroom. Those who know me well understand how strongly I feel about the need for having a strong sense of community in our classrooms. If teachers are frequently having to put out fires dealing with discipline problems, disagreements among the students, and students working against one another, high levels of learning cannot happen. I had a wonderful day working with this faculty! Everyone exhibited such tremendous respect for young people. It was obvious that these teachers find joy in what they do. I promised them that I would try to post a link to listening bookmarks. Unfortunately, technology is not being agreeable right now, so I'll just e-mail the bookmarks to Leslie. I hope they are helpful. I also hope that everyone has a great opening to the school year!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Differentiated Planner

I just got off the phone with a friend who asked me to e-mail her a copy of the differentiated planner that I use when explicitly planning for differentiation. I told her I'd just post it here, so that others can use it, as well. It's available now as a link to the right.

Professional Development

Wow! I've spent the last few weeks immersed in my own professional development! I attended the Kagan Summer Academy for a week. While I've been a Kagan fan and follower for many years, I'm always amazed by how many new tips I pick up to make my teaching more engaging for learners each time I attend a Kagan training. I also attended the National Differentiated Instruction Conference in Las Vegas that SDE hosts each summer. I participated in numerous sessions where I gathered a lot of great ideas for better meeting the individual needs of learners. When I am able to participate in such outstanding professional development opportunties like both of these, I am reminded how exciting teaching is -- and how none of us ever outgrows the need to continue to learn more!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vocabulary Development -- Greek Stems

Greek Stem MEANING Examples of English words built from the stem
aero AIR aerial aerobics aeronautics aerodynamics
arch CHIEF archenemy archbishop monarch oligarchy
astro/aster STAR astronaut astronomy disaster asterisk
bio LIFE biology biography biopsy biochemist
crat RULE democrat autocrat aristocrat bureaucrat
chron TIME chronicle chronometer chronic chronological
cycl CIRCLE cycle bicycle cyclone encyclopedia
dem PEOPLE democracy demographics epidemic demagogue
gen RACE generate genocide progeny genealogy
geo EARTH geography geology geometry geophysical
gon ANGLE pentagon hexagon octagon diagonal
gram WRITTEN diagram grammar epigram telegram
graph WRITE autograph telegraph photograph graphic
hydr WATER hydroelectric hydrogen hydrant dehydrated
log WORD prologue epilogue monologue dialogue
mech MACHINE mechanic mechanize mechanism mechanical
meter MEASURING DEVICE thermometer barometer odometer glucometer
nym NAME homonym synonym acronym pseudonym
opt EYE optical optometerist optic optician
path FEELING sympathy empathy pathos pathetic
phobia FEAR xenophobia agoraphobia aquaphobia aerophobia
phon SOUND telephone phonics symphony saxophone
photo LIGHT telephoto photograph photography photosynthesis
poli CITY metropolis police political cosmopolitan
phys NATURE physical physique physician physicist
psych MIND psyche psychology psychiatrist psychopath
scop SEE microscope telescope periscope stethoscope
soph WISE philosopher sophomore sophisticated sophist
therm HEAT thermal thermometer thermostat thermos

Vocabulary -- Latin Stems

Latin Stem MEANING Examples of English words built from this stem
act DO act action react actor
aud HEAR audible auditory audience audition
agri FIELD agriculture agronomist agrarian agronomy
amo/ami LOVE amiable amity amatory amateur
annu/enni YEAR annual annually biennial centennial
aqua WATER aqueduct aquatic aqueous aquamarine
cap(it) HEAD/LIFE cap captain capital decapitate
cede/ceed GO precede recede succeed antecede
dent TOOTH dental dentist dentifice trident
dict SPEAK dictate predict contradict dictionary
duc(t) LEAD educate duct conduct aqueduct
fac MAKE/DO factory manufacture benefactor facsimile
fer BRING transfer confer refer defer
flex/flect BEND flexible reflex reflect deflect
form SHAPE form uniform formation transform
grat PLEASE gratitude grateful congratulate gratify
ject THROW inject projectile reject eject
jud/jus LAW judge judicial prejudice just
liber FREE liberty liberate liberal libertine
loc PLACE locate location allocate dislocate
lum LIGHT illumine luminary luminescent luminous
man HAND manual manufacture manuscript manipulate
mand ORDER command demand remand mandate
mar SEA maritime Marine submarine mariner
mem MINDFUL memory remember memento memorandum
min SMALL minimum minute minus minor
mit/miss SEND missile mission transmit dismiss
mob MOVE mobile automobile mobility immobile
mort DEATH mortal mortician mortality post mortem
mot/mov MOVE motor motion move motive
multi MANY mutiply multitude multiple multiplicity
nat BORN natal native nationality innate
nov NEW novice novel novelty innovate
opt BEST optimal optimist optimize optimum
ped/pod FOOT pedal pedestrian podium pedestal
pel/puls DRIVE repel expel compulsion propulsion
pens/pend HANG suspend pendulum appendix suspense
port CARRY portable porter transport deport
rect STRAIGHT erect rectangle correct direction
rupt BREAK rupture interrupt erupt abrupt
sci KNOW science conscience conscious scientific
sect CUT dissect bisect section sector
sens FEEL sense sensation sensible sensory
sign MARK sign signature signal insignia
son SOUND sonar unison sonorous sonnet
spir BREATHE respiration inspire conspire spirit
spec SEE/LOOK inspect spectacles suspect spectator
sta STAND stationary statue stabile stagnant
struct BUILD construct destructive instruct structure
temp TIME tempo temporary temporal contemporary
ten HOLD tenure tenacious tenant retentive
terr LAND territory terrain terrace terrestrial
tex WEAVE texture context text textile
tract PULL tractor subtract attract retract
trud/trus PUSH intrude protrude obtrusive abstrusive
turb CONFUSION disturb perturb turbine turbulent
urb CITY urban suburb suburban urbane
vac EMPTY vacant vacate vacation vacuum
var DIFFERENT vary various variant variety
vict/vinc CONQUER victory victim convince invincible
vid/vis SEE video television visit evidence
vit/viv LIVE survive vital vitamin revive
void EMPTY void devoid avoid avoidance
vol WISH volunteer volition benevolent malevolent
volv ROLL revolve revolution involve evolve
vor EAT carnivore herbivore omnivore voracious
I was just working with a dedicated group of educators (they gave up some of their first days of summer vacation to come together to work on improving their students' learning!). We focused on vocabulary development for underachieving students. We examined the research that has shown how one of the best predictors of reading achievement beyond the earliest stages of learning to read is oral language. We spent time examining how Latin and Greek stems make up a large percentage of English words. We also focused on activities to help students internalize the meanings of common Latin and Greek stems. I promised that I would post a listing of some of the most commonly used Latin and Greek stems in the English language -- so they will both be coming today!