Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blog Post #14

While reflecting on what I plan to do as a teacher influenced by my own experience in high school, I thought of the one thing that wasn't only missing from this EDM310 class concerning my area of study (Second. Ed., Eng. Lang. Arts), but from the classes I took in high school as well.

I decided to find the solution to a very pressing problem in the subject I plan to teach:

How can I effectively teach vocabulary to my students using technology?

In part, this apprehension is due to my recent reading of Kathleen Morris' blog post "Looking Back, Looking Forward" in which Kathleen Morris basically describes the triviality of busy work/work sheets in the classroom. In my four years at two different academically acclaimed high schools, I realized that the main way I was being taught vocabulary was through workbook assignments that meant little to nothing to me (as these assignments generally meant little to nothing to my grade). However, the main way I was learning vocabulary was through reading via context clues.

It doesn't really seem reasonable to request that all students become avid readers (though it would be ideal!) so while I have every intention of surrounding my students with great literature, I cannot expect them to surround themselves with it. The point being: I cannot expect my students to expand their vocabularies the way that I did, by challenging their minds through reading difficult texts.

So, I start to think that someone else has probably had this thought, too. "Why teach vocabulary through something so obsolete as workbook assignments when the internet has indubitably provided all sorts of ways to teach it?" To me, it is absolutely obsolete to continue to teach vocabulary the way I was taught (pen and paper assignments, quizzes, and tests). Taking for granted that standardized tests do not change soon (though, I hope they do), Vocabulary will still be a large chunk of the tests, considering the Reading Comprehension section, the selected readings, the science section--pretty much any section other than math (though, an expansive vocabulary can be of use there as well). If student's can't understand the tests, how can they be expected to show their understanding? It's impossible.

So, I started to explore the internet for some solutions.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon this little gem . While I admit, all the ideas are vastly aimed towards elementary-aged students, I believe that some of them may easily be modified to produce ENGAGING vocabulary lessons for teenagers. So here is a list of the resources I've found:


Foremost and my favorite because I've used Free Rice since my freshman year of high school. Then, it was really presented as a reward for learning our lessons on time (I first encountered it in a Latin class). Now, I find myself on it just for kicks. Not only is it a completely free website that may be utilized to master the basics of ANY language (and most subjects), it also donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer to the World Food Program! Talk about a meaningful lesson! Students can contribute to world hunger relief all while learning new words, languages, and concepts. There is only one set back that I can imagine about this program, and that is its apparent inability to supply a certain list of vocabulary words. I'm still young in my educational endeavors, but it seems to me that as long as students are learning as many words as possible on the long list of English words available, we're still accomplishing more than assigning a chapter of a vocabulary workbook and having one student complete it and the remaining 24 students idly plagiarizing.

2.) Wordle

Wordle is a device that takes a group of words and basically jumbles them together to create a visual piece of word art. While most applications of this site seem to be for fun or for younger grades, I believe that Wordle may easily be used in high schools as well to associate synonyms together and antonyms as well. To help with learning "difficult" science terms, I can see Wordle as an aid to learning Latin and Greek roots as well.

This is a wordle I created based off of my last post in my blog (I liked it because it almost resembles a tree, or a dinosaur):

3.) Wordsift

Like Wordle, but better. Wordsift creates a similar visual word jumble as Wordle, only it links the individual words to a thesaurus--so students may easily access similar words to the one they do not understand. See an example below:
wordsift 'I Have A Dream' Speech Example


Vocabulary is basically a more challenging version of Free, only no one gets free rice for correct answers. I will most likely only recommend this one to students for standardized testing purposes.

5.) Balabolka

Balabolka is a Speech to Text program which is a valuable, free resource for audio-learners. The program can take written texts (like a list of vocabulary words and definitions, or synonyms) and read them aloud to those auditory learners.

6.) Visuwords

Visuwords is yet another resource for Visual learners that physically links synonyms together on the web. Here's an example for the word "fantasy":
Visuwords chart of 'fantasy'

Needless to say, these are just a few of the multitude of resources available on the internet. I look forward to further exploring this particular area of my field for the benefit of my students.

Thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful and well written, good use of pictures and splitting the material into different parts.