Making Vocabulary Review Easy and Fun

Every month I try to host some type of professional development workshop for teachers and instructional aides during their plan time.  One of my favorites this year was the Vocabulary Workshop that I offered in October.  Instead of the normal workshop approach (I talk a little theory, I share a few strategies, you try one or two, etc.) that I have typically used in the past, this month I set up stations throughout the room.  Each station had 1-2 activities that teachers could try out with a partner and then reflect on how it could be tweaked for their discipline.  To make it applicable across all content areas, I used the words from Jim Burke and Barry Gilmore’s book, Academic Moves for College and Career Readiness,  for each of the activities.  I was so worried that teachers would find it cheesy, but it was a success!

My four favorite activities from this workshop were:

  1. Connect Two – I learned about this one at a workshop a while back and is a go to activity any time I am asked for quick vocabulary review.  Give the students a list of 8-10 words.  Have them pair up two of the words and explain how they are connected to one another.  When I use this in class, I put the words on the board and have students write in their notebooks.  It can be used as a bell ringer or an exit slip at the end of class.
  2. Which One Does Not Belong – This is another very simple bell ringer. Give your students a list of four words and have them explain which one does not belong.  To make it more challenging, have students partner up to pick their four words and explain why each word could be the word that does not belong.
  3. Word Sort – Normally, I am a huge fan of an open word sort.  Give students a bunch of words and let them sort them into their own categories.  It is higher level and allows for creative thinking.  For this workshop, I wanted to challenge the teachers to see if they could sort the synonyms of six of the Academic Moves terms into the correct categories so I did a closed sort. This was difficult for them!
  4. Frayer Tic Tac Toe – This one is the most challenging, but it was everyone’s favorite at the workshop.  Partner students up and give each pair a Frayer Model Tic-Tac-Toe game board.  Students chose a word from the list to use when they play.  Instead of marking the board with X’s and O’s, students complete the tasks in each box using different colors to mark their moves.  The person who gets three in a row first wins the game.

The other activities we played were:

  1. Hierarchical Analysis
  2. Vocabulary Cubes
  3. Dominoes

I loved this approach to providing PD to teachers.  I am always looking for ways to continue to improve. What are some ways that you have found successful to engage teachers in PD in your schools?


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