Knowing the terminology in a field of study is critical. I once tried preparing a Chinese recipe not understanding that a clove of garlic is, “one segment of a head of garlic.” It would have been helpful to know that, “A single head contains multiple cloves.” The recipe called for “2 cloves of garlic, minced,” but I added 2 heads of garlic to the pan.
While my dish would have been effective at warding off vampires and werewolves, it was not very tasty.
Too often teachers give students a list of terms and ask students to copy the definitions for these terms down on paper or index cards. This method has lots of obvious problems. Students often copy the wrong definition for the word when multiple exist. Students are merely acting as duplicating machines in transferring words from one medium to another; there is no careful consideration of the meaning of what they are writing. This type of activity provides no framework or context for why the word is significant to the study.
Fortunately, technology offers teachers and students the ability to study vocabulary in ways that will yield more effective understanding. Here are a few:
Captions and Dialog Clouds with Google Drawings
Have students find a picture that helps to illustrate the term being studied. Have students create captions or dialog clouds within the picture to demonstrate their understanding of the term or terms. Here is an example of an image that demonstrates the meaning of the word minuscule:
I found the image of the two ants using Google search. I then imported the image into Google Drawings and added the callout shapes and text boxes.
Adobe Spark Videos
Adobe Spark offers your students an easy way to record themselves talking over words, pictures, and videos. For an overview of Abobe Spark, see my previous blog entry at https://hendersonisd.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/an-overview-of-adobe-spark/
To see some examples of how kindergarten teacher Monica McNew’s students used Spark to record their sight words, visit https://spark.adobe.com/video/46JzUlUw5SO9b and to create examples of alliteration, visit https://spark.adobe.com/video/YpFfzIAxXPCbQ
Why not allow your students to record themselves defining and, better yet, explaining vocabulary words? They could locate images to help with their explanations. They could then post their videos on an unlisted YouTube channel or on their blogs or web sites to share with others.
Here an example of an Adobe Spark video explaining the word minuscule.
Students can act out their vocabulary words and then record these explanations using a mobile device or a laptop. Students could easily do this with their own devices. Lots of high quality video recording and editing apps are now available for free. Both our middle and high school campuses now offer green screens for use in recording videos. Our students also have access to video editing applications like WeVideo on our district-issued Chromebooks. Screencastify is a great Chrome extension for capturing video from both the screen of the computer as well as the web cam. Here is an example created by students at Irving High School in Irving, Texas:
One of the best web sites/apps to use for helping students to build vocabulary is Quizlet. Students can access Quizlet via a web browser on any device or through Quizlet’s iOS or Android app. Quizlet allows students to build study sets, which are basically two-sided cards, much like 3×5 index cards. Students can access these sets of cards on any of their devices, and they can share their card sets with others. In addition to the cards, Quizlet offers several ways that students can master their vocabulary sets, including a quiz over the words, matching games, and a game called Gravity in which students must protect the planet from incoming asteroids by defining words correctly. Teachers can also create sets of cards and share them with students, but I feel that students will remember words and meanings better if they create their own cards.
Quizlet even keeps up with the words with which students have experienced problems so that students can focus on these trouble words.
Quizzes Using Kahoot! and Quizziz
Quiz sites can provide healthy competition for students, and vocabulary can be integrated into your quizzes in applications like Kahoot! and Quizziz. Here is one way the Kahoot! question builder could be used to ask questions about vocabulary:
Notice that images (which help many students with recall) can accompany your questions.