Marzano's 6 Steps To Vocabulary Instruction #1: Provide a Definition, Description or Explanation of the Term
I used to be a big believer in having students look up content vocabulary terms in dictionaries when I introduced new vocabulary. I thought they'd learn all sorts of other words while looking up our words. I even had them write the definitions in their own words. I thought I knew it all.
Then, I quickly noticed my students when (if) they found the correct word would look at all the various definitions and select the shortest. Where I'd intended for them to understand that pyramids were amazing buildings built by the Egyptians among others, they'd wind up telling me that they were geometric shapes.
So, how do we fix this? We listen to Dr. Marzano, and when we introduce new terms, we also provide easy to understand definitions in student-friendly words and show them examples. In the example above, when we study ancient Egypt, I now provide them with the word (Pyramid), a definition (a huge building built by Egyptians), and show pictures of several of them.
What's happening in your students' brains is they are building connections between the word, the definition and an image. These connections deepen with practice over time, and help your students visualize the word when they encounter it later.
When I introduce new vocabulary, we do it over two days. The first day, students are given all of the words and definitions for the unit, and the second day, we use vocabulary task cards that use the same words, same definitions and introduce images for each term that students move around in collaborative groups completing various activities with them. These two days are then followed up with brief daily vocabulary activities throughout the unit which will be described in later posts.
If you want to see my World History or American History Vocabulary Task Cards, click the link below, and don't forget to check out the rest of my store for more great Social Studies resources!
I love words. Discovering new words, using old words in new ways, and, as a teacher, helping students learn content vocabulary. But how? What are the most effective ways to help students learn and apply content vocabulary terms? It may shock all the middle school teachers I had growing up to learn that the best way is NOT to give out weekly vocabulary lists on Mondays for vocabulary/spelling tests on Fridays. This approach both does not install long term retention of the terms, it also rarely instills a love of words or an ability to apply them beyond that week's test.
So, if rote memorization of weekly vocabulary lists isn't the answer, what is? Fortunately, Dr. Marzano did all the research for us and created his 6 Steps of Vocabulary Instruction!
I discovered these steps a few years ago and they made so much sense, I literally began using them the next day. Since then, my students have consistently scored in the 90's on vocabulary quizzes whereas before they averaged in the upper 70's, and in talking to former students in the next year, they could usually remember almost all the terms, and are excited to show me!
Over the next month or so, I will be posting tips, tricks and resources for each of the 6 steps. In the meantime, check out the vocabulary resources I have in my TpT store.
I wanted to do a rah-rah back to school post this year, but I couldn't. I can show you a pile of discarded attempts. This just isn't the year for it, at least not here in America. This is a year to be reflective and take care of each other and ourselves.
This came into sharp focus for me the other day during our back to school professional development day. As a PLC leader, I had a provided agenda to get through about pacing, pedagogy and assessments, but, after our ice breaker about how the summer went, it became obvious that curriculum was the last thing on anyone's mind. Everyone was very stressed and more than a little scared. So, we put the agenda aside and talked about what we can do to manage our stress better in this trying time.
These are some of the things we came up with. I hope they help...
One last thought, please stay healthy and safe and know that we can and will get through this stronger than we went in.
I don't remember working in groups much in middle school. In fact, the only two times I can clearly remember were a partner project about Syria in 6th grade, and a partner checking a math assignment in 8th grade. Teaching pedagogy was different back then, I guess. My teachers were all older and out of college before the big cooperative learning push. As a result, most of my middle schooling consisted of sitting quietly in a row and being taught at for seven periods a day.
We now know that this isn't the best approach. Kids learn by interacting - both with the content and with each other. You can't have social studies without being social. I remember being terrified of the idea as a new teacher - what if they start talking, and never stop? Then, I learned the secret to effective classroom management - keeping students engaged in and excited about the content! And, the best way to do that is to allow them to interact with the content in cooperative groups. The best, longest lasting learning comes from them explaining things to each other in their own words - helping each other make connections between the content and things they're interested in that I have no real understanding of (for instance, did you know Instachat and Snapbook aren't real things?).
The missing step is training and practice. I have several "go to" interactive strategies I use on an almost daily basis - Round Robin, Rally Robin and Rally Robin Race. These three (and their written variations) are great at getting students talking, saying time and staying on task quickly. Click the link below for a free set of cooperative learning posters (pictured above) and the table mats that make them work. Something I use when installing these strategies is my Back to School Teambuilding Activities. We use the games and activities to practice how to work in groups. It is always helpful to install a new strategy doing something fun rather than something content-related, and these work well for me. Finally, don't forget to visit my store for more great Social Studies resources most of which encourage students to interact with each other in productive ways.
A few years ago I attended a PD session called "Integrating Graphing into your Instruction". An old teaching friend was the presenter, so I gave it a shot. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I got out of it. Graph reading and interpretation are skills that show up frequently in standardized social studies tests that do not explicitly exist in most social studies standards. We expect our students to use them, but we don't (or at least I didn't) really think about ways of explicitly teaching those skills.
So, how can we integrate frequent graph skills practice into our instruction given that World History has to cover 40,000+ years of content and American History nearly 500? I integrate graph practice in two main ways.
First, my warm up activities at the beginning of class always involve a short (less than 2 min) vocabulary activity and a slightly longer second activity either related to map reading or graphing. For my graphing warm ups, I'll project a graph and we will briefly discuss its features. I ask questions like, "What type of graph is this?", "What do the colors mean?", "What units are used?" with the follow up of, "How do you know?" or "How did you find out?" Then, I'll ask several questions that require them to actually read the graph (and, again, I ask them to explain how they got their answers). I really enjoy doing this because I can select all kinds of different graphs that don't necessarily need to be on topic (like a favorite super hero pie chart) that sort of trick my students into exploring and reading types of graphs.
The second way in integrate graph practice into my instruction is with specific graphing activities. I have a growing number of these resources available in my store. If you're interested, CLICK HERE to check them out.
I'm also giving you a FREE set of graphing posters (pictured above) that you will get as a Google Slide presentation you can print out that are a perfect addition to an informational/teaching wall either in your classroom or in the hallway. CLICK HERE for the set of 4 posters, and don't forget to follow my TpT store for more great Social Studies resources!
I'm a 14 year veteran teacher that loves teaching, coaching, writing, and my family.