Sunday, January 5, 2014

In the Art Room: Teaching Vocabulary

Okay, ya'll, it's confession time: I stink at reinforcing vocabulary.

Now don't get me wrong, I teach the stuff. But getting 'em to recall the stuff, well, that's another story. For example, after teaching all about Pablo Picasso's Blue Period, the following art class will sometimes go a little sumpin like this: 

Me: So! Yesterday we chatted all about the artist Pablo...

Kids: Picasso!

Me: Right! Remember, he was the artist that was really sad so he chose to paint with a certain color to show his emotions...

Kids: {crickets}

Me: Ahem, it was blue, remember? And we added a little white and a little black to the blue to make...

Kids: {blank-faced zombie crickets}

Me:  Tints and shades! Remember, I taught you a poem, we read a book, WE PAINTED A PICTURE?! (Scratching my head and checking my schedule)...wait a minute, did you guys even have art yesterday?

Kids: {awoken zombie crickets} YEEEEESSS!

Me: (muttering) Really? Were you awake during any of it?! I SUNG A SONG FOR YOU PEOPLE!
Yeah, so. It turns out the little people need a lot of reinforcing of the vocabulary so that it sticks. Just telling them once, even with jazz hands and a musical number, won't do the trick. I've known this forever so my solution is usually just to bring up that vocabulary every time it applies to a particular lesson. The prob with that is, it's often a struggle to squeeze in all that vocab. 

But I think I might have a new idea thanks to Ron Clark's The Excellent 11. I thrifted this book recently and I've really enjoyed reading his different techniques and dreaming up ways to make them work in my art room. Now, I'm not gonna lie, reading Ron Clark's books are not easy for me because the dude is like a super hyperactive teaching genius and I often feel overwhelmed. So I thought I'd try just one technique of his for a while before attempting any others. And that was his means of introducing and teaching vocabulary.
In Ron's book, he talks about how he researched and found 1000 words he thought his students should know. That sounded like a lot of work and I'm rather lazy. I did find a great resource for art elementary vocabulary here that I loved. After adapting the list, I typed out the words, printed them and cut them down to the strips of paper here. 

Ron's idea was simple: as the children enter the room, they are to (attempt) to read the word shown to them. No need to tell them what the word means, just let them get used to sounding out the vocabulary. Once they've read the word, they may enter the room. Flip to the next word and ask the next student. 

So far my 2nd though 4th grade students have done this step with vocabulary A-B. When we return from break, I will continue to show them the same words, this time asking them for the definition. I'm very curious to see what they already know (hello, pre-test!). If they do not know the definition, I will give it to them. I am hoping that by the end of a couple art classes, they'll have a better grasp of the pronunciation and definition.
Now, this little technique has a couple flaws: 
  1. The kids won't get a chance to read each and every vocabulary word. Especially when I begin to introduce more in the next couple weeks. I've not found a solution to that. Suggestions would be great if you got 'em. Right now I'm content with simply introducing them to words we might not otherwise chat about.
  2. I never ever want to rush a child that might struggle with reading. Or processing. However, as the children enter my room, they are to stand silently while the rest of their friends trickle in.  I kinda feel weird about that as they are just standing there when they could be learning. So I've got a kinda solution to that which I'll share with you in a moment.
Because I'm World Famous for losing stuff, I keep the vocabulary in these little holders by the door. I've decided to start this technique with my kindergarten (pray for me) and 1st grade after break, hence the "Little Rockin' Artist Words." For them, I've written down names of colors, shapes and simple vocabulary
Okay, so I mentioned that I found a kinda solution for the kids waiting for their friends to finish reading vocabulary. Well, I had this fantastic idea that I'd have a powerpoint running on my television (can you believe the size of that thing?! I know I'm retro, but c'mon!) that would alternate between a famous work of art and the artists name. This way the kids would not only be gaining vocabulary skillz but masterwork recognition!

The problem? My mammoth television won't hook up to my wee lap top. This seriously saddens me. I'm hoping the tech-dude comes up with a solution (fingers are crossed) but until then, I've got a piece of artwork taped to my 'set. Classy right? I choose a student to play "What do you See? Think? Wonder?" (details here) while they wait.
After we've done the vocab bit at the door, it's then that we recite our "I Can" statements before getting down to business. Details on that here.
That thing on the right is a wrap-up game we sometimes play called The Smartest Artist. You can read more about that game here.
I'll keep you posted on how this works for me. I've got a Word Wall (well, Word Cabinets would be more accurate) that I plan to add these words to as we master them. I don't know if this is going to work or not...but it's worth a shot, right? 

How do you guys go about teaching and reinforcing vocabulary? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Also...I've got an idea. Would any of you out there be interested in starting a virtual Art Teacher Book Club?  When I was reading Ron Clark's book, I thought how fun it would be to have a group of ya'll reading this book with me. You know, to brainstorm ideas and share experiences. If you are interested, just let me know...and suggest a book! If there's enough interest and book suggestions, we can vote on our first read and get started. That sounds like a fun New Years thing to do, don't you think?



39 comments:

  1. Hiya! I often have my grade 1's answer a question, spell a word, or read something before leaving the room at the end of the day... I try to switch up the question or the words so that there's something appropriate for everyone! For example, sometimes with my lower lever readers, I'll show them two words and ask "which one says _____?" whereas for a higher reader I might ask them to read the word or tell me the meaning. I try to keep it random enough that they don't really catch on to the fact that I'm consistently making it easier for some than others. Might work for you too!

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    1. I love the idea of switching up the questioning depending on the child! I have noticed that some of my students struggle and others seem to thing it's a piece of cake and ask for more difficult words. Since I'm not their classroom teacher, it's hard for me to know where they are academically...but I'm quickly finding out with this routine. So! Your suggestions are terrific! I'm going to share this in an upcoming blog post, thank you!

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    2. Anonymous10/11/2015

      Hi I have been glued to your blogs for the last three day. Amazing and love ur teaching style. Im an artist however lm working on my certification to teach. After having the enjoy of teaching reading at alternative school the students vocab was a task. But I managed to broke grounds. I introduction five new words each week the word and definitions students were required to use the words each day during group and peer learning making vocab a part of daily conversation.by week two I would hear them using them in the halls with friend or with me in the cafe. Fri days were our vocab relays shakers for larger classes and rainy day. During week they recite the word and I read the definition. Fridays I would see what all they retained. Keeping the words they struggled with and changing out the ones they learned. Once a week they wrote letters to the author we were reading using the vocab words and placed it in our class mail box to the author. I plan to do the same with artist of the week in my art class. Reading
      test scores went up. Hope I was a help.

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  2. I just love reading you... Makes me happy!!!

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  3. Hey Cassie! You're so awesome.
    I always labeled everything --and I mean everything in the kindergarten/1st grade classrooms. And in my home too, because I've done a lot of tutoring at home. There's a sentence strip still on the ceiling in my kitchen...everyone that comes to my house is just used to seeing the word "ceiling" on my ceiling. Now I leave it there for Rayleigh..:) When Kirby was two months old, I had everything labeled in his bedroom. "bed", "dresser","chair"...."wall"... You get the picture. That's how I do it. Our language is too crazy to try to teach reading by sounding out words. That's my opinion and I know a great debate can be started by saying something like that because there is something to be said for phonics...sometimes. I'm rambling and I don't even know if this helps at all. But I love teaching reading and wanted to throw in my two cents. Love, Aunt Kimmy.

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    1. Aunt Kimmy! Thanks for writing. I LOVE your labeling idea...and plan to share it with my speech buddy at school who wants more ways to introduce vocabulary to the children. I realized that our school doesn't have things labeled except for those outside-the-classroom plaques. So! I think labeling everything in and outside the classroom would be a great idea! It also reminds me that I need to set up my labeling game. Thank you so much for these ideas!!

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  4. Hi, I love your blog and I love your idea of a book club for art teachers! I teach Elementary Art in Colorado
    Please count me in.

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  5. Id love to do a book club. Sounds fun. I write words on the board to reinforce them. I dont have any cute methods. We repeat them and I question them on it later.

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    1. Cute methods can be overrated (as I've often found!)...but the act of spelling a word in front of a child is very important. As a kid that struggled with spelling and reading, this would have demystified words for me if I'd seen them sounded and spelled out! Great idea :)

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  6. Oh my gosh. I totally get it. Some teachers debate with me that just teaching the word without the meaning is not okay practice. . . but I really feel that it is the only real way that kids will learn vocabulary that I am teaching, repetition, repetition, demonstrate, practice . . . So I always just throw the vocabulary out their have them sing it, repeat me, repeat me in different voices (they love saying vocabulary while holding their nose and making nasally teacher sound) then as the year goes on we learn what the vocabulary means, how to use it.

    How about Julia Cameron's Artist Way???? I've never done it and would love to do it with you guys.

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    1. oops I meant. . .. " there";)

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    2. Ha! We are a lot alike, Erica! We also repeat, repeat, say it in a silly voice, repeat. And yet, sometimes, it STILL doesn't stick! I feel like it has something to do with the 6-8 days in between seeing my students that causes memory loss. But I agree with you, just having them see and sound out the word THEN learn the meaning has it's merit. All the children learn in different ways...so why do all those teachers think we have to teach the same? Don't they know how us crazy art teachers operate?!

      Yay! A book suggestion! I actually have that book and I don't think I've every read it completely (I'm notorious for starting those kind of books and not finishing them) so I really like that idea! Thank you! I think I'll create a little poll with a couple different books for us to vote on and that book will be one of 'em.

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  7. I have the kids repeat vocab words also... they learn the meaning as we go along. And yes, you think they will remember the kooky way you introduced something and it would be burned into their brains forever, right? No, not so much... We have spent mucho time on color theory this Fall and even though I know in my heart of hearts they know what the Primary colors are ( 1st/2nd grade) when I asked before vacation they all looked at me like I had three heads! Seriously guys??? I would love to do a book club! :)

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    1. Ah!! Thank you! I thought I was the only one with students that suffered from short-term-vocabulary-loss. I often have a "Seriously, you guys?!" moment, glad I'm not alone. And thanks for joining the book club, I'll keep you posted!

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  8. I'm a homeschool teacher but I do teach art along with other subjects. A book club sounds like fun!

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  9. Work wall review and repeat but always looking to add on. Book club would be most awesome.

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    1. I have a word wall...but I'm not sure how to use it. Does that make me sound crazy? I mean, do you just post 'em there and then reference them when necessary? Or can you some how play a game involving a scavenger hunt with the words? Just curious what you do. Thanks for joining the book club :)

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  10. I've found that repeating and having them repeat really helps...but stops at about 4 th grade ... After that it's not cool to listen LOL!
    You think that it's sad that is your tv in the hallway? That is the size of mine in my living room! We are probably the only people without a flat screen at this point.
    I'd love a book club!

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    1. Oh no, Kristin, I have you beat: We have a TV JUST LIKE THAT at our house with...wait for it...a VCR built in! And the TV no longer works...which means we have no functioning TV at our house. Which I really like. Although, whenever we go out where there is a TV, I'm TOTALLY sucked in and I cannot turn away. Sounds like we are in the same fat-TV boat ;)

      Thanks for joining the book club, I'll keep ya posted!

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  11. Hey Cassie Stephens,

    Love your post, your OLD friend, John Ledbetter. I have turned so many teachers in District 86 onto your site. The ART teachers love it. Much Luck my friend, and have a Happy New Year.

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    1. Aw, thanks for sharing my goofiness with other teachers, I appreciate it, John!

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  12. I can totally relate to the teaching vocab difficulties. 4th grade can't even remember what a self-portrait is-after discussing it for 4 weeks!
    I would love to be a part of an art teacher book club!

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    1. I know, they so crazy! I'll keep ya posted on el book clubo!

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  13. Last year I was trying to think of everything possible to help kids remember art vocabulary words. There is a restroom across the hall from my art room and most of the classes use these RR's before coming into my class. So I made vocabulary word posters with pictures and hung them on the backs of the doors. Kids didn't even realize they were learning.

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    1. On the back of the restroom stall doors? Genius! I love this idea, gonna run it by administration, this sounds great!

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  14. Ingrid1/06/2014

    I am glad I am not alone in the "Seriously, guys?!" experience as well!! Generally I overuse the vocabulary word throughout the classes. I don't have any games or tricks, but I have wanted a word wall for forever! I have thought about color coding it ROY G BIV style, as all my grade levels have their own color anyhow. Red = Kinders, Orange = 1st etc.
    I would LOOOOVE an art teacher book club!

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    1. Color coding idea sounds like a good one...may have to try hat one for next year!

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  15. I'm a classroom teacher in the UK. I have a word wall and I add to it as the children suggest words in shared writing or we find words in shared texts and we refer to it often but it takes tome for them to learn to do this independently. It's literacy based but I also use vocabulary cards in maths a lot as this is an area which has a lot of vocab. I hold up the cards as I talk and display them on the whiteboard and they often have pictures and symbols with them to help with meaning. The children have learnt to question me whenever an unfamiliar word is used which helps them learn the meanings. You could play quick games like give half the children a word and the other half the definition either as a sentence or picture and they have a minute to find their partner. Or hide words around the room and ask them to find the word that means... I print out words in tiny writing and give the children magnifying glasses to read them, making them feel like word detectives. You could have 'word of the day' displayed and reward those who use it correctly. I'd love to be involved in book club if I can get hold of the book in the UK. Love your blog and ideas.

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    1. Em, I LOVE your ideas! The magnifying glass idea is so fun, my kids would totally love that! So many great ideas here, thank you so much for sharing them. I've read and reread what you wrote because I'm so excited by your suggestions! I'll keep you posted on the book club idea!

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  16. I would love to be apart of a book club! I am in the process of getting my masters is Art Education and I am doing as much research as I can. I am gathering all the information I can to be prepared to start teaching. So I would be OH SO interested in being apart of your book club! Count me in!

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  17. OOH the book club sounds like a fun idea, and I know what artsy book I'd like to read, but... I am already in TWO book clubs, so I'm reading two books a month for those groups, besides the ones I shove in between that nobody else wants to read. One group I have been in for about 18 years (seriously!!!) and the other I joined up when I retired, since it meets in the daytime. The 18-year group, when we started, our kids were all in various levels of elementary school. Now, there is only one child left in high school and he graduates this year, and many of our kids have graduated college (mine included) and gone on to careers. But we still sit in someone's house each month eating munchies and drinking wine, but now no kids pop through to grab some food and smile and say hello any more.

    Anyhow, the book I'd suggest, if I could find the time to read another book to participate, is The Secret Language of Color. Not an education book, I know, but what's better than color? Let me know if your group ever decides to read it.

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  18. I'm been eagerly looking for a way to add "I can" statements to my art room. I'm totally borrowing this idea! Love it!
    Melissa Forney

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  19. I am deeply impressed by your work. i am a single parent homeschooling two kids. your article is very informative. my elder son has learn to read in early age n my younger daughter is in process. my daughter has done with hooked on phonics program, was facing problem with vocabulary, i can take help from your article now.

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  20. Vocabulary is the body of words used in a particular language. In order to communicate through speech or writing one needs to be able to use the words within a language and understand that a word has a particular meaning. https://vocabmonk.com helps to enhance your vocabulary by giving better understanding of the words.

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  21. Anonymous8/14/2015

    Hey Cassie! Love your blog and ideas!!! Where do you get the information for your powerpoints?

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  22. Well, first off...completely hooked now with your blog....short story how I stumbles here was the DIY shoes (eeeek, seriously, why didn't I think of that! Seriously, geeking out here!!).
    I am thankful for all the ideas shared; also I am glad find out not the only one with the vocabulary/review experiencing the blank looks and (at one point think even heard the pencil rolled off a table). Indeed I can see your are an amazing art teacher...how do you fit all that fun into your short class, amazing.
    Found an idea with an art teacher used the game Headbands for art vocabulary and art review: vocabulary words written on card (or you can get the app). Each kiddo tapes a word card to their head (in a group). The other members of the group give clues to the student. Gotta to have rules like:
    You can't give away any letters. You can't give word parts. No rhyming words. No "Duh" clues.

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)