Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In the Art Room: Teaching Vocabulary, Part 2

Way back in freezing cold January, I wrote a blog post called Teaching Vocabulary. In it, I shared with you some new approaches I've been taking to introducing words in the art room. I also asked for your advice and, holy moly, did ya'll deliver! Thanks, kids!

Since that post, I've tweaked (not twerked. See how important learning vocabulary is?!) my aforeblogged methods and added some new ones. So in this three-part post (because the Vocab Party never ends!), I thought I'd let you in on some of my new tricks (complete with video clips, ya'll! See what your encouraging words did? YOU'VE CREATED A VIDEO-CLIP-MAKING MONSTER!) as well as the words of wisdom shared. I do hope we can continue this vocabulary convo so leave your pearls of vocab-teaching wisdom in the comments below, pretty please!

Without further ado, I present to amazing reader comments, updates on my vocabulary teaching routines and some short clips...
But now a word from the Super Fab Teacher Gillian: "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 level 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!"

Um, Gillian, this totally worked for me, thank you so much! If you glance at my first vocabulary post, you might notice that I just had 2 sets of art words, one for my 1st - 2nd grade students and another for the older kids. The words were chosen randomly pulled from a list found on the interwebs. However, these words didn't seem to stick because we weren't making connections to them in art class (duh, art teacher!). Now I have the students read words as they enter that directly pertain to the lesson being taught. This means I have a different set of words for each grade level. For kindergartentown, I show them a shape and ask for the name and the color. My favorite part is when the word is introduced, so-n-so will say, "that was my word at the door!" 

Art Project Girl blogger Erica says:  "Oh my gosh. I totally get it. Some teachers debate with me that just teaching the word without the meaning is not an 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."

I love Erica, don't you? Her blog is super fab and she's always coming up with fun ways to teach her students. If you attended the AOE online conference, then you know how Erica brings all sorts of games and fun into her art room. This got me thinking about how I could introduce something new in my room called "Word of the Week" (even though in the clip I refer to it as "Word of the Day".  Sorry, my bad) in a fun way. Here, lemme 'splain it to you...

After all that "whoop-whoop" craziness, I drop directly into a moments chat about our Artist Inspiration which I attempt to explain here...
(gah, that face. only a mother could love, right mom? Um, MOM?! Oh, never mind.)
A message from one of my favorite teachers, my Aunt Kimmy: "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 love this idea of labeling everything and I'm working on it. Those words that the kids learn at the door? They go on our word cabinets (yes, I just about have enough cabinets to cover the alphabet. Don't hate.) Do ya'll label everything in your classroom? I think this is simply genius. But she is my Super Amazing Aunt Kimmy so I might be a pinch bias. 

Mrs. C of Rainbow Skies and Dragonflies blog: "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 love Mrs. C. Always telling it exactly how it is. And isn't that the truth, ya'll?! No matter how hard we try or what hoops we set on fire to jump through, sometimes the kids just don't get it. Maybe they're having an off day, maybe they've gotten too used to us jumping through flaming hoops, I dunno. I can only think that the connection we made with the word wasn't a powerful enough one to get it to stick. But when it does, it's so exciting it's magical. Like this "invention" by one of my third grade students. 
I mentioned that our word of the week was "invention" and that our artist Leonardo da Vinci often drew his inventions...but many times they were so far ahead of their time that they were impossible to create.

3rd Grade Girl: But can we make an invention if we wanna? I mean, instead of just drawing one?

Me: Sure! Make it and bring it in!

And this is what my friend brought me the very next day. An Art Robot. So amazingly awesome.
She even created an "advertisement" which was the previous week's Word of the Week. I was so excited that I dragged this sweet child and her robot onto our school's televised Morning Announcements. I really wanted to encourage this sweet artist. She was thrilled (despite being camera shy) and the kids loved seeing her creation when they walked into the room. Pretty sure the word "invention" will stick with her. Although we have been out of school for a we'll see.

Please stay tuned for Part 3 of this Teaching Vocab series as I have more insight from you super smart readers and (joy!) more obnoxiously goofy clips! In the meantime, I'd love to hear more of your vocabulary-teaching wisdom, friends, so lay it on me! 


  1. Hello. Just a quick note to say I love your blog. I am not a teacher, but I love to sew. I enjoy all the different things you come up with to engage the kids. I have a one year old and although school won't be for a few more years I will definitely be learning from you and using your ideas ahead of time. Like today I especially like the label everything idea from your aunt Kimmy. I have a label maker and might try this out!

    1. Hi Michelle! Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words! I'll have to let my Aunt Kimmy know you're going to try out her labeling method, she'll be thrilled :)

  2. Love the Woo-Woo! Cute! And I love you videos...keep it up!

    1. You may regret those words...! But thank you!

  3. Just viewed your video- love it! Woo Woo!!

  4. Ok, so I'm gonna admit I haven't watched your videos yet. Maybe that's something to do while sittin' in an airport somewhere tomorrow eating salty airport food and watching my ankles swell and wondering how I'm gonna fit in my shoes the next day. Which is why my suitcase is weighed down with a couple of pairs of heavy clunky clogs. But anyhow. I adore that snake above your light switch! Can you tell me about it?

    And um even more important. How the heck are you finding the time to write this lovely blog post complete with videos and all? I mean, I still haven't closed my suitcase (kind of got distracted by Survivor and American Idol, if I am being honest..).

  5. Phyl -- oh, I have so much to do, don't get me wrong! I actually wrote this post over the weekend during a little down time because I knew I'd be swamped this week! Also, these videos are super short and totally unpro! They was no editing (as you'll see if you view 'em) involved! Looking forward to meeting you in person!!

  6. I was woo woo ing in Kindergarten today and they LOVED IT!!! Then my second graders were having none of it! They are acting too cool for second grade. Just wait till next week second grade. . . I will take their eye rolls and raise them one chicken dance if they don't knock it off;) Seriously love these videos too! Take videos at the conference plllleeeeassseeeee.

    1. Oh!! That is a GENIUS idea!! I am SOOO doing videos, omg, you are like a Super Genius! Okay, that's funny that your 2nd grade was like "eh" because mine were so bonkers their woo woo was like a WOO!!WOO!! and I found myself saying, "is that an appropriate use of woo-woo?!" {meanwhile I'm thinking to myself, did I really just say that?!}. My 3rd grade was definitely giving me a little of that "too cool" vibe ... and then this afternoon one of them brought his brother to my room to show off his artwork. And I totally overheard him talking all about how we "woo woo" and learn about artists. HA! They do like it, I promise! They just have a reputation to uphold ;)

  7. Anonymous6/25/2014

    Linguistically there are two techniques for improving your lexical strength (vocabulary) :

    Active learning and Passive learning

    1. Passive learning: New words are acquired subconsciously, while doing some daily life stuff, like reading a newspaper.

    Vocabulary is an abstract skill due to reasons like reading habits, family background, schooling, culture etc. The conventional methods are very generic and are made of masses. They do not allow personalised learning to an individual’s current vocabulary.

    2. Active learning: Active learning methodology has become a preferred way to change the traditional teacher oriented classroom into the newer student oriented approach to learning. In active learning, acquisition of new words is done with conscious and great efforts.

    Usually active vocabulary building is quite rigorous and boring due to its monotonous nature.

    Now introducing myself, I am co-founder of Improve Your Vocabulary - VocabMonk

    Vocabmonk uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to track individual’s learning/quiz data and mashed up that data to recommend personalized quizzes to students, based on their current vocabulary size.

    The tool uses game mechanics to make learning real fun and also provides competitive learning through challenges in your social circle.
    There so special push towards, not just learning words but grasping it with application.

    Various levels to be achieved as you progress in learning and the distinctive feature is that you can invite your mentor to look up your activities on the website.

    Happy learning!


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