They Tried to Make Me Go to Vocab Rehab…I Said “Yes, Yes, Yes”

So, I think I am officially addicted to these little ASCD ARIAS books.

With Common Core looming over us all, one of my main goals for this summer is finally establishing a vocabulary routine for my students that works.

My Requirements for Vocabulary Routine:

  • It cannot take up more than 30 minutes of in-class instruction time (including testing) per week
  • It has to be organic, but still organized
  • I want to do about 5 new words a week
  • It needs to go beyond the old define, make a sentence, match them routine
  • It needs to be something sustainable all year long
  • I can’t kill myself with grading
  • It has to be fun and educational

I honestly thought it was too much to ask for.

And then in comes this handy little book by Marilee Sprenger.

You may have seen my review of another ASCD ARIAS book The Five-Minute Teacher by Mark Barnes–if not check it out here.    These little books pack a punch and attempt to give educators as much bang for their buck as possible.  They are relevant and could easily be read in on a Friday and incorporated into class on a Monday.  Vocab Rehab is definitely worth the 5.99 price!

Cool Ideas from Vocab Rehab 

  • Be purposeful about the words you choose
  • Ditch the 20 word a week lists
  • The goal is to teach vocab to the point where it is easily accessible…so that it actually becomes part of their working vocabulary
  • Ditch “Kid Language”
  • “Teach Up”–>aka use academic language and require your students to do so as well
  • Put words everywhere and celebrate them (I especially like the idea of putting words on the windows!)
  • Vocabulary can be taught and reinforced in 10-5 minute instructional blocks.  She has loads of ideas in the book.
  • Improving your vocabulary is all about connections: draw a picture, connect it to synonyms and antonyms, make it a song, act it out, play games, have fun with it!
  • Bring back the Word Wall–>I’m going to call mine the Wicked Word Wall for added alliteration.
  • Assessment should go beyond the small quiz and vocabulary should be incorporated in writing and oral assessment as well.

The Bottom Line:  Overall, I found this to be a perfect read for what I’ve been trying to do in my classroom next year.  I also think that some of her strategies could help with grammar instruction as well.  This book really made me believe that vocabulary instruction is important, fun, and doable!

You Have 5 Minutes? Use It Well…

After stalking around one of my favorite educator’s blogs, The Nerdy Teacher, I found this book recommendation.  I just finished this nifty little book about creating a more student centered classroom environment.  One of the main goals of Mark Barnes short professional guide is to minimize lecturing and push students to learn more independently.

A little about ASCD:  This organization was formally known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  These leaders in education innovation put out the ARIAS series to enable teachers to learn more about the new developments in the educational world.  What I really like about this 50 page book (and its counterparts) is that it is meant to be as inspirational as possible and still short enough to be read in one sitting.  I read it in the summer, but could easily have read it on a normal school weekend and started integrating his philosophy into my classroom on Monday.  I found this book to be truly worth the 5.99 price from amazon.

Cool Ideas from the The 5-Minute Teacher

  • You are less the learned philosopher of the class and more the coach
  • Make every second/minute count.
  • Let go of control by empowering students curiosity and independence
  • Structure and plan the class down to the minute to ensure you are changing things up and maximizing effectiveness
  • No teacher should lecture for more than 5 minutes.  Instead teachers should get students started and let them inquire, research, discuss, etc. independently and collaboratively.
  • Allowing students to self-discover information to make it more meaningful
  • That there is an art to learning when to shut up and let the kids do it on their own.
  • Barnes has a VERY large emphasis on video in the classroom–using video to introduce material or provoke questions/curiosity in students.

This book is really accessible, but of course, the best stuff I got out of it was the technology suggestions.  It gives some great resources for being able to engage students and allow them to work independently.  My two favorite were Smore and Padlet (both easily embedded into Schoology for students to use).  Mark Barnes also has a great website with awesome tech/teaching resources called Learn It In 5.

The Bottom Line:  I kinda think of this as dynamite.  Teachers light the fuse, back away, and let the kids’ minds explode with ideas and possibilities.  This might be a weird metaphor, but too bad…I like it.  So check it out and see how you can be effective in just five minutes.

Interested in Smore?  Check out my review of smore.com here!

Like The 5 Minute Teacher?  Check out my review of Vocab Rehab, another ASCD book!

One School, One Book

I just finished R. J. Palacio’s Wonder, and I couldn’t be more please with this cute, moving novel about a young boy with a face abnormality.  Written at a middle school level, August’s struggle through fifth grade was not “babyish” as some may think, but actually an engaging tale of heroism and friendship.  My school is using this novel as their first “One School, One Book” initiative, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  As an adult I was engaged in August’s story, and could see all students 9-12 being engaged and empathetic for this young man’s struggle.  Told from many perspectives, this novel is an “easy-read”, but one that will stay with you.

I thought I would post some of the resources in case other people may want to use it.