Mrs. Ferrari’s Classroom – Vocabulary Study

Happy Wednesday All!

Over the past two days, I have been working like a mad woman to finish up little odds and ends in my classroom.  I am waiting on a few supplies to be delivered and then I’ll be all set.  A shout-out to the wonderful ladies in the front office who take care of us!

I’ve added a few things here and there, like my updated front table…

…and some attendance sign-in/sign out sheets by the door.

What I really wanted to share with you are some templates that I have created for both myself and my students.  If you’re a teacher, you know our favorite word is free!  I feel as though we should always be able to share and borrow from one another freely, so I have also included the link to download each template.

Vocabulary Template:

Vocab Worksheet Template

I read a very interesting article on the Prentice eTeach website titled, “Strategies for Vocabulary Development.”    It rehashed a lot of key items that most teachers already utilize in their vocabulary units, however, I noticed one thing that I wanted to ensure I was doing when teaching new terms to my students:


There are a number of traditional teaching practices related to vocabulary that deserve to be left in the “instructional dustbin.” The key weakness in all of these practices is the limited or rote interaction students have with the new word/concept. Let us quickly review the most common of these less effective approaches.

  1. Look them up. Certainly dictionaries have their place, especially during writing, but the act of looking up a word and copying a definition is not likely to result in vocabulary learning (especially if there are long lists of unrelated words to look up and for which to copy the definitions).
  2. Use them in a sentence. Writing sentences with new vocabulary AFTER some understanding of the word is helpful; however to assign this task before the study of word meaning is of little value.
  3. Use context. There is little research to suggest that context is a very reliable source of learning word meanings. Nagy3 found that students reading at grade level had about a one twentieth chance of learning the meaning of a word from context. This, of course, is not to say that context is unimportant but that students need a broader range of instructional guidance than the exhortation “Use context.”
  4. Memorize definitions. Rote learning of word meanings is likely to results, at best, in the ability to parrot back what is not clearly understood.

This sunk in with me for many reasons.  In the past, I was asked to focus on the vocabulary that would be found within a piece of literature.  Not really my idea of the best approach, being so confined, but I went with it.  Inevitably, due to outdated resources students would learn memorize an archaic definition for a term, usually confusing them more than before they encountered the word, and then as soon as they finished reading the novel/short story/poem/essay, the vocabulary was lost.  I have a solution to this.

Again from the Pearson website:


Reviewing the research literature on vocabulary instruction leads to the conclusion that there is no single best strategy to teach word meanings but that all effective strategies require students to go beyond the definitional and forge connections between the new and the known. Nagy3 summarizes the research on effective vocabulary teaching as coming down to three critical notions:

  1. Integration—connecting new vocabulary to prior knowledge
  2. Repetition—encountering/using the word/concept many times
  3. Meaningful use—multiple opportunities to use new words in reading, writing and soon discussion.

This is not stating anything revolutionary, but it will change your students’ lives and increase their retention and understanding of new vocabulary terms.

How will I utilize these three key steps?

1.  The Connections box is KEY to the success of students’ understanding of new vocabulary terms.  It has to be meaningful to them, otherwise it’s just another math formula that they won’t use in their everyday; memorizing for the sake of memorizing.  There is nothing more exciting than hearing your students use information and content from your class in their everyday life, outside of Jeopardy questions of course =)

2.  My goal is to present 5-8 new vocabulary terms from the 1000 Most Common SAT Words list every week.  They will be words that students should learn, and may or may not connect to the content of our given topic of study.  And guess what baby, the list will be cumulative!  Oh yea!  So that’s between 45-72 new words a quarter; 180-288 words for the year.  YIKES!

3.  I’m throwing away the old, “write the definition, use it in a sentence” model.  Of course I will be providing the definition and ensuring that the students know how to use it.  However, they will be getting VOCAB points throughout the week that will add up for bonuses on the weekly vocab quiz.  How will VOCAB points be earned?  Properly using the terms throughout the week in both oral and written expression.



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