Encouraging New Vocabulary Use

I have to credit my intern with this idea:

Our reading curriculum is adding huge numbers of words that our students are introduced to on a daily basis.  We have spelling lists, vocabulary lists and amazing word lists.  While we do our best to convey the importance of learning these new words, sixth graders do tend to ignore us.

My intern thought a friendly competition between the classes might help.  We brainstormed some ideas and settled on having the classes keep track of each time they purposely use one of our words.  When a student uses one of our words, they can take a dry erase marker and add a tally to their class’s total on our window.  We thought using the window would be motivating, since it’s something different.

The window itself says “Team Titanic’s Wonderful Word Wall” and has a spot for the Bows and one for the Sterns (we name our homerooms according to our theme, which, this year, is the Titanic Team).

The kids have really taken to the idea and go out of their way to try to use a word from one of our lists.  It has to be used correctly and show that they understand what the word means.  It also needs to be part of the discussion, not just some off the wall tangent.

Students can also find the word written in a book, on a sign, etc and get a point for their class.

While it’s not going to solve all the world’s problems, it certainly has made my students more aware of words and their meanings, which is all I can ask of a sixth grader some days!

I tried to get a picture, but because it’s a window, you mostly just see right through it!  I don’t have the photography skills to get a good view of it.  😦

Oh well, you get the idea!

School = Football Game


As I watched a big college rivalry football game recently, I got thinking about using football as a metaphor for teaching.  Consider this: football (or any sports) teams have an end goal in mind – usually making it to the playoffs.  They also have weekly goals – winning against whichever team they are facing off with.  Everything they do is to get them ready for those tests.

School is kind of like that.  In my case, the MEAP is the playoffs.  We hope that everything we do is going to help our students achieve well on the MEAP.  Before you say “don’t teach to the test”, I don’t.  And, coaches don’t practice for the playoffs.  While playoffs are out there in the distance, most coaches will tell you they keep their eyes on today’s practice, this week’s game.

My students take two weekly tests – a spelling test and a reading test.  These give me an idea of how things are going for them.  They are kind of like our weekly game.  We focus most of our energy on learning what we need for Friday’s tests.  We also do a writing piece each week.  Again, we focus our efforts on that weekly assessment, knowing that we are slowly advancing toward the big game or test.

Since our culture is so heavily focused on sports, maybe we need to use this more in our classroom.  Could we use the class’s test score average as a score each week?  Could we post our weekly scores and celebrate our wins?  Maybe use our losses (weeks when the test scores aren’t as good) as a rebuilding week?

Seems like there is something out there in terms of motivating those students who could care less about their test scores.  Maybe if they felt like they were part of a bigger picture, part of the team, they would try harder to learn what they need to.

What do you think?  Should we try to inject some sports metaphors into our classrooms?