Coming up on Thursday is our annual grammar instruction workshop. We’re passionate grammar advocates at Ticking Mind because we believe it’s the backbone of explicit writing instruction which in turn makes all the difference to student achievement in writing. Of course, one of the things we’ll be talking a lot about on Thursday is teaching students parts of speech – a process which is inextricably linked with vocabulary instruction. One of the little strategies we’ll be talking about on Thursday to do with parts of speech and vocabulary instruction is ‘Word of The Day’.
Everyone’s familiar with the ‘Word of The Day’ strategy where you put an interesting word on the board and explain it’s meaning and perhaps get students to use it in a sentence. There are dozens of websites dedicated to it and each major online dictionary has its own page for The Word Of The Day (i.e http://www.dictionary.com/wordoftheday/).
However, while Word of The Day can no doubt be an tool for an interesting and sometimes discursive discussion of the English language, it’s worthwhile remembering two important elements about effective vocabulary instruction if we are going to employ this strategy:
*For vocabulary instruction to be effective it needs to be in context
*Students need to be repeatedly exposed to meaningful use of vocabulary terms and opportunities to use the term themselves to master it
So, here are some tips about how we might use Word of The Day as both an effective grammar and vocabulary tool:
Base Word of The Day on a unit vocabulary list. Good vocabulary lists should provide students with different categories of essential words. For example, in a unit on To Kill A Mockingbird we might have a word list like:
When looking closely at a word from the vocabulary list for Word of The Day, give students multiple definitions. This version of Collins dictionary online (here: https://www.collinsdictionary.com) is our favourite for sourcing definitions, because it’s written for English language learners and the definitions are very clear. However, you might also show students definitions from vocabulary.com or a range of definitions which you can source from wordnik.com
Vocabulary lists don’t need to have ‘tricky’ or ‘sophisticated’ words in them. Often simpler words like ‘courage’ or ‘growing up’ are more effective springboards for developing better vocabulary than words such as ‘juxtaposition’.
Explore with students how one word is used with others. For example, if you’re focusing on ‘courage’ look at how you use verbs together with this word and how ‘courage’ can either be a subject or an object of a sentence:
e.g Scout’s courage in confronting the mob at the Maycomb jail demonstrates her strength of character.
e.g When Scout confronts the mob at the Maycomb jail she demonstrates her courage and strength of character.
Look at variations and synonyms of the word. For example, for ‘Growing up’: growth, personal growth, development, entry into the adult world
Ensure that Word of The Day activities allow for revision of previously covered words or explore how the focus word of the day links to previous words. For example, if you were focusing on ‘growing up’ and have previously covered ‘courage’, you might discuss how these two things can be linked.