Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vocabulary Mix UP

As a member of ASCD, I receive six books during the year.  This year, I tossed them on the shelf - there was no time to read them.  But now that summer is settling in, I decided I should check out these books and see what gems are hiding between the covers.

The first book I chose to thumb through is Overcoming Textbook Fatigue by Lent.   Since we don't use textbooks much at all at school, I chose this book first thinking I could dispose of it quickly.  Not so!  I skimmed the first several pages and discovered excellent strategies that I could put to use in the fall!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I want to do better with teaching our math vocabulary.  In Lent's book, she has a chapter dedicated to teaching vocabulary.  One idea that jumped out in my quick reading she labels as Vocabulary Mix Up.  She suggests placing vocabulary words on table tents - one word per tent.  Set up student groups, use roles even ... reader, illustrator, leader, and reporter.  Provide resources ... a textbook, other books, chart paper, markers.  Have each group draw, define, and explain their assigned term using the available resources.  When completed, ask each group to report out and hang up their work to create an illustrated word wall.

Since I teach several classes with the same content, I might hang all of the posters and ask classes to determine which posters get to represent the words for that unit.

I can see doing this activity as part of a warm-up sequence in an introductory lesson for a unit.

To build on this vocabulary idea, I could also begin using Question Cards 2 - 3 times during the unit.  Students simply write one of the assigned words on an index card.  On the back they respond to a prompt that I provide.  The author gives this example for the word, variable:  If you were a variable in math, what would your role be?

Other questions I might ask ...

  • When can a variable represent more than one value?
  • What is an example of the word, variable, in literature and how does that meaning help you understand math?
  • How are the words variable and solution related?

How do you teach math vocabulary?


  1. I love this idea and am jumping on board. I think it could be a great 5 minute activity, planned or with unexpected free time. A great extension might be reading aloud one or two as you get them all in and then ask for feedback on the students response. Promoting discussion and a need to justify reinforces the CC modeling practices. Now to start being ale to think of good questioning techniques for vocabulary on the fly.

    1. Ms. Shirley, Love the idea for getting student feedback. I wonder if we might brainstorm some question stems for vocabulary to put in our planning books?