Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ideas for Habit 8 Building Vocabulary

I started delving into Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking recently.  The introduction caught my attention because I spent a chunk of my career in elementary school.  There, much attention is given to teaching reading strategies to students like fix up strategies, thinking strategies, making connections and more.  Authors Pearse and Walton take those ideas and apply them to math.

Building vocabulary is essential at all levels in all courses.  I've written about vocabulary before ... so today I'm capturing some of those snippets!

From Overcoming Textbook Fatigue, the strategy vocabulary mix-up is highlighted.   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. 

I mentioned self-reflection on vocabulary at Math = Love last year! Here is a snippet from that post.  I remember reading about this strategy in Marzano's book on vocabulary but I didn't put it into practice this past year.  Creating a master list for each unit, rating before, in the middle and at the end of the unit will be helpful in getting students to think about their own understanding of math terms.

Early in my blogging (2012) I captured this vocabulary strategyPlayed a vocabulary game this week in "new teacher" orientation that I liked called Moving Words.  Choose enough vocabulary words so that you have one per 2 students.  Ask each pair to come up with a movement or signal  for their assigned word.  When all pairs are ready, stand in a circle.  The teacher leads by illustrating a word with a movement.  The class repeats her movement.  The next pair in the circle illustrates their word.  The class repeats it.  Then the class repeats the teacher's word and the first pair's word.  The 2nd pair illustrates their word.  The class repeats it.  Then the class repeats the teacher's word, the 1st pair's word, and the 2nd pair's word.  The process continues around the circle.   After the movement exercise, ask students to sit down and make notes on the vocabulary words.

Last summer I played with ThingLink and created a vocabulary example using it.  I have to admit that I did not use ThingLink with my students last year.  It is a tool I think has a lot of value.  There are just so many tools, and so little time.  I'm curious what tech tools others find to be the most valuable!

A last example of vocabulary strategies to share today comes from the Desmos class activities.  The PolyGraph activity engages students, they have fun with it, and it provides the perfect tool for using vocabulary to play a 20 questions-like game defining graphs.

Confession: I don't do enough with vocabulary to ensure all students understand the terms completely.  We use academic vocabulary daily, we talk math daily, but possibly too often I make the assumption that all students know the meanings and nuances of the words we are using.  This habit is one to think about for sure!


  1. Great ideas. Having a common language and understanding is so important. I particularly like the idea of creating a need for the vocab by students trying to articulate a concept without yet having the language. As usual, great post.

  2. Love all your ideas for reinforcing content vocabulary!