Vocabulary in Activity Classrooms (page 3)
In many subjects, the emphasis is on doing rather than on reading and writing. In order to do anything successfully, however, you have to develop the vocabulary—the lingo—of that area. Whether you teach physical education, music, art, a vocational subject, or some other activity-oriented course, your students will learn more and like it more if you expend a small amount of time and effort identifying the key vocabulary in your area and making sure your students attach the appropriate meanings to the words and symbols. Here are some specific activities teachers in nontextbook courses have used to develop meanings for critical words.
In every field there are words with a subject-specific meaning for which students have a more commonly used meaning. Music class can be pretty confusing when the teacher is talking about keys, scales, and notes, and the students are picturing car keys, bathroom scales, and messages to their friends! Common words such as rack and tolerance have very specific meanings when used in a mechanics class. Students who are becoming computer experts must realize that you can’t fish with this net, bet with this chip, and shouldn’t scream at this mouse!
Multimeaning Luck is a fun activity to review the content-specific meaning for words. Prepare for the lesson by writing down each word, with one math-related and one non-computer-related definition. (Overhead transparencies work best for this lesson, but you can also write the words on the board.) On the bottom of the transparency or on a part of the board you can cover temporarily, write one sentence for each word. Be sure to include in these sentences both subject-related and unrelated meanings, as students will have to guess which definition your sentence uses. If you use only subject-related meanings, they will easily figure out the system. Here is a sample lesson from a computer class. Begin the lesson by displaying the words and their two definitions:
1. list of available foods2. options in a computer program
1. footwear often used in rain or snow2. load an operating system into a computer
1. Random Access Memory2. crash into
1. an infection from a submicroscopic organism
2. a computer program that can attack other programs
1. error in a program2. small insect
As you read each word and its two definitions, have each student write the word and a 1 or 2 to indicate a guess of which meaning you have used in the covered sentences. Be sure to tell students that doing well on this part of the lesson is simply a matter of luck. You may want to tell students this is a way to find out how their luck is running today.
When all students have made their guesses, display the sentences one at a time. Have students give themselves five points for every lucky guess and deduct five points for every unlucky guess. The person with the most points is the lucky person for the day. Once lucky and unlucky persons have been applauded and commiserated with, respectively, review the subject-related definitions. Remind your students that they will often find words in your subject for which they have other meanings, and that they must not let those words lead them astray but must try to figure out and remember the appropriate meaning.
Are you curious as to how you did with your guesses? If so, you will see one of the advantages of Multimeaning Luck. Once you have made a guess, you want to know how you did. You care about and pay attention to which meanings the multi-meaning words had. Here are your sentences:
You can check your spelling by pulling down the edit menu.
The only clue at the scene was a size 11 boot print.
I was just sitting there and I saw this car ram right into the house!
I found a virus on my computer.
There must be some kind of bug in this program.
Give yourself five points for every lucky guess and subtract five for every unlucky guess. Are you having a lucky day? Did you pick only the computer-related meanings even though we told you to include others?
Fortunately, many of the new meanings that students must learn in activity courses are words that represent concrete, real things. Learning the names of the parts of the lathe becomes a much simpler task when a picture or diagram is displayed with these parts labeled. Coaches have long made use of diagrams for various plays and positions. A music board might display the symbols for sharp, flat, note, repeat, and so forth, along with the words for which they stand. A display of art labeled for its style and media catches the eye while simultaneously giving reality to confusing terms such as impressionist, neoclassical, and acrylic.
Just as in all areas, many of the new words your students will encounter are big words for which your students have other words that will help them figure out and remember pronunciations, spellings, and meanings. Students in an art class who are dealing with the concepts of foreground and background and whose attention is drawn to words such as forehand, forehead, backhand, and backpack should have no trouble understanding and using the new art terms. The strange new words micrometer, variometer, and magnetometer are not so strange when connected with speedometer, thermometer, microscope, variations, and magnetic. With a little help, students can even be led to see the “strong” relationship in such words as fortress, fortitude, fortify, and fortissimo.
When you are on the lookout for these morphemic relationships between words and point them out to your students, your students benefit in two ways. The obvious benefit is that they can more easily learn your new vocabulary and retain it fairly effortlessly. Less obvious—but actually more important in the “scheme of things”—you help your students become “word detectives” who, whenever they encounter a new word, are apt to look for clues in already-known words and thus can grow independently in vocabulary knowledge from all the reading they do. Not a bad return on a small investment of time and energy!
© ______ 2007, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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