Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Evolution of Vocabulary Instruction:

So on Monday, you assign your students 20 vocabulary words; give them a menu of tried and true vocabulary exercises on Tuesday to challenge them to learn and use the words throughout the week; test them on Friday, yet half the students fail the vocabulary test. A month later, most students say they have never heard those words in their entire lives.  Does this routine sound familiar? 

In many ways, how are we still living in the stone age when it comes to vocabulary instruction? How can we evolve our vocabulary instruction to the next level?

What benefits result from assigning long lists of vocabulary words that students have never seen and cannot pronounce? In what ways do we ensure students continue to use the vocabulary they learn in and out of the classroom?

Fotobabble can revolutionize how we teach vocabulary! Students can choose or create an image to show how it represents the meaning of a word; they can use  artwork, photos, original drawings, etc. Students can scan graphic organizers to analyze a word, and record themselves explaining the graphic organizer. The possibilities are endless! 

How do our students benefit from vocabulary worksheets and workbooks?  Are these resources working to help students internalize words if we are only requiring them to fill in blanks to memorize words for a weekly test, and never see, hear or use the words again? 

Kylene Beers, author of When Kids Can’t Read:What Teachers Can Do ( shares an interesting teacher experiment proving students feel overwhelmed “learning, using and remembering” long lists of words if they have never seen the words, and never hear their teachers use the words in a meaningful, relevant context. Beers suggests students learn more words when teachers focus on fewer words and model the word for students in everyday classroom speech.

Here’s where comes in: is a site that allows you to upload images and add your voice to an image. 

How can you fearlessly use this web 2.0 tool in your classroom?

Whenever you teach vocabulary, you can use fotobabble so students can upload a visual cue for a vocabulary word and record their voice to:
  • define the vocabulary word.
  • use the word in context in an original sentence, or paragraph.
  • explain multiple examples for the vocabulary word, such as connotation, pronunciation, spelling, part(s) of speech, suffixes, prefixes, roots, synonyms, antonyms.
  • use context as a clue revealing the word’s meaning.
  • use other words that share the same root, prefix, suffix as the word being studied.
  • use the word in different contexts.
  • compare and contrast the word to other words to reveal relationships between particular words.
  • explain the graphic organizer that analyzes the word.
  • share an excerpt from a fiction or non fiction passage where the word is used.
  • use the word to create a figure of speech.
  • use the word to create an analogy.
These are just a few ways to use Fotobabble, but most importantly use fotobabble so STUDENTS LEARN HOW TO CREATE THEIR OWN CONTENT!
Fotobabble allows teachers and students to create critical thinking activities that include voice and imagery, guaranteed to improve vocabulary skills. When students have the opportunity to create their own content, they are collaborating with peers and experiencing multiple opportunities to see, hear and use vocabulary.  

Research shows students do not make any gains on vocabulary sections of standardized tests because they are not internalizing vocabulary if they never hear the words used again in the classroom. ( 

Poor readers have poor vocabulary, and longs lists of words kids can't even pronounce and may never see or hear again produce nothing but boredom and frustration! Learning new words should be exciting for students, not a tedious chore!

Please share how you have used Fotobabble to teach vocabulary!

Check out the lesson plan in the lesson plan section, and the Fotobabble tutorial by anamariacult so you can begin to change the way you teach vocabulary. Whatever the subject, or grade level, we all teach vocabulary, and Fotobabble can help our students improve their vocabulary skills!

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