Friday, February 27, 2009

Vocabulary Inservice

This week's best vocabulary laced sentence used in the shop was when I instructed the students, "Dispose of your saturated application material to avoid spontaneous combustion." They did not know what I said, but they showed a great desire to understand since combustion of one's saturated material does not sound like a condition where a full recovery was an option! So, I told them to make sure they threw the towels used to stain their tables in the trash outside so they did not start a fire. (I have a story concerning fire to blog later. I hope I do not forget.)

This week on Wednesday we had an 1:00 dismissal for the teachers to continue their research and development of vocabulary instruction that will be used through out the school environment. We reviewed and discussed our previous work concerning the theory of vocabulary, tier 1-3 words and strategies for vocabulary instruction. We entered the implementation phase that afternoon by reviewing lists of curriculum specific words. Some of the words where words the students would need to remember and use to achieve success in the next few years in high school or college. Others words were recognized as being necessary for the rest of the student's life.

We looked through huge collections of words that students should know. These soon began to look like labyrinths of lawless layers of letters, language and linguistic labels. This initial step of the implementation phase seems to be the most challenging. It has the potential of derailing the entire process in one of two ways. First, a disposition of discouragement could quickly settle in.

Second, teachers could disengage from the process, produce an artificial list, create a couple of activities and check "teach vocabulary" off their to do list with out ever having moved forward. (I've done that before. Often.) We are at a crucial point. Even the language used in the meeting to describe this implementation phase indicated an anticipation of this educational hazard when the following terminology was used describe it:
  • Flexible - dictionary definition: "to be bent repeatedly, to be changed, able to be persuaded".
  • Revisit - dictionary definition: "to reconsider something such as an issue of public policy or a course of action, especially when additional facts indicate that an earlier decision was inappropriate"
  • Process - dictionary definition: "to be in a state of procession or of going; not the arriving to a destination or the completion of a trip."
We are at an important place in our vocabulary "discussion" that will determine if we end up creating education altering activities or not.

Mr. Wiemers

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