“4 Tools for Building Academic Vocabulary” by Susan Oxnevad was originally published on gettingsmart.com
There is a wealth of research to suggest that vocabulary knowledge is the single best predictor of student academic achievement across all curriculum areas. Experts agree, if given the opportunity to receive effective vocabulary instruction, most students can acquire vocabulary at rates that will improve their comprehension and also their chances for success in school. Even the Common Core identifies Academic Vocabulary as one of the six big shifts. It’s clear that educators need to spend some time teaching.
Why Vocabulary and Tech?
Technology is an effective and engaging tool that can be used to improve vocabulary acquisition for all learners and engage them in the learning process. Technology resources can provide students with a variety of multimedia content to help them construct knowledge about vocabulary in a way that meets their unique learning needs. Technology allows teachers to design learning experiences that provide students with flexible learning paths. This post will explore some digital tools for helping students construct knowledge about vocabulary.
1. Wallwisher – Build a Digital Word Wall
is a free and user friendly digital tool that allows users to create a digital wall of multimedia sticky notes which can include text, images, links and videos. Teachers can create a vocabulary word wall and embed it into a webpage, blog or wiki for quick and easy access 24/7. Students can contribute to a vocabulary word wall without logging in, which makes it a great tool for use in a classroom with students under 13. Walls are collaborative and they provide one place for easy access to those important vocabulary words. Just provide students with the words and some time to construct knowledge about them as they post a sticky note and build their own definitions.
2. ThingLink – Create Multimedia Vocabulary Launchers
ThingLink is a tool for creating interactive images that supports a variety of multimedia. Users can create multiple “hot spots” on specific parts of an image to build multimedia definitions that include video, images, audio, web links and more. Teachers can use ThingLink to create multimedia launchers to introduce students to vocabulary words and demonstrate meaning. Students can design their own interactive images to construct deep knowledge about the words as they are engaged in the process of building their own multimedia definitions.
3. Flashcard Stash – Build Vocabulary Cards
is a dictionary based website for helping students learn vocabulary and more. Teachers can sign up for a free account to create and store word lists to support written text. With the click of a button, users can access definitions, example sentences from context, and images to support the word. Once created, teachers will have a set of digital flash cards to use to help students practice the words and concepts through some games and quizzes. Students can access the vocabulary activities through a link, without logging in. At first glance, Flashcard Stash seems like a handy tool for reviewing vocabulary, but after experimenting with the tool myself, I realized that the tool can also be used to help students build their own knowledge about vocabulary terms and concepts if asked to create their own word cards. This, of course, takes the learning to a whole new level.
4. Google Presentation – Build Vocabulary Word Cards
is an attractive tool for a lesson in which students work collaboratively to construct knowledge about vocabulary by creating vocabulary cards. I created a template for use to guide this powerful learning activity and provide teachers and students with a starting point. Students work in groups of three. Each group works on a copy of the template that has been shared with members of the group. Each student within the group has a job to do.
- Video: Find and insert a video to illustrate the term using the handy feature that lets users preview and insert YouTube videos without leaving the presentation.
- Images: Find a copyright-friendly image or use the drawing tools available to draw directly on the slide to create a visual representation of the term.
- Definitions: Choose from a variety of dictionary tools to find a definition, then work with the others in your group to write a definition in your own words..
The template has a help page with links to resources and video tutorials about how to complete certain tasks when using Google Presentation. As an added bonus, if students search for images and video within Google Presentation, they are copyright-friendly. If you have a Gmail account, please feel free to pick up, modify and use the template I created.
Engaging students in activities to build vocabulary is all about the learning that occurs during the process of creating, not about ending up with an impressive final project. Use student centered learning activities like these to make good use of technology as an efficient and effective tool for learning.