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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Great Vocabulary Divide

Educational research is replete with studies about THE GREAT VOCABULARY DIVIDE between successful and unsuccessful students; a fact every teacher knows without benefit of those studies.  

While the research shows that the gap begins in infancy (with a 30 million word difference in exposure to words by age 4 between socio economic classes), the import to education is that vocabulary development is crucial to all learning. It is no surprise that children with larger vocabularies are better equipped for learning when they enter school.  After all, by virtue of hearing more words, they are exposed to more grammar, sentence structure, cadence, expression, and countless other aspects of language that are vital to success.  By 3rd grade, when reading shifts from learning to read to reading to learn, the gap is wider; the consequences more pronounced.  Bottom line, children with larger vocabularies are stronger readers and perform significantly better on standardized tests.

What are teachers to do about this divide? Clearly they must create word-rich environments that entice their students to revel in the power of words.  Direct, daily instruction is key, yet research shows that dictionary work is the least effective method. According to Blachowicz, Beyersdorfer, & Fisher (2006), young children need 4 conditions to develop vocabulary knowledge:
  1. exposure to new vocabulary
  2. engagement and motivation
  3. multiple experiences with new words that promote context and definition
  4. independent word-learning strategies.
I will argue that children need 3 additional things:
  1. teachers who model a love of words
  2. interest in and curiousity about words
  3. active involvement in "playing" with words.
I am a self-professed logophile.  Words have always intrigued me and word play delights me. It is only natural, then, that I consistently incorporate word play into my curricula. I call it "play" because that is what it feels like to my students.  It's learning disguised as fun and it fulfills all the conditions cited above. 

One example of word play in my class is Hinky Pinkies.

Intrigued? These vocabulary building, critical thinking exercises are so popular with students that they literally beg to do them. How often do you get enthusiasm like that? 

Hinky Pinkies are often thought to be for gifted students. Certainly G/T students love them and engage easily with them. But there is no universal law that restricts them from being used with regular ed. kiddos. I have decades of experience using Hinky Pinkies with heterogeneous groups as young as 2nd grade. In fact, special ed. teachers and speech and language therapists have left positive feedback about using them with their students.  

As a result of working with Hinky Pinkies, your students will not only increase their vocabularies, but gain facility with syllables, phonemes, synonyms, parts of speech, and verb tenses. They exercise their problem solving and critical thinking skills. My children have been known to voluntarily seek out dictionaries and thesauri!

The vocabulary benefits alone should be enough to convince any teacher to try these riddles. But my favorite outcome is the look of pleasure and satisfaction on my students' faces when they solve their first Hinky Pinky all by themselves.

You can find lots of Hink Pinks, Hinky Pinkies, and Hinkity Pinkities in my TPT store, but you can try these for FREE!  And they are just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It's About Time for Leap Year!

So jump on this FREEBIE that is refreshed, reformatted, and expanded for 2016.  

This is not a huge unit.  It's not full of rigor. It's just a little collection of activities to make Leap Day (Monday, 1/29) a bit more special for primary classes.

Included is a word activity asking students to create words from the letters in LEAP YEAR. The letter sets come in different colors to make sorting them easier.  This activity will initiate verbal fluency and provide practice with sight words.

LEAPING LIZARDS is an addition worksheet; quick and easy for you to prep.  Fun for the kiddos.

Another language activity that promotes fluency and flexibility is naming animals that leap. We have started a list that hangs on the bulletin board.  Adding animals to it makes a great sponge activity. (Having to wait until we have time for the sponge activity also helps develop patience!) 

We have had some very interesting discussions about whether certain animals, like monkeys, actually leap.  In the end, I let the students decide.

There are a couple of other activities suggested in this file.  Hopefully, you will find them worthwhile and incorporate them into your Leap Day plans.  

You may be interested in these products for March:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another Valentine's Day Flash Freebie!

Today's FLASH FREEBIE is --     

There are 60 Heart Idiom Cards to extend your students' understanding of common idioms. Challenge your kiddos to match the idioms to their figurative meanings in a variety of ways:
  • small group instruction
  • partner work
  • individual work
  • literacy centers
  • games (instructions included)
  • whole class Scoot activity

Although it is offered as a Valentine flash freebie, Heart Idioms Cards is actually holiday neutral. Thus you can use it any time of the year and with all students.  Moreover, it is CCSS aligned.

If you take advantage of this freebie, TPT store followers and product feedback are greatly appreciated.

If your students love this product, check out these idiom products:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Be My Valentine FLASH FREEBIE!

Just in time for Valentine's Day, you can make my heart happy by trying Valentine's Day Square Puzzlers absolutely FREE!

If you are not familiar with square puzzlers, you are in for a treat! Here's how they work:

The 2x2 puzzler is perfect for introducing the task and can be solved by students as young as kindergarteners. The degree of difficulty increases exponentially with each iteration of the puzzlers. My intermediate enrichment students beg to do the 3x3 and 4x4 puzzlers.

These puzzlers are a wonderful challenge for any student in that they promote visual discrimination, problem solving, flexibility, and perserverance. 

Give square puzzlers a try. I think you'll like them.  But hurry.  They are only free today.

You may find that your students want more of this fun thinking challenge. Not to worry! Here are some other versions:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl Flash Freebie

It's Super Bowl Sunday!

To celebrate, I'm offering a FLASH FREEBIE!

It's only FREE until the Super Bowl is over. Rush over to my TPT store to claim your copy.