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February 26, 2018

Content Vocabulary With a Cross-Curricular Approach

By Kriscia Cabral
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I was recently introduced to a Scholastic resource written by Chelsea Tornetto, Conquering Content Vocabulary. Tornetto is a middle school teacher who has taken her knowledge in teaching language arts and created a mashup with her love of teaching social studies. This book is the result of Tornetto’s creative approach to cross-curricular instruction. From Vocabulary Connection Cards to making connections at home, and sample lists, the many ideas for how to incorporate domain-specific vocabulary in the classroom are engaging and purposeful. Read on to see how I’ve already began to incorporate Conquering Content Vocabulary in many rooms on my school campus.

    I first started with Vocabulary Connection Cards having to do with energy. Tornetto describes these as, “...25 to 35 keywords from any particular unit of study, written on individual cards, used to facilitate student discussion and the creation of mental connections between those keywords.” I immediately thought of Vocabulary Connection Cards as word cards that create an experience for students — an experience that is memorable and helps the words stick in the minds of students.

    Chapter two in the book discusses how to put these Vocabulary Connection Cards into play. Chapter two in the book discusses how to put these Vocabulary Connection Cards into play. I followed the example given, although I had a teacher moment that I will reveal later in this post. Tornetto shares plenty of research about the use of sorts: word sorts and concept sorts to increase student comprehension. I thought I would start there.

    The directions for how to do this with Vocabulary Connection Cards were simple:

    • Choose 25–35 words associated with your unit of study

    • Write or type each word on a separate slip of paper, note card, or sticky note

    • Divide the class into small groups

    • Give each group a large, flat space to work and one set of Vocabulary Connection Cards

    • Give students enough time to sort the cards, while you walk around and listen as they work

    • Help students finish

    • Share and discuss students’ completed sorts

    The end result of this lesson: AMAZING. It was so wonderful to go around the room and listen to the conversations students were having on words we have not yet learned. They were taking clues from words they know and words they did not know. They were compromising, sharing opinions, and working together. It was music to a teacher’s ears.

    After students did their first sort, I allowed time for each group to share their conclusions as instructed in the book. Students had a consensus that we would be learning about types of energy and, because they saw words such as prototype and design process, they concluded that we would be learning about ways to design more efficient energy. They were pretty spot-on, and this was just an introduction to our unit!

    I took a picture of each groups' sort, as I plan to go back to them and have the students elaborate even further once we learn a bit more. I actually had created my list as prescribed and that's when I had my "teacher moment." I realized that the back of the book is filled with sample lists and tips for each content area. This was a hidden jewel at the back of the book. The list given here was way more in-depth than my original list. There were also pictures to support comprehension of the words: FANTASTIC!

    I printed this list and shared it with each group. They compared the two lists. Many discussed why certain words appeared on both lists and others wanted to add to what they assumed we would be learning about. We wrapped up our vocabulary learning for the week by taking the words and tracking our knowledge of each of them. Tornetto discusses this as a wrap-up to the first stage of vocabulary instruction. Here is a slide presentation of where we are in our wrap-up. Feel free to use or recreate for your own classroom.

    Our next steps follow along with the book. Stage two of vocabulary instruction is all about explaining the meaning of unknown words. The book describes how to use reading guides, pictures, and the use of context clues with Definition Discoveries.

    Stage three of vocabulary instruction is providing multiple opportunities of mastery. I plan to use these opportunities in my literacy stations that I run in my classroom four times a week. We will review our original sort, we’ll play Connection Card Poker, dominoes, and create new sorts using technology. The possibilities are endless and I haven’t even shared the joys of chapter four, which integrates writing and ways to connect learning at home.

    Conquering Content Vocabulary is well worth the read. I teach all subjects in my fourth- and fifth-grade classroom and  appreciate the creative ways Tornetto has shared how to integrate social studies and science within an English language arts block of time. The lesson suggestions are quick, easy to prepare, engaging for students, and are research-based. Just to wrap your mind around the idea of an open conceptual sort makes the book worth your time!

    How do you expand domain-specific vocabulary and comprehension in your classroom? I know a book that can get you started!

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

    I was recently introduced to a Scholastic resource written by Chelsea Tornetto, Conquering Content Vocabulary. Tornetto is a middle school teacher who has taken her knowledge in teaching language arts and created a mashup with her love of teaching social studies. This book is the result of Tornetto’s creative approach to cross-curricular instruction. From Vocabulary Connection Cards to making connections at home, and sample lists, the many ideas for how to incorporate domain-specific vocabulary in the classroom are engaging and purposeful. Read on to see how I’ve already began to incorporate Conquering Content Vocabulary in many rooms on my school campus.

    I first started with Vocabulary Connection Cards having to do with energy. Tornetto describes these as, “...25 to 35 keywords from any particular unit of study, written on individual cards, used to facilitate student discussion and the creation of mental connections between those keywords.” I immediately thought of Vocabulary Connection Cards as word cards that create an experience for students — an experience that is memorable and helps the words stick in the minds of students.

    Chapter two in the book discusses how to put these Vocabulary Connection Cards into play. Chapter two in the book discusses how to put these Vocabulary Connection Cards into play. I followed the example given, although I had a teacher moment that I will reveal later in this post. Tornetto shares plenty of research about the use of sorts: word sorts and concept sorts to increase student comprehension. I thought I would start there.

    The directions for how to do this with Vocabulary Connection Cards were simple:

    • Choose 25–35 words associated with your unit of study

    • Write or type each word on a separate slip of paper, note card, or sticky note

    • Divide the class into small groups

    • Give each group a large, flat space to work and one set of Vocabulary Connection Cards

    • Give students enough time to sort the cards, while you walk around and listen as they work

    • Help students finish

    • Share and discuss students’ completed sorts

    The end result of this lesson: AMAZING. It was so wonderful to go around the room and listen to the conversations students were having on words we have not yet learned. They were taking clues from words they know and words they did not know. They were compromising, sharing opinions, and working together. It was music to a teacher’s ears.

    After students did their first sort, I allowed time for each group to share their conclusions as instructed in the book. Students had a consensus that we would be learning about types of energy and, because they saw words such as prototype and design process, they concluded that we would be learning about ways to design more efficient energy. They were pretty spot-on, and this was just an introduction to our unit!

    I took a picture of each groups' sort, as I plan to go back to them and have the students elaborate even further once we learn a bit more. I actually had created my list as prescribed and that's when I had my "teacher moment." I realized that the back of the book is filled with sample lists and tips for each content area. This was a hidden jewel at the back of the book. The list given here was way more in-depth than my original list. There were also pictures to support comprehension of the words: FANTASTIC!

    I printed this list and shared it with each group. They compared the two lists. Many discussed why certain words appeared on both lists and others wanted to add to what they assumed we would be learning about. We wrapped up our vocabulary learning for the week by taking the words and tracking our knowledge of each of them. Tornetto discusses this as a wrap-up to the first stage of vocabulary instruction. Here is a slide presentation of where we are in our wrap-up. Feel free to use or recreate for your own classroom.

    Our next steps follow along with the book. Stage two of vocabulary instruction is all about explaining the meaning of unknown words. The book describes how to use reading guides, pictures, and the use of context clues with Definition Discoveries.

    Stage three of vocabulary instruction is providing multiple opportunities of mastery. I plan to use these opportunities in my literacy stations that I run in my classroom four times a week. We will review our original sort, we’ll play Connection Card Poker, dominoes, and create new sorts using technology. The possibilities are endless and I haven’t even shared the joys of chapter four, which integrates writing and ways to connect learning at home.

    Conquering Content Vocabulary is well worth the read. I teach all subjects in my fourth- and fifth-grade classroom and  appreciate the creative ways Tornetto has shared how to integrate social studies and science within an English language arts block of time. The lesson suggestions are quick, easy to prepare, engaging for students, and are research-based. Just to wrap your mind around the idea of an open conceptual sort makes the book worth your time!

    How do you expand domain-specific vocabulary and comprehension in your classroom? I know a book that can get you started!

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

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