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Friday, December 26, 2014


In my ongoing battle for students to absorb vocabulary, I have found a technique that I have very slowly begun mentioning to my students: Word Wizard. This technique, focused on extending vocabulary beyond the classroom, comes from Bringing Words to Life.

As we have discussed different words throughout the year, I have tried to point out to my students when I have heard and/or read our words outside of class, whether it be on a television show, in a book, in a magazine, in a conversation. On occasion, I have had students come back and tell me that they are also encountering our words in life outside of school (vex seems to be a very popular word). 

This is the premise of Word Wizard. In Bringing Words to Life, the authors set up a Word Wizard system in which students earned extra-credit points based on vocabulary evidence by sight, sound, or use outside of the classroom lesson. I am not a big fan of extra credit assignments, but I do like the idea of giving extra credit points for being a Word Wizard (celebrate the nerdiness). 

So here is what I have done so far:

  • I have encouraged my students to be on the lookout for our words because they might be rewarded in the future. Because I came across the Word Wizard idea in the middle of a marking period/end of semester, I decided to hold onto it until our second semester. 
  • I have started using a Word Wizard hashtag on Instragram (search #wordwizard and/or @kirstenfoti). Whenever I run across one of words, I post it. Sometimes I take a screenshot of my Nook book. Sometimes I type out a quote from a TV show. Sometimes I take a picture from a book. Anything I can do to put our words out there. One of my students actually filmed a segment from the TV cartoon Lilo & Stitch, pointing out that there was rubble (one of our words) on the screen. He then told me that he really think that episode helped him understand the word even better.
  • I have started inviting my students to be Word Wizards. Yes, they let me know that I am dorky, but I know that I can sucker them into this. 
My next step is to introduce the Word Wizard system to my students when we return to school in January. I am going to create a classroom poster (link added 12/17/14) that contains the words we have covered so far this year. As we learn more words, I will add to it. When the kids bring me evidence (link added 12/17/14of a word encounter, I will put a stamp next to the word (may as well work in some math graphing skills), and the student will receive a coupon (link added 12/17/14for five extra credit points on any assignment. 

I am definitely seeing successes with vocabulary in my classroom. We are moving beyond rote memorization and moving on to fluent usage. I am going to share this idea outside of my content area and see if we can create a new culture within the school. It is a grand idea, but if we expect our kids to dream big, we must also dream big. 


As I finished typing this post and clicked Publish, one of our classroom words (fancy = to imagine) was used by Lena Dunham on a repeat episode of Ellen from last October. I am getting ready to post it on Instragram!

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck with the new vocabulary system!

    When I taught 5th grade my students were "vocabulary detectives". I gave them one or two new words a week that would show up in our read aloud book and they had to try to be the first one to hear the word and raise their hands. The first person (or two) got a ticket for the weekly vocab raffle (I drew a couple of tickets each week and the students got a prize from the prize box). Then the words were posted on the wall. Kids had to listen for the words and look for them anywhere. They had time at the start of snack to show me the vocab words they had found and they got a ticket for each word. If they heard them during a lesson we did the same thing and the first person to notice got a ticket. Kids were also given a chance to write down a good word and introduce it to the class (teacher approved). Then those words became part of their vocabulary detective game.

    I used this system for about 5 years and my students seemed to really like it. I loved that they used many of our words in their writing pieces and they definitely had stronger vocabularies at the end of the year. :)

    Best of luck and Happy New Year!