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Vocabulary Development: A Way with (Splashed) Words PDF E-mail
Sunday, 12 December 2010 17:29

Below is a guest blog entry from a participating teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, CA

In my four years of teaching Pebble Creek Literacy I've come to really love the word splash. I love the aliveness of it, the fluidness, the relevancy of teaching vocabulary this way. I've learned that when vocabulary has the chance to breathe and live, my students learn it and own it and carry it with them.

These are the things I've learned...


When I post the vocabulary in a very public way, I too am obliged to visit it and find ways to make it real for my students. I have created laminated word cards for most of the units. My cards for the "Natural Disasters" Unit are particularly appealing. I post them on a white board in the classroom, leaving room around the words for us to add to throughout the unit. In my classroom, the white board is on the opposite wall of my most frequent position, which means I get to look at the words each day.


As the unit progresses, and as we discuss the words in context and ponder their meanings, I add definitions and new words to the splash. This year, we really glommed onto the work "meteorologist," so as we read and continued our study, we noticed words like "volcanologist" and "oceanographer" and we added those to the splash. Now, as we near the end of our study, my students have definitions for those two words in addition to the original word, "meteorologist."

Taping the original words to the white board means that I can add student definition to the words as we progress and study the text and learn strategy within the unit. When we "define" the words together, I can notate what the students offer as definitions. I can also define words for the student when they ask. After studying the words in context and discussing them during the course of the unit, the students own the words in a natural and "un-quizzed" manner. They can take their original word splash document from their folder and add to their definitions at any point during the unit of study.

What I find, at the end of each unit, is that my students "know" the vocabulary words we have studied. I can direct them to define the words and contextualize them and they can be successful. This often happens in the form of a writing activity or reflection at the end of the unit.

I love "teaching" vocabulary this way. It feels natural and it allows my students to live with the words in manner which is respectful and honors their learning. What better way to foster a love for and appreciation of vocabulary.

By Dana Dusbiber



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