A Group Discussion

Posted by on Jul 16, 2013 in example non-example, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 2 comments

A group of penguins is called a waddle of penguins. Yes, a waddle. Unless they’re in a nesting group, that’s a rookery. Or a group of penguin babies, that’s a creche. Or, if it’s a group on water, that’s a raft.

Animal group names are so much fun, who doesn’t like a gaggle of geese for instance. Isn’t it cool that fish go to school?

Here’s a little test for you:

Group Names; 3 Facts and a Fib

I love these names. It would make a great vocabulary lesson finding out how the name fits the animal’s personality. Each child could research the meaning of the group noun and, if needed, learn some more about the animal in order to explain how the phrase may have come about and why it fits. Here are some more that would be perfect for the lesson:

A flutter of butterflies

A train of camels

A float of crocodiles

A murder of crows

A congregation of eagles

A charm of finches

A flamboyance of flamingos

A skulk of foxes

A tower of giraffes

A cloud of grasshoppers

A cackle of hyenas

A smack of jellyfish

An exaltation of lark

A leap of leopards

A pride of lions

A barrel of monkeys

A romp of otters

A parliament of owls

A pandemonium of parrots

A rhumba of rattlesnakes

A scurry of squirrels

A knot of toads

A wisdom of wombats

Many more group names can be found here: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/got_questions_groups_list.html

The names I’ve chosen lend themselves easily to differentiation. Some students need to think about “a tower of giraffes” while others are ready to understand “a pandemonium of parrots” or “an exaltation of larks”.

Oh, and it is actually a congregation of alligators.

Announcing the Winner!

Diane has won the Penguin Products or any $25.00 of items from my store. I’ll let you know her choices!


Here’s a Fun Linky party.


Linda at Primary Inspiration has a linky with free classroom decor printables. Go find some ggod stuff, or maybe even add your own link.



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Visualizing Vocabulary

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in vocabulary, vocabulary development | 2 comments

Visualizing Vocabulary

You may be interested in this linky for ELA task cards.

Robert Marzano, a guru of vocabulary instruction, tells us that the bright kids need about 4 exposures to a word to own it, average students need about 14, and our struggling students need at least 40. How can we expose our students to words this often? There are so many words and there is never enough time.


Of all of the many ways to expose students to a word, one of the most effective is a visual. Students need to make a visual connection between the word and its meaning. We need to help students have  a visual picture to go with the word.


Very often teachers have kids draw pictures to represent words. However, children with a minimal understanding of a term will have difficulty creating a visual representation for themselves with any depth of meaning. At the very least, students should be shown a visual of a new concept before being asked to draw their own.

A better approach is to have kids find photos or illustrations to represent the words. For example, if the word is “rural,” students have to find a photo that represents “rural.” If it’s “custom,” they find a photograph, possibly from a magazine, that represents “custom.” Elementary teachers could possibly find photos ahead of time and then have them available to the students. Teachers may want students to look through magazines and newspapers on their own.

To take the idea of using visuals a step further, you might have kids look for two photos – one that represents the word and one that represents the opposite of the word.If the word is “rural,” have students find a picture to represent “rural,” Then they find a picture that shows the opposite meaning. In this case, the student has to determine that the opposite of “rural” is “urban” and then find a photo that represents “urban”. This really deepens meaning and understanding because students have to know what the word means and what it looks like in a photo, but they also have to have an understanding of its opposite. This is a harder, higher level thinking and increases their exposure and understanding.

This is the perfect time to weave in technology standards. After teaching students how to access the clip art, they could look for graphics that represent each of their vocabulary words. This is a whole lot less messy than cutting photos and less time consuming than drawing pictures.


Many Marzano forms with places for the word, an understanding rating, definition, related terms, and drawings are found on the internet and designed by schools. I have created this “My New Word” template to be used in a similar fashion with words student choose to keep in a My New Words binder.

My New Word

My New Word


I have many vocabulary products available on TpT. Each word that I present is defined, used in a sentence, and illustrated. For some of the words I provide synonyms, for others, I provide multiple meanings. Here is an example and a link to my vocabulary products. You would be most welcome to try using this format with vocabulary in your classroom.

Vocabulary presentation idea

Helping our students own their new vocabulary is an important part of teaching. I hope my ideas have in someway helped you.




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Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, Discuss, DEFINE

Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 in comprehension, conversation as learning tool, Freebies, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, Discuss, DEFINE

Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

Harvey Fierstein

Well, now it is time for definitions. We’ve found the word, decoded the word, looked at the parts to learn more about the word, done activities to get to know the word, and talked about and used the word. The word should be our word now. It is time to tell what it means. When students define words they shouldn’t spout words found in a dictionary. They should be able to explain, make connections, use analogies, and draw the word.

It is OK, I think, if some of our quizzes involve matching new terms and their meanings, but it is only OK if the meaning that the students have actively built in their heads will be able to be  matched to the words on the quiz. Students should never be asked to memorize new words and definitions with little or no regard to meaning. The words will never be retained and never be used. Time and paper will both be wasted.

It is better for the new words to be used and tested in real context. It is much better for the words to become an established part of the student’s vocabulary. It is best for students to assimilate words as their own for life.

This activity could be a weekly addition to a vocabulary journal. Students should be given the opportunity to share their new words with classmates, family, and any other interested learner!

My New WordMy New Word

More vocabulary development to come.


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Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, DISCUSS, Define

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, Freebies, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 2 comments

Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, DISCUSS, Define

It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

Yogi Berra

Do you ever feel like Yogi Berra in your classroom? There is so much talking, how can there be any learning? I wonder at times, being a strong intrapersonal learner, what prompted me to be a teacher. I love quiet. I love calm. Fortunately, I can put that aside for my commutes and computer time. I understand that students need to talk to cement their learning. My kids speak to their shoulder partner no less than 10 times a day. And I listen in and am amazed almost daily by their insights and their learning. In our daily poetry moment, the kids first predict the type of poem based on the title and a quick glance. They use complete sentences (learned by having stems on the whiteboard for as long as it takes to learn) to explain their thinking to their neighbor. Everyone gets a chance to talk. To train them, I sometimes have the partner closer to me go first or the partner closer to the door, etc. Next, we look at the poem and describe what we see and what new ideas we have with our partners. Then, we read the poem and add to what we know. Finally, students answer questions about the poem… setting, theme, author’s purpose, new title, what a certain line means, etc. Often I sum up what I am hearing by bragging about the great thinking that is being expressed.

Here’s a great source for daily poetry, http://www.gigglepoetry.com/

Another great source for vocabulary discussion in my class is Alphaboxes. I am including a generic form for this. I have made subject specific ones, but truly a piece of paper or student sized whiteboard works just fine! This activity can be done before a new unit of study, say frogs, everyone independently tries to fill the alphabet boxes with one or more word about what they already know about frogs. After 5 – 10 minutes of quiet time (I have to have some sometime), the students pair with their shoulder partner, sharing ideas and adding to their boxes. Again after 5- 10 minutes the pairs are asked to form squares by 2 pairs “squaring” up and the last conversation ensues. When the kids are all done talking, we quickly run through the alphabet shouting out words. This part is fun! It is also a good time to throw in any words that go with the unit that no one thought of.

This activity also works well at the end of a init of study. As you listen in you will see which of the vocabulary words of importance the kids are remembering.



This may be my very favorite “D” word, so I would love some discussion about how you use conversation in the classroom or if you would be interested in trying mine.


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Discover, Decode, Dissect, DEVELOP, Discuss, Define

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Freebies, Uncategorized, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Discover, Decode, Dissect, DEVELOP, Discuss, Define

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.

Dale Carnegie

Knowledge Rating Chart created by Ann Fausnight

Knowledge Rating Chart created by Ann Fausnight

Today I want to look at how to develop new words in the classroom. When teaching content subjects , it is beneficial to students to have some introduction to new words before learning more about the topic.  Of course, the new vocabulary we want to develop may not be new to everyone. It is important to have an idea of how familiar your students are with any set of words. This is why I developed my “Know or No” strategy. This strategy allows students to rate their understanding of a word. Do they “know” it already? Or is their answer, “No”, I do not?

Another way to develop vocabulary is to use the List-Group-Label strategy. With this strategy student groups make lists of all the words they can think of related to a topic. The next step is to find words in the list that go together in some way. Lastly, they label the groups by how they are related. This both a good introductory and concluding vocabulary activity.

List - Group - LabelMy List-Group-Label product is free on TpT.

I also have a book of vocabulary development strategies available on TpT.


This is such an important topic. I will be sharing more ideas over the coming months!


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Compare and Contrast Matrix

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in comprehension, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Morpheus: There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. The Matrix 1999

Wow, I just found a new graphic organizer. Or maybe I knew about it before, but I didn’t understand it well enough to realize its potential. This matrix should be great for vocabulary development. It will help students make connections, organize their thinking, and use their new vocabulary appropriately.

Here is an example from a new product I am currently creating. Students will grow in understanding about the similarities and differences among these various grasslands as they research information to complete the matrix. The new words prairie, savanna,  steppes, and pampas will become more familiar and better understood. (My newest product “Grassland Animals Scavenger Hunt” could be used with this matrix.)

Compare and Contrast matrix

Another matrix that could be used with many grade levels compares the seasons. From kindergarten upwards students could add information at their own level of understanding.

Comparison Matrix Seasons

Comparison Matrix Seasons

I am excited to explore further uses of this matrix, especially anything that could be vocabulary specific. Does anyone have any ideas?


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