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Teachers Helping Teachers - A Vocab Victory

This week, I had the opportunity to visit the freshmen English PLC and observe two of our reading specialists introduce a dynamic unit guide for teaching vocabulary during the team's study of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Mr. Steve Fleming and Mr. Brian Hurst created a 7 step process that includes a variety of activities for teachers to incorporate into their unit. In order to make it easily accessible for our teachers, the entire process is in a HyperDoc format, and teachers can utilize all resources needed for this unit guide in one place. Such an awesome idea and resource for teachers!  Their goal was to incorporate short, effective activities in order to keep vocabulary practice a fixture in the classroom. As we look towards next year, our school is hoping to place a stronger emphasis on vocabulary and language development in all classrooms. With this, Mr. Fleming and Mr. Hurst's unit plan is a great step forward in helping teachers easily integrate vocabulary instruction into the classroom on a consistent basis. The key word is consistent. If we want our students to expand their vocabulary, it needs to be consistent, and they need to be given opportunities to practice and master the difficult language. 

As stated earlier, Mr. Fleming and Mr. Hurst include numerous options for teachers to incorporate into their daily lessons. What I loved about the unit is that it puts ownership both on the teacher and students and also incorporates great opportunities to practice vocabulary using the awesome resource, Quizlet. In addition, the words chosen to emphasize are chosen based on purpose in the class and relevance to future work students will complete. It is not an exhausting list; instead, it is manageable and realistic for our students to learn during a unit of study. 

The unit begins with teachers introducing vocabulary words by asking students to complete a Google Form that assesses their understanding of the words in context. This initial assessment provides great data for teachers about their students' understanding of the vocabulary and can guide them moving forward when it comes to differentiating instruction for students. 

Steps 2 and 3 utilize Quizlet by asking students to study definitions using Quizlet flashcards and playing games of their choice with Quizlet's game options. Engagement will be taken to the next level by incorporating these digital elements, as a majority of students get excited and motivated to complete activities when they become competitive. Mr. Fleming and Mr. Hurst encouraged teachers to try Quizlet Live, too, as it provides a competitive flavor to the lesson but also asks the students to collaborate with classmates during the process. Mr. Fleming explained to our teachers that he recommends utilizing Quizlet Live after students are a bit more comfortable with the vocabulary words. 
Steps 4, 5, and 6 include activity options for teachers to take student interactions with the vocabulary to the next level: practicing words in context, connecting vocabulary to different words and concepts, and completing practice assessments in Quizlet. Mr. Hurst and Mr. Fleming include templates for teachers to use for these higher-level activities in their HyperDoc. As they continue to modify and add different items to this type of a unit guide, Mr. Hurst and Mr. Fleming are aware of  some fantastic digital resources that can also help with practicing these higher level skills:
  • Pear Deck  - Awesome features to assess students (either teacher or student paced) like multiple choice, short answer, draggables, drawing, and more. 
  • Pear Deck's Flashcard Factory - A collaborative game that asks students to make flashcards to study later utilizing words and drawings. (Student ownership at its finest)
  • FlipGrid - Ask students to do something connected to the vocabulary in video form. As I always say, if a student can verbally articulate something, their understanding of the concept (or word in this case) will automatically improve
  • Google Drawings - Create some sort of visual (image, chart, graphic organizer, etc.) in Google Drawings and ask students to do something with the visual. Define, drag and drop, draw, and so on. Eric Curts has some awesome ideas for utilizing Google Drawings in class. (Control Alt Achieve) Thanks to Steve Wick for this great suggestion! 
The final step of the process is an assessment, using the Quiz feature in Google Forms, that asks students to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary at the end of the unit. With Google Forms' informative response data and the ability to manipulate data collected in a Google Sheet, teachers are fully equipped to monitor student progress and growth. 

Wow! Talk about a great way to motivate teachers to take vocabulary instruction to the next level in their classrooms. Mr. Fleming and Mr. Hurst's plan for action is simple, effective, and engaging on multiple levels. As we continue to focus on vocabulary in our classrooms, they are excited to adapt instructional resources, like their Romeo and Juliet unit guide, for different teachers and subjects around our school. Teachers helping teachers help students. Now, that's  #whatsup!