Friday, July 5, 2013

Word Nerds Chapter 4: Squeezing the Juicy Words

Hi, guys! It’s Friday and that means it’s time to link up for Word Nerds! Thanks to Sabra at Teaching With a Touch of Twang for organizing this book study! I hope everyone had a fun and safe Independence Day celebration!

I have to be completely honest, right now I am enjoying the yummy smells of bacon and coffee, and I am at the BEACH!!! Because my brain is on island time, this post may be a little shorter and sweeter than normal. Nevertheless, here we go!

In chapter 4, the main focus was on exploring synonyms and antonyms of vocabulary words to deepen students’ understanding.

I think this paragraph from the end of the chapter sums it up best:

‘When we introduce synonyms and antonyms, we help our students build word relationships and vocabulary networks. Activities that require them to contemplate word meanings and engage in academic discussions about vocabulary enable them to construct deeper content knowledge, which in turn leads to higher achievement. Their success inspires them to learn more.“

The synonym and antonym step of the lesson comes on day two after students have had time to play with the vocabulary words on day one. Leslie and Margot preplan synonyms and antonyms for each word as part of their planning, but they let the students come up with words themselves during the lesson. This exploratory piece is vital to their engagement and understanding of the words. As they discover both examples and non-examples, students develop a richer understanding of the word meanings.

To do this, students use reference materials (dictionaries and thesauruses) to search for synonyms and antonyms. Using the reference materials began as sort of an accident one day when Leslie’s projector wouldn’t work! It’s funny how the best moments are often the ones that are unplanned. The teachers do mention that when they first started using the reference materials, they had to push students to use words outside of their comfort zones rather than sticking with words they already knew. They urged students to find “Velcro words, “ or words that tend to stick in your brain- love it!

It was during this small group exploration time when one student found a particularly interesting word and exclaimed, “Look at this word! It’s downright juicy!” From then on, the term “juicy” stuck and became the label for cool and interesting words.

After small groups each come up with a list of synonyms and antonyms for each word, the class comes together to discuss their findings. As a class, two synonyms and two antonyms for each word are voted on and added to the class anchor chart. Students also add the words to their vocabulary journals. Because only two words can be chosen, the teachers say this part gets lively as students fight to defend the words their group found. I’m sure this creates a magical atmosphere as the class tries to pick the best possible synonyms and antonyms for each word.

A side note: The teachers mention that they have discussions with students about the importance of code-switching. Because the students in the book resemble my students, this part was especially important to me. When students learn new “juicy” words, they need to know the appropriate contexts in which to use those words. I like how the teachers explain this to kids using the terms “Backyard Barbeque Talk” and “Professional Talk.” It’s understandable for kids and can help them avoid those awkward conversational moments when they could accidently offend someone by using words the person may not know.

Once students have learned the words and had time to explore with synonyms and antonyms, they still need additional practice and exposure to the words before they become cemented in their brains. The teachers provide a great idea that they use in their classrooms to provide opportunities for extra practice.

Vocabulary Lanyards

Students are assigned a vocabulary word each day and wear their word on a lanyard- the kind with the clear plastic sleeve- so the word is clearly visible. Throughout the day, students are asked to do various tasks using the word they are wearing. I created this little card with the prompts the teachers provided in the book to encourage vocabulary practice during the day. The card below just gives a basic idea of how you could use the lanyards. The possibilities are endless! My computer is acting up right now, so i can't offer this to you just yet. I'll be back later to see if I can fix it and you will be able to download it. Sorry for the technical difficulties!! 


Whew! That was longer than I anticipated and the beach is calling my name!!

It’s your turn to share your thoughts and ideas from this chapter. Link up below! I can’t wait to read what you guys have to share!



Now, I’m grabbin’ a cold drink, my Dan Brown book, and my chair. It’s five o’clock somewhere!!!


1 comment:

  1. This was one on my favorite Chapters! I really love how students are really learning FIVE new words instead of just one - all by adding synonyms and antonyms. :-)

    Corrina
    From Mrs. Allen's Teaching Files

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