Tricks and Treats for Teaching Vocabulary in the Secondary Classroom

In our secondary content-based classrooms, we often forget the importance of starting with the fundamentals, including the teaching of vocabulary.  For many, this task is a boring, repetitive task where students define terms in exchange for a grade in the gradebook.  That should not be the case.  Learning vocabulary should be engaging, it should be fun, and it should be memorable.
Tricks for teaching vocabulary in the secondary classroom

So, in honor of our Secondary Smorgasbord theme of All Treats & No Tricks for Teachers this month, I'm going to offer a vocabulary teaching treat, but also a few tricks for implementing the lessons with ease!

First of all, the TREAT!  Yes, I know!  That's the most important part.

With this easy Vocabulary Graphic Organizer, students can record vocabulary at the beginning of each unit, notate it's connotation for the unit, and illustrate the image for a graphic reminder of its use and importance.

And then there are the TRICKS:
  • Assign individual vocabulary to pairs or small groups of students. Have each group become experts on the term and report back to their classmates.  Reporting can be visual, oral, or even a performance!
  • Always have students illustrate vocabulary.  Not only does their hand motion impress on their brain, but the visual will help them recall the term when it is needed at a later time.  Make the visualization fun by creating a complete wall mural with your vocabulary list each unit.  
  • Play games with words.  Create puzzles, matching games, or even crosswords to help students correlate terms with their meanings.  Use a Word Wall Game Board to build up your vocabulary in an interactive manner.
Teaching vocabulary does not have to be a boring routine in your classes.  It can be a fun activity that reinforces the terms while helping your students step into the upcoming unit in a way that will keep them engaged and interested as they learn new words.  In the end, they will be better prepared for your course, but also better prepared for their future academic careers.

Follow my blog in upcoming weeks for an in-depth study of the academic vocabulary all students need at the secondary level.  Additional tools may be offered along the way!

And be sure to link through the Secondary Smorgasbord hosted by Desktop Learning Adventures and The ELA Buffet for other great TREATS, and maybe a few good tricks, too!

Michele Luck

My Favorite Graphic Organizers for the Classroom

Graphic Organizers are incredibly handy for teaching, recording, and reinforcing content in the secondary classroom.  Students often enjoy using graphic organizers, especially if they help them to visualize content and better process the information they are learning in class.

 I love new Ideas for using graphic organizers in the secondary classroom. These are perfect for my middle school students and can help them in their high school classes, too. I love SPRITE, but I like Face-Off for some of my American and World History lessons. And the last one is a great tool for any social studies classroom.

I've used graphic organizers since I first started teaching years ago, and while the organizers have evolved over time, they are still a very powerful tool.  From the simple T-chart to image graphics to acronym-based pages, students have learned to utilize the organizers to help them better grasp the content and as a powerful tool for study.

Graphic organizers can also help students become better organizers.  While I started off having students cut and paste organizers into their notebooks, I eventually switched to drawing out the model on the board to save paper or simply printing whole page organizers to serve as the day's recording tool.  As students add these pages to their notebooks in the order they are assigned, it helps them learn the value of organization!

So, here are a few of my favorites:
 SPRITE is my all time favorite for all of my Social Studies classes.  Here's my Freebie that includes the organizer and a great description page for students.  
Be sure to also take a look at my SPRITE series with complete text readings.
 My BRAGS organizer is a handy tool for all content reading and 
informational text analysis.

Ideas for using graphic organizers in the secondary classroom.
 Face-Off is a super strategy for perspective comparison.
Ideas for using graphic organizers in the secondary classroom.
PERSIA is another great category sorter.

Ideas for using graphic organizers in the secondary classroom.
 Annotated Timelines are incredible for recording information and 
setting up a series of events.

And there are so many more, like Cause and Effect Charts, Voice Bubbles, Webs, and Maps, but these are my favorites for the secondary classroom.

What are your favorite graphic organizers for your students?
 I love new Ideas for using graphic organizers in the secondary classroom. These are perfect for my middle school students and can help them in their high school classes, too. I love SPRITE, but I like Face-Off for some of my American and World History lessons. And the last one is a great tool for any social studies classroom.

Happy Teaching!

Michele Luck

Monday Mapping: Effective Learning & Study Habits for Secondary Students

Secondary students, while physically grown and developed, are still in the process of developing their cognitive abilities.  To help them along, we can provide structure in the secondary classroom that will set them up with effective learning and study habits for the rest of their academic careers.

While each secondary classroom is, and should be, different, the structure for basic learning should be the same.  This will help students to know what to expect and will help them to structure their own study strategies for most effective academic success.

What are the most Effective Learning and Study Habits to practice in the classroom? 

Tips for teaching effective learning and study habits for the secondary classroom

They are utilizing practices based on the following 6 simple principles:
  1. Attention - Getting and keeping students' attention is key.  Make lessons relevant and use engaging bellringers to draw interest at the beginning of each day.  Keep students engaged by involving them in every stage of the learning process and by assessing for comprehension and content understanding on a regular and frequent basis.
  2. Goal Orientation - Setting goals helps everyone to know where they are going, and then to get there faster and with less interference from distraction.  In the classroom, these goals are specific objectives for each day and for each unit.  They should tie together, be understood by students, and be reachable.  HOWEVER - do NOT write "lesson plan objectives" on the board for student goal orientation.  They do not care about the standards or the wordiness required in our lesson plans for the administration.  Just state it simply and be clear on what you expect.
  3. Organization - Organization is KEY!  Knowing where you are going, and transitioning to get there effectively helps reinforce the overall objectives of the lesson.  More importantly, it helps students know what to expect and will help them to stay on task.
  4. Rehearsal - Practice makes perfect!  We grew up with that explanation for every challenge we tackled.  And it's true.  Studies show that we better retain content when we rehearse or practice it multiple times.  Introduce content in varied ways, utilize varied activities, practice skills to reinforce content, rehearse all lessons with whole-class discussion wrap-ups, and always close with a check on the objective and its completion.
  5. Time on Task -Setting aside appropriate time for lessons is the greatest challenge for most teachers.  We know what we want to teach, but knowing how long it will take depends on so many uncontrollable factors.  The key to success in this area is being willing to step off the schedule when it is needed.  More importantly, allow the time needed for activities, and do not push students to stop the learning process just to meet a time restraint.
  6. Depth of Processing - Students need to be engaged with challenging content.  When they are forced to think harder, they will learn to think better, and they will eventually gain processing skills vital for more in-depth learning.  In addition to teaching the process skills, it will also help student retain the content as they continue to process and practice the information.
Setting up this basic structure in your classroom can help students better focus their time and energy to help them learn more effectively and with less stress and frustration.

Need a tool to help students examine their learning and study habits?  Take a look at this Student Study Survey in my TpT Store.

Tips for teaching effective learning and study habits for the middle or high school classroom.

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

Why Do We Have to Learn History?

By this time in the semester, students have taken the first unit test and they are starting to ask 
the BIG questions...

Tips for answering the big question about why we teach Social Studies in the secondary classroom
Why do we have to take this class?
Why is history important?
How will I ever use this in my REAL life?

While I have my own answers to these questions, this great Time article, America's Students Need History - But Not for the Reasons You're Hearing, says it all with great research and updates on current reforms and issues circling the History classroom. 

Read it for your own information (and that feeling or reassurance) or, even better, have your students read it for a great lesson!

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck