Vocabulary is at the heart of every subject we teach, but teaching vocabulary usually feels like flossing teeth. You know you should do it, but it’s never much fun. In a recent post on the NCTE Connected Community, Eric Hyman offers an alternative view on how to assess and teach this age-old instructional staple:
“Don’t test. Instead assign words as mini-research projects, either individually, as partners, or in small groups. Encourage students to go beyond simply looking something up in a dictionary or Wikipedia. Try to get them to use sources other than online. Use it as a starting point to distinguish between denotation and connotation. Consider historical change. This should be more fun, is likely to be more effective in retention, and just might inspire students to do more, both with vocabulary building and beyond with curiosity-driven enterprises generally. It might even be an opportunity to (tactfully) touch on dialectical differences.”
When asked if he could be quoted for this blog, Eric was quick to point out these are not solely his own ideas, but rather an amalgam of best practices collected over time. If you want to read more about what these might look like in practice, check out this case study of a high school in California where a group of teachers took a year to dive deep into academic vocabulary.