Learning by Writing

This week I am celebrating our learning through the process of writing.

Writing to Learn Vocabulary

Vocabulary is directly taught in my classroom, and is rooted in the thinking set forth in Beck/McKeowan/Kucan’s Creating a Robust Vocabulary.  Tier two words are chosen based on our read aloud. The intent is to teach grade level vocabulary — enhancing comprehension and as well as oral and written language. In the past, my students and I have labored over multiple choice and fill in the blank assessments. The results: the students who were good readers and had good vocabulary did well — others struggled with meaning and usage.

Today, I still directly teach 3-4 words a week based on the same criteria.  The difference is writing.  Rather than fill in the blank assessment, at the end of the week students write for 15 minutes about our read aloud using as many vocabulary words as they can to summarize and explain their ideas about the story. Their objective is not only to use the words, but to use them in a way that enhances their writing.

What I loved about this week’s work was how students used words, generated from our previous read aloud, to describe their ideas about our current read aloud. Words such as adamant, mortify, confrontational, subtle, analyze, spiteful, delude, euphoric, passive, anxiety, ordeal, empathy  were coming up in a different context than where they were originally introduced. This accurate transference of words was not only for meaning but for usage.  WOW!  And this is a class of English language learners. Reading their papers last night made me smile and celebrate.

One disclaimer (or is it really my point?): Students were allowed to use their vocabulary cards. Is this cheating? Are they learning? I think this is the learning, learning by using the language.  Students are learning the proper usage and meaning of the words through the process of writing.

Writing to Inform Instruction 

Weekly writing using vocabulary words shows how students’ minds wrap around meaning and how they incorporate it into their language. Patterns emerge and my next teaching steps are defined. Students who need small group instruction  pop up as do misunderstanding in the meaning of  words.

A group of students that need help with correct usage wrote things like:

The doctor was being analyze when he was talking to Melody.

Mom was feeling anxiety when the doctor told her about Melody.

Melody’s mom felt mortify when she was yelling and screaming in the store.

Bonus Points

This weekly vocabulary writing has been seeping into other parts of the day. When blogging about their reading, a student asked:

Can I use my vocabulary cards to help me write? It really helps me.  

Of course, what a great idea, I respond and inside I celebrate.