Vocabulary in the Strangest Places

Our school’s major push for a while has been to incorporate strong vocabulary instruction into the daily lives of students. As a reading specialist in my situation, most of my impact is on small pull out groups, so while I meet and know a lot of students, I don’t get a chance to give direct instruction to a lot of students at the school. I knew I wanted to try to reach more kids, but I wasn’t really sure where to start.

In the fall, I attended the Illinois Reading Council Conference in Springfield with a colleague. We started the conference on the right foot by walking through the vendor section and picking up as many free goodies as possible. It was great. We were really excited, though, when we came to the Lonestar Learning table where we saw vocabulary flash cards illustrated to look like their meaning. We were so excited about all the possibilities for our kids. We immediately decided to put in a purchase order and I got the Greek and Latin roots cards thinking I could incorporate them into the Vocabulary Their Way curriculum.

Lone Star Learning Get the Picture Vocabulary Cards Greek and Latin Roots

Soon after I returned to school, I attended another professional development seminar on reading interventions in primary grades with Dr. Mary Howard. She gave a lot of awesome ideas about building and developing vocabulary for students and one idea stuck out in particular. She mentioned a school that put up words around the water fountains in order to have one more touch point for new vocabulary. Immediately, I knew the Lonestar Learning Get the Picture Vocabulary Cards would be the perfect fit for this venue. The cards have visuals to help kids understand the meaning and I could put words using the root all around the card in order to introduce kids to new words. My closest water fountains are in the middle school hallway so I knew I would catch the attention of a lot of students who would connect with those words.

As I was creating word cards to put up, it hit me that many Spanish words have Latin roots, and since many students in our population speak Spanish at home, I created Spanish cognate cards for those roots as well.

When I walk down the hall with my third grade ELD group, we stop at the water fountains and look at the words, talk about the cognates, and try to figure out the meanings of the roots based on the pictures. I hear the older students talking about them at the water fountain. My students help me take down and put up new displays, which gives them the opportunity to work on and study those words.

It’s passive learning because I’m not directly teaching these words and there’s no assessment and the students may not ever use the words again. I know that. My hope is that they’ll recognize a word or word part in a new text and think back to the water fountain words. It’s the first step in my goal of making the building a 100% learning space – no blank space!

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