I enjoyed looking around at the K12 Online Conference. There were many sessions that looked interesting. Mindcraft seems to be quite popular at TDA. In one session, a young man explained the game. I will definitely return to watch that session soon. The one I chose was Digital Tools for Differentiating Vocabulary Instruction presented by Susan Oxnevad. Vocabulary is always a topic of discussion for those of us who teach in the Learning Center. Vocabulary is one of the best predictors of academic success. Our students have diagnosed learning disabilities. Vocabulary is often very hard for them. Yet, my students are the ones who really need vocabulary instruction in order to successfully read and understand content material. We go around about using the vocabulary book provided by the school, finding our own, or creating our own from novels and texts. Additionally, teaching vocabulary can be dry. I am always looking for ways to improve this very important skill.
In this session, Oxnevad opened by telling the viewers why vocabulary instruction is necessary. She outlined the core standards for vocabulary. The part I found most interesting was that she divided up vocab words into three tiers. Tier one words are common and have one meeting. Tier two words have multiple meanings. Tier three words are specific to a specific subject or content area. She charged that we, as teachers, need to focus on tier two words as these words mean one thing in one instance and something else in another. This struck a cord with me as this is the very area where my students have trouble. They know one meaning for a word and then become confused if that meaning is not used. Many times, they do not monitor for meaning so they skip the passage and chaos ensues. They become totally lost and don’t know it!!
Next, Oxnevad moved on to showing online tools for teaching vocabulary. She divided them into two groups, interactive tools for deep knowledge that take some setting up and 10 minute tools that are quick to use. First, she reviewed ThingLink, Padlet, Googledocs presentation mode and InstaGrok. In each example, she showed how the sites work, gave pros and cons for each, as well as ideas for use in the classroom. Many were great for older children. However, I loved InstaGrok. Students can work together to create an interactive flash card. InstaGrok is a search engine that can be tailored for varying grade levels. Students search the word and create a multi-media flash card. They can save all of the information in an online journal. I LOVE this idea. My class could work together to create flash cards that are interactive for our vocabulary words. They may insert video clips, pictures and text. They are going to love kinesthetic approach to vocab. I love that my students will be able to access these flash cards from home, smart phones anywhere, anytime.
Finally, she threw out some ten minute tools that require little or no preparation. She reviewed Vocabgrabber, Wordle, and Lingro. Lingro is very neat because you open the Lingro page, paste any webpage into the box and it makes all the words on the page clickable for definitions. This would be especially useful for ESOL classrooms.