Friday, April 13, 2012

Having Fun With Vocabulary With Your Child

I have had a vocabulary incentive in my room for years, and it's amazing how motivated the students are to use it. It has various ins and outs, but basically, if my students see one of our vocabulary words in print -- or they can get their parents or teacher to slip in some of the words into their conversation and the student identifies it -- they earn points from me. What is so interesting is that every time I do this activity, the students are very eager to find the words, to have their points recorded, yet never ask me what they will "earn" for those points. For example, this year some students have already earned 50 points, yet no one has asked me what they will receive as their prize. Not one. We all just enjoy using and playing with the words, that's all. I just read an article about a high school teacher who gives students stickers on a chart each time they use a vocabulary word in their writing. Stickers -- for high schoolers? Parents, that's all it takes -- some fun, some challenge -- and our children are eager to learn.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Assessing Students' Oral Responses

I caught an interesting article on Education Week Teacher, a teacher wondering if and how teachers can assess oral contributions made by her students. Her musings began as she wondered why her own daughter who apparently offered strong insight into classroom discussions did not earn points for doing so. Is there a way to form a rubric for such students?

When my son participated in Odyssey of the Mind, one activity was for students to sit around in a circle, passing around an object. When the object reached each student, she was to verbally turn the object into something else. A shoe, as it landed into different hands, became a boat, a hat, cockpit, a corset. If the student made her object somehow tie to the object just before hers, she received an extra point. A boat became a paddle, a corset became a straight jacket.

Discussions in class could have a similar, yet dissimilar, rubric. Just as some rubrics for essays reward points when the writer hits upon certain, key, topics covered in class, general discussion rubrics could award points for tying in key topic in class, connecting to the speaker just before her, even the use of complex sentences.

It would take some doing. But in a world where the spoken word is just as valuable as the written word -- and, in some cases, far more valuable -- such a rubric seems to have found its time.