There are days when I sense that my students are anything but in the same room as I. Much like a person on one side of wall who is attempting to make human contact with those on the other, I understand the disconnect many students experience when delving into new material. For second-language learners, this is a regular experience in every classroom throughout the school and it must be incredibly frustrating. As educators we assume that young people understand words which are commonly accepted, but recently I've found this to be anything BUT the truth.
This semester I've focused on specific vocabulary words in an attempt to heighten understanding of concepts associated with reading and writing skills. Back in September during the first week of classes, I surveyed students to identify goals for their first semester of high school. We discussed the benefits of having a specific goal which would allow them to grow both academically and intellectually. To my amazement, over 75% of my students identified the need to expand their vocabulary, but none had any feasible insight on how to do it. The next morning I opened with this statement... "Who plays video games?" In all likelihood I sincerely believe that 100% of all hands went into the air and I quickly realized that the hook had been taken. "How many of you have improved in your ability to play these games? How did you do it?" Again, the fishing line went tailing into deeper waters with responses such as: ask friends for help, know the rules, read about the game on the internet, try over and over again, practice, and many more. "So how might you work to improve your vocabulary by expanding your word selection?"
Suddenly their minds were filled with ideas which quickly came into practice. Many of my students are making use of flash cards, studying with friends, and actively participating in weekly read-arounds. When we begin a new unit of study, I take time to reveal the definitions for featured words. I also make it a point to review meanings associated with prefix and suffix words, a common ground for misunderstanding throughout the English language. In our group writings, I constantly look for ways to include new descriptive words throughout the lesson. Suddenly I'm teaching "English" to Social Studies students, but I'm fine with this in the end. I'm finding that my teaching is more effective when I encourage students to be aware of their own strengths and needs. Students have the ability to set meaningful goals for themselves as long as they let Mr. D ask a few guiding questions in order to lubricate their brains. This new focus on vocabulary is definitely worth expanding upon in future classes.