A post from Jill
Fellow Literacy Beat bloggers Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham have just had a new piece published entitled Voc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary in Feb 2011 Reading Teacher! In this brilliantly insightful article Bridget and Dana invite teachers to ‘go digital with word learning’ and experiment with integrating technology. The piece draws on research-based principles of vocabulary instruction and features free digital tools and Internet resources that engage students in vocabulary learning. Bridget and Dana offer readers ten practical and easy-to-implement ways to develop students’ interest in words as they read, view, interact with, and create word meanings in digital and multimedia contexts. A listing of these ten strategies, a brief description of each, and live links to the resources included in the article follow:
The first five eVoc strategies focus on explicit teaching of vocabulary and helping students become independent word learners.
- eVoc Strategy 1: Learn From Visual Displays of Word Relationships Within Text – Two of Bridget and Dana’s favorite word mapping tools that support visual representation are Wordle and Wordsift. Both tools help students develop visual displays that highlight the relationships between words.
- eVoc Strategy 2: Take a Digital Vocabulary Field Trip – Teachers can create a digital version of a vocabulary field trip using a free online program called TrackStar. This tool makes it easy to collect a series of websites and annotations that together create a connected online journey.
- eVoc Strategy 3: Connect Fun and Learning With Online Vocabulary Games – Bridget and Dana recommend two sites that offer a variety of activities to engage students in playing with words and word meanings: Vocabulary Can Be Fun! and Vocabulary.com. Both sites feature games including crossword puzzles, picture-word matches, word scrambles, and other word fun. These sites offer hours of interactivity and enjoyment for students of all ages.
- eVoc Strategy 4: Have Students Use Media to Express Vocabulary Knowledge – This strategy focuses on students’ vocabulary representations in multiple modes—writing, audio, graphic, video, and animation. Bridget and Dana suggest that a multimedia composing and presentation tool that is often underused is PowerPoint. However, they found that PowerPoint can be used creatively for expression and offer compelling and illustrative suggestions and examples in the article.
- eVoc Strategy 5: Take Advantage of Online Word Reference Tools That Are Also Teaching Tools – Many online word reference tools, such as The Visual Thesaurus are also excellent teaching resources. This resources supplements its fee-based content with free information such as the Behind the Dictionary and Teachers at Work columns and teacher-created themed word lists. The Dictionary.com Back in School page can be accessed through a variety of platforms (iPhone, Facebook) so its always available as a support tool.
Strategies 6 and 7 highlight two online tools that provide just-in-time support while reading.
- eVoc Strategy 6: Support Reading and Word Learning With Just-in-Time Vocabulary Reference Support – Rather than using print dictionaries or asking teachers for help, students can learn to use online dictionaries and thesauri. Some word reference tools can be mounted on the browser toolbar, allowing students to right click on any word to look it up and have a brief definition display. For example, see the Dictionary Add-ons for Internet Explorer and Mozilla. Merriam-Webster offers an online visual dictionary, and Enchanted Learning provides a picture dictionary for young children.
- eVoc Strategy 7: Use Language Translators to Provide Just-in-Time Help for ELs – The value of a translator is that it supports learning words as they occur naturally in authentic text and allows students to view bilingual versions of a text side by side so that they can use their first-language knowledge to develop their English vocabulary. Babelfish,Google translator, and Bing Translator can be very helpful to English learners.
Strategies 8 and 9 help increase students’ volume of reading and, indirectly, their incidental word learning.
- eVoc Strategy 8: Increase Reading Volume by Reading Digital Text – Many educational publishers and organizations provide free online content, including articles and media about current events, some of which are generated by students themselves. A few of Bridget and Dana’s favorites include: Time for Kids, Weekly Reader, National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Kids’ blogs, and Science News for Kids.
- eVoc Strategy 9: Increase Reading Volume by Listening to Digital Text With a Text-to-Speech Tool and Audio Books – Text-t0-speech tools such as Click, Speak for Firefox, NaturalReader free TTS utility, and Balabolka, allow students to listen to text with audio narration. This provides students with access to age-appropriate content and grade-level curriculum.
The last strategy promotes social learning and taps into students’ natural desire to create, to participate in communities, and to develop strategic competence.
- eVoc Strategy 10: Combine Vocabulary Learning and Social Service – Free Rice offers an opportunity to promote students’ engagement with words while contributing to the social good. For each correct answer, the United Nations World Food Programme donates 20 grains of rice to countries in need.
Join me in applauding fellow bloggers Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham on a supremely well-done piece that offers numerous engaging ideas for expanding vocabulary using free digital tools.