Zooming in on Vocabulary: Prezi and the Frayer Model

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey and Dana L. Grisham

Graphic organizers have helped many students grasp vocabulary for years. The most effective uses of graphic organizers require students to use vocabulary, often through engagement with text, peers, and teachers in multiple ways.  In other words, it won’t do for students to simply “complete” a graphic organizer. Rather, they must use the organizer to explore the concept or vocabulary term under consideration.

In this post, we share the tool Prezi as a digital home for the Frayer model of vocabulary learning. Prezi works like traditional slide deck programs, such as PowerPoint or Google Slides in some ways, but Prezi does not rely on linear presentation models. Rather, you can zoom in and out to different parts of the Prezi or follow a prescribed path. Prezi allows the creator or user to zoom from area to area by dragging or by following a pathway that may or may not be linear. The user can zoom in to closely examine one aspect of the show, or zoom out to obtain a broad overview.  This aspect of Prezi makes it a perfect digital tool for the Frayer model.

Click the images to be taken to the Prezi templates you can reuse in your own classroom.

Prezi Frayer Template

Prezi Template for Frayer Model

This version uses a picture as one element of the Frayer.

Frayer Picture Prezi

Prezi Template for Frayer with Picture

We have found that the strength of the Frayer model lies in its requirement that students explore “non examples” of the target term.  The Frayer is a simple graphic organizer with four quadrants and the word in the middle. It is similar to word maps and other vocabulary learning organizers. However, the Frayer asks students to dig more deeply into what they know and can discover about the term by examining critical attributes.  This is where non-examples come in to play.

A non-example must be more than just an opposite or something generic that a target word to be learned is not. That is to say, that if an astronomy target word is “eclipse” then the non-example cannot simply be “galaxy.” The two terms share a topic in common, but they do not share some attributes that lead to great depth of understanding. As students become increasingly familiar with the target word, they should also explore attributes of the term. Once they are familiar with the attributes of the target, they can identify non-examples that might be confused with the term because the non-examples might share some, but not all, of the target attributes.  Through discussion and exploration of internet resources, students come to a much deeper understanding of the concepts represented by the target word.

Using “eclipse” as a target word for Frayer, students might realize that the attributes of the concept of eclipse include one celestial body, such as a moon, passing in front of another, such as the Earth blocking light from reaching an observer. While celestial bodies pass in front of each other regularly, the key attribute of an eclipse is that light is blocked from the point of view of an observer.  A non-example of “eclipse” is “lunar orbit.” In a lunar orbit, the moon routinely passes in front of an observer on Earth, but only periodically does it also block the light from the sun.

In our work with vocabulary, we have found (see our article on Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy in The Reading Teacher) that a search for relevant images is a powerful way for students to make sense of the words they encounter. For this reason, we have changed one quadrant of the Prezi’d Frayer to include an image representing the target word. Finally, we suggest that students post links to their Frayer organizers on a class blog or other website.  Activities asking students to view and respond to each other’s Prezi’s further improve the possibility that students deeply learn the target words that are so important in many content areas.

We have made the two Prezi templates public and reusable. You can share these with your students to save as one of their own, or you can redesign our templates for your class needs.

Vocabulary Video Contest from the New York Times’ Learning Network

I’ve been exploring Vocab Vids as an engaging, multimodal approach to vocabulary learning.  I’ve seen how students from third to twelfth grade, as well as undergraduate and graduate students,  invest themselves in exploring word meaning, brainstorming skit ideas, and then shooting a video to express the word.

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I was delighted to receive a message last week that led me to the New York Times Learning Network’s blog featuring their Vocabulary Video contest (hurry, the contest ends, Dec. 5!).  In celebration of nearing publication of 1000 words in their word of the day blog, they have invited students from ages 13-10 to create and upload 15 second videos illustrating one of the featured daily words.

Even if you don’t enter the contest, I recommend that you check out the Learning Network’s  post to learn more about vocabulary videos.  They feature several teacher blogs and online references that are likely to be helpful in supporting vocabulary instruction.  I was happy to see that they also featured my Literacy Beat post, Vocab Vids.

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If your students post their vocab vids, please let me know.  I would love to see them and hear about your process.

VocabVid Stories: Developing vocabulary depth and breadth through live action video

A post from Bridget

Language is hard to express in words. Voltaire

Last week, Jill blogged about a chapter we wrote on developing vocabulary through multimodal expression (Castek, Dalton & Grisham, in press). I wanted to expand on the Vocab Vid strategy (Dalton & Grisham, 2011) and share some examples created by students in my graduate course on adolescent literacy. Their videos “show not tell” the potential of this multimodal word learning strategy. I have also included a handout at the end of the post that you can adapt for use with your students. I’ve learned that some structuring of the process results in more creative and effective videos.

The way that I‘ve been thinking about VocabVids is in the form of a short, live action story (30-45 seconds). Language learning is social – we learn with and about vocabulary as we experience it in specific contexts (Gee, 2004). We also know that many students benefit from multimedia learning, especially in relation to vocabulary (Mayer, 2005; Dalton, Proctor, Uccelli, Mo & Snow, 2011).

To create VocabVids, students work in small groups to develop a scenario for use of the word, discussing the nuances of word meaning and relationships between words. The planning process involves getting to know the word through initial research with tools such as an online thesaurus and an image search of the term. Students brainstorm a context for the word, asking who, what, where, when and why would this word be used? Skits are improvised, filmed, reviewed, and reshot if necessary. I deliberately have kept the process short – the video is planned and filmed in about 15 minutes – and the product is a live action video that does not involve editing. The final products are presented in class for discussion of the words and digital video skills, with an option to publish to a larger audience on the school website, YouTube, Teacher tube, etc.

But what about word choice? I would choose words for different purposes. To begin, you might ask students to select from a list of words that meet Beck and McKeowan’s notion of tier 2 words – words that are important to know and which aren’t part of everyday word knowledge. Or, you might want to open it wide and let students choose their own words, which could be quite specific to their interests, linked to a novel they are reading, or to a unit they are studying in science and social studies. Encourage them to choose a word that lends itself to being acted out (don’t avoid abstract words – they can be excellent candidates).

Student-designed Vocab Vids
The following 6 videos are posted with permission of the authors who are graduate students in my class, EnEd 3400, Reading and Learning with Print and New Media. I’ve highlighted the targeted word and story context for your information. However, I recommend that you and your students try watching the video without knowing the targeted word to see how quickly you can generate a range of guesses. Use the related words and storyline as clues to engage your students in active word learning.

VocabVid 1: ‘Ritual’ by Meridith and Ashley

With a coffee cup and the words ‘routine’, ‘pattern’, and ‘customary habit’, Ashley and Meridith illustrate a morning ritual many of us enjoy – drinking coffee.

VocabVid 2: ‘Conspicuous’ by Leah and Max

Playing Hide and Seek?  As Leah chides Max, it is very important to be ‘discreet’.  Since Max is usually ‘obvious’, ‘blatant’ and ‘eye-catching’, will he be able to find a hiding spot that is not ‘conspicuous’?

VocabVid 3: ‘Diminutive’ by Katie R and Laura

Laura convinces Katie that the spot on her jeans is ‘little’, ‘tiny’, ‘petite’, even ‘Lilliputian’.  It is ‘NOT huge’, as Katie fears, but “diminutive”!  Personally, I loved the Lilliputian reference from Gulliver’s Travels.

VocabVid 4: ‘Eerie’ by Erin

Flashing lights and strange noises in the bathroom result in a ‘weird’, ‘spooky’, ‘creepy’, and ‘eerie’ experience for Erin.

VocabVid 5: ‘Lurk’ by Neil and Yumeng

When does ‘lying in wait’ and ‘peeking’ turn into ‘lurking’?!  Yumeng helps Neil understand the difference.

VocabVid 6: ‘Braggadocio’ by Russell and Simon

Technical alert – this video is sideways, but funny!

Why would Russell call his friend a ‘bombast’ and scorn him for his ‘pomposity’ and lack of ‘humility’?  Watch ‘braggadocio’ Simon to find out!

STUDENT HANDOUT: 30 Second VocabVid Stories

 Your goal:  To show, not tell, the meaning of a word in a 30-second digital VocabVid  Story

VocabVid Stories are short (about 30-45 seconds) videos that illustrate the meaning of a word through a short skit.  The goal is to situate the word within a meaningful context to help us learn and remember the word.  And, you will learn something about designing short videos along the way!

 Plan

1.  Research your word to find synonyms, antonyms, and other related words that you can include in your story dialogue. Don’t forget to make note of different forms of the word. The Visual Thesaurus or other online thesaurus tools are great resources for exploring the meaning of your word.

2.  Brainstorm possible contexts for how the word might be used.  As you’re brainstorming, think about how you can act out your video skit.

  •  Where might you hear this word?
  • Who might be saying it?
  • What is happening?
  • When is the word being used?
  • Why are they saying it?
  • What kinds of feelings might be associated with this word?

3.  Do you need any simple props?

4. What is your location? Where will you film? (Since we are in school, I have made arrangements for you to use this class, the hallway, outside the door at the end of the hall, etc.)

5. Make a sign showing your word in writing (print the word large and clear so that it can be read on screen). You will show this sign at the end of the video.

 Film

6. Improvise your skit, giving each other feedback as you go along.

7. Film your skit and review (see the technical advice section on shooting your video and using a Flip camera).

8. Try filming again if needed and select the best one.

Show (and perhaps publish)

9. Share your videos in class and discuss what you learned about these words, as well as what you learned about creating VocabVid Stories.

10. Consider posting your video to a class website, blog, or YouTube (be sure to have everyone’s permission to post)

 Technical Tips for Shooting your Video

1. Don’t shoot into the light! (Avoid standing in front of windows).

2. Actors need to face the camera or each other at an angle that still allows them to be seen and heard. It is common for people to turn away from the camera, especially if they are in groups. Watch out for this.

3. Actors need to speak clearly! Be dramatic!

4. Find a quiet spot.  Test your volume at the beginning, so you know who needs to be louder or who needs to speak more clearly.

5. Show your vocabulary word on a piece of paper at the end.  I have provided markers and paper for you to use.

 Flip Camera Directions

  • How to Turn Your Camera On: Slide the gray button on the top right side of the camera down. Your camera will automatically turn on.
  • How to Begin Shooting: Hold the camera in the vertical position (otherwise, you will get sideways video!). Press the red button to begin filming.
  • How to Stop Shooting: Press the red button again.  There is no way to pause your videos, so you will have to complete them in one take. But, please film a few takes and compare so that you can choose the best one!
  • Zoom In/Out: Press the + button to zoom in and the – button to zoom out.
  • How to Play Videos Back: Press the Play button to the left side of the screen. Press it again to go to the next video.
  • How to Delete Videos: If you want to delete a video, press the trash can twice.

ONLY KEEP THE FINAL VERSION OF THE VIDEO ON THE FLIP CAMERA. DELETE ALL OTHER VERSIONS BEFORE RETURNING THE CAMERA to Robin – she will download on Bridget’s computer.

 References:

Castek, J., Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. (in press). Using multimedia to support students’ generative vocabulary learning. In J. Baumann and E. Kame’enui (Eds.) Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Dalton, B., Proctor, C.P., Uccelli, P., Mo, E. & Snow, C.E. (2011).  Designing for diversity:  The role of reading strategies and interactive vocabulary in a digital reading environment for 5th grade monolingual English and bilingual students.  Journal of Literacy Research, 43 (1), 68-100.

Dalton, B. & Grisham, D. (2011).  eVoc strategies: Ten ways to use technology to build vocabulary. The Reading Teacher, 64(5), 306–317. DOI:10.1598/RT.64.5.1

 

Shrek and Big Bang Theory: Using Popular Culture to Develop Vocabulary

A post from Bridget

I have been on a vocabulary roll lately. Everywhere I go, I find myself intrigued by vocabulary instruction possibilities inherent in our everyday experiences, enmeshed as they are in technology and media.

Idea #1: Driving home listening to an NPR radio show on new words from 2010, I found myself singing “I’m a belieber” to the tune of the Beatles song.  No, that is not a typo —  a belieber is someone who is a fan of Justin Bieber!  It would be fun and productive to have students nominate, advertise, and vote on “new” words or phrases, drawing on popular culture and current events, as well as local words that are part of their school, family, or community scene.

For example, my sisters and I know what it means when we say “donkey”, especially if accompanied by a raised eyebrow and gaze at the person of interest.  We’re referring to the Shrek movie scene where the donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy), is about to lose it and yells, All right, nobody move! I’ve got a dragon and I’m not afraid to use it! I’m a donkey on the edge! “

image of donkey from the movie Shrek

My sisters and I  know to back off and give the “donkey” some space, or to gently offer help (for memorable Shrek quotes, see  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126029/quotes ).

Students could post their written or multimodal nominations for new words to a class or school-wide vocabulary blog and construct a voting poll using a free tool like Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com).  1 minute podcasts for the ‘New word of the Week’ could become a regular feature of your class!

Idea #2. While we often bemoan the low level of vocabulary heard on TV, inspiration can be found in unlikely places.   “The Big Bang Theory”, a sitcom about a group of nerdy academics, makes me laugh out loud at the way language is used. The show presents multiple opportunities to engage students in exploring advanced vocabulary in a humorous social context. Students could watch video excerpts (there are a slew of them on youtube.com ) or read quotes (again, just Google ‘Big Bang Theory’ and you will find lists).  They would work with words in different ways, depending on the quote.

For example, the following Big Bang Theory quote offers a comical contrast of expert and novice:

The guys are playing the Halo video game and Peggy joins in…

Sheldon: This is a complex battle simulation with a steep learning curve. There are a myriad of weapons, vehicles, and strategies to master, and not to mention an extremely intricate back story.
[Explosion on the video screen.]
Penny: Oh, cool! Whose head did I just blow off?
Sheldon: Mine.

Big Bang Theory scene, playing Halo

The youtube scene is 2.49 minutes and includes several great examples of vocabulary and figurative language; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd37YLDWv28.

Students could begin by delving into Sheldon’s vocabulary (e.g., complex, myriad, intricate, back story, steep learning curve) and then discuss why Penny’s response and the outcome are both ironic and funny.  Would it be so humorous if Sheldon had merely said “Halo is an awesome video game that I play all the time”?   What if Penny had failed at the game? To extend the activity, have students create their own conversational exchanges contrasting “expert” and “novice” ways of talking so as to poke fun at the expert (or perhaps the reverse).

Sheldon often has difficulty understanding the social nuances of language. Here’s another quote from the show that invites a discussion of the differences between literal and abstract meanings,  and the fun that can be had when we intentionally (or unintentionally) confuse the two.

Leonard: For God’s sake, Sheldon, do I have to hold up a sarcasm sign every time I open my mouth?
Sheldon (intrigued): You have a sarcasm sign?

And, finally, here is an example of Sheldon’s use of hyperbole (i.e.,  exaggerated language that is “used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally, Wikipedia).

Sheldon:  When I try to deceive, I, myself, have more nervous tics than a Lyme Disease research facility.

In addition to interpreting and critiquing “Big Bang Theory” language use, students could be challenged to find examples in current events, TV, songs, billboards,  and overheard conversations.

Here is one from the Simpsons:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.”
(Kent Brockman, The Simpsons)

Another way to approach hyperbole is to start with an image as a stimulus. Consider this photo of a fish feeding frenzy.  Figuratively speaking, when do people go after something (other than food) with a voracious appetite – mobbing a celebrity for an autograph? devouring books?

fish feeding frenzy

Check out Worsely Middle School’s website featuring students’ use of hyperbole.  http://www.worsleyschool.net/socialarts/hyperbole/hyperbole.html

All too often, students think learning vocabulary is boring (especially when it involves looking up definitions and writing sentences).  Media and technology offer a fruitful playground for vocabulary learning, appreciation, and expression.  Try it and see!  And, please post a comment to share your insights and experience.  I can say without hyperbole that I would be over the moon!

NOTE. Photo acknowledgement:  Creative Commons license.  fish feeding frenzy by devan.laney.  Shrek movie image of donkey retreived from Google Image.  Image from Big Bang Theory taken from youtube.

Adopt a word…please?!

A post from BridgetOne of my grad students, Isabel Bauerlin, brought my attention to this quirky vocabulary website from Oxford University Press, savethewords.org. Unusual (dare I say, archaic?) words call out to you when moused over, “Hey you, adopt me!”. Of course, with adoption comes commitment – you must swear to incorporate the word into your speaking vocabulary (well, okay, perhaps your writing vocabulary). Just for fun, hold a weekly adopt-a-word day in your class. Have two or three students make a case for adopting a word and then have the class vote for their “adoptee”. The challenge is to see how creatively the word can be woven into conversation in and out of class during the week. In no time at all, you will find your vocabulary knowledge gumfiating (swelling, that is!). Verily, your students will find this activity to be locupletive (enjoyable), contributing to the word consciousness and playfulness that is at the heart of vocabulary development.  Enjoy!

Wordle – a free word cloud tool

A post from Bridget

Okay, here I go.  My first blog.  What is important enough to share?  Maybe I won’t worry so much about importance (for whom, after all?  It should be important to some, of course, and certainly important to me).

I’ve been playing with Wordle, a free online tool that allows you to create a word cloud based on the frequency of words in a text (wordle.com).  Here is one that I created based on a National Geographic article about the mysterious disappearance of bees:

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