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Vocabulary Cycle

Vocabulary Cycle

A recursive cycle with strategies and tools for vocabulary learning that also works for content area instruction:
chunking, assess, feedback for learning awareness, awakening, annotation, application


Elaborating on the 5Cs  (Concept, Content, Clarify, Cut, Construct -- Cycle, Conversation), teachers and students develop vocabulary lists for the content classroom. A cycle of strategies for the classroom results that will help students develop accurate schema for understanding the words of the work they must learn.


We learned the 5cs of vocabulary lesson development, adapted here:
Concept: What words explain the concepts?
Content: What content words appear in the text?
Clarify: What words are most important to study?
Cut: What words could be eliminated?
Construct (teacher): What words, definitions, and examples must be included?
Conversation: Awaken the schema through conversation in the current lesson before new lesson words
Construct (student): What words will you choose from this text to learn (from teacher list and their own based on a large list from the concept, content, clarify list created by teacher)?

Sixth C: Cycle

Think of vocabulary teaching/learning as a cycle into which new and review words continuously flow, both from the teacher and the student.

The cycle of vocabulary schema development begins and ends with conversation:

Vocabulary Cycle Map:

Vocabulary Resources

To view a list of other resources important to vocabulary study, see this blog post: http://whatelse.edublogs.org/2011/07/15/six-vocabulary-visits/
It is full of resources for vocabulary study.

Assessment for Learning

Each aspect of the vocabulary cycle allows the teacher to assess student progress towards understanding the vocabulary concepts needed to further their math and science learning. The activities allow feedback and conversation throughout. Each activity should include individual, partner, and whole class discussion to clarify and extend the learning for each and for all students.

Vocabulary Cycle

Students understand words only when they can use it themselves with their schema and descriptions.  In order to develop this, start vocabulary activities for new words before the unit while reviewing the vocabulary of the current unit.

Begin and end in conversations:

Preview—Provide awareness of words through conversation before unit.
Introduction – Awaken understanding of words through various activities at the beginning and throughout the unit of instruction.
Practice—Annotation of words in own words and pictures to develop schema.
Converse—Application of words in lesson and daily use – practice in class activities, written work, and reflection on chosen word lists.

Preview—Provide awareness of words through conversation before unit.

Before the lesson from which the words are taken, within a current lesson, mention the new vocabulary with words, images, examples, and nonexamples from the current lesson and the real world.

(Example: Trees  Flickr Math World    Flickr Math Groups  Flickr Math in the Real World )

Introduction – Awaken understanding of words through various activities at the beginning and throughout the unit of instruction.

Word Concepts
Students or teacher insert (copy/paste) text into site. All the main words of the text appear in a box. Choose the content area from the menu below the word list (science, math, academic) to highlight those words.. Analyze the word map which is created below the word list to choose vocabulary words. Create a visual word map for discussion by dragging the words from this list deemed most important to the lesson into the workspace (you may need to click the menu item "Create a Workspace." Add the images (click "make images draggable") and words. Discuss. I took screenshots of these; students can too, or project all on board.

Here is a tour of how wordsift works: http://wordsift.com/site/videotour/newFeat

Imput text (this is from BearCreekMath Sugar Handout from Mar. 2011 MSP Workshop)

Wordlist with math words highlighted (choose words (math, science) below workspace to highlight words):

Below this list are the wordmap of any word from the list you click and images that match the word:

Look at the wordmap; Choose words from list to change the map, or add one in:

Create a workspace from the menu below the list and drag/drop words from the list and images to create a visual for discussion:

Wowser: Words and Pictures; Students or teacher. This picture can be projected or printed (I took a screenshot); students can discuss in partners or groups how the words and pictures connect. The conversations on the text and the images add depth to the students' understanding.

Learner Dictionary
This dictionary offers word definitions in learner terms rather than dictionary terms:
You or the students can access these for better word understanding. It’s free to use and students with email can create their own account.

Practice—Annotation of words in own words and pictures to develop schema.

Word Connections 1 – Understand the word using your own words.
In order to understand a word, the student needs to describe the word in his or her own words; making connections from the text and his/her own life deepens the understanding.

Students draw two- three triangles on their paper. In the center, students write one vocabulary word. On two of the lines, students write connections directly from the text, problem, or image. On one of the lines, students write a personal connection that relates to the concept. Think-Pair-Share.

Robert Marzano research suggests this format for vocabulary learning and review:

Word Connections 2 – Understand the word in your own pictures and words.

Describe and sketch word meanings on paper or use online tools. Share and discuss; verify understandings. The thinking behind these, either online or on paper, solidifies the learning.

Suggestions: Comic Creators

Toondoo: free -- just sign-up.
For fifty students for 12 month use in a private social space, the cost is $105.


MakeBeliefs -- no sign up required; can email to teacher; I took screenshot.


Study – Teacher or student created study cards.

Free Online (for a fee, more options):

Flashcard Exchange


More options are available for only $19.95 a year!
Easily upload words via a spreadsheet or a Google Document with two columns labeled Question and Answer.
Central Tendency Google Spreadsheet
Central Tendancy Flashcards (Click Study)

Spelling City
Free for many items.  Thirty students for one year is $49.95.  With premium membership, the site tracks all activity for spelling, vocabulary, and writing. Students can be grouped for differentiation. Grades can be transferred to your gradebook.  Many more games available. Writing can be emailed to teacher; feedback from teacher added.

The following are free:

Converse—Application of words in lesson and daily use – practice in class activities, written work, and reflection on chosen word lists.

Word Whirl

Once students begin to understand and use the words, use activities that support this use.
Students bring their best new vocabulary words, ready for Word Whirl. Students think about a poem or speech with their words for two minutes so that in one to two minutes they speak on a topic or recite their poem. They try their ideas out with a partner, seeking questions on content and format, and offering those to their partner. Students rethink their work for two minutes. Now the whirl: students pop up and share their work to the class. Listeners write down the interesting word(s) they hear, and one compliment. Next person pops. At the end all students either turn in their list/compliments or type them into a shared google doc. The document is discussed as a class as it is projected, or a leader shares the compliments and key words. What did you like? What did you notice? What was confusing? What word will you try? Students add their whirl to the Wordsmith Wonders, their own blog, or a common wiki or site.

Wall Wisher

Create an online word wall for links, descriptions, images about your vocabulary. Make it public so anyone can post. You can still moderate each post.

Wiki Word Wall

Create a wiki page with vocabulary words. Students create videos or pictures and text to explain concepts. Fifth Grade Start
Create a page for each letter or for each lesson. Students submit descriptions, videos, examples, etc. to explain.

Vocabulary Document

View and download a template of these ideas here:  Vocabulary Cycle Document