“The X Factor” is literally a special quality. Among reality-show enthusiasts, though, it’s a popular musical talent competition, whose judges last season were Britney Spears, L.A. Reid, Demi Lovato, and the always curmudgeonly concept-originator Simon Cowell.
The following vocabulary-development activity introduces words with the “x” sound as their first syllable, paralleling some of the aspects of the show. It’s designed to bring pleasure to the process of vocabulary acquisition. Further, it is predicated on the research that shows knowledge acquired in a visual, hands-on fashion is knowledge more deeply embedded in student brains.
To illustrate: Imagine a teacher going to a student and whispering some juicy tidbit, complete with hand gestures, raised eyebrows, and covert glances to make sure no one is listening. Then imagine the teacher going to a second person and repeating the process. Next, imagine the teacher standing and announcing, “I just showed you what a quidnunc
is, what a quidnunc
does. Now…who can tell me what a quidnunc
Chances are, students will realize that a quidnunc
is a gossip. They’re also more likely to retain the concept much longer with this demonstration than with a sheet of paper containing the word’s vital statistics.
Here’s how the activity works. Introduce the task by briefly discussing the meaning of “The X Factor.” Explain that even if students have never seen the show, they will be doing some vocabulary acquisition with an activity that replicates the program. For instance, there will be four judges who will rate the performances of each team. Teams should feel free to decide on their own team names.
Divide the class into teams of four. If there are one, two, or three students “left over,” they will serve on the judges’ panel. If there are no leftovers, form a panel of four adults—parents, other teachers, the principal, the librarian, aides, etc.
Place a card in front of each judge, identifying his or her role. The lead judge will be the “Spearheader” of the vocabulary enrichment effort. This judge will break any ties that might arise. He or she will also be the one to expedite the judges’ arrival at a collective score for the word-performance.
La Reader is the person expected to provide specific, lexical comments. This judge will have a dictionary in front of him or her and will read words from the dictionary should a question arise.
“Demi-Tasse” is responsible for providing “half and half” commentary. For every positive bit of feedback she provides, she should provide another critical-but-constructive comment. While her remarks will focus on the clarity with which the word was presented or performed, Demi should also feel free to comment on the performance itself, the teamwork involved, and the creativity involved in its organization.
Finally, Simon or Simone Cowl will wear a cowl or hood of some sort on his or her head, representing this cantankerous judge. Following the presentation of an “X” word by a given team, the Cowl’d one will ask question of the presenters, to ensure their full comprehension of the word. Others in the class are free to ask questions as well. The questions should be about the meaning of the word or its part of speech, synonyms, cognates, etc. The “questioners” could also ask to hear a sentence that illustrates the meaning of the word in context.
If the teams are unable to answer any of the questions, or are unable to provide a solid example of its usage, it will count against them. As the next team prepares to step forward, the judges will quickly assess the performance of the first team and will have a combined score, reflecting the presentation.
Hand each team one sheet of paper with X words. A sample follows:
EXFOLIATE – verb, “to strip of leaves.” From the Latin “ex,” meaning “from”: and “folium,” a leaf. Meaning: To come off in flakes or layers, as skin or bark would do.
The teams will take ten minutes to decide on a word and determine how best to present it to their classmates in order for the new word to really “stick” in the heads of learners. The team could do a lecture, a panel, a skit (like the quidnunc
one), a mimed presentation, a song, a poem, or anything else they can come up with. Allow the use of any materials or art supplies in the classroom.
As soon as they have chosen a word, they will quietly tell the judge, who will announce that this particular word is no longer available to the other teams. Then, the judges will begin discussing the word, perhaps forming questions they would like to ask. (Bonus points could be given if the students include, for example, the origin of the word, an antonym, or a secondary definition.
Have each team provide a performance (three-minute maximum) of their “ex” word, with the judges providing feedback for each. The winning team receives a suitable prize—for example, an automatic 100% score on the next vocabulary word.
The same activity can be done with any number of words that have “em” or “en” sounds as their first syllable.
could serve as the stimulus for an extra-credit report: identifying Latin words and phrases still in use today. Similarly, demitasse
could be the start of a report on French words incorporated into our language.
Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D. writes extensively about education topics. Among her books on the subject are 500 CREATIVE CLASSROOM CONCEPTS and THE CRITICAL THINKING TOOL KIT.
© 2013 Marlene Caroselli. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. 'C' Notes and 'D' Notes: Relay for Comprehension Teaching Tips: Dancing with the StarTs