It’s no secret that a strong vocabulary helps one be a good reader, a good writer and a more confident person. Having a strong vocabulary also helps one to think well on one’s feet. But, there’s an old myth that vocabulary development is a tiresome chore.
Let that Myth Go to people like Nigel Lythgoe, the man who thinks dance moves matter more than anything, and replace it with a new attitude toward verbal acquisition.
You’ll have students shouting Mamma Mia (Michaels) as they work in teams to produce synonyms for various words. (Mary) Murphy’s Law will not be operative once the teams start to produce their verbal trophies.
Here are tips that would make Adam (Shankman) and Eve proud of their Edenic garden of new vocabulary growth.
Create your list of new vocabulary words you’d like students to learn.
Write one word each on the whiteboard or 11 x 14 sheets of paper so every student can easily see them.
Divide the class into at least four teams.
Distribute paper and pencil to each team, one sheet for each person.
Explain that some unusual words have very familiar synonyms
. Hold up the word “gambol” and provide synonyms—“prance,” “run,” or “jump” playfully. (Ask them to imagine lambs in a field or find a YouTube video of animals gamboling.) Tell the class you will be asking teams to come up with as many synonyms as they can for words you are about to introduce on flash cards.
Show the flash card (or write the word on the board).
Have students write #1 and then the word on their papers. (They will do the same for each word.)
Define the word; give examples.
Allow time for questions. Tell the teams they will have exactly two minutes to come up with synonyms for the word. Set a timer and set them to work.
After you’ve gone through the list, ask each team to count the synonyms. Have the team with the highest number begin to read their list. Decide if they have provided acceptable synonyms. Ideally, the school librarian can participate. Have him or her act as a judge, with the Oxford English Dictionary in hand, to decide if a given synonym really does qualify.
If a team has included a word that does not meet the standards set forth by lexicographers, they lose two points. When they are finished, ask them to re-count their points.
If no other team has a higher number, the winning team is declared the official winner. Ask the principal to come congratulate them—maybe even lead them in a victory dance!
Related Assignment: Invite a dance teacher to speak briefly to the class and to introduce/illustrate some dance terms such as “arabesque,” “pirouette,” “aplomb,” “avant” (and its many related phrases), “bravura,” “pas,” et alia.
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. Teaching Tips: Juicy Words and the Students Who Devour Them Teaching Tips: Dancing with the StarTs