Learning by Writing

This week I am celebrating our learning through the process of writing.

Writing to Learn Vocabulary

Vocabulary is directly taught in my classroom, and is rooted in the thinking set forth in Beck/McKeowan/Kucan’s Creating a Robust Vocabulary.  Tier two words are chosen based on our read aloud. The intent is to teach grade level vocabulary — enhancing comprehension and as well as oral and written language. In the past, my students and I have labored over multiple choice and fill in the blank assessments. The results: the students who were good readers and had good vocabulary did well — others struggled with meaning and usage.

Today, I still directly teach 3-4 words a week based on the same criteria.  The difference is writing.  Rather than fill in the blank assessment, at the end of the week students write for 15 minutes about our read aloud using as many vocabulary words as they can to summarize and explain their ideas about the story. Their objective is not only to use the words, but to use them in a way that enhances their writing.

What I loved about this week’s work was how students used words, generated from our previous read aloud, to describe their ideas about our current read aloud. Words such as adamant, mortify, confrontational, subtle, analyze, spiteful, delude, euphoric, passive, anxiety, ordeal, empathy  were coming up in a different context than where they were originally introduced. This accurate transference of words was not only for meaning but for usage.  WOW!  And this is a class of English language learners. Reading their papers last night made me smile and celebrate.

One disclaimer (or is it really my point?): Students were allowed to use their vocabulary cards. Is this cheating? Are they learning? I think this is the learning, learning by using the language.  Students are learning the proper usage and meaning of the words through the process of writing.

Writing to Inform Instruction 

Weekly writing using vocabulary words shows how students’ minds wrap around meaning and how they incorporate it into their language. Patterns emerge and my next teaching steps are defined. Students who need small group instruction  pop up as do misunderstanding in the meaning of  words.

A group of students that need help with correct usage wrote things like:

The doctor was being analyze when he was talking to Melody.

Mom was feeling anxiety when the doctor told her about Melody.

Melody’s mom felt mortify when she was yelling and screaming in the store.

Bonus Points

This weekly vocabulary writing has been seeping into other parts of the day. When blogging about their reading, a student asked:

Can I use my vocabulary cards to help me write? It really helps me.  

Of course, what a great idea, I respond and inside I celebrate.

8 thoughts on “Learning by Writing

  1. Yes! I did read your post and I should have given Word Nerds some credit. We started with Beck two years ago. This year, because of your blog I bought Word Nerds and it pushed us to make our work more kid friendly. I want to do more Nerdy work as the year progresses. Students actually love vocabulary. Thanks for the reminder to dig back into Word Nerds.

  2. My kids pull a word out of their own reading each day and complete some tasks (courtesy of writingfix.com), but I’m also loving your idea of using their words to write about their reading. I might add this to their Friday assessment time.

    I read Word Nerds over the summer and LOVED it, but tried it and found that I was pushed for time with all that we do so I dropped it. I swear I think other schools go to school longer than we do, and it seems we are always having interruptions! This week is Red Ribbon week (which sends a great message), but we have an assembly on Monday AND Tuesday. Sigh. 🙂


    • Isn’t it so true about time! Just kills. Somethings gotta give and you gotta prioritize. I’m going to check writingfix.com. Want students to grow vocab as they read, but I don’t want them to spend too much time away from the text. Once again a balancing act.

      • ALWAYS a balancing act! We go to school (not counting breakfast) from 7:40-2:25. 50 minute PE and 25 minute lunch and 15 minute snack. What does that leave us? NOT ENOUGH TIME! 🙂

  3. Julieanne,
    I love the 15 min. word write at the end of the week. Vocabulary study often results in a “quiz” at many levels for that “grade book number” but that number is NOT a measure of learning and definitely not a measure of transfer. I also love that the students are asking to use their cards – figuring out what they need and advocating for themselves! YEAH!

    Thanks for sharing!

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