Week of May 1, 2017

Dear Staff,

Happy Sunday!  We hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  I have decided that one of the many reasons I became a teacher is because I love to learn new things.  One thing in particular that I love to learn is new words.  I am a lover of words, especially big, fancy ones. 🙂  To me, to hear a person with a big vocabulary makes them sound intelligent.  It also helps with reading comprehension as well.  Have you ever been reading a book and come across a word you don’t know, sometimes don’t even know how to pronounce?  Often as adults we can figure out the meaning by continuing to read on, but sometimes we really need to know what that word means to make sense of what we are reading.  This is very true for children as they begin to read harder text.  We have some really great readers at our school, but sometimes some of them read so well that they trick us into thinking they know more than they really do.  Because they read so fluently and for the most part get the gist of the story we assume that they know what all the words they have just read actually mean. We make assumptions that because we know what a word means when we read it that they will know the meaning as well.  This is one reason why reading aloud to children is so important, so that we stop when we come to these “big” words and check to see if they really do know what they mean and if not give an explanation.  However, reading aloud is not enough.  Children need direct explicit instruction on vocabulary.  Often times vocabulary instruction gets pushed to the side because we run out of time and feel like there are other more important things that we need to teach.  However, if we neglect teaching vocabulary the gap will only get wider between our proficient and struggling readers.  How do we make this happen?  I was reminded this week as I began reading a new book, From Pencils to Podcasts, some easy ways to teach vocabulary.  They are all methods I am sure you all have heard of, or maybe not.  Either way, it struck me as so important that I thought  I would share these with you.

If you know me, you know that technology is not my forte.  In fact, it can often drive me to the point of being so frustrated that I want to pull my hair out.  However, I am learning and getting better at it, but I still have a way to go.  In this book many of the examples the authors give are related to the use of technology.  Although, I believe that if you don’t have access or the resources  for all of this a good old fashioned pencil and piece of paper would work just fine! 🙂 One of the first examples the authors give is the use of an interactive word wall.  I can not stress the importance of teaching students how to use a word wall.  Too often they become another “decoration” in our class rather than a tool for learning.  Often times it can be hard to decide what words should go on a word wall.  For a class interactive word wall they recommend teaching Greek and Latin roots.  I know years ago this was our focus for word study beginning in 4th and 5th grade.  These particular authors recommend the use of digital word walls.  Students can find the words they are looking for digitally and save it on their own digital word wall.  I will list the sites they recommend below in case you want to give it a try.  In younger grades (or 4th and 5th if technology is a problem for you like me 🙂 ) then you can use personal word walls.  These are words walls that the students keep at their seats to refer to when they are writing or I would even say reading to add new words.  I would also add that they should have these out to do some vocabulary word work with and add them to their personal word walls as well.

The second idea the authors give for vocabulary instruction is one of my favorites.  It’s the Frayer model.  Students divide a piece of paper into four sections and in the center they put a circle.  The root you are studying is listed in the middle circle.  In the top left quadrant students write the meaning of the root.  In the top right box students provide an example of a word containing the root.  In the bottom right box students include a definition of the example.  Finally, in the bottom left box students illustrate and write a sentence containing the example of the word.  This books talks about doing this digitally, of course I more see myself having students do this in a vocabulary notebook of some sort.  Either way I believe that this is an important piece we need to be incorporating into students vocabulary instruction.  The Frayer model can also be used to teach concepts in specific content area as well.    If you are like me, you probably need a visual of this in action, so I have provided a link below.  Also, if you would like to borrow a copy of From Pencils to Podcasts we have several floating around the school.  I am in the middle of my copy and am happy to lend it out as soon as I am finished.  I would highly recommend it as a summer read! 🙂  It has really gotten my wheels turning about some exciting new ideas.  Enjoy your week!

Digital Tools for Vocabulary Study (taken from From Pencils to Podcasts)

Wikispaces – Wikispaces provides a collaborative, safe, free space for students and teachers to learn together.  This site allows teachers to see what their students are doing in real time.  Therefore, they are able to provide immediate feedback.  The teacher can assign projects to teams and can create templates to help students get started.


PBworks EDUHub – PBworks EDUHub provides teachers with free wikis.  Once the teacher has created the wiki, he or she can create student accounts without needing student email addresses.  Files are easily accessible by phone, tablet or computer.


Word Central – Powered by Merriam-Webster, Word Central provides a student-friendly online dictionary, spaces for students to build their own dictionaries, and games to test vocabulary knowledge and build skills.  A special section for educators provides additional rescues for word study.


Merriam-Webster – Merriam-Webster gives users access to its online dictionary, thesaurus, Spanish dictionary, medical dictionary, and learner’s dictionary.  The site also helps students build vocabulary with its featured word of the day, games and videos.


Wordsmyth – Wordsmyth contains three levels of dictionaries (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) as well as specialized an illustrated dictionaries geared toward school-age users.  A variety of search tools, games and instructional support resources make this site ver user-friendly for students and educators.


Frayer Model



Monday, May 1
Admin in Interviews all day
Christian to the Pines
PikMyKid Parent Help Session (right after morning and afternoon carpool)
Tuesday, May 2
Webb to Huntersville Oaks
PikMyKid Parent Help Session (right after morning and afternoon carpool)
Wednesday, May 3
Thursday, May 4
1st Grade Artist Play
Washam to Williams Place
Friday, May 5

3rd grade Charlotte Walking Tour

Upcoming Dates
May 6 – Spartan 5K and Half Marathon
May 10 – K-7 Mandatory Staff Meeting – EOG Training w/ Angela
May 12 – CSD Retreat; Teacher Workday
May 16th – Last Day of 6/7 Branch Electives
May 15th – Last Day of 6/7 Arts Electives
May 16 – 5th Grade Science EOG
May 18 – ELA EOG – Grades 3-7
May 19 – Math EOG – Grade 3-7
May 18-19 – 2nd Grade to Rescue Ranch
May 23 – 3rd Grade Poetry Slam
May 24-25 – 7th Grade Ropes Course
May 24-25 – Holocaust Museum
May 26th – Kindergarten Screening; Required Teacher Workday
May 29 – Memorial Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
May 30 – State of the School
May 30 – 7th Grade Change Project
May 31 – Last Day of School (5th Grade Moving Up) (6/7 Dance)
June 1-2 – Teacher Workdays
June 1 – CSD Graduation at Belk Theater

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