Prior to our winter break, I shared what my experiences with a visual thesaurus.  Knowing that students with a robust vocabulary can improve achievement, we set forth on a quest to share this resource with the staff.  We invited a great colleague in our district, Bill Miller, to demonstrate the site because of his passion for dissecting sentence structure.  He was kind enough to come to North and share his expertise with the us.

It was invigorating to watch Bill as he would dart from one section of the site to another with this beaming smile across his face.  It made me think of how incredible it would be to walk past  classrooms that were filled with students who were eager to learn and share what they are passionate about in the world.  Whether it’s sentence structure, science, math or whatever ignites the curiosity of the mind.  There is nothing more beautiful than passion being lived out.

I wanted to share two articles and a video with you that I think will at least open the flood gates as to how we can use the site to help our students.

The first article I read articulates the use of the site in a typical classroom setting.  I have highlighted a section of great importance from the article.  It would be a great article to stimulate discussion around how this site can be helpful in the classroom.
Quote from the article
“I want to note from Alise’s anecdote that there were three good teaching strategies in operation in the classroom. The first was starting with the word in a context. The second was tapping into prior knowledge, which is talked about in the literature. And the third was the discussion and the sharing of ideas. The students became actively engaged with the word as they learned its meaning. That’s what I distill from Alise’s explanation. “

The second article is great for motivating those who are reluctant to utilize technology.  You can review the concept of the visual thesaurus website by watching a You Tube video presentation by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  She does a great job of illustrating how teachers can use Wordle and the Visual Thesaurus combined to help address students individual needs.  She recommends using the wordle website in conjunction with student writing to identify vocabulary words that are repeated.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with wordle.  It creates a visual representation of the text you enter.  It makes frequently used words larger than the rest, thereby showcasing a students tendencies to use repetition in their writing.  We can then use that information to help individualize (tier, differentiate, etc) our instruction.
Taking their wordles, we are able to use the visual thesaurus to show them other synonyms for the words they are using in abundance.  It really makes them think about word usage in a whole new light.

You have got to check out the video embedded in this article to see for yourself.  You won’t have access to the youtube video at school but if you have a minute at home or on your phone, check it out.

Video link

There is nothing better than seeing students engaged in their learning.  What better way to make them interested in vocabulary than to use their own.  Now there is an idea worth using!  Let’s make learning exciting, student focused and change the way we view school.  Until next time… keep learning, keep sharing and keep the hope alive!