VOCABULARY and the GED Test

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1 VOCABULARY and the GED Test Finding ways to expand one s working vocabulary and developing skills to analyze new words are crucial skills for the GED candidate. Many reading stumbling blocks, including fluency and comprehension difficulties, can be traced back to a limited vocabulary. Far more effective than memorizing word lists, the candidate for the GED can significantly expand his vocabulary by reading in a wide range of subject areas, learning how to use context clues to identify new words, and learning word analysis skills (understanding the meaning of prefixes, root words and suffixes.) While increasing a student s vocabulary may seem a bit daunting, the long term effects, both academically and personally, are well worth the effort. A large working vocabulary truly marks an educated person. It is well worth the effort to study vocabulary in a systematic way in the GED preparation class. The following section will offer recommendations and suggestions for doing so. VOCABULARY Teaching Tips 1. Vocabulary lessons should be meaningful and purposeful to the students. 2. Encourage students to read and define as many words as possible before teaching them. 3. Introduce vocabulary by category or topic, such as law words, government words, geography words, or solar system words. 4. Students should practice ways to define unknown words by using context clues. 5. When reading independently, students should highlight or underline any words that they want to review or ask about. Encourage students not to skip over words they don t understand. 6. Preview new vocabulary before oral reading so students are comfortable with pronunciation. 7. Read orally often and discuss the meaning of new words at the end of each paragraph. 8. Use pictures or visual images, as much as possible, to help learners understand and remember new words. Keep a collection handy and collect them everywhere. 9. Students should repeatedly use new vocabulary in a variety of ways: read, see, say, write, and use. 10

2 10. Using a dictionary can be very frustrating for students. Teachers and tutors might recommend that students: Use an intermediate or school dictionary Look for definitions in the back of workbooks Look for definitions in bold print or on the side of the page Use context clues to get meaning Ask others for definitions when possible Use electronic dictionaries 11. Add some fun to lessons by including vocabulary activities found on the following pages. 12. Teach and practice the meaning and use of prefixes, suffixes, and root words. VOCABULARY Activities Toss a Word Students stand in a circle. A soft ball or beach ball is best for this activity. Have the target vocabulary written on the board for all to see and the teacher can check off the words as they are used. Begin with one student taking the ball and calling out one of the target vocabulary words and tosses the ball to another student in the circle. The student who catches the ball must give the definition and use the word in a sentence. For a variation one student can give the definition and toss the ball to another student who must then use the word in a sentence. For a bit of competition: set a number of points needed to win; the students stand in two lines facing each other and toss back and forth. (Similar to Red Rover ) Graph Paper Crossword This can be done individually or in pairs. Begin by giving each student (or pair) a piece of graph paper. The task is to make all the target vocabulary connect by writing one word at a time. The students use the graph paper boxes to write the target vocabulary, one letter in each box, as in Scrabble. Team to finish first is the winner. It is interesting to see how the students choose to connect the words. Blackboard Bingo Write words on the board. Students choose any 5 and write them on a piece of paper. Teacher randomly reads from the list of words but not in the order on the board. The students cross off words on their papers as they hear them. First to get all five is the winner. Variation: Instead of reading the words the teacher can say the definition of the word and the student must cross off the correct word. 11

3 Two in One This can be done in pairs or as individuals. Depending on your class size, you could also divide the class into 2 teams. Review the target list of vocabulary words on board with the whole class. Next ask each student (pair/team) to choose 2 words from the list and write a sentence with both words in it. The first student (pair/team) to finish stands and reads their sentence to the class. The class is the judge and if it is accepted the student (pair/team) gets a point. If not accepted then another student (pair/team) may read theirs. Continue playing until all the vocabulary or combinations of unrelated words are used. Points can be awarded for correct sentences. Extension: Take all of the sentences and arrange them in sequence to form a paragraph. Flashcard Dictation Each student makes his/her own set of flash cards for the target vocabulary. Next give each student a strip of paper to write a sentence using one of the words from the target list in his/her set of flash cards. As students check their sentences with you, ask them to write them on the board for the class to read. The students are then to copy all of the sentences into a notebook. (If possible try to rewrite the sentences in order to form a paragraph.) Ask students to read and study the sentences/paragraph for homework. Next class: review the sentences/paragraph with the whole class by asking pairs to read out loud with each other. Next the students put the sentences/paragraph away and take out their flash. Dictation: The teacher reads the story but leaves out the target words. Students use their flash cards and line them up according to the word they think is missing. Once the teacher has finished reading the sentences/paragraph, student volunteers write the words in the order they heard them on the board. This helps with listening skills for a change from always writing but can be used without the flashcards as a spelling and comprehension check. Student Definitions Each student is given a set of index cards and asked to cut them into quarters. Assign a target word to each student. On a scrap of paper the student will write the definition of the word in his/her own words and check with the teacher to be sure it is clear and correct. Once cleared, the student writes the definition on the quartered cards, one word on each quarter. Next the student shuffles his set of words and exchanges it with another student, who must then arrange in order the target word and its definition. The student can write the word in a note book for further reinforcement. If you want to save this activity you can have each student use a different colored index card and toss them all into a baggie. In the future an early arrival can set up the activity for the class. 12

4 Time Line Matching words with events Social Studies Students generate a time line for the period they are to review. As a group ask students to decide on key vocabulary they feel is significant to that time period or dictate to them vocabulary that they need to know for that period. The time line can be on the floor (outside in the parking lot with chalk on a nice day!) or a wall. Have students write the target vocabulary near the date for which they feel it is significant. Science Ask students to find pictures that represent science topics and surround it with target vocabulary. The target words can be prewritten on index cards so that you can deal them to the students. Each student chooses one of his/her cards and must talk about the words and why he/she placed it where he/she did. Theme Wall Post a large piece of paper on a wall in your classroom. As students encounter new and/or target vocabulary have them write on the wall along with a definition. This collection will grow and be a visual for students who may have some down or thinking time that takes their focus out of the class. Disappearing Words Write the target vocabulary on the board. The teacher points to a word, reads it and then the students repeat it. Continue through the list reading fewer words each time and only pointing to them. Eventually erase the word instead of pointing and have the students say it. When all words are erased see how many the students can remember and then write them. Back Up Vocabulary Activity Write the target vocabulary on sticky-note paper, one word per piece. The words are then placed on the backs of the students and they must circulate the room to figure out the word they are wearing catch they cannot ask yes or no questions but instead must give the definition of the word. Variation: use the word in a sentence. Word Bank As students learn target vocabulary have them write words they want to remember on index cards and deposit them into the bank. (A covered shoe box that the students design works well.) If the student needs to work on vocabulary individually they can go to the bank and borrow some of the words to study. Review the words as a class and once a word is mastered by all it is no longer of value and taken out of the bank. Use Index Cards Write each new vocabulary word on an index card. Use these cards to practice reading the words. Write each definition on an index card and have students match the word to its definition. Have students work in teams of two or individually. 13

5 Index Cards can be used for many different activities and are great to pull out for review. Brainstorm give students a topic and have them brainstorm vocabulary words that match that topic. Topic examples include: The American Revolution, Voting, Government, the Constitution, Taxes, Law, Nutrition, and Genetics. Read about the topic with students and have them add words to their list. Use those index cards again and write the words from two different lists. Mix up the cards and have students match them to the correct topic. Have students work in teams of two if possible. Encourage lots of speaking. Turn Vocabulary lessons into writing lessons As a group, or independently, write sentences using new words. Compile student sentences and turn them into a fill-in-the-blank worksheets to review words. Write a group story using as many new vocabulary words as possible. Share stories with other classes. Create writing or essay topics from vocabulary themes, newspaper headlines, or articles. Have a Word of the Day Write a word on the board each day to read, discuss, and use. Encourage students to bring words. Use the Science and Social Studies Glossaries included in this booklet to develop vocabulary games and activities for your class! Need some ready made GED Social Studies & Science Vocabulary lessons and worksheets? Order Pre-GED/GED Science and Social Studies Vocabulary Development Denise Reddington/ 2003 Bureau of Adult Education Mini-Grant FREE Visit forpd.ucf.edu/strategies/stratwordb.html to find vocabulary graphic organizer 14

6 The Clarifying Routine: Elaborating Vocabulary Instruction By: Edwin S. Ellis (2002) When you think of vocabulary, there is a good chance that you think of long lists of words from social studies or science textbooks, spelling word lists, or even the humongous lists of terms to study for college entrance exams. Zillions of flash cards also may come to mind. No doubt you share the common childhood experience of having to "go look up the words in a dictionary, write the definition, and then write a sentence using the term" but how much of that vocabulary do you remember now? Do you remember how you could rote copy the definition of a term as part of a homework assignment, but have no real idea what the definition meant and still get an 'A' on the assignment? Perhaps the least effective way to study vocabulary is the "look and remember" technique. Here, students typically stare at the term and definition, apparently trying to activate photographic memory they wish they had. Another common study technique is 'rote verbal rehearsal' saying the word over and over again, usually in the exact language and format from which the definition originally came. We know from research that new terms must be defined using language and examples which are already familiar to students, and that the more ideas from background knowledge with which the student can associate the new term, the more likely it will become a well-networked and permanent part of memory. There are a variety of tactics and strategies that can be mediated by the teacher to help students understand and remember new terms as well as the significance of important names, events, places, or processes. All of these tactics involve facilitating elaboration in various ways. Elaborating definitions of new terms There are several elaboration techniques that appear to be particularly powerful facilitators of comprehension and memory of new terms. These are briefly described below. Elaboration technique #1: Teach new terms in context of a meaningful subject-matter lesson, and facilitate student discussion that centers on use of the new term. At some point, students should use the new term themselves in a sentence within the context of discussing broader topics. While composing written sentences clearly is an important elaboration technique for the learner, essential to also include in the learning process is learning about the term within an overall context so that relational understanding can develop. The problem is, students are often expected to memorize the definitions of far more terms than there is time in class to elaborate upon. To provide meaningful opportunities for elaboration, we need to teach considerably fewer terms, and invest considerable more time in developing deep knowledge structures of those that are 15

7 really essential for students to know. This means that students are typically expected to memorize far too many terms each week. The adage 'less is more depth' is more' is very true in this context. Guidelines for selecting to-be-learned vocabulary Do Less is more depth is more. Teach fewer vocabulary terms, but teach them in a manner that results in deep understandings of each term. Avoid Teaching or assigning words from textbooks just because they are highlighted in some way (italicized, bold face print, etc.). Do Teach terms that are central to the unit or theme of study. These are terms that are so important that if the student does not understand them, s/he likely will have difficulty understanding the remainder of the unit. Avoid Teaching or assigning words just because they appear in a list at the end of a text chapter. Elaboration technique #2: Facilitate paraphrasing of new term's definitions so that students can identify the core idea associated with the overall meaning of the term, as well as distinguish the new term's critical features. This is analogous to paraphrasing main ideas of paragraphs when reading in which the reader says what the overall paragraph was about (main idea) and indicates important details in the paragraph. With new terms, the goal is to paraphrase the core idea of the term and identify specific critical-toremember details that clarify the core idea. Elaboration technique #3: Make background knowledge connections to the new term. While teaching the new term in context of a subject-matter lesson is a critical instructional technique, an equally important elaboration technique is for students to relate the term to something in which the students are already familiar.. An essential part of this elaboration process is having the students explain the connection. For example, the students should not only say what personal experience the term makes them think of, but also why it reminds them of it. Elaboration technique #4: Identify examples/applications as well as non-examples/non-applications related to the new term's meaning. Comprehension is greatly enhanced if the learner can accurately identify examples of the term or ways the new term can be appropriately applied within the context of discussing another context. You will likely find that students' comprehension of new terms becomes considerably more focused and refined if they can also identify examples of what the term is not about. Elaboration technique #5: Create multiple formats for which students can elaborate on the meaning of new terms. Many teachers will utilize all of the above elaboration processes within the 16

8 context of a class discussion, and yet some students still do not seem to 'get it.' This is because the manner in which elaboration was facilitated was all 'lip-ear', or verbal or listening, forms of instruction. Writing elaborations, even for those where scripting is a laborious process, creates an opportunity for greater reflection on the term's meaning. The Clarifying Routine focuses on ways each of the above forms of elaboration can be facilitated. The teacher uses an instructional tool, called a Clarifying Table, to facilitate these kinds of thinking behaviors. (See the example of this table below.) While some teachers use the Clarifying Table to pre-teach vocabulary terms students will encounter in an up-coming lesson, I have been most successful using it as a way to 'anchor' the meanings of terms whose meanings were first explored within the context of a subject-matter lesson. To put this in perspective, I might briefly introduce the meaning of new terms at the beginning of a lesson, and then more thoroughly explore their meanings during the subject-matter lesson, and finally, use the Clarifying Table to solidify understanding of those terms that are really essential for students to learn. The teacher can use the Cue-Do-Review sequence when applying the Clarifying Routine. That is 'I do it' (teacher models); 'We do it' ( the teacher and student does it together ); You do it Model (The student does it independently.) In sum, the Clarifying Routine can be used to help students develop in depth understanding of key terms associated with a unit of study primarily because it incorporates powerful elaboration tactics. The Clarifying Table is best used after the meanings of new terms have been explored in the context of a subject-matter lesson. The table can be constructed by the teacher and presented to student as the meaning of a term is explored, or it can be co-constructed by the student and teacher, or by the student alone. Eventually, the Clarifying Table can become a powerful substitute for traditional homework assignments as students use them independently. 17

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