Teaching Vocabulary One Recess at a Time

It’s Spring in our Early Childhood Center so this round of vocabulary instruction was focused completely on gardening equipment.

The week began with The Persistent Principal introducing the word RAKE. She brought in her rake to school one morning. It wasn’t a leaf rake but more of a bow rake.

We began our morning introductions just like we did in our quilt instruction where we taught vocabulary one morning at a time.

A few of the kids recognized it. They said, “My dad has one!” It was called a “scrape”, a shovel, a saw … They were definitely on the right track.

We labeled them and left them there in the main location of the school as we did before.

Once they learned the word rake, it was pretty easy to carry over the verb “raking” that first afternoon on the playground. The kids loved it when Persistent Principal showed up on the playground to let them practice RAKING. We modeled language, “Tommy is RAKING! What a great job RAKING!”
They LINED UP to get a turn. Never mind the swings, slides, balls, trikes…they wanted to RAKE! They ended up raking under all of the swings and leveling back the wood chips that had been moved away over the year.

The next day, the Canny Counselor brought in her mini hoe, child sized and purple (because that’s how she gardens!) The kids had no idea what it was called and this word seemed to be the hardest to teach overall. We demonstrated how they are used while teaching the name for it in the mornings. They begged Persistent Principal to bring it out onto the playground later that day. She passed me in the hall with the rake and hoe. She obviously would need help with TWO gardening implements so I quickly texted the Canny Counselor…

…and headed outside to get some pictures for another idea we had: An interactive language wall!

This wall is located right outside my door as well as by the bathrooms used by every class, more than once a day. You can read more about the activities I have placed outside my door in the past here.

The teachers are SO good about using this wall with their students while they are lining up and waiting. It is music to my ears when I am in my room and hear the students answering WH questions in complete sentences. The idea is for the teacher to ask the question: “Who is raking?” or “What is she using?” The students then make complete sentences in response: “The girl/She is raking.” They LOVED seeing themselves on the wall.

The Persistent Principal brought in her hoe. It was old, weathered, splintered and worn. The kids asked “why is it dirty?” We now had TWO hoes to work with, Time for plurals! To lead them into using the plural -s- we cued them with, “I have one rake and she has two ____.” LOVE IT!

They had difficulty carrying over the term hoe across two different hoes. One was small and purple, one was old and weathered. It was a perfect combination!

By the end of week two, we had three different gardening tools. We saved shovel for last thinking it would be the easiest. We used it to compare to the hoe and rake. Words like sharp, flat, long began to show up in our morning chats. The kids were talking about where they had seen one, who in their family had one, how to use it and so on.

Of course we had to add “digging” and “shovel” pictures to our Interactive Language Wall.
As this little lady demonstrates, you can dig in fancy sandals, a dress and a princess crown!

The Persistent Principal, Canny Counselor and I get most of our ideas while engaging with the kids each morning. So after our collaboration one morning, all faculty on campus received this email… I’m telling you…she is PERSISTANT!

“Our students seem to really enjoy stopping in the foyer in the mornings, to talk about the items I have in my hands.  This week we’ve been talking about a rake, shovel, and a hoe. 

Marzano’s Six Step Process Teaching Academic Vocabulary 1. Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term. (Include a non-linguistic representation of the term for ESL kids.) 2. Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words. (Allow students whose primary existing knowledge base is still in their native language to write in it.) 3. Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representing the word. 4. Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their notebooks. 5. Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another. (Allow in native language when appropriate) 6. Involve students periodically in games that allow them to play with terms.
Mrs. Gardner had a great idea.  Please allow your students to draw a picture of (us) using the rake, shovel, or hoe.  Or if they’d prefer, they can draw a picture of themselves or a family member.  (We hear lots of stories that start with, “My dad has one of those!!”)
We will showcase their pictures in the hallway on a vocabulary spotlight.  
Please strive to include the new words in your daily/weekly activities.”

And from this idea, the Vocabulary Gallery was born!

The writing and illustrations were amazing!

Another gem of knowledge we found out was that the kids LOVED manual labor! They loved having a purpose and working hard to achieve a goal. One afternoon as my line on the playground was expanding, I pointed out the weeds growing up through the wood chips. I demonstrated how to “hoe” the weeds out of the ground by the roots. Fortunately everyone is deeply emerged in learning the life cycle and parts of a plant so everyone was interested in this process. Once they dug up a weed, they carried it off of the wood chips and the next person got a turn. Do you know that we got that entire area weeded in less than 30 minutes!?! 
So as you can see, vocabulary instruction OR speech therapy does not have to be done in a classroom, at a desk, or at a kidney shaped table. Think outside the box, do they unexpected and use what you know. Sometimes the things we take for granted our kids aren’t even aware of or exposed to prior to entering our doors.
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One comment

  1. Love the whole school approach to vocabulary instruction and the collaborative and joyful way you and your colleagues approach the task! This is beautiful! Thanks for linking up!

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