Background:The issue that I chose to address for my Action Research Plan is Vocabulary Acquisition. As a part of our novel study of Among the Hidden, my 6th graders are expected to learn a set of vocabulary words from the text. For each four-chapter reading assignment, they are assigned 6-8 challenging-yet-useful words to study. The ultimate goal is that the students absorb these words into their own vocabularies so that they comprehend them when reading future texts and put them to use when writing narratives, expository/persuasive essays, or poetry.
Problem:The problem I encountered was that my students were simply memorizing the set of words the definitions -- they were not understanding how each of these terms is actually used in English. They were misusing many of them in their original sentences, and were unable to identify the meaning of the word in a multiple choice question if the definition were provided in slightly different words.
Definition studied by class
Student use in an original sentence
(adjective): menacing or threatening
My brother ominoused me that if I didn’t clean his mess he would punish me .
(Incorrectly used as a verb)
(noun): a huge amount of something, or frequency of something (there is a lot of it or it happens often)
I have a preponderance amount of homework so I stay up late .
(Incorrectly used as an adjective)
Definition studied by class
Wording of definition on quiz, many students answered incorrectly
(adv) to do something in a way that shows determination; firmly; with your mind made up
with firm determination
(adverb): done in a light, casual way; done without showing respect
with disrespectful levity or casualness
Idea:Having participated in Barry Orek's Arts Integration training and having observed my colleague Pat Ludwig execute a lesson called "Dances from a Hat" with her 8th grade Language Arts class, I had an idea.
I decided to try doing some movement-based vocabulary lessons to see if adding a kinesthetic element would help my students comprehend and acquire the vocab words.
Action:First, the students would need to do a warm-up to get them used to the idea of moving their bodies for a Language Arts class. So we did a warm-up called "Away and Back" in which the students began in a spot, moved away from it for 8 counts, froze for 8 counts, and then returned to their original spot in 8 counts. I gradually made the activity more complicated by having them think about how their Body, Energy, use of Space and use of Time (the B.E.S.T. qualities of dance/movement) communicated different messages.
Then I started to assign a quality to each "Away and Back" movement. Examples:
- Show victory as you walk away and back
- Move away and back with excitement
- Move away and back as if you are water
- Move as if you are a totalitarian leader
- Move like a guerrilla soldier
- Make your movement ramshackle
- Use your body to show indifference
- Intently move for a count of 8
- Walk audibly on this turn
Here are some video clips of the activity. Please excuse the audio quality.