Tag Archives: vocabulary

Academic Vocabulary and Test Practice

In an effort to raise the bar on my tests, I have sought to make my questions more like those found on AP tests.  I want my students to learn in preparation for the tests, but I also want them to learn FROM the tests.  However, the problem I am experiencing is a lack of knowledge of academic vocabulary.

By academic vocabulary I do not mean words you would likely encounter at each grade level (which is mostly what I get when I google “academic vocabulary”). Rather, I mean the vocabulary test-makers use to craft the questions. Those verbs are what often trip students on such assessments. Since they were difficult to find, I decided to add some of the good stuff I found here on this page.

This list comes from the English Companion (by Jim Burke).
It is a list of 350+/- words that one might encounter on an assessment. (Even teachers looking for new words to use in objectives on their lesson plans should check these out.) I don’t think it would be a problem to start off 1st graders on many of these words. What a great list! Thanks Jim Burke!

Test Practice sites (worth your time and for all content areas):
The College Board, which created the AP curriculum, I think, provides some well written free response questions that could easily be adapted for the lower level grades.

Here is a GREAT site for teaching students how to preform at the AP and Pre-AP levels. It has a lot of great links. I will definitely be putting this on my bookmark toolbar!

Of course, I cannot leave out WebEnglishTeacher.com out of the mix. At this link you will find ALL things English. This particular link just deals with AP, but just check out their home page for more great materials on just about anything.

For those looking for practice tests on a variety of subjects, you should check out THIS site. By looking at it, it was created a long time ago, but if you click enough times, you will find some really useful test practice materials. Again, I will say that half of the 100 or so sites do not work, but those that do seem pretty good.
This is for the writing assessment used in Florida called the FCAT (Otownteacher, this might interest you). Click on the drop down menu at the BOTTOM of the page to get a curriculum teaching elementary students how to break down the prompts. The test practice is broken down into weeks. After looking at them, I have found that they would be applicable to all states.

Analyzing the American election word by word

I just stumbled across a New York Times article that examined the speeches that Democrats and Republican delivered at their respective conventions and then analyzed them to see what words occurred most frequently. This should, in theory, point out what is most important to these parties (at least in their rhetoric if not in fact).

Here in Canada, National Post did the same thing using Wordle and compared Barack Obama’s acceptance speech with Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” speech. This kind of activity is instructive in its own right for history and Social Studies or Civics classes, but is also useful in an English course.

Just imagine if you had the most recent speech of your mayor or (if you dare) your principal. Run it through a program like Wordle. What are these people advocating? What’s important to them?

If you’re working on making speeches in class, have the students run their own speeches through Wordle. Are the ideas they’re emphasizing really the ones they want to bring across? It could be a great moment in self reflection.

Text Messaging Helps Spelling (Its true!)

A friend sent me an article today from Newsweek that I thought you should see:

The most hotly contested controversy sparked by the text-messaging phenomenon of the past eight years is over truant letters. “Textese,” a nascent dialect of English that subverts letters and numbers to produce ultra-concise words and sentiments, is horrifying language loyalists and pedagogues. And their fears are stoked by some staggering numbers: this year the world is on track to produce 2.3 trillion messages—a nearly 20 percent increase from 2007 and almost 150 percent from 2000. The accompanying revenue for telephone companies is growing nearly as fast—to an estimated $60 billion this year. In the English-speaking world, Britain alone generates well over 6 billion messages every month. People are communicating more and faster than ever, but some worry that, as textese drops consonants, vowels and punctuation and makes no distinction between letters and numbers, people will no longer know how we’re really supposed to communicate. Will text messaging produce generations of illiterates? Could this be the death of the English language?  


Google’s Lively Safer Alternative to Second Life, I hope

Second life blew our minds with the creation of its 3D world because of its potential for changing online shopping experiences, international business, and online education. With its virtual classrooms, boardrooms, and malls, Second Life has even been the subject of investigations by the FBI because of places where users could actually go and make money via gambling.

I considered buying space on Second Life for my classroom, but then I was strolling through one of its malls and found a store with a sundry of items that one wouldn’t want students to stumble upon.

However, recently I discovered Google’s Lively. This is a new, seemingly safer alternative to Second Life. The good thing about it is how user friendly it is. The bad thing about it is that it does have an Atari/Zelda feel to it in the way you move from room to room. No matter, though, it will still create an interesting way to create class projects.

Lesson ideas:
*Have students create group web quests through which all of the info can be found in their particular room. They can then connect to another group’s room.

*Have a scavenger hunt kind of lesson where they move from room to room solving some problem with global warming or something of that nature.

*Have student create an art gallery that best depicts the vocabulary words for that week.

Anyway…here is a video from youtube about it.

Vocabulary Connections Website

If I were to use a word to describe VISUWORDS, I would use “bombdigity.” In addition to being dug by me, it is also the bomb. I learned a few new words myself while playing with it.

This site makes connections and contrasts the word you enter; it tells you what it entails; it even creates a web of how this word interacts with other classifications of the word.

What levels would benefit from it?

This would be great for all levels. I would HIGHLY recommend using this site for ESL students. I am going to use it with my literature classes next year because we often volley certain words around the room because they are philosophical in nature; therefore, everyone has a different definition. (Warning: do not look up “LOVE.”)


  • Word studies (unless you want to study “LOVE”)
  • Vocabulary work
  • Literature studies in which you have students find the most important words form an assigned passage
  • Expanding vocabulary

If you have any other ideas of how it could be used, please leave a comment.

Firefly Allows Chatting with Others Visiting the Same Website

Okay…so, what does that mean for you? It means having students write their thoughts instead of speaking them, which is, as we all know, an important skill when one depends on the internet/email to communicate. Below I give a very basic explanation of how it works and how you can use Firefly in your classroom.

HOW IT WORKSfirefly.jpg

When you visit a firefly-enabled website, you can click anywhere on the site and start typing. When you do, a bubble will pop up with whatever you are saying. Pretty interesting.



  1. Have your students look at different documents. Set a timer and do virtual stations. Each time the timer sounds, students would go to a different virtual station (or page of your website) to discuss via firefly.
  2. You could anonymously post various students’ work for critique. Then they can print screen when they are done.
  3. Put pictures of various advertisements your website and have students evaluate it for bias and/or method of using propaganda.
  4. Have students do something like a word cluster.

I like this site because it allows for quiet evaluation of materials while giving a the assignment an edgy feel.

I would love to hear from you regarding ideas for using firefly.

Ideas for Bubbl.us : Mind Mapping

To see more examples about using BUBBL.US, go HERE


In order to encourage my students to brainstorm for their research paper projects, I decided to use BUBBLE.US to have them create and collaborate via virtual word webs. In addition to being simple and easy to use, this site allows students to get their daily fix of networking. I was able to establish an account so that they could network with me. With a network established I was able to check their word webs from home. Also, I had them link to each other so that they could collaborate together based on their topics.

Typically I have trouble getting them to get excited about word webs. But they were VERY excited about this medium through which they could interact with technology to accomplish the assignment. (Also, the guys loved how the bubbles exploded when you deleted them, and the girls seemed to love finding just the right colors. However, the thing they seemed most interested in was the fact that they could network.

Then, during lectures about organization, all I had to do was turn on my projector, pull up my account, and select maps from my list (of about one hundred or so) to use as examples. We were able to have engaging discussions about how we could organize different topics. And organizing their peers’ ideas helped all of them, even though they didn’t share the same topics.

(If you have other ideas, email me and I will post them.)
1. You could use bubble.us to have your students do a closing activity for a lesson/unit. Lets say that we have to draw a similarity between The Pigman and Where the Red Fern Grows. Students could start off with two bubbles (one for each book) and collaborate while sitting at a computer in one room, or they could do it in front of their own computers at home.

2. Students could also be assigned various topics to research. If you designed each question to have a different focus, but same basic principles behind them, you could use this website for collaboration.
**Example questions:
Set A
What are the differences between liquids and gasses?
What are the similarities between Solids and gasses?

Set B
Create a bubbl [sic] that examines the racism in OTHELLO.
Create a bubbl [sic] that examines the racism in Huck Finn

Both of the sets of questions above have different qualities to them. Students could express a large amount of knowledge by answering any of these four questions, but that is only tapping into the KNOWLEDGE level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. What if we could get them to move on to EVALUATION by simply having him/her complete one of these questions and then seek out a peer who answered the other question in the set. The students could then evaluate/collaborate about each other’s.

3. Vocabulary could also be used with this site. Students could do a diagram for the 5 words they think are the most difficult for that week’s vocabulary unit. Then they could make a word web where the main block is for the chosen vocabulary word. Pink blocks are for synonyms that have come up in other vocabulary lessons. Green blocks would be for previously learned vocabulary words that serve as antonyms. Yellow blocks are for associations to the student’s own life. And, finally, blue blocks for tricks that might help them remember the words.

Then have the students go on a scavenger hunt for all of the words that were not on their “hardest words bubbl [sic]” list.

Once you have created a bubble on your screen, you are able to save your map.
Simply click the MY SHEETS tab and save your diagram.
Type in a name in the space provided next to the SAVE button.
Click Save.

Click the FRIENDS tab on the right side of the screen.
Type in a friend’s name and hit ENTER.
A list of names that are spelled like the one you typed in will appear.
Finally, find, and select, the one you want to add.

After you have saved your map and have added friends, you will be able to share your maps with others. Here’s how:
Click on the MY SHEETS TAB
Click on the sheet you wish to share.
Click SHARE (located just above your list).
When you do that, it will be give the list of your friends. Next to each name you will notice a watermark of some classes (which allow the friend to SEE the sheet) and a pencil (which allows the friend to EDIT the sheet).

One feature that makes this website AWESOME is the ability to export your sheets in a variety of formats.
1. Click MENU (bottom right corner of your sheet).
2. Click EXPORT.
3. Select one of the options provided (they are explained below).

For this option, you will want to select XML format. This will put it in a basic outline format. **However, it will not have numbers or letters. It will only be indented

JPEG (Picture)
Select IMAGE to save your sheet as a picture. You can pick JPEG or PNG. I prefer JPEG.

If you have a blog that serves as a class website, you will even be able to post an interactive version of your example (click for an example) by copying and pasting HTML code. That sounds fancy, but all you need is an index or ring finger (depending on your preference for right clicking).

This blog entry came from ESOTERIUM.US/BLOG.