I try different things every year. Some work, some don’t. Some I keep and improve. Some I dump. Some I simply forget about and end up replacing with something that is relevant to the time, topic, and kids. One comment I often get from previous students is, “We didn’t get to do that last year.” I smile, agree, and then tell them, “No, you didn’t. But you got to do some things kids before you didn’t get to.” Then I give them a jolly rancher and all is right with their world.
This year I embarked on my 100 Words Project. It’s not actually called “100 Words Project” but I think that sounds more austere in a blog than simply, ‘this year I have a word of the day.” So, this year I have a word of the day. We call it WOD for short. Not austere, but effective. Its beginnings were just as humble. One afternoon when shadowing my wife in a Bibelot store, I saw the book, 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know. I immediately decided I needed to buy it for my science students. It would be one more tool in their tool belt. The fact that it was unconventional and might create a new conversation with my peers only made it more valuable.
So for the benefit of the students and some inquisitive peers, each day I put a new word and definition on the board and have the students write a sentence or two using that day’s word, the word from the day before, and a third word chosen from any previous vocabulary word. They are challenged to relate it to the subject matter. Some do, many don’t. Some use all three words, many use only two, and a few manage just the new one. All participate. This activity takes about 5 minutes each day and it has proven to be a valuable part of the class. Kids look forward to it so much that I have to limit the number of volunteers who want to read their sentence. Additionally, I hear them use these words in their classroom discussions and have had several bring me their other books to show me vocab words they have come across. Most recently, I have instituted a 20 Word of the Day Club on my school web site to accommodate the students who have accurately, and of their own initiative, included 20 words in a short story.
Of all the ideas I’ve tried over the years, this one ranks right up there, and it’s not directly related to the subject matter. This is an idea I will repeat. I don’t know what they’ll say about it next year, but it won’t be, “we didn’t get to do that last year”.