Monthly Archives: October 2014

Blogging for ASCD

If my blog has seemed a little quiet lately, I have been contributing some posts for ASCD as part of my involvement in their Emerging Leaders program. As part of our program, each Emerging Leader participates in a coaching cohort around a specific topic. I am participating in the Writing for ASCD group. I’m really excited about having this opportunity to grow as a writer.

I have written three pieces for ASCD recently.

My first blog post was written on ASCD EDge, a social network for members. If you are interested in writing a blog post with ASCD, any educator can join EDge.  I tied my post to the Educational Leadership theme for September, “Motivation Matters.”  So far, “Four Reading Motivators for Teenage Boys” has been my most viewed blog post yet!  If you want to share your ideas with other people, ASCD EDge has great potential for reaching a wide audience.

I also had the opportunity to write for the Eight Questions series. ASCD asks each Emerging Leader to answer the same questions in order for members of the ASCD community to learn about our experiences and stances on education. Check out “Eight Questions for Emerging Leader Kenneth McKee.”

ASCD is leading the Educator Professional Development and Learning theme for Connected Educators month, and I was fortunate enough to be able to write a post for the ASCD In Service blog on PLCs. My post, “In it for the Long Haul: Four Strategies for Beginning a Virtual PLC,” explores how educators can establish sustained virtual groups who will help them grow professionally and meet the needs of students.

I will continue to update occasionally to share what I am writing for ASCD, in addition to all of the topics I regularly explore here on my blog.

Please let me know what you think of my posts. Also, please leave links for any blogs that you’ve written that you’d like to share. I learn so much from reading other people’s blogs, and I’m always looking for new ones.

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The Power of Generating Words

One of the most powerful methods for improving vocabulary is morphological instruction. Morphemes (more often called roots, prefixes, and suffixes) are meaning units that help students develop the word consciousness to determine the meanings of words. Even more exciting, morphological instruction can be generative, meaning that students can control their learning rather than the teacher controlling it.

Generative vocabulary instruction builds upon and expands students’ current vocabularies. It operates on the belief that students have background knowledge that we can build upon and use.  Check out an example of student-generated words from a mini-lesson I taught on the roots “pend” and “pens” last winter.

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In this example, I explicitly taught the word independent. Then, I showed students how pend or pens mean “hang” or “weigh.” Students generated words in small groups. Then we discussed how the words related to the meanings “hang” or “weigh.” Sometimes they didn’t — a situation referred to as “false roots.” However, most do. Then, I teach a few new words to students, relating the meanings of new words to “hang” or “weigh.”  Students report that this helps them improve their word-solving skills as well as their understanding of vocabulary in every subject area.

Students move from “the known to the new,” or they identify words they already know which contain the target morphemes. Once students can connect the meaning of the morphemes to their current vocabulary, they are better able to connect and remember new words that integrate the morphemes (Bear et al., 2012; Flanigan, Templeton, & Hayes, 2012; Stygles, 2011). In addition, generative vocabulary instruction emphasizes the spelling-meaning connection (Flanigan, Templeton, & Hayes, 2012). Consistent spelling of morphemes helps students make connections between words, even when they are pronounced differently. For example, the words category and categorical are pronounced differently, although the spellings of the words demonstrate that they are closely related in meaning.

I am currently integrating this approach into a language learning framework I am using in an action research study for the Governor’s Teacher Network. My new study incorporates similar mini-lessons to the pend/pens one, yet now I am having students connect morphemes to words in their native language. The participants in my study are in an ESL class, and they all share Spanish as a first language. I’m excited about how improved morphological knowledge will affect these students’ vocabulary as whole.  Below I’ve included a photo from our first mini-lesson on the prefixes com-, co-, con-, col- and cor-, which all mean “together” or “with.” Students have already generated great connections between words like concert (concerto), company (compania), and coordination (coordination).

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Do you use morphological instruction into your teaching? Have you used generative vocabulary instruction before? What types of lessons and activities have especially benefitted your students?