Thursday, April 14, 2016

Happy Vocab

After spending the last year or two developing marketing and design skills and having to focus quite a bit of time immersed in tasks of rebranding, website design, content formatting and a whole slew of things which required expanding my skill set, I am excited that I finally have time to begin working directly with students again!

I am 145% passionate about helping students discover their true brain power and unlock the puzzles related to our English language. I also thoroughly enjoy the somewhat unpredictable nature of how my students see the world and apply (or almost apply) the strategies and knowledge from our explorations. I strive to help them find humor as well as pride in all they do and I am rarely disappointed.

Brief Background for Context

I think it's safe to describe one of my current co-researchers (we are always research partners working to find what works and doesn't work for their brain to read, spell, communicate and remember well) as having a good sense of humor, someone who is witty, creative and coming into his own as an individual with dyslexia - not to mention an adolescent. One of our goals has been developing stronger executive functions as far as planning and strategies for organizing information. We've also been on a journey of exploring the layers of the English language and are just delving into the forests of Latin and Greek Morphemes after an amazingly quick jaunt through the realm of the Anglo-Saxon layer. So, keep in mind that using spelling and written language to organize information or as a memory support is a fairly new tool in his default moves.

I am a trainer for teachers in the areas of English Language Arts, in particular working with students with learning disabilities, strategy based in instruction, Orton-Gillingham based literacy instruction and teaching vocabulary through morphology and multisensory methods. I frequently ask students I work with what types of strategies and concepts I should be sure to teach teachers to help kids in their classes.

Humor with a Side of Delight

This week, my co-researcher and I chatted about some recent professional development conferences and research sessions I've attended related to vocabulary instruction; in particular, the research behind the task we had just completed.

I was transitioning materials from one activity to another and he, as usual, was enjoying the slight break his brain got to take while I worked (I am a firm believer that the students should always work harder than me when we are together, so he truly enjoys those brief pauses!). While we chatted, he flipped open his planner and began jotting a string of letters in a note box. It was obvious he had thought of something he didn't want to forget so he was trying to get it down, but not out in the open enough to be asked about it. If you work with adolescents, you know that type of move I'm talking about... I'm listening, but writing this down - wait, did I write that right? uh-oh, what did she say? yeah, got it.... quick slide the paper away so I can look like I'm paying attention and didn't break stride...... 

As I concluded, I told him I was hoping to develop some decent session names that could describe how working with vocabulary, morphology, etc.. is important but doesn't have to be super boring; I wanted to come up with some names that would work for teacher sessions as well as some that might work for junior high or high school and thought that just saying "You Can Teach Vocabulary Well Without Wanting to Bash Your Head in from Boredom" was probably too long.  He looked up sharply and I thought I had finally crossed the threshold into "crazy lady". I was pleasantly surprised when he said, "I have one for you". He thumbed open his planner to the page he had been writing on. That string of letters was actually a mneumonic he thought of for me:

How to Teach Vocabulary so you don't Want to Blow Your Brains Out. "Or", he said, "you could try Happy Vocab".

More than a Trifecta

  1. He created a mneumonic and all the letters were in the right sequence.
  2. He had his planner (the first session after we got back from Spring Break) and used it make a note to himself.
  3. He used the note he made from himself in his planner.
  4. He thought I could teach vocab in a not-so-boring way!
Happy Vocab indeed.....

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