Here’s an example of how social media can lead you down a fruitful path:

On August 28, 2012, I logged onto Twitter. I noticed that #Back2School was the top hashtag, so out of curiosity, I clicked. One of the first screens of hits included “STEM, Literacy, and the Common Core Standards.” I like interdisciplinary ideas; thus I clicked again. THEN I clicked on an embedded link in the first sentence of this article, which brought me to the related piece “Readability, the Common Core, and Vocabulary.”

It’s a great article–PLEASE read it if you’re teaching children of any age to read! What caught my attention from a Web 2.0 angle, however, are the screencaps of something called VocabGrabber.

I decided to paste in Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”).

First, you get a word cloud similar to what Wordle produces, except it shows ALL of the words, with more prominent / repeated ones in larger font and different colors. I then clicked the box for “Vocabulary,” which gave me six words:

How great is this for teachers who want to generate an appropriate vocabulary quiz? Students could even be asked to use this tool on a poem, chapter from a novel (an old, copyright-free one available freely on the web), or chapter from an online science textbook. They generate their own vocabulary lists, promoting a sense of ownership, or maybe contribute their best word to a class-wide spelling or vocabulary test for the week.

For pre-service teachers, it might not be a bad idea to grab and paste some of the STAAR standards for your target grade level(s) or TEXES competencies for your content exam. What are the most important terms you need to master? What vocabulary do you need to know not only to pass your test but to be an effective classroom teacher?

Below are my results for the STAAR Grade 3 Mathematics Assessment Reporting Category 1: Numbers, Operations, and Quantitative Reasoning (“The student will demonstrate an understanding of numbers, operations, and quantitative reasoning”):

I definitely need to know about whole numbers and operations, as well as the definition of quantitative.


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