MAT Blog

The Learning Network is Holding a 15-Second Vocabulary Contest for Students

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 14, 2014 10:46:59 AM

learning_networkI just found out via Richard Byrne that the The New York Times Learning Network is holding its second annual 15-Second Vocabulary Contest. This contest, which is open to anyone between the ages of 13 and 19, asks students to create a video in which they pronounce, define, and illustrate—using animation, drawing, acting, claymation, stop-motion, whatever—the meaning of one of the Learning Network's Words of the Day.

Submissions are due by November 11. Complete contest rules are available here.

To give you a sense for what the Learning Network is looking for in submissions, check out last year’s winning video created by Sam Jenks.

Spooky Story Starters Guide

Tags: vocabulary building, vocabulary enrichment, vocabulary contest

Dead Words: A Halloween-Inspired, Vocabulary-Building Activity

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 2, 2014 9:44:12 AM

We’re always looking for creative ways to help our students build their vocabulary and this morning, we came across a new one that’s perfect for the Halloween season! Dead Words is a vocabulary-building activity that’s as spooky and cute as it is effective.

Here’s how it works: First, the class brainstorms words that they overuse—words that are vague, dull, and don’t help us communicate very effectively. Once you settle on your “dead” words, write them down on slips of paper and temporarily “bury” them in a container.

Every week, select one “dead” word from the container and ask students to think about how they use it: is it a verb, an adjective, or an adverb? Next, students will use the classroom thesauruses to look up the word and find 10 alternatives.

Once students have their list, they create gravestones. Now you’re ready to hold a ceremony to say goodbye to the dead words and bury them once and for all!

Happy Halloween! And happy vocabulary-building!

vocabulary building

We'd like to thank The Inspired Classroom for this awesome vocabulary-building idea!


The Reading Playbook, a teachers guide to success

Tags: reading instruction, vocabulary building, vocabulary enrichment, reading fluency

5 Five-Minute Activities to Improve Vocabulary Building & Description

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 8, 2013 9:36:00 AM

In addition to the longer lessons that make up the main body of our curriculum, we like to add supplementary activities. Sometimes these are quick warm-ups intended to loosen up our students and get them into the right frame of mind. Other activities help us with vocabulary building, or simply act as intellectual “filler” to give students a respite from a class full of heavier, harder-to-digest content. We recently picked up a copy of Penny Ur’s and Andrew Wright’s book, Five-Minute Activities and thought we’d share a few of our favorite 5-minute activities with you.

5 Five-Minute Activities to Improve Vocabulary Building & Description

vocabulary buildingThe Abstract Picture
Draw a big rectangle on the board; inside of it add a variety of lines, squiggles, dots and shapes. Now take a step back and ask the class what they see. What do they think the picture represents? You will get more interaction if you assure students that there is no right or wrong answer. This activity works particularly well for English teachers who are teaching descriptive or creative writing and vocabulary.


vocabulary buildingAdjectives and Nouns
This activity asks students to suggest adjective-noun phrases. For example, an abstract painting, or a drowsy truck driver. As your students make suggestions, write the adjectives on one side of the board and the nouns on the other.

Now students have to create different adjective-noun combinations. When a suggestion is made, draw a line to connect one word to another. If your students suggest something unusual—a drowsy painting, for example—ask them to explain their word combination. Can a painting be drowsy? How so?

The Ambiguous Picture
This is another fun activity for teaching description. vocabulary building
Begin by drawing a small part of a picture. Now ask your students to guess what it’s going to be. The more opinions the better—and be sure not to reject ideas. Now build up your picture in stages, each time asking your students to guess what it is. If students guess, we like to throw them for a loop by changing the original idea.

Word Associations
We use this activity to review vocabulary and practice imaginative association. The teacher begins the activity by saying a word—tyrant, for example. Now the teacher randomly points to a student who must come up with a word association. The student might associate tyrant with merciless. Now that student points to another student who continues the process. If you want to quicken the pace of the game or make it more challenging, set a time limit or limit students to using only the vocabulary words they are studying.

Brainstorming ‘Round a Word
Start by writing a recently learned vocabulary word on the board and then ask your students to suggest all the words they associate with it. Write these down and draw spokes from each association to the root word.

If you want to make the game more challenging, impose restrictions. For example, tell students that they can only use adjectives that apply to the central noun. Or invite verbs that apply to the noun.

For advanced classes, try beginning with a root word—“part,” for example. This might lead to words like depart, impart, partner, part-time, and so on.

These are only five of over 130 activities you’ll find in Five-Minute Activities. Should you need more, check out our most recent guide, Breaking the Ice: 15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School.



Guide to Reading Comprehension

Tags: vocabulary, vocabulary enrichment, arts integration, multisensory learning

What do Lady Gaga, a Medical Student and Flocabulary Have in Common?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 19, 2013 12:42:00 PM


flocabularyEven if you didn’t want to like that Lady Gaga song, there’s a good chance you can faithfully parrot the sugary chorus of it. Be honest now, you know it: Can't read my/ Can't read my/ No he can't read my poker face.” Some hooks are unforgettable, even after a single listen, and though you may not be able to glean anything particularly academic from “Poker Face,” we think a case can be made for using the pop-song formula as a teaching and studying tool. 

It may sound ridiculous (and we suppose it is to some extent), but students have long been putting information to music and using it as learning tool. In fact, we know of one medical student who starting writing anatomy and physiology songs so that he could pass his exams. Included in his oeuvre are crowd-pleasers like “Integumentary System, How Do You Do It?” and “If I were a Skeletal Muscle Tissue.” Let’s get to the point though:

We’d like to introduce Flocabulary, an online learning platform that delivers educational hip-hop songs and videos to students in grades K-12. Flocabulary has been around for a little over a decade and boasts a weekly audience of 5 million students. Their mission: “To motivate kids and help them reach their full academic potential, not only by raising test scores but by fostering a love of learning in every child.”

Flocabulary’s database of songs covers anything from the discovery of America and the Bill of Rights to the scientific method, grammar and Mark Twain.

You’re free to try Flocabulary at no cost for 14 days. Thereafter, you can choose from three plans:

  • Flocabulary: ($5/month) Access to hundreds of original songs & videos in all major K-12 Subject Areas and standards-aligned lessons for each song
  • Week in Rap: ($5/month) Every Friday you’ll receive the week’s biggest stories in a rap music video
  • Flocabulary + The Week in Rap: ($7/month)

Here’s a sample of what they have to offer:

If your students are anything like ours, they love it when technology is integrated into the classroom. To help you do this, we’ve put together a resource that offers 50 of our favorite teacher-friendly websites and apps. Our descriptions of each resource are brief and lighthearted—and hopefully, substantive enough to give you a sense for whether or not they will fit your students’ and your needs. Check it out and share it with your friends and colleagues!

Download our FREE guide: 50 Apps for Teachers!

Tags: apps for educators, vocabulary, vocabulary enrichment, arts integration, multisensory learning, apps for teachers

In the middle. Vocabulary enrichment for grades 6-8.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jan 14, 2012 5:32:00 AM

Marygrove MAT shares a strategy for vocabulary enrichment for middle schoolersThe middle school years are incredibly important for students to build their vocabulary knowledge. As they prepare to transition to more difficult content area studies in high school, having a strong vocabulary foundation in a variety of subjects is key. Studies have shown that academic performance can decline sharply in these years, so it is critical to reach students by building their confidence, strengthening their skills, and keeping them actively engaged in learning activities. A great place to begin is with Robert Marzano’s six-step process for vocabulary instruction in the middle grades.*

As a renowned educational theorist, researcher, and practitioner, Marzano has proven that the following research-based steps are crucial in helping middle school students improve their content area vocabulary knowledge. This process is applicable to a variety of subjects and will support vocabulary building for all students at any ability level. It works best if you do not skip any steps:

Step 1: Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term. 

  • Simply looking up new vocabulary terms in a dictionary is not enough for students to truly begin to construct meaning. Teachers need to find ways to provide context for the new terms. Some examples include using authentic experiences to explain the term, telling a story that integrates the content area vocabulary term, using video clips, describing a mental picture of the term, or using images to explain the term.

Step 2: Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.

  • This is an opportunity for teachers to monitor and correct their learners’ current understanding of vocabulary terms.  Students should be encouraged to explain the term with original ideas, not simply restate the teacher's explanation. This could be accomplished in a class discussion or recorded in a content-area vocabulary notebook.

Step 3: Ask students to construct a picture, pictograph, or symbolic representation of the term.

  • Since there are a variety of ways for students to non-linguistically exhibit their understanding, providing models of acceptable responses is an effective way to reinforce understanding. Students could draw (or find) images that represent the term, play a Pictionary-style game, create a comic book, or dramatize the term using characters and speech bubbles.

Step 4: Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their vocabulary notebooks.

  • There are a variety of ways teachers can help support ongoing vocabulary knowledge and practice. These include placing an emphasis on the affixes and root word, identifying synonyms and antonyms, constructing analogies, analyzing similarities between two terms, classifying words into categories, and studying a word's etymology.

Step 5: Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another.

  • When students discuss vocabulary terms with one another, they will solidify their own understanding and learn from one another. Together, students can compare their descriptions, orally describe their drawings, help correct any misunderstandings, find areas of common understanding and disagreement, and make revisions to their work.

Step 6: Involve students periodically in games that enable them to play with terms.

  • Using games to support content area vocabulary understanding is a meaningful way for learners to remain engaged with the terms. Games also help teachers create additional context for ongoing vocabulary understanding.  While there are many traditional ones that students can play to support content area vocabulary knowledge, teachers should also encourage online games like Quizlet. Check out a variety of grade level games on this website from the State of Tennessee.

When teachers follow this six-step process, they will help to build a foundational understanding for vocabulary enrichment– a foundation that will serve students well through high school and beyond. Be sure to share your successes with us in the comments section below!

*Marzano, R. J. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement: Research on what works in schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.



Tags: word knowledge, Robert Marzano, reading comprehension, vocabulary enrichment

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