Empowering English Language Learners: Collect New Words

At Center City PCS in Shaw, we teach native speakers of 9 languages. I use a three-part framework to support English Language Learners in being strong, independent learners in a blended learning classroom. Check out Part 1 here, and stay tuned for Part 3 later this week!

Part 2: Collect new words.

Building vocabulary is the key to an English language learner’s (ELL’s) success. I tell my students that when they read, they are like Mario traveling through his video game world. Each new word they encounter and pick up for themselves is like one of those gold rings that Mario collects on his journey. Recording a word that is new to them so that they can study it later should set off a rewarding “Ding!” in their brains, just like the “Ding!” that Mario hears when he picks up a gold ring.

Many of my students already have the habit of collecting words that are new to them and recording them in their individual vocabulary notebooks. The challenge is making sure that students go back and study those words later so that the words move to long term memory.

A teacher at the EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit in July shared a tech strategy he uses to address this challenge, which I will be trying his strategy year. When this teacher’s students read online, he has them read with Quizlet, an online flashcard program, open in another tab. Students can create digital flashcards as they read. A teacher can then see what words students are recording and how often students go back to study these words.

At our computer station this year, I will require students to use Quizlet to collect new words as they read. I am excited to see what difference the digital flashcards make in students’ independent acquisition of new vocabulary.

Check back later this week for more on the framework I use to support ELLs in being strong, independent learners in a blended learning classroom!

Alison Gillmeister, 2015 Education Innovation Fellow
Center City Public Charter Schools—Shaw Campus


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