My family and I love the line of Cranium games. (Talk about honoring multiple intelligences! I think these game-makers have attended a conference or two. Or maybe they're just smart people who know how differently people think.)
In one of their games, Cranium Cadoo, there is a category called "Fast Finds." Each Fast Find card lists two things you have to find before the timer runs out. For example, one card might say:
• something cold
• something fuzzy
The kids love this category because they can get up and race around the house and the whole time they're racing around, the teacher-me thinks, "This is great vocabulary practice!"
Playing off this idea, I started doing something similar during reading workshop and small group reading instruction. I don't do this every day, but when I want to focus on vocabulary or new concepts, I work it into my plans. You can either guide this work with a small group of students, or model it during the workshop, or have children work in pairs... all work well... and it works with both fiction and nonfiction texts.
Small Group Examples:
In this "Day 2" guided reading session, I put four vocabulary words on each child's book prior to the rereading of the text. I read the words to the group and ask them to go back into the text, finding a part that matches or explains each word. (Not only is this a great exercise in comprehension and reasoning, but my ELLs and children with language delays really benefit from thinking through the word meanings. If needed, you can scaffold the work with a simple picture on the sticky note.) Usually, I have the children work on their own first and then share with a partner or the whole group, depending on the time. Watching them reason as they make their choices is interesting to me and it's a great informal assessment. Often, there are no "right" or "wrong" answers... as long as they can justify why they chose a certain part for a certain word and it makes sense, I consider the activity a success.
I also use this Fast Find activity to see if children understand text features and to facilitate the sharing of opinions. Example:
In this example, you can see the children have to find two text features (a caption and a key word), but they also have to choose something "cute" and something "scary." These are important vocabulary concepts for my ELLs, but they also give each child an opportunity to think critically, make choices, and explain their opinions to others.
And I love using Fast Finds when we're reading fiction, too. I can use words that help us practice story elements (a character, the setting, the problem...) or I can practice "feelings," as shown in this example from Elephant and Piggie's I Broke My Trunk!
In this text, you can see the students' choices really reflect their ability to comprehend the events of the story and infer meaning. The author never uses these feeling words in the text, so the children must connect the dots of the plot, think about their prior schema, and study the facial expressions to reason through how the characters are feeling. Again, I ask the children to support their choices by explaining their thinking, which is also a great way to develop their expressive vocabularies.
I share this idea and others in my vocabulary pack, Very, Very Vocabulary. If you're looking for new ideas to help increase your students' vocabulary, take a look. It's best suited for kids in grades 1-3.
Happy teaching! :)