Monday, February 6, 2012

Language, Vocabulary, & Grammar... Oh My!

Hello again... its Jennifer from Empowering Little Learners and Simply Centers.  Today I want to talk about something that has been a pain in my side for about five years now... teaching language, vocabulary and grammar... oh my!

I live in Arizona and we have very strict laws about how we teach our second language learners.  All students who register for school with any language other than English are all placed into a single classroom.  In schools where the students are predominately language learners, they are leveled off according to language ability -- according to 4 levels (and then an English class if needed.)  These language classrooms are required to teach 60 minutes of explicit reading, 60 minutes of explicit language (which is grammar and vocabulary), 60 minutes of explicit writing, and 60 minutes of explicit listening and speaking.  And they can't overlap (isn't listening and speaking all day?)  It is STRONGLY suggested that these do not get broken into smaller segments and so it can be very difficult to plan your schedule let alone your lessons!  (Sigh!)  The biggest complaint teachers say is that students have no language models other than the teacher... but we are asked to teach in ways where students do the majority of the talking!  An oxymoron sort of!  (And what about math... there is no time in the day left for math!)

So let's start with language.  You usually think of language as speaking and not sentence construction, and vocabulary.  It really is all encompassing of these concepts though.  Once I have taught the concepts it is easy to reinforce it through the day.  We even start our day every day by passing around a speaking stone and practice saying complete, elaborate sentences about various topics using different parts of grammar and our vocabulary.  To put a fun twist on this I have collected stress balls from many places I have visited over the years.  Just the other day we were at the airport and they had one in the shape of an airplane on the counter and so I asked and she gave me 12 of them!  It's the next two parts that make this area of my day so difficult for me - how do you teach Vocabulary and Grammar! 
Vocabulary; it's getting more difficult!  Our reading program has a very prescribed vocabulary program.  Every lesson has about 2 or 3 words we are supposed to teach the kids.  BUT... with language learners these words are very inappropriate (squabble, substantiate, and progression for kinder... really?)  So I find myself each week trying to figure out what 'words' to teach my kids!  I have tried everything... pulling words from books, doing thematic words, and pretty much just doing words I feel like they should know.  I feel like it is very disconnected and not fluid for the overall year.  (A little background on me - I am at a new school this year and we have no curriculum map.)  Here is what my vocabulary looks like for February.  We do these words within lessons during reading and my favorite is to use them during our Writing Center!  Click the image on the left to grab the February ones for free!  I even incorporate these into my math lessons as students recreate these same image with blocks and count how many blocks it took! These are available monthly in my TpT store!

Grammar; what, and hour of nothing but grammar?  I mean.. what can I say?  I don't know what to say!  Do you know how hard it is to come up with 60 minutes of grammar each day?  We do a lot of Thinking Maps... let's define a noun or let's describe a dog using adjectives.  To be honest with you... I have seriously had to look up what certain parts of grammar are because I did not know exactly what they meant... what makes a verb imperative anyways?  And I am seriously just happy that my students can identify run as a verb, let alone which verbs are imperative!  (I admit... so please don't give me grief... all teachers struggle in one area or another... grammar has ALWAYS been mine, even growing up!)  So every once and awhile I come up with something great like a recent lesson I did on adjectives with my $10 IKEA igloo.  We turned it into our "Adjective Igloo."  We spent a period learning about igloos by viewing info on the Internet and in books and collecting a bank of adjectives to describe it.  Then the students had to all come up with their own adjective to add to the igloo!  Amazing lesson using realia I have to say - way more meaningful than just putting up the igloo during the winter!  BTW - IKEA still has these igloos even though I have had mine for years!   

There is so little out there to explicitly teach Language, Vocabulary, and Grammar for our little learners!  I hope I am not alone if feeling this!  So the purpose of this post is to create some buzz about these topics for little learners and hopefully get some our of our great PreKandKSharing authors, fellow bloggers, and even some readers to share some ideas by commenting below their ideas to teach Language, Vocabulary, and Grammar. Let's put our heads together and create a great bank of ideas!

As always, it's great that you stopped by to read my little post.  I will see you (well write to you) next month... be sure to stop by and say hi at any of the places below! 

Happy Monday Everyone!

Jennifer  =)

1 comment:

  1. Those are some tough restrictions, but I LOVE your "adjective" igloo, Jennifer! I pinned it to my Kids' Winter Activities Pinterest board at

    I adore Montessori education for hands-on grammar activities. I'm too late to link up, but I have a post on the Montessori grammar farm and other grammar resources at


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