Tag Archives: vocabulary

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com.  One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language.  The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space.  If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.”  I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons ;)

To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift.  I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.

The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others.  For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.

Of course.  What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?

Periodic table.  Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.

You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one ;)

I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom.  Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example.  Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book.  (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.”  They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)

Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom.  If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).

thingexplainer
Buy Thing Explainer here!

W-ord Channel 7 News

I am literally typing on my keyboard with my fingers right now as I literally attempt to compose this Phun Phriday blog post without literally exaggerating the cleverness of this video.

Comedian/Talk-Show Host John Oliver teamed up with Cookie Monster to make this hilarious 5-minute news parody about words in the headlines.  Despite the presence of Cookie Monster, the video’s amusement factor increases proportionally with your age, as you will understand more of the references.

Even though I usually try not to stick in any curriculum references on my Phun Phriday post, I could literally envision my students attempting a similar video with some of our vocabulary words…

Last Letter by ThinkFun

image from: Last Letter game on Amazon.com
image from: Last Letter game by ThinkFun on Amazon.com

Note: ThinkFun gave a copy of Last Letter to my GT class to review.  However all opinions are my own – and those of my daughter and students ;)

ThinkFun always lives up to its name with its products.  Over my 14 years of teaching elementary GT students, we have enjoyed and learned from a lot of ThinkFun games.  As a mother of a daughter who is now 11, I can say that our family has found them to be equally educational and entertaining.

Last Letter is one of the newest games from ThinkFun, and I thought it would make a great Phun Phriday post.  This simple card game can appeal to all age levels that know how to spell – or at least can identify the first and last letter of words.  The rules are easy.  Everyone gets 5 cards.  The dealer puts down a card face-up and names something on that card.  The first person to find something on one of their own cards that starts with the last letter of the word the dealer gave puts his or her card down, and the game continues in that vein until someone is out of cards.

On a day when the majority of my class was missing due to a threat to San Antonio area schools, I decided to lighten the mood by trying the game with some of my 5th graders.  They loved it!  They enjoyed the unique illustrations on the cards and loved the challenge of searching their vocabulary for synonyms to help them put down a card.  I was vastly over-matched.  While I was quite literal (if someone said, “boy” for one card, I would say, “yellow” for the next) my students were much more creative.  We had a few challenges to words where students would have to explain the connection of the word to a card.  For example, for the 2nd picture below, one of my students would probably have said something like, “starvation” to describe the plight of the man on the island – while I probably would have said, “shark.”

Last Letter is a great game to play as a family as it definitely broadens everyone’s vocabulary.  Young and not-so-young can easily play together and learn from each other.  You can also change the rules to make it more challenging for some or all of the players.  For example, “no colors” or “no emotions” are two good parameters to set for older players.  There are so many images packed into each card that you can play the game repeatedly and never be bored.

Last Letter can currently be purchased from Amazon.com for $12.99.  I am adding it to my Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students – but it is fun for all to play! You don’t have to be gifted or a student to enjoy it!

image from: amazon.com
image from: Last Letter game on Amazon.com

 

My Favorite Vocabulary Building Websites

I thought this might be a good time of year to summarize and emphasize some of the most valuable resources I have reviewed so far.  Today’s list is the last of my “Favorites” posts for 2011.  Here are my Favorite Vocabulary Building Websites:

#3:  Vocab Ahead – This site includes videos and a feature for teachers to create personalized lists and embed them on their websites or blogs.  This site is primarily for upper level students, as it hits pretty hard on SAT vocabulary.

#2:  Word Sort – You have to figure out the secret rule for classifying the words.  I love that this simple game involves logical reasoning, as well as building vocabulary.

#1:  VocabularySpelling City –  This site allows teachers to build their own lists, offers lists that have already been created, and encourages practice on the students’ parts by playing a variety of games with the words.

Here are the links to my posts on each of these sites:  Vocab Ahead, Word Sort, VocabularySpelling City

Word Cloud Alphabet Book

I found this example on KB Connected.  You can see more examples and find the link to Mr. Zetterberg’s site on her blog post.  This idea could easily be modified for higher grades or more advanced students by using more challenging words or asking them to create their own books.

Word Sort

Word Sort is one of the many “brain games” offered by Lumosity.  In this particular one, cards are revealed one at a time.  Each card has a word on it, and the player must determine whether or not the card “follows the rule”.  At first, the player has to randomly guess, but should soon see a pattern in the words that fall into the rule-following pile.  Once the player is able to correctly classify 6 words in a row, he or she is eligible for the next level.  This is a good game for practicing vocabulary and logical reasoning.  It would also be  a neat idea to extend it further for higher level students by asking them to create their own games with words from the curriculum.

Teacher Book Wizard

This site, produced by Scholastic, is a nice tool to use in helping teachers to select books.  It includes leveled searches based on the “Level System” your school uses.  Another nifty feature is the “Book Alike” search, which allows you to look for books which are similar to certain ones the student already likes.  For the latter, the teacher can even use a toggle switch to indicate whether to search for books at an easier, harder, or equivalent level to the book cited.  A Book Wizard widget can be added to your website or blog for students and parents to utilize as well.