As I stir up the conundrum of best current 21st Century practice ingredients for my second graders, something is becoming very clear. VOCABULARY matters more than ever. We as teachers are striving to NOT be the flight controllers in their classrooms; however, when young children are just learning how to be students, explorers, creators, communicators, collaborators and critical thinkers, they have to have a jumping off place. Once they are given the words and concepts, that is when the journey begins. Then, when they have freedom to search for what they are interested in, most likely, it will be something we have helped them “unpack” and investigate.
Vocabulary comes from countless sources in the midst of each whirlwind of a day; moreover, it will magically “poof” into the classroom when one is least expecting it, from: teacher read alouds, content areas, student events, community issues/challenges, and so on and so on.
Never would I have imagined that my Colorado students would suddenly start researching the Louisiana Bayou, deforestation, and the explorer Desoto—-thanks to The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp–our current class read aloud!
Never would I have guessed that students would be curious about Belgium and its importance in Europe, and Australia’s existence SO south of the equator—-thanks to a Mystery Skype!
Never would I have considered that a group of students would want to learn more about Orangutans and their plight regarding palm oil—thanks to a philanthropic student’s research 10 miles away from our classroom!
…The list is unending, as we continue to explore and find words/concepts which spur interest. And guess what?—Here is the clincher: every one of these areas mentioned can easily connect to district and state standards–and have been spurred by vocabulary. As students explore and show their thinking in novel and creative ways– skills such as problem solving, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, resiliency, systems thinking, global awareness, civic responsibility and health and wellness are there right before our eyes! It is really easy, students will lead the way, if given the chance.
Are there times that we have to regroup, discuss and try again? Of course. This is the continuous and normal flow of a classroom of 25 seven and eight year olds and a teacher who is not telling them exactly how to do things. This flow and regrouping mentality is part of the natural routine and norm of our classroom community.
“Let’s keep trying to get better.” “You made a mistake, that is okay, try again.” “You don’t know what that word means, find out and let me know.”
Once students search and find information about a vocabulary word/concept and interpret it through their own thinking processes, the fun begins. Students strive to show their thinking with quality products created in a variety of ways: Maker’s Space explorations, Lego interpretations, and applications on the iPad—all popular tools in our classroom.
Here are some apps which students enjoy in the Primary Innovation Studio. I feel that a menu of applications is best for students as they need to pick the tool that works for the information they want to communicate, and trust me, they are better at figuring them out than I am!
So, vocabulary is one of the working keys that is gently helping me open this big, giant door of Primary 21st Century Learning practices.