Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Blogger Week: Vocabulary Building Through Shared Writing and a WIDA Freebie

So excited to have the very first guest blogger for the "Best Practices for Language Learners" week post on this topic! Please welcome (and put your hands together in blog world style ;)), for Mrs. Castro from  Mrs. Castro's Class...2nd Grade Spanglish Style.

Hello all, this is Mrs. Castro guest blogging on Krista’s blog, Second Grade Super kids.  This is my first time guest blogging, so bear with me. 

Vocabulary Building Through Shared Writing
When working with ELLS, building their vocabulary is one of our top concerns.  This past year I found a way to unite our English vocabulary and writing in such a way that my kids were begging to do this activity every week!  Seriously!

Each week we had 6 new English vocabulary words.  Ours came from a vocabulary program.  But you could use vocabulary from read alouds, a basal, and the content area…any vocabulary you want to introduce to your kids.  I enjoyed our vocabulary program because it exposed my ELLs to words they might not otherwise get to experience.  They felt like such smart kids when they could use “preposterous”, or “tremendous” in a sentence. 

I introduced the vocabulary and we did different activities to familiarize ourselves with the terms.  We liked those activities.  But something was missing to make the vocabulary “stick” and “come to life” for my students.  So, we began using our vocabulary words to write. 

This was a shared writing activity – I functioned as the facilitator and secretary, but the students did most of the work.  This was usually half way through the week – the kids were familiar with the words but were ready for more.

Here are some examples.  The first two are early examples – pre brainstorming.  They aren’t as good as the second two, when we began brainstorming and using our favorite characters instead of each other.  

Materials – chart paper and different colored markers
Where – whole group area
·       Sit as a group with chart paper and markers
·       Review words quickly.
·       Brainstorm – what could we write about with these words? 
o   Brainstorming is essential!  At the beginning of the year we just leapt into the story without brainstorming.  It was difficult to write a good story like this…and we decided brainstorming was essential to good writing – my kids figured that out!
o   Did we want to write about each other? Did we want to continue our story from the previous week?  Did we need to introduce new characters? What would happen?
o   How could we use the words?  We especially planned for the difficult words!
·       Write.  I was the secretary and facilitator.  Students shared their ideas sentence by sentence, and we pieced the story together. 
·       We color coded our stories – one color for general words, another color for vocab words.  If we included vocabulary words from previous stories; we gave them the vocab color.
·       Then we read the story together. 
·       If we still had time, students read the story in partners – I underlined the sentences with two different colors, one for each partner.  (Fluency practice!)
·       Then students would have a chance to read aloud to the class.

Originally we wrote about each other and wrote some silly stories.  But I found the best stories were written about our most cherished characters from books.  We wrote about Eula Square Cat, Ralph and his motorcycle, Splat the Cat, the Three Little Tamales, and more.  We included our pets, and anything else that was meaningful at the time. 

It was exciting to see how my students were able to imagine different fictional characters interacting.  By modeling the writing process for my students and including them in the process, my kids showed huge gains in English writing.  I hope that this sounds like a strategy that might work for your class!  It was our favorite!  Next year I plan to experiment by not only using the vocabulary words, but also purposefully modeling different writing traits, sentence patterns, style choices in addition to nonfiction writing. 

WIDA Freebie
I want to give you a freebie.  This is my WIDA classroom template where you can keep track of all of your students’ ACCESS scores in one spot for each of the language domains.  This is great for a bilingual classroom, or for resource teachers to provide to the teachers they support.  The CAN-DO descriptors are modified to fit the document as well.  Click the image to download.

If you’ve read this far, thank you!  I’m excited to have had the chance to guest blog for the first time…especially on another bilingual teacher’s blog. This is my birthday week, so I’m going to shamelessly ask you to stop by my blog as a “bloggy” present to me.  There you can find more on my bilingual primary classroom.  I would love to connect with more bilingual teachers!
Click the image below to head on over.

Mrs. Castro


  1. Hi Mrs. Castro! Thanks for your post... I love the pictures you included. I'm head to your blog now.

    Krista... I wanted to let you know I nominated you for an award! Go to my page to get it :)

    Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans

  2. I love this idea and think it is so interesting how you discovered that they really blossomed when they wrote about favorite characters. Isn't it great when we can anchor their present learning and practice to books we have fallen in love with in the past? It's like having an inside joke that just keeps resurrecting itself and gets funnier every time! Thanks for sharing this idea! I am definitely going to implement it as I coach and teach!

  3. What a great idea to really cement new vocabulary!
    And I love the poem you posted yesterday Krista :)
    First Grade Dual

  4. I love the idea of using Shared Writing with the vocabulary words to make silly stories! I bet, by the end of the year, they could do this in groups, too! :) Thanks for sharing!

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad