As I prepare to teach three sections of basic college reading this fall, I am working to identify a few basic, semester-long themes that will most effectively help my students improve their reading.

One of those critical themes will be vocabulary.  Teaching vocabulary is so crucial to building college reading and writing skills, but it is a slow, challenging process.  Research doesn’t support the effectiveness of the method I was most comfortable with: teach the word and its meaning, have students use it in a sentence, define it correctly on a quiz, and move on.  Rats.

I have gone down many vocabulary-instruction-paths in the past few years, and I am sifting through the successes and failures to decide on a structure to use this fall.  I need to be more organized than usual, as I tend to start classroom projects with great enthusiasm and determination, then start to forget components and follow-through as the semester moves on.  Then there are the snow days that fall on the only day we are able to get into the computer lab, the virulent flu strains that sweep through campus and decimate classroom presentations and my so well-planned schedule, and so on through the semester.

My vocabulary project will incorporate multiple intelligences, which means I will need to give students the opportunity to visualize new words, make music with them, move with them, see the logic in them, share them with others, internalize them and finally claim those words as their own.  I will also need to directly teach them about multiple intelligences before starting all this because, if they don’t understand the theory, my students stand so firmly on their dignity that almost everything creative is challenged as “too kindergarten.”  Well, okay then.

I will share my thinking as it takes shape, and hope to chronicle the progress of my plan as the semester unfolds.

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