Content and Concepts; Key Vocabulary

Content and Concepts are autopoietic by nature; they create one another and are created by one another.  Like it or not, even if we swear to the moon that we are teaching a concept based curriculum, we still need content.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="167"] A simple auto-poietic system, replace the names in the two boxes with content and concept[/caption]

Part of process of becoming functional within the concept is getting to know the content; specifically the language and jargon that a given field (subject, discipline, what have you) use.  The word Line means something different if you are studying Maps than it does it you are studying Communication Systems.  Sifting through this language can be a difficult task, especially if you have ESL students who are still mastering the language.

One way I have found that helps this is gDocs.  At the start of every unit, we create a new Key Vocabulary document that we all have access to.  Throughout the unit we revisit this document and build it together, use it is as place to gather information, help us write, remind us, or challenge what we know and push the learning further.

CLICK FOR EXAMPLE (this is our current vocabulary list and it is a work in progress)

Here are some ideas on how to engage with this:

  • Have one student assigned to be the Key Vocabulary expert everyday; when we come across a new word they put it in, either at home or in the class (assuming you have a functional computer in your class)

  • At the end of a project or large activity, have all students go into the document and update all of their key words

  • Put a word and definition in the document that is inaccurate, and have the students find it and discuss how it should be changed

  • When writing blog posts or reflections, have it opened in another window to assist with memory recall with the content

  • Have the students sort and resort the words according to different criteria

  • Use it as a way to inquire into the differences between nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

  • Print them off at the end of each unit and create a vocabulary book for the year


Any other ideas?  Please share.


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