There is strong evidence that focusing on improving our students’ range and depth of vocabulary is a key strategy for teachers increasing students’ reading comprehension. There are tech tools that can help them with word meaning.
When I was a freshman in college, I was so impressed that a friend of mine carried a dictionary whenever he had a book in his hand, even when it was just a paperback he was reading for entertainment. Now dictionaries like Longman’s are online. Students with smartphones often download dictionaries on to their phones. If they are English language learners they get the Google Translate app.
I don’t know about you, but when I am on the computer, I have found myself using Google. I type the word define into Google followed by the term I want a definition for and hit enter. Although I think this is an important skill when students are working on their computers, I think it is even more important for our students to either carry a dictionary everywhere (not!) or learn to use Google SMS on their phones. Why? Google SMS can be used by adult learners for real life purposes. They can, for example, see an unknown word on a poster while they are commuting to work and get a definition in seconds. But it could also jazz up a vocabulary activity.
- Have students get in groups of five or six.
- Ask each group to use only two or three cellphones, preferably ones with an unlimited texting plan.
- Give the group paper (or an electronic document if laptops are available) with a list of vocabulary words that you will be using in a reading or other follow-up activity.
- The object of the game is for each group to pass in to the teacher the list of words each term with a definition AND an example sentence that the group has created. The first group with correct usage gets a prize! Each student will need to send a text for at least one definition, but the group can work together to develop example sentences.
Do you have ideas for variations on this activity? Try it out and let us know how it goes!