Monday, July 22, 2013

Vocabulary Development with Quizlet

I flipped my classroom in Advanced Placement US Government and Politics 2 years ago.  Lectures are posted online, and the students complete activities and participate in simulations during classtime.  This is quite a change for the typical AP student at our high school.  After about a month of this instructional change, I noticed something that stood out.  The students' vocabulary was severely lacking.

In AP Government, there is an extroardinary amount of vocuabulary to learn in a short amount of time -- the course is taught in a semester.  Quite frankly, if you're not a follower of the news, most of the vocabulary is completely foreign.  Since the filibuster was used over 100 times last Congressional term and was debated just this past week, why isn't it a household term?

I needed to implement a strategy to help the students learn the vocabulary.

This is why I use Quizlet.

Quizlet is an online resource that allows students to create vocabulary terms and then choose from a variety of ways to learn them.

In my flipped AP Gov classroom, Quizlet is a shared responsibility.  On the first day of every unit (or one week), I release a list of vocabulary of about 40-50 terms.  Each student is assigned at least 2 terms.  The students log in to quizlet, and there, they define their assigned terms. 

When they think they have finished, the student raises their hand, I preview their definitions, and they add their set of terms and definitions to our class bank.

After each student has uploaded their terms, I combine all of their sets into one for the entire unit.

With this finalized set, the students have the opportunity to learn or review the vocabulary in a number of different ways:

I have found that the boys in the class like to compete and will play some of the games over and over again until they dominate the leaderboard. 

Others just like to flip through the flash cards or take some of the practice quizes.

Any way they are learning is fine by me!

A few pitfalls to watch for: 

I always preview their definitions before they are uploaded.  The reason is that Quizlet has an auto-define option in which the student types the word in and Quizlet suggests a definition.  For some of the terms, the student might have no idea what it means so anything that looks good could be correct to them.

Consider setting limits to how the student defines the term.  Some students would write a paragraph or even two run-on sentences.  Be very clear what you are looking for.  I tell them to be clear and be brief.

As you preview their set, be sure to ask them -- do you know what that means?  The student might type anything or use the auto-define.  There may be words in the definition that they don't even know.

Challenge the students or demonstrate.  Throughout the week, I might play scatter so the the students can try to beat me or comment on how some of the students have been practicing the vocab with the Quizlet created quizzes.

Have fun with it . . . I mean when will be the next time the students will be practicing vocabulary with a term like the Budget Impoundment Act of 1974.

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