Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vocabulary in a discussion forum

My students (grade 8) just weren't that interested in learning their 20 words of vocabulary. There just had to be a better way. One of the things I did was create a Moodle discussion, with a thread for each of the words. Dead easy assignment: post a definition, synonym, antonym, picture that illustrates the word, word origin, or use the word in a sentence.

I started with a requirement of 5. Post one thing about 5 words, 5 things about 1 word. Except they posted 20 or 30! So I upped the minimum to 10 things. And some students are still posting 20 or 30. I've hit on something! The pictures are especially a hit. (They are supposed to cite their sources.) We discovered that bmp images don't show in Moodle, that sometimes other pictures don't show either - or show on some computers but not others. The first two times, we do this f2f in the computer lab, so that I can head off any technical difficulties or misunderstandings. After that, it's homework.

The first few times there were a LOT of spelling, punctuation, capitalization errors. So after they had success, I warned them that they wouldn't get credit if there were errors; they didn't believe me. So I marked the errors with strike-throughs and took away credit. Oh, the wailing. But they're doing a much better job of proofreading now.

It isn't just that they're engaged with doing the work. Something interesting is happening with vocabulary tests. More A's. Usually I have the classic middle school reverse bell-curve: mostly A's and D/F's, not many C's. Now, I'm getting mostly A's and B's. And it's not an easy test. Use the word correctly in a sentence and show that you know the meaning - much harder than multiple-guess.

I think I'm onto something.

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