Saturday, May 4, 2013

Membean for Comprehensive Vocabulary Instruction

We know that to be an effective communicator, one must have an appropriately developed vocabulary.  Providing students access to literature and other texts is so important in helping students create a rich vocabulary.  But, unless students have the opportunity to use it, vocabulary instruction may not translate into the eloquent prose you are hoping for. 

My students found our vocabulary book to be pretty boring.  All the students learning the same words, writing uninspiring sentences, taking the tests at the same time, and probably never using the words again.  For me, it was tough to make vocabulary instruction interesting.  Then I was introduced to Membean.  This is online vocabulary instruction that is completely individualized to each student’s ability and progress.

The students go through a calibration process to identify the words they don’t know.  Then the Membean system provides each student with a very large set of words they need to learn.  They use words in context, memory hooks, roots, related words, and examples from real life to convey what each word means.  Video, images, and text are all used to explain meaning.  The Membean system knows when students have learned words, and will repeat exposure when words are not learned. 

Once the student has learned a selected set of words, they can take a quiz.  Student time and quiz results are available to the teacher on the dashboard. 

I supplement this instruction with application activities.  For example, after each quiz, my students create a slideshow (Prezi, Little Bird Tales, or the like) using the word in context with an image.  No definitions, no clapping out the stressed syllable.  By learning the roots and using the visible cues, they better understand the meaning and make connections to other similar words. 

The best part is the students really enjoy working on Membean.  They don’t fear the quizzes; they understand they won’t be quizzed until they are ready.  They talk to each other about the videos and images, and compare slideshows.  This never happened using the old textbook.  The cost per student is comparable to the cost of textbooks.  For me, this is a no-brainer for my upper grade vocabulary instruction for the next school year.

CC Connection: The Language Anchor Standards include Vocabulary Acquisition and Use.  Membean addresses all three subsections.

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