En la Clase: The Cognitive Content Dictionary~ Teaching Vocabulary through Día de los Muertos

As Keira mentioned in her Sobre Octubre post, one of our themes for this month is Día de los Muertos.  Charla, Alice, Kalyn, and I will all be sharing different resources you can use to teach about this celebration in your classroom.  We’ve accumulated a number of posts on the topic over the past couple of years.  You can check them all out by clicking on the Día de los Muertos button in the right hand sidebar of the blog’s home page.  As we mention frequently on the blog, while we are strong advocates for multicultural education, we believe that it must be done in a way that goes beyond heroes and holidays.  In our Día de los Muertos Curriculum Guide we’ve created lesson plans and activities that focus on teaching both cultural content and literacy skills in such a way that students will engage with the concept of Día de los Muertos on more than a superficial level.

En la Clase: The Cognitive Content Dictionary~ Teaching Vocabulary through Dia de los Muertos | Vamos a Leer BlogEach year we try and add something new to our Día de los Muertos materials.  This year we’re adding a complementary set of materials that focuses on activities that can support ELL students in the classroom (but, in my experience, are just great strategies that engage all students).  We’re sharing this complementary guide at a professional development workshop on Saturday.  I’ll share a link to all of those materials next Wednesday.  For now, I thought I’d give you a preview of one of my favorite activities for teaching vocabulary: the cognitive content dictionary (CCD) chart.  This isn’t specific to Día de los Muertos or any other topic, so it can be used to teach vocabulary for any subject area.  If you plan on teaching about various cultural celebrations throughout the year, it can be a great way to connect the various celebrations through a shared vocabulary lesson.  It can be especially helpful as a way to review vocabulary that comes up throughout various units, such as celebration, culture, tradition, etc.  It’s a strategy that comes from Project GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design).  I know we’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but if GLAD is new to you, here’s more information taken from the Project GLAD website:

Project GLAD® is a model of professional development in the area of language acquisition and literacy. The strategies and model promote English language acquisition, academic achievement, and cross-cultural skills. Project GLAD® was developed and field tested for nine years by the United States Department of Education and is based on years of experience with integrated approaches for teaching language. GLAD is an instructional model with clear, practical strategies promoting effective interactions between students and students and teachers and students that develop metacognitive use of high-level language and literacy.

I’ve shared the lesson below.  If you have any experience with this or thoughts on how you could use it or adapt it, leave us a comment.  We’d love to hear from you!

Objective: The purpose of this activity is to expose students to new vocabulary in a way that encourages engagement, comprehension, and retention of the information.  Students will practice oral language skills and kinesthetic learning.

Recommended Grades: Adaptable for all grade levels

Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes/day

Materials: Large chart or butcher paper, markers

En la Clase: The Cognitive Content Dictionary~ Teaching Vocabulary through Dia de los Muertos | Vamos a Leer BlogProcedure:

  1.  Preparation: Create a large table on butcher paper or chart paper.  It will have as many rows as you have words (or as many rows as you can fit on your paper, you can always tape additional pages together to make your chart longer).  It will have four columns (five if you want to include a picture/clue column).  The column titles are: WORD, PREDICTION, FINAL MEANING, ORAL SENTENCE, and possibly PICTURE/CLUE.  Write the first vocabulary word that the class will learn in the first row in the WORD column.  Directly under that word (still in the same row) write an “H” and an “NH”.  To aid in the visual chunking of content, the chart is typically color coded by column, so you will need as many different colored markers as you have columns.
  2. For the sake of clarity, let’s use the word “remember” for the explanation here.  With the chart posted for the whole class to see, ask students to raise their hand if they’ve heard the word remember before today.  Count the number of students who have heard the word and write this number next to the H.  Then, ask students who have never heard the word remember to raise their hands.  Count the number of students and write this number next to the NH.  This serves as an informal assessment tool for you to gauge students’ familiarity with the word.
  3. Ask students to turn to their tablemates, partner, or small group and discuss what they predict the word remember means.  Give students one minute to come up with a prediction.  If students are unfamiliar with the word predict/prediction, be sure to discuss that first.En la Clase: The Cognitive Content Dictionary~ Teaching Vocabulary through Dia de los Muertos | Vamos a Leer Blog
  4. Give a predetermined signal for students to come back to whole group and ask students to take turns sharing their predictions.  You can use this as an opportunity for language fluency and oral language practice.  Encourage them to create complete sentences such as “We predict that remember means. . .”  As students share, write their predictions in the PREDICTION column.
  5. The next step is to create a signal movement that ‘shows’ the word.  You can teach the students one you have in mind, or ask them for help in creating it and see what they come up with.  They may need some guidance if they are not yet clear on the meaning of the word.  Once students know the movement, they practice doing the movement while saying the word.  If you want students to create the move, but don’t think they have a strong enough understanding of the word, you can postpone the signal movement until after the “Final Meaning” discussion on day two.  If adhering to GLAD strategy, your vocabulary instruction for the day stops here.
  6. The following day write the final meaning of the word on the chart under the appropriate column.  Read the definition out loud and discuss it in comparison to their predictions.  Give a couple of examples of how this word can be used in a sentence. This is also a good opportunity to discuss parts of speech.  You can identify the part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.) and then write it underneath the word you are discussing.
  7. Ask students to create their own sentence using the word remember, then turn to their partner or tablemate and practice saying the sentence.  This should take one or two minutes.  Signal for students to come back to whole group.  Go around the room having each student share his or her sentence.  Correct the student if necessary and help them fix the sentence and say it again.
  8. Introduce students to the next vocabulary word, repeating steps 2-5 for the next word.
  9. Review: Each day review the words from the chart, practicing the signal movement and asking a few students to share an example sentence.

En la Clase: The Cognitive Content Dictionary~ Teaching Vocabulary through Dia de los Muertos | Vamos a Leer BlogNOTE: This may seem like it is very time consuming, but once students understand the process, it goes very quickly.   

While it may take students time to get comfortable with the process used here, it’s one of the most effective ways I’ve ever taught vocabulary.  My students loved it! The pictures shared above are of some of my third graders doing the CCD chart activity.  As you can see, they’re definitely engaged and enjoying it.

Until next week,



One thought on “En la Clase: The Cognitive Content Dictionary~ Teaching Vocabulary through Día de los Muertos

  1. Pingback: En la Clase: Día de los Muertos and Pictorial Input Charts | Vamos a Leer

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