This vocabulary activity does not rely on the use of a dictionary right away. We know that when students are sent to a dictionary to look up an unknown word, they often choose the shortest definition to read, which is not necessarily the correct one. Also dictionary "language" is not student-friendly, so most students have trouble comprehending the definition. Instead rely on a group discussion of new words eliciting prior knowledge that students might already have. Refer to the context in which the word is found. Use prefixes, roots, and suffixes to help predict the word's meaning. Discuss the characteristics of the word's meaning and the characteristics of what the word is not. Consult the dictionary to validate student predictions and to clarify the meaning.
The original source for KIM is unknown. A few teachers in Anchorage remember seeing the strategy after a Janet Allen workshop years ago, but Janet tells us it is not hers. If you can help track down its creator, contact Amy Goodman.
Using the KIM Strips
The K.I.M. worksheet (pdf) is easy for students to navigate.
- K stands for the key word, and students simply record the vocabulary word to be learned.
- I stands for important information. Encourage students to record what they have learned about the key word in "their own words."
- M stands for memory clue or mnemonic.
Ask students to draw something to help them remember the meaning of the word. Sometimes drawing weird connections helps the brain to remember new information longer. An example is with the word defeat . A student might actually draw a foot stomping out something to show it winning. The silly connection with an oversized foot can be a useful memory aid. Another idea is to add color cues since they can serve as a strong memory link.
To cement the meaning of the word, students need to practice using it in context. Yes, this means students need to write a sentence using the word embedded in meaningful context. And this is no easy task! Getting the part of speech correct is a challenge for all of us when using a new word for the first time. Model a well-constructed sentence using the key word. Then ask students to imitate it by substituting their own thoughts but keeping the sentence structure the same. Need some well-written sentences for your vocabulary words and don't want to write them yourself? The following on-line dictionary provides such sentences in most of their entries:
Selecting Vocabulary Words
How do you know which words to choose for vocabulary study? Don't just default to the bold-faced words. Choose your words wisely. Avid readers benefit from studying unusual/rare words because they already have a well-developed vocabulary from their wide reading. On the other hand, struggling readers benefit from studying high-utility words. Here is an example.
The boys banked the canoe to the lee side of the rock.
Most of us might be tempted to teach the word lee, and for avid readers this is a good choice. For struggling readers, the word banked used in this context might cause trouble, and it's possible the word canoe might not be familiar either.
Source: Beers, Kylene. Elements of Literature. Holt, 2005.
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