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Developing Students' Discipline-Specific Vocabulary

Shared by Jonathan White

In the past few years, developing girls’ vocabulary has been a particular focus area at Godolphin & Latymer. This article from the University of Sussex discusses the importance of developing students’ discipline-specific vocabulary for your subject. The article follows with some suggested activities, including building a glossary in the university’s VLE, Study Direct.

Learning to Speak a Discipline: https://goo.gl/kvL08R

I’d like to take a moment here to help put these activities into our technological context, so you can utilise the suggestions with the tools we have here at G&L.


University of Sussex

Godolphin & Latymer

Polling vocabulary and key concepts. You can check understanding of key concepts in lecture settings using response systems such as Poll Everywhere. This could be by asking students which terms they feel confident about, or testing them on the definition of a new concept introduced in the previous lecture.

Polling vocabulary and key concepts. You can check understanding of key concepts in class using ad hoc assessment apps like Ping Pong or Socrative. This could be by asking students which terms they feel confident about, or testing them on the definition of a new concept introduced in class.

Flashcards. There are a number of mobile apps and online tools for creating flashcards (such as StudyBlue and Quizlet). Students could research key terms and create cards before a seminar then test each other.

Flashcards. There are a number of mobile apps and online tools for creating flashcards, including Quizlet and Memrise. Students could research key terms and create a Quizlet Study Set before your lesson, then test each other. They then have this resource saved in their Quizlet account for later revision.

Sorting activities on the SMARTboard. Using an interactive whiteboard, list terms or concepts and definitions that can be moved around and matched up.

Collaborative sorting activities. By connecting an iPad to the projector, you can use an app such as Explain Everything, Post-it Plus or Popplet to list concepts and definitions. These can then be moved around, sorted, categorised, and matched. Using Explain Everything or Post-it Plus allows you to save multiple sets and send editable versions to pupils, whereas Popplet adds concept mapping to your categorising.

Online quizzes. A Study Direct (Moodle) quiz with multiple choice or true/false questions could be used to let students test their understanding of key terms.

Online self-marking quizzes. A Socrative quiz or Google Form with multiple choice or true/false questions could be used to let students test their understanding of key terms without adding marking for yourself.

The Glossary activity in Study Direct. One of the best ways to scaffold learners’ development of a discipline-specific vocabulary is the Glossary activity in Study Direct (Moodle). A glossary could just be a list of words with their definitions, but there is much more you can do to engage students. The biggest learning gain probably comes from students creating glossary entries themselves.

Build a collaborative class glossary in Google Docs. This allows students to add items over the course of the term(+) as they encounter them, and becomes a resource for revision from which the whole class can benefit. To get started:

  1. Create a new Doc somewhere sensible in Google Drive, called something like “7W Subject Diary.”
  2. Go to Classroom and share this with your class, by posting it as an assignment in the Classwork tab.
  3. When setting the assignment, be sure to give students edit access to the file, so everyone is able to collaborate on the single glossary file.
  4. Don't give the assignment a Topic, so it will instead appear right at the top of Classwork, and don't give it a due date, as it will remain in use through the year.

Now all students can contribute to the file over the duration of the course.