Determine prior knowledge...yup we do that ...
Check for understanding...yup we do that ...
Record thinking . . . yup we do that . . .
Do we all have the same understanding of what a word means . . . mmm
But still some of our students will not have the same understanding as we do when we use words in the classroom. Same goes with our colleagues . . . the old saying of 'never assume' has never been so relevant particularly when our students come with such a diverse collection of personal experiences, languages and possible connections.
So how do we ensure that we all have the same understanding of a word before we start attaching expectations connected to teaching and teaching and, at some stage possibly assessment to it.
Develop a shared common definition or understanding.
Taking time to develop a common understanding of what vocabulary we use and/or expect students to demonstrate is the first step. It must be explicit, if they know and understand then the next step is applying, using or doing. We can not expect students to do something if they don't understand what that is.
Last week we did an inquiry into 'collaboration' after talking to a group of students who said said they didn't know how to explain what it was. So how do you create understanding and a common definition.
Firstly we asked students to think about the word 'collaboration' and to record in some way what they thought it meant.
We created a brainstorm with students to identify what we could do to find out.
Then student chose a strategy that they were going to use to find out more, some interviewed others, some 'read-around-the-room' other checked dictionaries and some searched google images.
The resulting conversations were amazing, students were clarifying and questioning and sharing information and eventually came up with a definition that they all agreed on, when one student said
'Actually collaboration is what we are doing now!'