Monday, June 13, 2011

Teaching Vocabulary to the Visual Learner




Vocabulary is such an important element of comprehension and instruction. Every lesson, unit, and course that we teach contains vocabulary within its infrastructure. Without it, a subject or course will collapse.

So what do you do when a student needs to learn a vocabulary term? As educators, we often try to define terms in a way that our students can understand. This provides another means of representing the material (Principle 1 – Multiple Means of Representation). But the fact is that what might help one learner understand a particular concept, may not help another student understand the same concept. Barriers exist in perception and understanding. It could be the barrier of a learning disability. It could be the barrier of another culture. It could be the barrier of having a lower reading level. Whatever the barrier, we need to give our students a way to access understanding of vocabulary.

For example, suppose you are trying to describe what a lobster is to a group of 2nd graders. Some of your students may have seen a lobster in a tank at a local grocery story. Another student may have an uncle who catches lobster. Yet, you may have several students who have no idea what the difference between a flounder and a lobster are.

Educators have been adapting to these limitations since teaching began. Some would show a YouTube clip. Some would bring in an actual lobster to class. Some would take a field trip to the local aquarium. We are all in different situations and may not have the luxury of doing this. So how can we help our students learn vocabulary, which taps into their different senses?

Shahi is a free online website, which provides a regular dictionary with images from Google, Flickr, and Yahoo. When you type in your term, you will notice the same features of any dictionary (parts of speech, definitions, synonyms, antonyms). One of the unique features is its ability to provide visuals for the visual learner to understand a particular term. This feature allows you to sift through Google, Flicker, and Yahoo images. It also provides you with links on certain words, which will provide you with a quick way to learn more about a particular word or concept. Give it a try and see how it fits in your classroom.


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