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.


Bodimojo is an online community for teens, addressing issues regarding health, well-being, emotions, and life. It's created by teens and for teens.

  • The My Page section of the site is one of the most unique features of the site, because it gives students an opportunity to customize their information.We know that this generation loves customization more than any other generation.
  • This site provides teens with the opportunity to submit an article to be published on the site, providing aspiring writers with an outlet to express themselves.
  • The My Health Section offers helpful topics in Body Image, Drugs and Alcohol, Fitness, Nutrition, Sexual Health, Stress, Relationships, etc.
  • The Quiz and Tools / Games sections provide a great way for students to learn information in an interactive way.

How does this relate to UDL?

Motivation is an important tool in learning. How do our students become motivated? It often starts with engagement. Learners need to have the opportunity to be engaged in order to stay motivated. How often are engaged students a discipline problem? When students are engaged, they become excited and / or interested in the subject matter. An important tool to help foster engagement is self-regulation.

When students successfully self-regulate, they are able to monitor their emotions and reactions. They are also able to monitor their progress. Not only is self-regulation and important tool for each of our kids, it helps create a positive learning environment. Because every person differs in their abilities to regulate thoughts, emotions, and reactions, some teaching is needed.

BodiMojo's content could help our students gain helpful insight into current issues impacting teens all over the country. From peer pressure to have sex or do drugs to communicating successfully with parents, BodiMojo could be an excellent resource in many classrooms. Think about the possibilities to enhance the Health curriculum in your school. Think about its use in creating a persuasive essay in English class. Think about the use of the games in Science class.

Too Good to Be True? Beat 'em at their Own Game

With UDL's emphasis on the use of technology comes a world of possibilities. However, with good also comes the consequences of technology use, primarily in the form of cheating and plagiarism. Students are going to extremes to turn in that term paper. It's no longer just asking an intelligent classmate to write your paper for a few bucks. It's copying and pasting an article from the Internet and many teachers never find out.

Whole industries exist to sell papers. Sites like: http://www.blogger.com/www.termpaperwriter.org, http://www.essaysareeasy.com/, and http://www.mywritingexpert.net/ are sites where students can buy papers.

The statistics are scary too. According to a U.S. News and World Report:

  • 80% of "high-achieving" high school students admit to cheating.

  • 51% of high school students did not believe cheating was wrong.

  • 95% of cheating high school students said that they had not been detected.

  • 75% of college students admitted cheating, and 90% of college students didn't believe cheaters would be caught.

  • Almost 85% of college students said cheating was necessary to get ahead.

If think that your students are not plagiarising, they probably are. So how can we counteract this culture of cheating? Many software companies have created anti-plagiarism software. But what can you do if funds are tight?

Here are some options for you:

  • The Plagiarism Checker offers a free plagiarism checker, allowing teachers to copy and paste a questionable text into a text box. If you became a premium member (money required), you could upload Word documents directly to the site.

  • Article Checker works the same way as The Plagiarism Checker with a few differences. Users can choose to compare the questionable text to a Google and Yahoo search. It also gives you the opportunity to compare to a website in question.

Here are some other sites:

Personally, I found The Plagiarism Checker more accurate. I copied and pasted a paragraph into Article checker and it did not appear to be plagiarised. However, I copied and pasted the same paragraph into The Plagiarism Checker and I received 5 possible incidents of plagiarism. I was able to click on a link, which took me to a Google search, where these questionable texts appeared.

The biggest way to prevent plagiarism is to be proactive and educate students on what is acceptable and unacceptable (something we already do). There are great sites out there that can help you:

  • http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/wp/copyright-2002/lessonplanfaqs.html offers lesson plans for elementary, middle school, and high school students. The site was created by students from the University of Illinois and offers great information!

  • http://www.plagiarism.org/ is another great site that defines plagiarism and gives several resources on how to prevent it. It has a section devoted to FAQ's of plagiarism as well as the different types of plagiarism.

Time to Get Off YouTube Bandwagon?

I love YouTube's diversity and shear number of video clips available. I try to use it everyday, but what about those hard to find videos? What if you want to interact with video in your classroom in a new way, through subtitles? What if you want your kids to create video, but have no video cameras?

Or perhaps, you find yourself in a situation where where YouTube is blocked! All you can use is TeacherTube. What do you do then? Are we hurting our kids because a school district doesn't want to unblock a site?

Or then there is the flipside, where it seems like everyone is on the YouTube/Teacher Tube / School Tube bandwagon. Are we getting to the point, where our students have a collective sigh of bordum when YouTube appears? Why not explore some other options too?

Here are some suggestions to enhance the multimedia selection in your room:

· 5 Min Life Videopedia also known as "your one stop shop for instructional videos and DIY projects" is impressive. It provides users with clips ranging from Biodiesel in Germany to Pittsburgh’s Cheese Steak Recipe. The site is well organized, dividing the site into relevant topics / channels like: Arts, Business, Health, News Highlights, Travel, etc.

· Common Craft - Have you ever wondered what a Wiki was? Have you ever wanted to find a simple way of explaining how the Presidential Election works? Did you need a quick way to explain how borrowing money works? Common Craft gives us answers to the questions that perplex many of us, in a rather unique and entertaining way. Common Craft videos fall into 4 main areas: Green, Technology, Finance, and Society. Although limited in the number of videos, the content is impressive.

· DotSUB – Have you ever wanted to create your own subtitles to a clip? Now it’s possible through a site called DotSUB. You can also view, upload, transcribe and translate any video into any language. One of the most unique features of this site is that it gives you an opportunity to “play” with the technology before you decide to sign up and use it. I highly recommend using the Demo, which gives you an opportunity to see all of the bells and whistles! Even if you choose not to create your own video with subtitles, just using some of the sample videos on DotSUB is enough!

· Domo Animate – Sites like GoAnimate have become very popular, allowing students to create their own animated videos. One problem with GoAnimate is the fact that some inappropriate videos and content appear. Domo is advertised as a “school friendly version” of GoAnimate, which all inappropriate content is filtered out. It’s very easy to use and comes with very helpful tutorials, for users who are unsure how the site works.

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

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