This year I have tried to incorporate more vocabulary activities in the classroom. There have been studies that vocabulary in a typical math course is like studying a foreign language, even without all the math confusion.
I have 3-4 students in each of my classes who do not speak English at all.Using a lot of pictures, diagrams and activities that can connect math vocabulary to something concrete has both been helpful and fun.Fun for all the students.
Recently we started out Polynomials unit in Algebra class.I spend the first day with notes on vocabulary, talking about exponents, what their graphs look like and practice categorizing them in different piles with matching cards This activity—which could be adapted to a lot of different concepts–required very little prep, other than creating pages and pages of a worksheet with different polynomial expressions on them.
I cut up the worksheet so that there was a different expression on each small slip, placed groups of these in bins around the room and then put out supplies: glue sticks, markers, construction paper.
When students came into classroom, I told them that we were going to make a poster of different types of Polynomials. They chose a color of construction paper, grabbed a marker and glue stick and waited the first one.
I told them when they were given the specific polynomial to place on their poster, they were to go to the bins, locate it and bring it back to their desk and glue it on their poster.I told them to title their poster “I Love Polynomials”.
I wrote on the board: Constant Monomial. Once I wrote it, I announced it and asked the students to repeat it back to me. Students ran to the different bins looking for any expression that fit that category.Most moved quickly, some got help from other students, some students came to show me and I either smiled or raised my eyebrows in confusion.
I walked around to look at their choices. One student was hoarding slips at their desk in anticipation of what I might ask for.I made him return them to the bins.?
I wrote the next one on the board: Quartic Linear.(OK, I said there was little prep, and I didn’t think this thru, but one of my students quickly said: “How is that possible?”. ) and then quickly changed it it Quartic Binomial.
We continued until the end of the period. We got about 10 terms in, and the quiz we took the next day confirmed that this really helped their understanding (and their spelling) on classifying polynomials.
When I do this again, I will make sure there are sufficient types of each in the bin.The fastest students were able to complete their posters, but there were fewer of some of the expressions.So I allowed students at the end of the period, if they were unable to find the expression in the bin, to create their own.This worked as well.