Week 3 Reflection

After reading everybody’s comments I realized I had some tweaking to do on my question.  Tracie pointed out that my verbage of ‘dig deeper’ was too vague and open-ended and that it needed something a little more Bloom’s-esque.  So I thought I would change it to: “How can digital tools be incorporated effectively in the classroom to instruct Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words so that students can define and apply them accurately?”  I hope this is more definitive in what I would like to accomplish through this research.

I received some nice comments that I found very useful.  The first was Tracie’s pointing out the vagueness of my question, which I fixed.  The second was in the encouragement I received from Jon.  The last one was truly a gem and came from Michelle.  She gave me a link that is dead on to what I have been looking for.  This was a blog and a website by Susan Oxnevad that just blew my mind.  It had so many resources that I am more than equipped to start work on this project.  Her extra digging on my behalf was extremely helpful and sincerely appreciated.

Michelle and I became acquainted during the Twitter class this past Thursday, when we started discussing what in the world to do for this class.  Personally, I find Twitter frustrating to use as an avenue for communication, but I hope I was helpful to her in her quest to formalize a solid question.


Week 3…What have others learned about my question?

My Question:

How can digital tools be incorporated effectively in the classroom to dig deeper into Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words.

With all the buzz about boosting our student’s reading ability in line with the rigors of the Common Core Initiative there must be a boost in the vocabulary as well.  A more broad and complex vocabulary is essential to comprehending the content-rich non-fiction material the new standards demand our students tackle.  I wonder can this task be made a little easier through the use of technology and with some looking into the matter I have found that the answer may be YES.  There are many tools out there (Most for free!) that can easily be used to introduce and instruct the complex vocabulary required in the classroom.

Thankfully, it was not too difficult to come across quite a bit of information on these tools and how to incorporate them in the classroom, but I did not find a lot of research.  The one research article I found (McAllister, Cutcher, UTC, 2011) that is somewhat related to my question focuses more on the visual aspects of teaching vocabulary.  What interested me the most with this article was the discussion on the use of technology in the instruction.  The finding of this research is that vocabulary instruction coupled with visual reinforcement significantly improved learning process.  The methodology employed was focused on a pre-test, visually enhanced instruction, and then a post-test to assess the efficacy of the teaching strategy.

The other articles are heavily focused on what technology tools are available and how to use them in the classroom. Of these my favorite is “eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary” (Dalton, Grisham, 2011), which highlights some very cool ideas for using technology to teach vocabulary.  I gave some of these ideas a try and thought they were just right.

Annotated Bibliography: Vocabulary, Common Core and Technology

 Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. L. (2011). eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary. Reading Teacher, 64(5), 306-317.

            Dalton and Grisham have answered in this article some of the pressing questions that arise when one is looking for direction in using technology in the classroom to teach vocabulary.  Although this is not a definitive article it certainly is a start and opens the door to some of the premier websites and tools that can be used.  A very fruitful and essential work in this area of study.

Hakuta, K., & Council of the Great City, S. (2011). “WordSift”: Supporting Instruction  and Learning through Technology in San Francisco. The Senior Urban Education Research Fellowship Series. Volume IV. Council Of The Great City Schools.

This article is composed of information on one web-based vocabulary tool.  WordSift is a fun and effective tool to incorporate a number of ways within the classroom.  The writers of this article provide great detail on this internet resources many uses in the classroom.  WordSift is easy to use and requires copying any text and pasting into a dialogue box.  Hitting ‘Sift’ removes all of the common words and leaves more complex words arranged randomly with high frequency words in large bold print.  This is a powerful tool for vocabulary instruction and the authors of this article make sure this is clear.

Kilickaya, F., & Krajka, J. (2010). Teachers’ Technology Use in Vocabulary Teaching. retrieved from ERIC on September 26, 2013.

Vocabulary instruction is essential to the increased literacy of our students, especially when the Common Core standards appear to be raising the bar for performance.  Kilickaya and Kraka discuss the need for increased vocabulary instruction and the use of technology to assist in satisfying this need.  As one reads the article some research elements surface such as a surveying of 80 language teachers who are aware of and even use older technology (Computers and CD ROM tools).  These instructor were not aware of or simply did not incorporate new, web-based or APP-based tools to assist in teaching vocabulary.  A good article about using technology in its various forms to support language instruction.

McAllister, D. A., Cutcher, C. L., & University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), C. (2011). Culminating Experience Action Research Projects, Volume 17, Fall 2010, retrieved from ERIC on September 26, 2013.

            This is a culminating article of research done by graduate students at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.  Considering this article is a collection of research done by M.Ed. students the methods used are of importance.  It showcases various educational research efforts one of which is of particular interest due to the attention given to technology used in vocabulary instruction.

Narkon, D. S. (2011). E-Word Wall. Teaching Exceptional Children, 43(4), 38-45.

This article talks about the use of electronic word-walls (EWW) to assist with vocabulary instruction for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other exceptional students.  Although word-walls have been commonplace in our classrooms for sometime, the emergence of EWWs to instruct our exceptional students is fairly new. The author explains what an EWW is how to set one up and use it in the classroom followed with good ideas on differentiation and group work as well.

Tabatabaei, O., & Goojani, A. (2012). The Impact of Text-Messaging on Vocabulary Learning of Iranian EFL Learners. Cross-Cultural Communication, 8(2), 47-55.doi:10.3968/j.ccc.1923670020120802.1689

            Teaching vocabulary for English as a First Language (EFL) students has always been challenging.  In this article based on EFL instruction conducted with Iran students, researchers point out the efficacy of using texting for teaching vocabulary.  Since there is data that shows this is viable in the EFL arena vocabulary teacher may want to take notice of methods used with this everyday technology to accomplish the instruction of more complex vocabulary.  This is a very interesting article on an innovative use for common technology.

Week 2 Reflection

   I have had to back up and think a little more deeply about what my initial posting for this week was focused on.  I don’t think the big problems with implementing the new Alaska standards will be so much about the change from so much fiction to more non-fiction.  I believe the real difficulties will arise because of the shift to deeper vocabulary ability required to progress.  It seems that the more stringent vocabulary and content-rich non-fiction will go hand-in-hand.  So after some clear push back from my initial posting for this week I would like to back track just a bit.

  My first thoughts were that kids would be less interested in a non-fiction heavy reading program and that the challenge would be in keeping their interest.  I based this off limited observation, but necessarily of good teaching or material.  Some of my peers commented that there is some very good engaging non-fiction out there and that good teaching can draw students into it.  I have to admit that they are right and concede that my statements to the contrary were not right. 

  I definitely want to stick with the question to research concerning the use of technology in the instruction of the more complex vocabulary words.  I feel I got some very good feedback concerning this research subject.  Honestly, I don’t feel I assisted anybody, but certainly feel I received a lot of great help from my peers.  It seems I have been quite out of it and unable to really grasp this class.    

The shift in the AK Language Arts standards and the question I would like to research

Before I can answer the first of this week’s questions it is essential to figure what the big shift is in the first place.  With the emergence of the National Common Core Standards came critical attention on the Alaska Content Standards and Grade Level Expectations (GLE).  The GLEs spelled out the academic level to which each Alaskan student should be functioning at.  This system has been in place for some time and provided general expectations of academic ability.  The problem is that the GLEs are vague and a little out of focus for capturing skills our students need to function in a real-world setting such as a workforce or higher learning environment.  Supposedly, the new Alaska standards are nearly identical to the Common Core Initiative (Haney, 2013) so I will treat them as such.

In this posting I would like to cast a critical eye on the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the new Alaskan standards, especially reading and vocabulary.  This shift in expectations will have what kind of impact on teaching and learning in the classroom?  Historically, reading programs have been heavily focused on fiction for the majority of the material.  This has been fine for earlier grades with a shift into more complex reading and exploration of non-fiction in the higher grades with an increase in writing to match.  However, when students go on to college problems become apparent indicative of a lack in training in the comprehension non-fiction sources.  A limited vocabulary is also attributed to seen as a problem later on.

The draw for so much fiction is that it is more interesting than non-fiction.  Also, the vocabulary words required to comprehend this material is believed to be woefully behind.  Sadly free reading does not drive students to acquire the Tier 3 and even many Tier 2 words.  Reading must be more directed, according to the new standards, to promote acquisition of this more advanced vocabulary.  This expanded vocabulary is crucial to the success of our students in the workforce as well as higher education.

The question I would like to research is how can digital tools be incorporated effectively in the classroom to dig deeper into Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words.  A more broad and complex vocabulary is essential to comprehending the content-rich non-fiction material the new standards demand our students tackle.


Haney, B. (2013, July 08). Disputing ‘the facts’ about alaska’s new public school standards. Retrieved from http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130708/disputing-facts-about-alaska-s-new-public-school-standards

Oxnevad, S. (2013, February 11). 3 simple tools to support the ccss academic vocabulary   shift. Retrieved from http://gettingsmart.com/2013/02/3-simple-tools-to-support-the-ccss-academic-vocabulary-shift/

Action Research Final Thoughts

What defines action research is a data driven course of action to correct a deficiency.  After all that has been said and done, the concept of action research is about identifying a problem, gather some data about it, analyze that data to weed out variables, then plan to fix it.  The emphasis is on fixing the problem that has been discovered; hence the ‘action’.  This can be intellectualized, but regardless, the result is what matters. 

I loved what Chris had to say about the reflection aspect.  Reflection is a shallow term that points to a rather shallow process.  I can reflect on the pot of coffee I made this morning, but there is nothing quantifiable or action related to prod or assist me into making a better pot tomorrow.  Honestly, my opinion of the coffee could change from day to day.  As he pointed out, reflection seems to hinge too much on opinion and not so much on data.  I agree, the simple act of reflection is too subjective and is less valuable in the classroom setting.  Action research calls for a deeper look with a corrective action to follow.

This is not a new invention of the wheel, but a method that has been around for a long time and has been packaged with many different names.  So too in the classroom, however, the classroom has an added element.  The article, “It’s About the Kids” (Rogers et al., 2007) points out that teacher conducted research is a fantastic tool that can be used to dig deeper into the lives of the students and has often been shown to develop positive teacher/student relationships.  As teachers our first and foremost charge is to put our students first and learn who they are as learners.  Action research is certainly a great tool to use for honing teaching skills, but I really found common ground with this line from Leslie Burdick: “With all research done in classrooms, we must make sure we are focusing on the students and how our research can improve their learning.”  The students must always come first. 

What is Action Research?

Action research, in my own understanding, is the gathering and analysis of information in order to develop a plan of action to correct a discovered deficiency.  In the classroom this can focus on various facets such as teaching methodology or curriculum.  Where do we as teachers fall short in our technique?  Where does a certain curriculum fail to live up to the standards?  Action research can be used to identify and analyze problems in the classroom such as these with the end goal of developing a process for correction.  The process for action research is broken down into five steps.  They are: Problem identification, plan of action, data collection, analysis of data, and a plan for future action.

My simple explanation could never take the place of expert opinion.  I’ll start with Sharan Merriam (2009), who asserts that research in general is the inquiry or investigation into something in a systematic manner.  She follows this up with a more narrow treatment of action research, which has the “goal to address a specific problem within a specific setting, such as a classroom, a workplace, a program, or an organization.”  This is not necessarily for the experts only, but for anyone interested in improving something.

For our particular interest in the subjects let me shift the focus to the classroom.  A by-product of action research conducted in the classroom is the impact it has on teachers and their students.  The transformation takes on positive qualities when teachers take an honest, objective look at their own practices.  Action research according to Rogers et al. (2007) involves the teacher studying their own teaching to arrive at critical reflection and provides the platform to go beyond this reflection.  The individual student is drawn into the picture when we realize that action research more often than not helps the teacher gain a better understanding of the student as a learner.


Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rogers, D., Bolick, C., Anderson, A., Gordon, E., Manfra, M., & Yow, J. (2007). “It’s about the Kids”: Transforming Teacher-Student Relationships through Action Research. Clearing House, 80(5), 217-222.