Every Bone Tells a Story: Vocabulary Work

Every bone tells a story

Student driven exercises are listed on the APPR rubric under the “Distinguished” category, so I allowed students to choose their own vocabulary words for this unit.

(Vocabulary Work):  This may take 2-3 classes depending on the length of the period- first day for identifying individual lists and defining, next day for compiling into one list of ten for each group, and then the last day for preparing and sharing each group’s master list and making vocab cards.  Since the book Every Bone Tells a Story is divided into four sections, one for each hominin (Turkana Boy, Lapedo Child, Kennewick Man, and Iceman),  I broke the class into four study groups.  Each group was instructed to divide the pages of their chapters so that each individual was looking on different pages (as a way to avoid too many repeated vocabulary words on their primary lists).  We then proceeded as follows:


Identify ten vocabulary words that every ninth grader should learn to use appropriately in writing.  Scientific terms would not fit in this running vocabulary list because they are not words that could be used as often.  I am looking for words that students will ingest and begin to use on a regular basis.  Don’t just pick ten words from pages 1-3 and call it a day… REALLY look for strong, solid words throughout the entire section.  Create a word list, look up their definitions in the dictionary, and copy those definitions on a sheet of paper.  NOTE:  check with your compadres in your group to make sure that you do not all have exactly the same words.  2-3 in common is okay, but if you have more than that, dig back into the reading.  YOU WILL HAVE TO JUSTIFY YOUR WORD CHOICES.  Once everyone has ten words, put your heads together and select the BEST ten words from among your individual lists and make a master list on another sheet.  Make sure that each member has contributed to the master list.  Once your group is satisfied with its choices, bring the master list to me for final approval.  Every member will then make a 3×5 vocab card for each word.

  • There will end up being 4 master vocabulary lists, one from each group
  • Once members have their cards completed, they will pass their master list to the next group.  COPY the group’s master list (cards will be made for homework later).
  • Make sure to put the list number in the upper right hand corner of each vocabulary card so that you study the right words for the right quiz!
  • Pass master lists until you end up with four lists of ten words from each of the groups.  These will be your four vocabulary lists for quizzes (some words may repeat from group to group; that’s okay).  Cards will have to be made for each word list (potentially 40 words if there aren’t any repeats… in a truly dream world!)
  • The vocabulary quizzes will be given in this order:
    • Quiz 1: from Turkana Boy
    • Quiz 2: from Lapedo Child
    • Quiz 3: from Kennewick Man
    • Quiz 4: from Iceman

–          For quizzes: For the first quiz, have kids take out a sheet of paper, number 1-10, and read the definitions of the ten words from the Turkana Boy list.  Kids have to write the words and spell them correctly.  For the second quiz, shuffle in the words from Lapedo Child with those from Turkana Boy, and then choose ten from the composite list of 20… don’t tell the kids which ten so that they are responsible for learning all of them.  You can then add one or two bonus words for that quiz.  For the third quiz, add in the next list and choose from 30; the same for quiz 4 to make it ten out of 40.

–          Administering Quizzes:

  • Students number their papers from 1-10
  • Read each definition twice; students must write the appropriate word and spell it correctly (none of the words are proper nouns, so none will be capitalized)
  • Exchange papers for grading:
    • 10 points if it is the appropriate word and is spelled correctly without capitalization
    • 5 points if the spelling of the word is 1 or 2 letters off (a capital is a letter off because none are proper nouns)
    • 0 points is it is more than 2 letters off the correct spelling.

    Since the students had a choice in which words would be on the quizzes, they had a vested interest in performing better on the vocabulary quizzes.   In the past, I have given out pre-made lists, and the kids complained about the word choices as being “too hard.”   Ironically, after I had them do the word-hunting, they actually selected most of the same words that I would have!  However, since they picked them, there were no complaints!  Also, their quiz scores were higher than in past years.


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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched

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