Jason Renshaw has posted an interesting three minute screencast sharing why he thinks it’s best to teach vocabulary words after English Language Learners have read a text. It’s definitely worth a visit (in fact, all his posts are worth reading!).

When I’m teaching Beginning ELL’s, I tend to teach vocabulary prior to reading. With any class above that level, including native English speakers, I use a technique I learned from Kelly Young of Pebble Creek Labs, who has designed the extraordinary curriculum we use in our mainstream classes.

It’s called a Word Splash.

Prior to beginning a unit, I’ll write about twenty words on large sheet of paper that’s in front of the class. I’ll put it there a few days prior to starting that unit so students have been exposed to the words for awhile. Then, I have students copy the words down and write what they think it means — guesses are fine. Students then go into small groups and share their definitions. Next, we have a class discussion.

In that discussion, I don’t tell students if they’re correct or not.

The point is to help students become aware of the key words they’ll need to know to understand important parts of the unit. During subsequent lessons, I’ll ask students to highlight words from the Word Splash that they see in various texts. At some point I might ask them to revisit their definitions, or have each student take a word and draw and define it in a poster.

This process certainly helps students see how much they have learned from the beginning of the a unit to a later time.

Please share your throughts — either here or at Jason’s blog — about how and when you think vocabulary is best taught.