Learning Targets

No Prep High School Vocabulary Activities

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Direct vocabulary instruction was an instrumental part of my daily instruction. Used for homework, stations, and bell ringers, I intentionally taught students words and required that they use them on a regular basis.

Here are two different schedules for instruction:

Daily Instruction

Vocabulary Schedule

Block Scheduling

Vocabulary Block Scheduling

Once the schedule is complete, the breakdown is as follows:

Day 1: Introduction and Direct Instruction

  1. Introduce the new words. Have students use context clues to determine the 20170502_220221meanings rather than just giving the definition or having them look them up.
  2. Provide the definitions. I’ve never found much value in having students look up definitions. For one thing, many words have more than one option. How could I effectively assess students when everyone did not have the same definition? Second, now that we all have Google and Siri, the actual use of a dictionary is pretty lost on this generation. I wanted to maximize instruction time.
  3. Require students to write the words down. In a recent issue of Educational Leadership, there was much focus on the importance of having students write things down. In fact, the stuy showed that…. So, before turning in their vocabulary activities, students were required to write the words in a notebook. Randomly we would revisit previous words or do activities, and I would reward students who had word lists.

20170502_220303Day 2: Independent Practice – Vocabulary Graphic Organizer

I gave students a graphic organizer of some sort that allowed them to break down their words in a variety of ways – synonyms, antonyms, derivatives (different parts of speech), use each word in a sentence, and provide the definition.

FREEBIE: You can download this organizer for free in my TpT store.

20170502_220325Day 3: More Practice

More practice. On this day, students were given 2-3 different activities ranging from analogies, writing original definitions, using the words in a creative story or a reflection, and/or sentence completion. Each of the activities allowed students to take ownership of the word and showed me the level of mastery for each word.

Day 4: Quiz Day

I used to give students a spelling test and have them write the definitions, but this didn’t really bring about the results I had hoped for. Some students had great phonemic awareness and others great context clues, so when I said the word and then read it in a sentence, it still did not prove that each student really knew and could apply the word. As a result, I switched to multiple choice quizzes. These quizzes used original short stories or excerpts and students has to answer common core aligned questions. These proved far more challenging and gave me more information that allowed me to make data-driven decisions.

After a quiz day, an entire set of vocabulary was complete. I then started the process over with a new set of vocabulary words. After 3 sets of vocabulary, students took a summative assessment over all 3 lessons. From definitions to sentences, analogies, and close reading, the assessment required students to put every skill to use. In the beginning, it was a major catastrophe. Students were not prepared to display knowledge in this manner. However, each summative got better and better. Students studied differently. They used their words without prompting. Many even used their words at home and with friends. It was at this point that I knew the system worked.

Resources Available
If you are interested in this vocabulary system, be the first to rate these new products and other vocabulary resources in my TpT store:

Secondary ELA: Analyzing Characters with Graphic Organizers

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Teaching students to analyze anything can be a daunting task. So when students have to make sense of all of the characters in a short story or novel, and THEN analyze them, the frustration can reach a boiling point for both the teacher and the student. To mitigate these frustrations, graphic organizers can be a tremendous help.

In the classroom, I remember all of the organizers my students had to create by hand as I drew them on the board. Then, using the Gradual Release Model of Responsibility, we would walk through them so that students could really flesh out their characters and ideas, and support that with evidence from the text. Once we were able to do all of that, we were ready for the hard part – writing the analysis.

Today, I have eliminated much of the frustration by creating an Analyzing Characters Organizer Pack.

character cover.pngPicture1


Included, are 6 graphic organizers, a table of contents with instructions on how to use each, directions on using the Gradual Release Model of Responsibility, the Common Core Standards the activities are aligned with, AND learning targets.





The activities can be used for any secondary ELA classroom. There are a variety of ways to use the organizers including whole-class, independent practice, small groups, or stations.


If you are looking for an engaging way to teach students how to analyze characters, check it out. I found that once students were given opportunities to practice the skill in different ways, the outcome was increased engagement and greater achievement.

Lesson Planning: Turning Standards into Learning Targets

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Common Core Standards are rigorously robust. Each standard is so layered, that there are many things a student needs to master in order to be proficient with the standard. As a result, there are a multitude of ways to assess student proficiency for each standard. When looking for ways to teach the standards, it is important that teachers know how to break the standard down, turn it into learning targets, and assess it in every way possible to ensure proficiency.

Standard Diagram

Consider the picture above. In order to adequately teach a standard, a teacher must first understand the purpose of the terms and the roles they play. Here I have created an example breaking down an ELA Common Core Standard:

The Standard
RL.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

The Learning Targets

  • I will be able to determine a central idea of a text.
  • I will be able to analyze the development of a central idea over the course of the text.
  • I will be able to analyze how a central idea emerges over the course of the text.
  • I will be able to analyze how a central idea is shaped over the course of the text.
  • I will be able to analyze how a central idea is refined by specific details in the text.
  • I will be able to provide an objective summary of the text.

The Question Stems

  • What is the central idea of the text?
  • What is the main idea?
  • Which of the following events support the development of the central idea over the course of the text?
  • Cite textual evidence to support development of the theme over the text.
  • What key details from the text shape and refine the central idea over the course of the text?
  • Write an objective summary of the text?
  • Which of the following is an objective summary of the text?
  • Analyze the central idea and its development ove rthe course of the text.

The Activities
In order to adequately teach this standard, it is important that there are several learning activities tailored to each individual target. Furthermore, formative assessments must be as varied as the learning targets. If you are looking for ways to expand your resources, try Googling Common Core ELA Question Stems. What you will find is that there are several places where you can download question stems for each standard, at each grade level. Remember, it is not until you teach AND assess students on all parts of the standard that you truly understand their level of mastery.