In almost all aspects of teaching there is an important emphasis placed on the use of vocabulary. Within mathematics itself the use of the matematical vocabulary is highighted throughout the frameworks (Mooney et al, 2007).
The daily session plan and weekly planning grid in mathematics, both have sections where the vocabulary to be used with the lesson needs to be identified. This should then provide the children with the opportunity to use this vocabulary within the lessons, using it to ask questions, interact with the teacher and their peers and to provide explanations to their answers (DfEE, 1999). But how often have either numerous words or a few key words been written down and then forgotten about throughout the lessons?
Here are some ways to help support the use of the vocabulary you would be using in your sessions
Think carefully about your choice of vocabulary. Be selective rather than just copying a huge list across from the framwork. Which vocabulary do you really want the children to learn and actually use? Identify up to five words and really engage with these instead of listing about twenty and forgetting about them.
Write them on the board
Before the start of the lesson, or as you are using the vocabulary, write them on a flipchart or on the whiteboard. Ensure that these are in a place where they will not be wiped off during the lesson. This will allow the children to see them and use them throughout the lesson. Also, ensure that your TA and/or support helpers have a copy of the vocabulary so they are using them as well.
Use the incorrect terms
Although this might sound strange it actually helps to engage the children more if you use the incorrect terms and allow the children to correct you. An example of this is when using the terminology associated with fractions I would introduce the term ‘denominator’ (frequently refered to as ‘the demonator’ by the children) and then refer to it at as the bottom number of the fraction, allowing the children to correct me by saying -“No! Mr.Wilson! it’s the denominator!”
You probably do not remember or have ever heard of “I Spy books” but this is an idea that I have used in class. Based on these books, the children would be given a grid with the vocabulary to be used in the lesson with various points associated with the words. Points could be gained by recognising when I said the word or when they used the words. This again engaged the children with the vocabulary allowing them to identify opportunities to actually use the words in their own discussions.
Using the words in other subjects/lessons helped the children consolidate their meaning as well as their use. I would often use the vocabulary in mathematics to support games in PE. Instead of playing “Jumping Beans” game (or whatever version of the game you would like to use) I would use the vocabulary associated with for example fractions to support the warm up. Numerator – jump up and put your hands on your head, demoninator – sit down…you get the idea.
Hopefully this is given you some idea how to encourage the children to engage with vocabulary in your lessons. If you have any other ways you have achieved this then let me know in the comments below.
DfEE (1999) Primary National Curriculum London DfEE
Mooney et al (2007) Primary Mathematics – Teaching Theory and Practice Exeter, Learning Matters.