Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Definition Doctor

The first lessons of the text book are so heavily packed with vocabulary that I found myself going back to my bookshelf and looking for ways to practice, and not just memorize, the new vocabulary.  I found a strategy called "Definition Doctor" in a book entitled Style and Strategies for Teaching Middle School Mathematics by Edward J. Thomas and John R. Brunsting.

"Definition Doctor" piggybacks off of a technique called Vocabulary Knowledge Rating, or VKR.  In VKR, students rate their knowledge of the vocabulary on a scale of 1-4.  My sample is at the right and yes, there are a lot of vocabulary words in lesson one!  There are 28 vocabulary words in lessons 1 through 10.  I need to whittle the list down to an essential 13 or 14.  

For the "Definition Doctor" technique, students use the words that they rated in their VKR.  One student volunteers to be the "Definition Doctor" and another student chooses a vocabulary word from the list and asks the "Definition Doctor" to define and explain why the word is important to the lesson or unit of study.  If the "Definition Doctor" is stuck, they may ask another classmate for a "second opinion" to get some help.  After the definition and significance has been given, the student who chose the vocabulary word becomes the "Definition Doctor".  Practice continues like his until all the words have been reviewed.

When I read this techniques, I loved that it asked students to make connections and put a value on the vocabulary.  The word really is important to understanding the material!  I also liked that the activity has flexibility to be a large group, small group, or pairs activity. 

I wanted to make "Definition Doctor" feel more like a game, so my students would review all of the words.  I can totally see them reviewing 2 or 3 words and then chatting for awhile until I came to see what they were doing or listen to their group.  By putting the vocabulary onto cards, the technique had more of a game feel.  If it was a game, then there is a start and a finish.  The cards would need to be gone through before they could stop.  It's not perfect, but better than just choosing off of a list.  The cards also let me focus the practice to specific words because I can take out words I don't want my students to focus on.

The template that I used to make the cards is here.  As always, if it will be useful to you, you are welcome to it!


  1. Hi!
    I currently teach 8th grade math...I am your newest follower! I look forward to reading your blog!

    The Math Nerdette

  2. Thanks for following me! I hope that my ramblings are helpful!