Collect Critical Vocabulary with Alphaboxes
Alphaboxes is a great strategy for collecting and using key vocabulary that your students can use with content vocabulary or with collections of character traits or rich words. Before reading have students brainstorm words related to the topic or concept. You can also give students a list of key words to look for in the text. During reading, have students add words that are unfamiliar or important to the topic. After reading a selection, give the students 3-5 minutes to work with a partner to compare words listed on the chart and fill in the alphaboxes with as many words from the reading as they deem important for understanding. The words can be stated or implied in the text. Remind students that only “important” or key words are added to the alphaboxes chart.
Have students refer to the alphaboxes chart to discuss the content or review for assessments. This also serves as a word bank for students who many need scaffolding on vocabulary. In content areas, have students make a new alphaboxes chart for each unit or concept taught. Keep all the alphaboxes in the content area folder or notebook for frequent review. In reading and writing, have students refer to the alphaboxes to make more vivid, specific word choices.
Vocabulary knowledge is too critical for comprehension and understanding to leave up to chance. This is an explicit vocabulary strategy that can be used throughout the year and across disciplines.