Teachers at Work
A column about teaching
Feel the Words
Gina Peebles teaches English at the Continuous Learning Center in Camden, South Carolina. It's an alternative school for problem students expelled from the district's junior high and high schools. Gina's a "core academic" teacher, the only English instructor at the school. She works with fifty students and teaches many different levels, often in the same classroom. Gina has to get creative to get through to these challenging students. So she puts technology - and the Visual Thesaurus - to work in her classroom in innovative ways. She explains how.
VT: Tell us about the technology you work with?
Gina: I use a Smart Board, an interactive white board that acts like a giant mouse. When you touch the board, you move a mouse on the computer it's connected to. The Visual Thesaurus works great with it. I project the VT onto the Smart Board. The kids "touch" the words when they touch the board, and move them around. It works really well when the Visual Thesaurus is in 3-D mode. The kids think it's cool.
VT: How do you use it?
Gina: I use it for differentiated instruction. For example, for a story we read called The Lady and the Tiger, the students came up with characterizations of the princess, the lady and the tiger. They suggested adjectives to describe them. But I wanted them to come up with more powerful words. So we entered words into the Visual Thesaurus. When they typed in, say, "beautiful," all the different words for beautiful were projected onto the Smart Board. They chose the words they liked and we stuck them on the wall. This way they're always in front of them.
VT: How does this help?
Gina: Teenagers are bodily kinesthetic, they like to dance, do athletics. They learn by moving. So using the Smart Board to manipulate the Visual Thesaurus is a great learning tool for them. Many of the kids are also visual/spatial; they remember the colors, the geometric patterns. The Visual Thesaurus is also good for them, too.
VT: How else do you use the Visual Thesaurus?
Gina: Three times a week we do a "word of the day" as a warm up. We'll use the Visual Thesaurus to find the synonyms instead of looking up words in a dictionary. We see the choices so they're easier to remember. I think it's more effective than giving them a 25-word definition.