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Building Vocabulary by Acting Out History


Found in: Vocabulary, Language Barriers, Martin Luther King Day, Hispanic Heritage Month

My ESL students were studying Martin Luther King's March on Washington, in accordance with the SCS 3rd Grade ELA Curriculum Map. Since the study began during the second week of Hispanic Heritage Month, I had them compare and contrast Dr. King and Mr. Cesar Chavez and discuss the sequence of events that catapulted them to leadership roles. Our initial vocabulary words included the following: Crowd, Public, Protest, March, Narrow, Refuse, Separate, and Statue.

Since vocabulary study—even with pictures, photos, and drawings—is still a struggle for some students, I decided to have them act out their vocabulary. After all, students love to be dramatic!

We “marched” after writing “protest signs” using their vocabulary and “long u sound” spelling words, such as:

We refuse to work for low pay!
Our children deserve to go to school, too!

I videotaped the “March,” allowing each child to have camera time and read his or her statement on camera. I also helped children understand that many people—not just Blacks or African Americans—are and can be discriminated against and, thus, they must always stand for what is right.

The students' performance on their vocabulary improved with that week's testing.

Although we did not get to this part, it was my plan to introduce Delores Huerta to them, as she was as important to the United Farm Workers' fight for Civil Rights, as was Rosa Parks to the NAACP's fight.

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