Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Like Money in the Bank

Today, my students began an investment portfolio- a literary one, not a literal one! We created a word bank but with a twist.

We did a lesson on the six traits of writing last week, where we wrote about ourselves as "renaissance" people (we have more than one talent). I encouraged my authors to find their "voice" in their writing by making sure they described how they feel when they are doing things they considered their talents. I tried to steer them away from words like "cool" and "good", by giving them a "price tag". "Cool" and "good" were only worth 5 cents. Excellent was worth $1, proud was worth 25 cents, and trustworthy was worth $2! But I found when I marked their work, some still used "cool" and "good", while others used $2 words incorrectly. I thought that in today's writing class, we should create a word bank.

The students wrote on a paper different words that they would use to describe themselves, feelings, actions or situations, (I later called these words adjectives and adverbs). Then, they attached price tags to these words, and grouped them according to value. We discussed that you shouldn't overspend by using a $2 word all the time (When I got up in the morning, I felt trustworthy, then I went to my trustworthy school. My teacher said I looked trustworthy today...). We described some short words that are very powerful like "do" and "love" and "yes" (or NO). The criteria was that students will be allowed to keep their words and their price tags, but only if they have spelled them correctly, and can describe what they mean. Otherwise I get to cross them off in class, and take their "money" for that word.

As a follow up to this lesson, we will create this word bank on a larger piece of paper, cut and paste appropriate coins next to these words (or do crayon rubbings of coins, or use coin stamps), and then I will bring out the play money and "pay" them for some good words. We will keep our Word Banks in our LA books, and refer to them as needed in future writing.

As an afterthought, one way I could use this lesson in middle school would be to go to places like and use the online thesaurus. We could then use a graphics program, and superimpose words like these on pictures of canadian coins and bills.

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lornawynn said...

James, some excellent thought processes here... oh, I've used a word only worth a $1! Lets try a couple of $2 words. What about an exceptional flash of brilliance! How did I do?

Seriously, if I had been lucky enough to have had a teacher like you when I was at school, I definitely would have peaked a lot sooner than 50!

By the way, I enjoyed reading it so much, you've been given the thumbs up on this one at StumbleUpon.

Lorna, Tsawwassen, BC.

James Gill said...

Thank you Lorna for your words of encouragement and your thumbs up on StumbleUpon. It matters more to teachers like me than coffee and chocolate! And I like coffee! I hope all is well in Tsawassen, and if you are a fellow educator, shoot me your blog url if you have one so I can check it out.


spaguyswife said...

I'm with Lorna, I absolutely adore (what's that worth?) this concept as well as many of your ideas!

Fortunately I am one of the lucky ones, you are my son's teacher and I get to speak to you on a regular basis!

You enlighten me my friend. Never lose that enthusiasm that you bring to the table each and every day!
Though the dollar value may not be much I think you are very cool and you rock! Keep up the great work.

James Gill said...

Thanks so much for your support Spaguyswife. I also enjoy your updates on your blog, podcast, and especially twitter.