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Teaching Civil Rights Vocabulary

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The Civil Rights are an important thing for students to learn in social studies or during Black History Month. Children with special needs should be included in learning this vital part about American history. However, it can be difficult for children with disabilities to access and understand the general education curriculum. That is why if your kids might need an intervention if they’re learning about Civil Rights.

Have you ever been reviewing a lesson with a child taught by their social studies teacher and asked them what topic-specific vocabulary words mean only to be met with blank stares or I don’t know?

Me too! 

It can be discouraging to realize your students don’t understand what is happening in their general education curriculum. Particularly if process language is a challenge for them.

To learn more about Processing Language versus Expressive Langauge click here.

They might need interventions and help to learn tier three (topic-specific) vocabulary. Knowing these advanced words can help them better understand what their other teachers are talking about when they’re in class. 

I know a vocabulary intervention might not sound like a lot of fun, but there are tons of ways to make it more interesting! Today we’re going to cover some of my favorite strategies.

If you are a SEIT or one on one interventionist, make sure to join my email list to get access to my free resource library. It includes a checklist on processing versus expressive language problems and can be a great way to assess what language area is tripping up your students. 

Click here to get your freebie! 

When you were in college did your professors go on and on about these different tiers of vocabulary? 

They might not have, because the different vocabulary tiers are normally used for English Language Learners. I had a couple of people try to explain it but I didn’t really understand it till I was in grad school for TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), but they’re useful in special ed too for our purposes today. 

Tier One: Common words that are everywhere. (Sight words) 

Tier Two: More advanced words that can be found in different domains. So for example a word you’re likely to see in a Science and Social studies lesson, but is not common. This is the tier they recommend you target when you’re working with ELL (English Language Learners) as it gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

Tier Three: Content or situations specific vocabulary words. These are the words you will only encounter really in one kind of environment. The best example I can think of is if your students are learning about caves and the different rock formations, they might encounter the words stalagmite and stalactite. You aren’t likely to come across those words in social studies, and it will always be in the context of caves. 

When you’re doing a vocabulary intervention around a specific topic to make content like Civil Rights more accessible, you want to hit those tier three vocabulary words.

Yes, tier two would help you cover more ground, but covering the most ground isn’t our goal here. We want our kids to be able to understand the different words their social studies teacher is using in this particular instance.

So stick those tier two words in your back pocket and come back to them another day.

You want to pick about ten words that your kids are going to hear in their Civil Rights unit. If you need ideas look over their reading or sit in on a class. 

This one is obvious and less fun than I normally like to go with, but sometimes before you can play a game you need to do formal, explicit teaching. 

You can’t ask kids to play a vocabulary game if they have no idea what they mean. 

Go over the definitions with them, and make flashcards. Practice a little bit each day till they start to get the definitions down. 

If you’re having a hard time thinking of words to use or how to teach the vocab explicitly, my pre-made no prep interactive Civil Rights Vocab slide show is available for purchase.

Click here to buy!

If you read this blog regularly you know I love games, and playing games with my students so of course I’m going to make it fun!

My favorite game for vocabulary is leftover from my TESOL days, but it still works great. 

I call it the physical matching game. To play all you need is slips of paper with the words and definitions (note words and definitions should be on different slips), tape, and a timer. 

After you print out and cut up the words and definitions, put the words on one wall and the definitions on the other. Depending on how many kids are in your group or class you might need to print multiple words and definitions. 

Explain to the kids that first they will have to go to the wall with the words, pick one, and walk it to the definition wall, where they will find the matching definition. Then they’ll bring the matching definition and word back to their desk. And repeat. 

Whichever student has the most matching sets at the end of the time you designates wins. (Obviously check to make sure the words and definitions do match.)

I also lay down a couple of rules for my kiddos when we play this. No running, and you can only grab one word from the wall. 

If your kiddo is in a session by themselves have them play against you, but slow down to make it a race, or see if they can beat previous records they set. 

You can purchase my pre-made matching game here

Sometimes you do need to give your kiddos assessments to help you understand how they’re doing and what progress is being made. 

Matching activities or more formal assessments can be great for this, and I do recommend doing a pre and post-assessment to help you best measure their growth.

To purchase my Civil Rights Vocab Assessment click here!

If your data is demonstrating that your student understands their tier three vocabulary, but they are still having a hard time in class, then something else is tripping them up.

You might have to do an observation of their class to see if there is another issue. Common ones I tend to look for are if the teacher is talking too fast or if the information from intervention is not generalizing to the different environment. 

Either way, you can work with their classroom teacher to make sure your student is excelling.

Doing an intervention can feel frustrating, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable.

Ultimately it’s important to make sure to keep data on their growth. Then take direct and purposeful action to make sure kids with disabilities can access and understand the general education curriculum. 

Even though it might be challenging, just know you are helping your students succeed! 

Make sure to follow me on Instagram and let me know how teaching your Civil Rights Vocabulary lessons go! 

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