Sometimes I also had my students collaborate to select the ten or fifteen words that they felt would be most useful/important/difficult for the unit, and would then put those words into a list on Spelling City (SpellingCity.com is a wonderful website that all educators should know about. That’s a whole other blog post, though. Stay tuned!). Students could work on the website to play games with the words, and to test themselves to spell the words. I challenged students to get 100% on the spelling test on Spelling City and the vast majority rose to the challenge time and again.
Students could reference their ABC Chart whenever they needed vocabulary support during in-class practice activities. Throughout each unit we would practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing on our new theme. We added words to the ABC Chart when we needed to. By the end of the unit, most of the students had referenced the sheet many times, and used the vocabulary multiple times in different domains, so that the words became automatic. By the end-of-unit exam, students were able to use and understand many of the words on their ABC Charts without having the chart in front of them.
Students kept the ABC Charts for each unit in a binder that they were required to keep for my class. By the end of the year, each student had built their very own thematic dictionary using these ABC Charts. I often witnessed students referring back to the ABC Chart from a previous unit when they came across the same theme in another class, for example. For my newcomer ELLs, this was a vital support that went beyond my classroom walls.
Using the ABC Chart in this way was very successful in my classroom and for my students, but the chart has many other applications besides this! The way you use it will depend on your curricular, classroom, and student needs. For example, it is also an excellent tool to use for review. You can have your students fill in vocabulary or concepts for the unit corresponding to each letter. It can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups. As students are filling in the boxes, they are talking to each other about everything they have learned and reviewing concepts together. Often, students will remind each other of concepts learned. I find that people usually challenge themselves to complete each box - sometimes this is possible, sometimes not - this is not really the important feature of the chart. What really matters are the reflective conversations about learning that the chart facilitates during the review session.
This is a strategy of many shapes and colors. I (very uncreatively) always just called it an ABC Chart. I came across the template above in my first year of teaching, and have been using it ever since. In my old CRISS Strategies book, it is called ABC Brainstorming - the authors suggest having students simply write the alphabet on a sheet of notebook paper. Linda Hoyt also created a version of this that she called Alphaboxes.
Have you used this technique? Tell me how in the comments!