What’s in a word?

As a PYP school, our approach to learning is through inquiry.  It’s often challenging to make second-language learning inquiry based, and we teachers are always experimenting with different options. (We’re inquirers too!)

Today’s task was simple.  Instead of giving a new Hebrew vocabulary list, with English translations, I gave the words in Hebrew only. Each group received different words and they swapped with another group when they had figured out the meanings.  I didn’t give any directions, just handed out dictionaries and asked them to work collaboratively to find out the meanings of as many words as possible.

How did they work out the meanings of the words?

  • Someone in the group knew the meaning already and shared.
  • They took turns to look words up in the dictionary.
  • They changed the tense or form of some words in order to find them in the dictionary.
  • They worked out the meanings by recognising the root letters.
  • They made connections to other familiar words.
  • They traded with another group!

The task was nothing special and I’m sure it was obvious to most.  But, as always, the most interesting aspect was the students’ reflections. (They are Year 5 students)

  • It helps us learn how to use a dictionary effectively.
  • It was more challenging than just copying down the words.
  • I felt like I achieved something.
  • It was an efficient use of time (a student’s words, honestly!)
  • It was a fun way to learn words, so we’ll be more likely to remember them.
  • We found other words in the dictionary too, so we learned even more words.
  • This is a great way to learn new words as it is challenging to find the right meaning.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a word?

  1. Sometimes the seemingly most simple inquiry turns into a great learning experience, this was one of those. I am impressed with your Year 5 student’s reflections on the learning!


  2. Simple strategies like these, we take for granted, those of us who are accustomed to the PYP and inquiry, but these are the simple things that we must model for teachers new to the PYP. More please!


  3. Interesting blog. I’m always interested in how people learn hebrew.
    By the way, have you heard of ‘English Hebrew by Subject’?
    Its an excellent new resources for your students that want to increase their Hebrew vocab.
    You can check it out on http://www.engheb.com


  4. I agree, second language is often a difficult area for inquiry. I used to teach French, although it wasn’t an IB school. This is a simple, but effective, strategy to get students to do the thinking and inquiring themselves. Sometimes we overlook the simple things and try to make things more complex, so it’s great too see that this was such a success. Well done!


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