Sunday, October 14, 2012

Family Guy, South Park, & High School Vocabulary

Okay.  Learning vocabulary in school can be very boring.  Here's your list of words: ideology, paradox, theocracy, villainy, hearty, quaking, trepidation, dissemble, and so on.  You get the picture.  Not exactly exciting for teenage boys.  The key is to get these kids engaged.  You have to tap into their interests, which usually includes video games, cartoons, sports, and tv shows.  It's important to keep your finger on their pulse and make sure you spend lots of your own time catching up on Spongebob, Family Guy, Super Mario, and Cartoon Network.  Just kidding.
The SMART Board has become a tool to get these kids engaged.  It's much more than an overhead projector replacement or a place to write notes.  My job is to get a group of high school boys in a cross-categorical special education classroom (learning disabilities, speech language disabilities, emotional handicaps, & etc.) to learn high school curriculum vocabulary.  Through my experience in special education, I can tell you that the kids love to play games and be competitive.  Honestly, it really doesn't matter what the game is so long as it's "a game".  It's all about the sell.  In fact, I've been able to take vocabulary from The Crucible and spice it up by adding Family Guy soundbites as rewards for completing the activity.  Remember those words?  Now copy them down, look up the definitions, and write them in a sentence.  BORING.  You lost me at The Crucible.  So how do I do it?  Very, very easily.  The activity is already in the SMART Notebook software and with that you can whip out one of these games in under 30 minutes.  Most of the time, just so you know, I introduce the vocabulary beforehand by having discussions and showing visual examples of each word.

Here's what you need:  a list of words, a dictionary (try a visual dictionary like Shahi), SMART Notebook software.

In SMART Notebook, there is an interactive activity called "keyword match".  It's in the activity gallery (the icon looks like a little picture frame).  It is really, really easy once you figure out that it's in the gallery.  Just type in "keyword" in the search window and it will appear in a folder down below in "Interactive and Multimedia".  Then, all you have to do is type in the words and definitions.  My version of Notebook lets me do six words.  If you want to do more, then you can create a new slide with another game.

Now, for the Family Guy part, I go to Google Images and copy and paste the picture of each character.  To make them look clean and crisp, click the down arrow on the picture and click "Picture Transparency".  Use the dropper tool to get rid of the white space surrounding the picture.  Place them on the screen, lock them, and voila!  You now have a theme to your game.  You can take it one step further by going on the interwebs and finding mp3 soundbites for the characters.  This does take some time and you absolutely have to make sure that they are appropriate before attaching the sounds. has a ton of free clips.  You download them (remember where you saved them) and then attach the sounds to the pictures in your themed slide.  You do this by clicking the down arrow on the picture and then selecting "Sound..." toward the bottom.  Browse and choose your file and then you are all set.  Make sure that you check the box for "object" instead of "Corner icon" that way when you touch anywhere on the picture, the sound will play.

The kids don't even know that they are learning about The Crucible, yet they are engaged in a very simple activity!

These are pictures of some of the other templates that I've created.  Not sure what to create?  Ask your students!
Simpsons Example
South Park Example

Cartoon Network Example