I know one of the most important parts about Geometry is making sure all of our definitions are set up. I also know copying definitions down is brain-numbing and time consuming. As I was planning the first couple lessons of our Geometry half of the year, I turned to twitter with a general plea for help. Lisa responded with how she started her year by synthesizing definitions with her students. She passed out a series of slips that had examples and non-examples of each of the vocabulary words, and had her kids create frayer boxes for each word.

For those of you not in the know, Frayer Boxes (or Frayer Models) are a literacy tool to help improve kids understanding of different vocabulary words. The term goes in the middle, and then they fill in the rest of the boxes.

It’s a really great model for building understanding, especially when you only give students some of the boxes and they have to fill in the rest. I started the activity by having the Examples/non-examples for “Angle” on the board, and then we filled in all of the boxes on a Frayer model together. This gave me a chance to explain to students exactly what I was looking for so I wouldn’t have to stop over and over again.

Then I passed out the first round of examples/non-examples to each group. There were 8 different terms I wanted students to work on, so I divided that into two sets of four terms. I made two copies of the examples/non-examples for each term so that two different groups were working on each term. After the smaller groups came up with a definition, they would find the other group that had the same term and collaborate on a final definition that they could share. They were to fill out an “official” Frayer box for each term that I could keep, and then copy it onto a giant box I put on the board. We would then have a class discussion to iron out any kinks in the definitions. The groups that came up with the original definitions then had to add any revisions we made as a class to their “official” frayer box.

I really hate having activities where students are just asked to copy down definitions in class because it feels like such a waste of the precious few moments we have together. So instead of taking the 15 minutes to copy down I scanned each of the “official” boxes that students gave me using a scanner app on my phone and posted all of the definitions on my website. Over the weekend they had to fill in their glossary starter kits and I would check them on Monday.

Overall I was really happy with how the kids came up with definitions, and I think their definitions were fairly strong. The only thing I’d like to improve in the future is how quickly students changed groups. It was all a little disorganized and some kids were not nearly productive enough and just started chatting. But that’s not an activity problem so much as a classroom management problem.