Select a set of key words that relate centrally to a unit of study. Decide if you want students to make trees from a closed set of words, or if you want them to generate their own associated words. Create several model word trees to share with the students. Decide if and how you want to group students. Decide what you want students to write words on during the categorization and organization process. Options include index cards, sticky notes, whiteboards, and many different tablet apps.
In groups or individually, students are given a key word or set of words.
As with all complex tasks, you should initially model and scaffold this activity. Lower-level students should probably work from a closed set of 10-20 words. A closed set also works well for a shorter-duration activity. Higher-level students can generate their own associated words from one to five key words.
If students are generating their own words, they can brainstorm a list of words associated with the key word(s).
As students become more adept at this task, they can more often move towards open word generation activities.
Next, students generate ideas that are associated with the words. Ideas can be phrases or full sentences.
Students may need modeling of this step, since it is fairly different from other word association activities.
Students organize the words and ideas in a hierarchical tree structure. Stronger links should be represented with larger font.
Examples of word trees are included here: http://betterevaluation.org/sites/default/files/WordTree_eg1.jpg http://blog.visual.ly/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/word-tree-screenshot.jpg
Students can share and explain their work. Options for this portion include pair shares, a gallery walk, or a whole-class presentation. Students should discuss what they notice and learn, and how they learned from participating as well as observing each o
You can lead students in a conversation about HOW creating organized associations can help to facilitate memory. Discuss how each new connection to a word represents a very literal neural connection in the student’s brain, and how more and stronger connections to a given word or concept make that concept more memorable and more accessible.
Adaptation for the Math Classroom
Math units can include numerous vocabulary words, and word trees can help students connect those words to one another and through analysis can develop an understanding of how strong the relationships between the words are.