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From Icebergs to Insights: Enhancing Learning with Iceberg Analysis and Word Walls

After participating in my Level 1 Compass training, I knew immediately that I wanted to find as many opportunities as possible to utilize the Compass tools in my classroom. Beginning with the Systems Iceberg, students were excited to think about the depth of the issues they faced daily. We had open discussions about several topics from cell phone use during class to student dress code violations, diving deep into the mental model, and systems and structures behind these events and patterns of behavior.

While this led to interesting discussions and connections, I noticed it was difficult for some students to define the vocabulary associated with these conversations. Words like performative, authentic, and sustainability were challenging for some. I then decided to plan a lesson focusing primarily on the relevant vocabulary for our unit. This unit centered around a research project in which students had to evaluate the authenticity of service initiatives from various companies. For the assessment, students selected a company to evaluate; students selected companies like Rare Beauty, Fenty, Nike, and Me Too among many others.

My goals for the vocabulary lesson were the following:

  • Expose students to the vocabulary list for our unit, including words that may be
    familiar and unfamiliar
  • Have students participate in creating a visually appealing word wall that could be
    used throughout the unit

First, students were divided into groups and given the vocabulary list for the unit, cut up into strips. Students then collaboratively matched definitions to words to the best of their abilities. During this time, I observed students using context clues, grouping potential definitions for words, and noticing connections between definitions and concepts.

We then took up the answers, and students had a moment to chat with their groups about their reflections on the activities. Here are some questions I used to prompt discussion:

  • Did you notice any unfamiliar words in the list? Which ones?
  • How did you approach finding the definition of unfamiliar words?
  • Did you notice any similarities among either the word list or the definitions? Which ones?
  • Can you show me an example of a word that was defined using context clues?

Afterward, students were assigned a vocabulary word from the list and given art supplies and a notecard. Students wrote their words, rewrote the definitions in their own words, and drew pictures or symbols to help visualize the term/concept. These notecards were displayed in the classroom during our unit, and when students needed vocabulary support, they used this display.

This activity was very beneficial to my students especially later in the unit when they were working on their summative assessments; I highly recommend involving students in creating classroom resources like word walls or anchor charts!


Picture of Olivia Gunn

Olivia Gunn

Olivia Gunn, originally from Toronto, Canada, teaches AP Human Geography and 10th grade English at the American Nicaraguan School. Passionate about service learning and project-based learning, she is currently transitioning to her new role as Director of the Capstone Program for 12th-grade students. In addition, she is developing an internship program for 10th and 11th-grade students to support them in taking their learning outside the classroom and developing as ethical global leaders.

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