Years ago, I was sitting in our weekly staff meeting, and one of our science teachers was proposing a unified approach to teach vocabulary to our students. She felt that if all of our students across the board had at least one common and basic tactic for teaching terms, that we could have added success. She proposed that we incorporate the KIM Vocabulary sheets in all classes that learn vocabulary terms. Although I was skeptical at first, I have found value in this strategy for all the grade levels that I teach and have made several activities that one can do to assist based on KIM vocabulary sheets.
What is KIM Vocabulary?
KIM Vocabulary is a three-column graphic organizer or a table where students fill in the information to learn a term beyond just copying the textbook sentence. The K stands for “knowledge” and is the first column where the word or name goes. The second column, or “I” column, is for “information.” This is where the definition or key information of the word goes. I want my students to go beyond just a textbook definition here and show a deeper understanding of the meaning. The final column is where the “memory clue” goes! This is where the magic happens, once the students truly understand the intention. This is where something goes that will help jar the memory of the student or connect it to other information that can help them remember the information, say on an AP test.
For younger grades, one can create a KIMS Vocab sheet where the "S" stands for sentence and the students can then write a sentence with the term.
How Do I Introduce KIM Vocabulary?
The first few times that I introduce KIM vocabulary involve a lot of modeling so the students know how to fill it out correctly and how it can be useful to them. I give them the words for the week or chapter, and we go through the first three as a class. For example, in European History, we start with the Renaissance. Typically, the first word is, “Renaissance.” So how do we define it? We read the textbook definition and I ask the class how we can improve that based on their prior knowledge and then we write a definition for the “I” column together. Next, we think of ideas for the “m” box. A lot of students want to go simple and write “rebirth,” which is fine as that word could easily show up on a test, and that would jog their memory to get the right answer. Simple is sometimes fantastic! As we go down the list and get to artists, I have students list famous paintings or, even better, artistic techniques in the memory clue box! (Great for Masaccio!) Some relate their memory clue to events. For example, for Botticelli, they write, “paintings in a bonfire” relating him to Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities.
After the whole class, I then have the class do their KIM vocab sheet with partners or a small group focusing on memory clues. We then regroup as a class and list memory clues that each group came up with for a few terms. I have had some great ones over the years, like “college loans” for usury. So simple, but it demonstrates that they get it! I have also had great artists that have made this section their own comic book or gallery that had great artistic memory clues (I am strict with drawing memory clues as the student has to show they understand the information, but some of the comic book type memory clues have put a smile on my face over the years!). However, I have found that drawings have really helped my psychology students.
If I have time at the end of class (like the two times a year that happens!), students can quickly pull out their KIM vocabulary sheets, and we list memory clues on the board to help each other out. I also use that for a unique, “around the world” activity where I have a student use their memory clues to have students say the term or person. I also highlight great memory clues to the class! This gesture increases intrinsic motivation as students know they “got it,” and it really makes students feel great when their memory clue is mentioned.