Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's In A Word?

Vocabulary instruction is one of the most natural ways to give children the foundation they need for reading success! Yes, just by knowing words and using them in everyday life can enhance a child's ability to read those same words in text.

Some of you may recall my mentioning this, but it's worth saying again. Your brain houses something remarkable - the phonological processor. The typical person who uses a word twelve times renders a "phonological imprint" on this phonological processor. So that means they will be more likely to make meaning of the word in text. Moreover, are able to be flexible when making text connections to words. This does amazing things for children because the more explicit instruction they receive for word meanings the greater a child's capacity for "word consciousness". You know you are successful when a child asks "What does that mean?" They are now active learners who are engaging words to make meaning on their own.

Here is a how to teach vocabulary in a more meaningful way. This work is all based on two books by researcher, Isabel Beck: Bringing Words to Life, and Creating Robust Vocabulary, I also have to send out my thanks to Dr. Maureen Ruby from the University of Connecticut. I attended one of her fabulous workshops and if you ever have an opportunity to see her - you must go! I was fortunate enough to work directly with Dr. Ruby and presented many of these same methods that I am sharing today.

When doing a robust vocabulary lesson there is a a suggested sequence to follow.

  • Introduce the word by saying it aloud and it's even more meaningful when you post the written word with a picture to go with it. This is especially important for your English Language Learners - it is an anchor for the word
  • Contextualize the word in the story - go to the page read the sentence show the picture
  • Give a student friendly definition
  • Restate the word in a sentence using a different context
  • Provide experiences with word use - in other words Act Out grimace (application level on Bloom) Turn & Talk with a partner about something that made you grimace.  Give examples and non-examples of the word grimace - a favorite toy; cleaning a messy room - children say that's a grimace face or that's not a grimace face.  This allows all children to participate without any down time - all are engaged learners all can be active.  With everyone participating it also makes it safer for those reluctant students who aren't risk takers
  • Summing it Up - Using the Words All Together is where you make a up a short vignette using the words and I like to have the children insert the word into the story.  I have  the words posted on word wall strips and point to each one. Take a look...
This is a great book to do a read aloud vocabulary lesson: The Pout Pout Fish

If you want to try out a lesson - here is a planner I created with my wonderful fellow Literacy Coaches  at the South Country Central School District.   I actually did this lesson recently and it went great!

Here are other lesson resources:

Word Wall Cards:                                          

Pictures for Choice Activity

Sentence Stem For Turn & Talk ( write on a sentence strip or Smart Board ) 

A time I was astounded was ________because...

Ok so now you have everything you need if you want to try it out!  Teaching is the best job in the world but it's an awful lot of work.  So remember, reach out to your colleagues you are never alone there is always someone who will lend a hand if you need one.  Share your ideas too - I'd love to hear what you think. :)