The importance of vocabulary knowledge to school success, in general, and reading comprehension, in particular, is widely documented. Becker, 1977; Anderson & Nagy, 1991
This is the last of three related posts on this interesting topic on vocabulary @High School. The other two posts can be accessed here are entitled:
- AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR VOCABULARY @ HIGH SCHOOL
- FUN AND EFFECTIVE WAYS OF TEACHING VOCABULARY @ HIGH SCHOOL 1
The acquisition of vocabulary is one of the most important tasks in language learning. If you have enough words, you can make sense of what you are reading or listening to and you can somehow express yourself.
In short, vocabulary acquisition is much more important than grammar. The grammar we have is acquired gradually as we become familiar with the language, with the words, but first of all, we need words.
A. How Do We TEACH Vocabulary?
Vocabulary knowledge is not something that can ever be fully mastered; it is something that expands and deepens over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up words in a dictionary and using the words in a sentence.
RESEARCH has brutally exposed a long held belief on . . .
Least Effective Strategies On Teaching Vocabulary through . . .
- copying definitions
- writing sentences
- memorizing definitions from a vocabulary study sheet
- asking students to use context for unknown words when there is little contextual support.
Most Effective Strategies On Teaching Vocabulary are through . . .
- direct, explicit instruction of words in context
- using simple conceptual maps
- teaching specific context clues
- selecting meaningful words to teach
- increasing independent reading
- directly teaching word learning strategies connecting new concepts/meanings to existing knowledge base.
Just as increasing vocabulary knowledge should occur on a continuous basis, so should vocabulary instruction. The following four steps in teaching new vocabulary words have been used extensively.
It is important that teachers make sure that their students use:
- Explicit Instruction of Using the Vocabulary Word Correctly: [I do it] – Students hear their teacher explicitly give a student-friendly definition and then see her or him model how the vocabulary term is used.
- Guided Instruction: [We do it] – Students have opportunities to use new vocabulary while the teacher is there to “help with the tricky parts” and is circulating around the classroom to make sure that students are using the word correctly and giving corrective feedback when needed.
- Collaborative Learning: [You do it together] – Students are given lots of opportunities to clarify and refine meaning and usage in the company of peers. Students teach other students how to use the word correctly/verifying the correct definition. An extended version would be using oral language to communicate the meaning in different contexts and having groups of students complete assignments involving semantic mapping or other graphic organizers.
- Independent: [You do it alone] – Students practice use of the term in independent reading, writing, discussion, and assessment.
B. Six Step Process For Teaching Vocabulary
Marzano (2004) has developed a six step process for teaching vocabulary to students of all ages. While the vocabulary needs of students increase over time, these same procedures can be used on a frequent basis with all students of varying abilities across all content areas. The effective techniques on how to use these six steps follow the description of Marzano’s Six Step Process for Teaching Vocabulary.
Marzano’s six steps for teaching new words can be used with all students (K-12), including those with learning disabilities.
- Use the first three steps to introduce new words to students.
- The next three steps give students multiple exposures of the new word for review and retention.
The six steps are as follows:
Step 1: EXPLAIN— The teacher provides a student-friendly description, explanation or an example of the new term. (This is where the teacher explicitly states the definition that will make sense to the students.)
Step 2: RESTATE— Teacher asks students to restate the description, explanation or example in their own words. (Students could add the term to their notebooks or to a chart in the classroom, followed by the following step.)
Step 3: SHOW— The teacher asks students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representation of the term. (If possible, ask students to come up with an antonym or synonym to the new word.)
Step 4: DISCUSS—The teacher engages students periodically in structured vocabulary discussions that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their vocabulary notebooks. (Have students use new words in oral sentences or use the new words in questions you ask your students.)
Step 5: REFINE AND REFLECT—Periodically, the teacher asks students to return to their notebooks to discuss and refine entries. (When another new word comes up, try to mention previously learned words as similar or different.)
Step 6: APPLY IN LEARNING GAMES— The teacher involves students periodically in games that allow them to play with new terms. (Examples to try: Jeopardy, Name that Word, Bingo, and Concentration.)
C. The Four P’s of Vocabulary Acquisition
PROVIDE opportunities for reading wide and reading volume with accountability.
PRE-VIEW the text to determine which words to teach.
PRE-TEACH meaningful words and phrases.
PROVIDE direct instruction and multiple exposures of the vocabulary in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
D. Importance of Vocabulary to Reading
Some conclusions which research has established include that . . .
- There is a strong relationship between vocabulary and reading comprehension.
- Vocabulary knowledge is linked to overall academic success.
Vocabulary Strategies: Before, During And After Reading
Before Reading Vocabulary Strategies
- Use explicit instruction to pre-teach unfamiliar important words from the text that will help build background knowledge, and those words that are critical for students’ understanding of what they are reading.
- Help students relate new vocabulary to their prior knowledge and experiences, as well as to previously read text.
- In longer, multisyllabic words, teach meanings of root words, prefixes and suffixes so that students can recognize these morphographs in unknown words to help them determine their meanings. Review these morphographs in new words that may be unfamiliar to students as needed.
- Have students use mapping techniques, such as Semantic Mapping and other graphic organizers to help them think about other words that share the same meanings or that have the same roots. For example, teaching the root ‘tele’ which means from afar, can be used to teach telescope, telephone, telepathic, television, and telegraph.
During Reading Vocabulary Strategies
- Teach students to use prefixes, suffixes, and familiar word parts to decode new words and determine their meanings.
- Teach students how to use the structure of both narrative and expository text to figure out word meanings. Although this strategy does not always help with determining an unknown word’s meaning, it is one that students should try to use while reading, especially on assignments done independently.
- Expand on word meanings that were defined in the textbook in context to ensure students’ understanding of these new words.
- Have students add new words and concepts to their semantic maps and graphic organizers they began prior to reading.
- Use content-area word walls as a resource for students to use when they need help remembering a word’s meaning.
After Reading Vocabulary Strategies
- Have students use their own words to explain the meaning of new words in the way it was used in the text, as well as using it in other contexts.
- Play vocabulary games (e.g., using synonyms, antonyms, roots, concepts) to provide enrichment of new word meanings.
- Have students copy their word wall vocabulary in any order that they wish. Play a game like Bingo, but instead of just calling out the word, say a short definition and then the students will cover the vocabulary word that matches the definition.
E. Words are learned indirectly as research concludes . . .
- Rarity and variety of words found in children’s books is greater than that found in adult conversation!
- More words are learned through reading than from spoken language.
- So read, read, read!!!