"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Monday, April 15, 2013

Levels of Word Knowledge

According to the book Reading Strategies for Science by Stephanie Macceca, there are three levels of word knowledge: unknown, acquainted, and established. 

Unknown words are words that students neither recognize nor understand. An example would be... Few early elementary students would be able to define oviparous (animals that hatch from eggs).

Acquainted words are those that students may recognize but must consciously think about to determine their meanings. 4th grade students are acquainted with the word mineral, but they may not be able to define it in detail.

Established words are those words that the students recognize and can define easily and automatically. The word disease should be well established in the vocabularies of every 8th grader.

Our goal should be to move new science vocabulary into the established level for our students. They should be able to use them in their speech and their writing. Research has shown in order for that to happen, we as teachers must expose students to the new words a number of times and in a variety of contexts.

The author of Reading Strategies for Science also suggests that knowing a word completely involves skills such as:

  • recognizing the word automatically
  • knowing the denotations (specific meaning) and connotations (a suggested meaning)
  • knowing synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, and analogies for the word
  • associating the word with different experiences and,
  • being able to explain the nuances of a word (multiple uses and meanings)

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some ways to give those numerous encounters with words needed for students to have an established science vocabulary. The posts will be in no particular order...just whatever suits my fancy and my time limit:)

The first post of ideas that will start tomorrow will be on displaying science vocabulary in a word wall, and the realist in me knows there is limited space, AND I am big on brain research about being in a cluttered environment. Until tomorrow.........

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