As I was talking about the importance of vocabulary instruction in yesterday's post, I mentioned that I have reading a book called Word Nerds. I wanted to share some information that I gleaned from it as it relates to content vocabulary. The book is a wonderful resource in addressing all teaching of vocabulary, but I am just pulling out things as they relate to content vocabulary instruction.
Here are a few things that caught my eye in Chapter 1 - "What's the Big Deal about Vocabulary Instruction?"
#1 Some words are more important to teach than others.
They break words down into three categories... Tier I words are words the students come to school knowing (clock, baby, and happy). Tier II words are high-frequency words that students will likely encounter in the their reading, but may know well (coincidence, absurd, and fortunate). Tier III are content specific words (isotope, peninsula, and refinery).
The authors suggest teaching Tier III during content time and basing vocabulary instruction on Tier II words.
Many of the ideas in this book would work well for those content words too!!!
#2 Students have to learn words at more than one level.
They have a continuum of word knowledge ranging from no knowledge to a rich knowledge such as how it used in multiple situations and multiple meanings.
#3 Students learn words when they experience them multiple times.
I know we have all heard that before. I had always heard 6, but they say there is a new studying suggesting that students need exposure to a word 12 times.
#4 Asking students to look up words in the dictionary and write the definition dies not help them learn new words.
Thought brought up...introducing words using student friendly definitions in plain, everyday language helps. I pondered when I read this of my old elementary dictionaries used in the primary grades that were really simple definitions often accompanied by pictures. I decided I liked this idea!!!
#5 When students learn words, they build patterns and networks of meaning called "word schemas".
In other words, students make connections to their own background when deciding what a new word means. ***Prefixes, suffixes, root words all play in here.
Quote from the authors: "When we help build and activate students' word schemas, their vocabulary knowledge grows exponentially."
#6 Students can learn some words through the use of wide reading.
Use a wide variety of texts along with direct instruction and vocabulary activities which this book has many examples.
#7 Students can learn some words through rich conversations with adults and peers.
We need to find ways to use those words in our instruction and conversation with students. That adds to that 12 times exposure needed.
Interactive read alouds are also a great resource for this.
#8 Students can learn some words through word play.
Vocabulary instruction that includes movement and multisensory activities can aide here. I want to share some of the ideas for this particular section in a later post. I think as teachers we have heard many of the ideas shared in the book before and while they are really great ideas, I think this section of movement and word play might be just the missing link in our vocabulary instruction.
#9 Students can learn some words by direct instruction.
#10 Most students need word learning strategies to become independent readers.
as I mentioned with #5 these skills are valuable. If you are using the CAFE to teach reading skills, then you have also got an instant reason to teach those short mini lessons on vocabulary strategies and then apply them to their daily reading.
In a later post, I will share some of the active vocabulary ideas shared in the book. My favorite being Word Lanyards.