I have talked about the importance of vocabulary instruction before in this post, however, I have been reading a book called Word Nerds. The first chapter is called "What's the Big Deal about Vocabulary Instruction?" I am reminded each day watching the students interact with vocabulary in our Pitsco Missions that it is indeed a big deal.
Beyond what the book had to say, I have witnessed the following example multiple times in one of our missions. The students are looking for the materials listed in their activity and it calls for a canister of rice. Even though in their tub their is a tall plastic container filled with rice, they will still search for the "canister." It cracks me up when they even argue over what a canister might be. Now for those of us 50 and over we probably envision "canister" with the set of canisters labeled flour, sugar, coffee, and tea that sat on our counters as kids.
This generation of students probably hasn't seen this, and as I thought more about this we don't use that word much anymore. How are they supposed to know what a canister looks like?
Another word that came up in a similar setting was the word "percolate." Again, those of us that are older understand how that word because we made coffee in a percolator. However, when the students read about this word, it was in the setting of the absorption rate of soil. Again, with no background that is tough word for them.
Just with those two examples, we can see that vocabulary instruction is important or at the very least crippling to children when they don't have the background knowledge that we all too often assume they have.
I will address the what the authors of the book Word Nerds had to say about the importance of vocabulary instruction tomorrow. Stay tuned.