How we communicate with others determines are successes and failures in life. Our words manifest our lives.
Communication helps facilitate the process of sharing information and knowledge and develop relationships with others. The problem is that these things do not seem as important in today’s society with the prevalence of social media, but we are still human. And at our core human nature craves relationships which involves the sharing of words!
So the future of our universe stands on your shoulders!
Okay, that was a bit dramatic. But seriously...
Vocabulary is so important for our students. So many of our students lack communication skills. I’m sure the fact that they only view the world from a bedroom window, behind which they sit in an alternate world of video games and text talk!
Our students need a voice, and consequently that involves beginning with increasing a vocabulary.
Students’ vocabularies typically increase with age as they increase their interactions, communication, and knowledge: “Children’s vocabulary size approximately doubles between grades 3 and 7” (University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning, 2015).
Studies show that “between grades 1 and 3, it is estimated that economically disadvantaged students’ vocabularies increases by about 3,000 words per year and middle-class students’ vocabularies increase by about 5,000 words per year”... hence, the achievement gap!
Didn’t your mom say there were no ‘buts’ about it, and you just weren’t allowed to have them?
Well, I guess that doesn’t apply in this case! Aaaannnnndddd... to make matters worse, in this digital age, my hypothesis is that these gaps are growing while vocabularies are declining among ALL of our students!
Increasing a student’s vocabulary is more important now than ever.
So what do we know about vocabulary?
It is believed that 300-500 words per year can reasonably be taught through direct instruction which equates to 8-10 words 10 words per week, 50 weeks per year (Chall, 1996).
Words are learned directly. That means vocabulary instruction requires:
-explicit instruction (constructing definitions, analyzing word structure, and exploring word relationships)
-multiple exposures to a word
-more time spent reading
So how do we do it?
Well, we infuse it into all of our lessons!
Every lesson that you plan should include vocabulary since it improves comprehension! If you don’t know what the words mean, how can you understand what you are reading?
Words are also learned indirectly, such as listening to stories, independent reading, and listening to adult talk. While I don’t suggest allowing your students to listen in on your adult conversations!
Here’s how I do it in my reading groups…
I pull vocabulary words out of the text ahead of time. (If you have purchased any of my novel studies or short story comprehension tri-folds, I have done this part for you!)
I look for 3 things when choosing words. I look for words that my students will…
-most likely struggle to decode
-most likely not know the meaning
-they should be words that are integral to understanding
I write these words on an anchor chart.
We begin by using our word attack skills. We scoop our new words into syllables, decode each syllable, and then, read the entire word.
Next, we look at the word in context. We read a few sentences and see if we can figure out the meaning. If we can, we write a definition in our own words on the chart, next to the word.
Using context clues to determine unknown meaning, is a reading skill applicable to all genres and content areas.
If we are unable to determine the meaning, we look the word up. We re-write the formal definition into our own kid-friendly one!
I have a confession, though! These days, we use the internet to look up the word. However, I do also introduce my students to dictionaries, but let’s face facts - those may become obsolete one day and we are teaching 21st century learners who we should be preparing for the future!
But knowledge is power! So I do teach dictionary skills using old school texts and new school internet!
Sometimes I put a visual next to the vocabulary word on our chart for a memory tool!
We get to revisit the word in the context of our reading for the day’s lesson.
During discussion, students answer open-ended questions using the vocabulary words.
The vocabulary words are compiled into lists for the texts. These lists provide us with different activities that allow students to interact with the words. I might ask students to read the lists and use the words in sentences, write meaningful sentences for the words, OR…
Choose one of the words to be your WORD OF THE WEEK!
Dissect this word! Define the word, discuss synonyms and antonyms, find it in text, hear it in media, etc. Make it the word that students know inside and out! Get your students saying the word (the more often, we say it, it embeds in our vocabulary)! And use it for transitions! Keep your students on their toes. When they hear your say the word of the week, this is their signal to transition!
Have students CREATE Google Slides or posters where images and visuals represent meaning! Ask students to write a meaningful sentence for a vocabulary word AND find an image or visual that represents the word’s definition! For example, if the word is generous, a student might write… “Oprah is generous because she gave away gifts on her show” and this student might pair this sentence with a picture of Oprah giving away gifts. Some students may find it easier to find an image of the word first, and then, generate a meaningful sentence based on the image.
~By Miss Rae
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners.