How to Teach Academic Vocabulary When You Are NOT a Reading Teacher<br />“Research has shown that academic vocabulary, in particular, is one of the strongest indicators of how well students will learn subject area content when they come to school. The relationship between academic vocabulary and academic achievement is well established.” Dr. Robert J. Marzano<br />What Do You Know about Effective Vocabulary Instruction?<br />Look at each of the following vocabulary instructional strategies and decide if each one is E—effective or I—ineffective as a way to enhance long term memory and increase students’ vocabulary in your content. <br />Learning vocabulary words out of context or in isolation—word lists.<br />Programmed vocabulary books or computer software.<br />Reading every day in every content area.<br />Playing and having fun with new words.<br />Using new vocabulary only when it is in the day’s lesson.<br />Discussing antonyms and synonyms for new vocabulary.<br />Looking up definitions in a dictionary or glossary and writing a sentence using the new word.<br />Integrating new vocabulary into everyday language—reading, writing, speaking.<br />Drill and practice involving multiple repetitions of the same type.<br />Teacher reading aloud when text is too difficult for students to read themselves or using an audio tape of the text.<br />Memorizing definitions.<br />Using graphic organizers or visuals to support new words—pictures, diagrams, …<br />Providing activities that integrate, repeat, and have meaningful use of new vocabulary words.<br />Systematic and explicit instruction of new vocabulary.<br />Multiple exposures to words in context.<br />Vocabulary Development<br />Vocabulary Development is the development of stored information about the meaning and pronunciation of words necessary for communication. There are four types of vocabulary:<br />
Listening vocabulary—the words needed to understand what is heard—develops first and is our largest vocabulary
Speaking vocabulary—the words used when speaking—develops next and is the second largest vocabulary.
Reading vocabulary—the words needed to understand what is read—develops next and is smaller than our listening or speaking vocabularies
Writing vocabulary—the words used in writing—last to develop and our smallest vocabulary. We do not write all the words we have heard or seen in print.
What We Know About Academic Vocabulary<br />Academic vocabulary is the language of school and the language of print in texts.<br />Academic vocabulary is the language that students need to know to be successful in each content area.<br />Without instruction in academic vocabulary, many students will not learn the content.<br />Many students have oral academic vocabulary skills and can get the gist of their texts without really understanding the academic vocabulary or being able to critically read and understand them.<br />Academic vocabulary entails four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The most challenging are reading and writing.<br />Students in high-poverty backgrounds arrive at school with less experience with academic vocabulary and concepts than students from more economically advantaged homes.<br />There are two key elements for learning to read in any content:<br />Vocabulary AND Prior Knowledge<br />When you teach academic vocabulary, teachers must use systematic and explicit instruction.<br />Systematic Instruction:<br />Skills and concepts are taught in a planned, logically progressive sequence.<br />Explicit Instruction:<br />Direct explanation—stories, examples in kid friendly terms<br />Teacher modeling—show them what is expected to be learned<br />Guided practice—put them in pairs and let them think together<br />Independent practice—only if there are no misconceptions; use formative assessment <br />Application—the information is known, understood, and useable<br />To Teach Academic Vocabulary Effectively, Teachers Must Provide:<br />Systematic instruction in new words and their meanings<br />Repetition and multiple exposures to academic vocabulary<br />Spontaneous instruction whenever the opportunity arises<br />Experiences which provide natural occasions for learning new words—if funds are tight, use the school and school grounds<br />Enjoyable opportunities to listen to stories, videos, and tapes in which the new words can be heard and learned—read aloud to students from your text at least 5 minutes a day<br />An emphasis on meaning of the words rather than on mechanical pronunciation<br />Words in context rather than in isolation<br />Opportunities to ask questions about any unusual or confusing words as they are encountered and for students who speak other languages to share their words, concepts, or idioms that might relate to the words<br />Depending on a single vocabulary instruction method will not result in optimal learning.<br />Remember:<br />
Students’ abilities to communicate effectively and to learn new ideas are heavily dependent upon the extent of their vocabulary development.
Content area reading at any grade level means helping students make connections between what they already know (prior knowledge) and the new information (academic vocabulary) being presented. <br />Content teachers must teach their students how to use reading as a tool for thinking and learning in their specific subject. <br />Content teachers do not become reading specialists! <br />Content teachers become teachers who teach their students how to read their specific content using reading strategies that help them understand academic vocabulary!<br />The Three Levels of Vocabulary Comprehension<br />There are three levels of vocabulary comprehension:<br />Established: Students know the word easily and rapidly. It is part of their prior knowledge and can be used to begin building on new word recognition. (trip)<br />Acquainted: Students recognize the word and understand the basic meaning. The word is partially understood but clarification is needed. (journey)<br />Unknown Words: This is a new word and the meaning is not known. The word is not in the oral or reading vocabulary of the students, but the new word represents known concepts. (expedition) <br />Every content area has its own vocabulary and style of being read.<br />As you teach any content, make sure your students understand the words that you as a reader--scientist, historian, mathematician, musician, artist, computer specialist, etc. know are important to be successful in that subject. <br />When you have students read in different content areas, think of ways to help them read the text in three stages, before, during, and after the reading.<br />Try These Quick and Easy Vocabulary Strategies<br />
Have You Ever…?
This is a very simple activity that helps students associate new words or concepts with their own prior knowledge. It helps students understand that the new words can fit in their own vocabularies. The teacher simply asks the students to think of a way that they have used the new word. <br />
“Describe a time when you might implicate someone.”
“Describe a time when you would ostracize another person.”
“Describe a situation where you might abdicate.”
This activity sounds so easy, that teachers of older students might think it is too simple, but it is a quick and easy way to do formative assessment to see if students understand the new terms or know how to use them. Students are asked to clap (as many times as the teacher wants and I usually make it up to 3 times) about how they feel about the target words. Remember to always ask why they would feel the way they do (metacognition).<br />
Clap once if there is no way you would like to be a dictator. Clap twice if you think you might like to be a dictator. Clap three times if you would definitely like to be a dictator.
Clap once if there is no way you would like to be described as lachrymose. Clap twice if you think you might like to be described as lachrymose. Clap three times if you would definitely like to be described as lachrymose.
Another variation is to have students clap their thinking about a term and then get in similar groups or a group with one person who feels each way to discuss why they feel the way they do. Explaining their thinking to each other helps students better understand the new terms or concepts (and argue with each other which is something they love to do).
This activity is an alternative to the often used method of having students write their own sentences using the target word. Sentence stems help students avoid common errors in their thinking. The teacher structures the sentences with a sentence stem which requires students to integrate what they know and understand about the word’s meaning in context to explain a situation. There are a number of variations that can be used easily in class. <br />Idea Completion: The tennis instructor said Sharon was a novice at the game because…The banker was considered a philanthropist because…<br />Questions, Reasons, Examples (What is something you could do to impress your teacher? Impress your mom? Or which of these things might be extraordinary? A person who has a library card or a person who has read all the books in the library?)<br />Making Choices (Say the word clutch if I mention something that you could clutch… purse, wallet, branches when you’re climbing a tree, bumblebee)<br />Comparing Terms: <br />Alike (compare)<br />
______and ________are similar because they both…
Different (contrast)<br /> _____and _______ are different because____is_____ but________is__________<br />
Visual Boxing Divide a box into four sections. In the top left box, write the word to be defined. In the top right box, draw an illustration of that word. In the bottom left box, give an example of the word. In the bottom right box give an opposite or non-example.
Cubing: Give students a pattern for a cube. Have them 1) Write the vocabulary word 2) define it 3) write something personal it reminds them of 4) write a synonym 5) write an antonym and 6) illustrate it. Hang the various vocabulary cubes in a mobile form.
Make a Flip Book for Review: During this activity, you are to help each other. Each member is to take 2 sheets of paper.
Fold 2 sheets of paper “hot dog” style and tear them in half. You now have 4 sheets of long paper.
Put the 4 sheets together so that the bottoms and tops are even.
Slide each of the top 3 sheets up until the bottom of each of the 4 sheets has about ½ inch showing.
If you have done it correctly, when you hold the sheets and turn them over, you see the same ½ inch difference showing at the top of the sheets on the other side.
Fold the tops of the sheets over so that the ½ inch is showing all the way down the book. There will be 8 edges that can be “flipped” up.
Now that you each have a flip book made, make it into a flip book that would be useful for your students. Flip books can be a way to take notes, to write definitions, formulas, or anything that you want students to remember and share. Think of 8 topics, skills, concepts, formulas, words, etc. that your students could use this book to learn or review. What would you put on the 8 edges, and what would go under each edge? (If you are confused, ask someone to help you!)<br />
One person in the group is designated “teacher.” Only that person sees the cards that are drawn and knows the correct answers. As a team, select a “teacher.” The teacher will hold the answer sheet during the game and will not show it to anyone else.<br />Starting with the person on the teacher’s right, each person takes a turn drawing a card out of the container. The person drawing the card does not look at it, but hands it to the teacher.<br />The teacher reads the clue, question, word, definition, etc. to the person. If the person gets the answer right, he/she gets to keep the card. If the answer is wrong, the card goes back into the container, and the teacher mixes up the cards and goes on to the next person.<br />If someone draws a Snap, Crackle, or Pop card, all of their accumulated cards go back in the container. The Snap, Crackle, or Pop card DOES NOT go back into the basket. There is only one of each word in the container.<br />The game is over when all the cards are gone out of the container or when time is called.<br />The winner is the person with the most cards. (How about a Rice Crispy Treat as the award for the winner?)<br />Resources:<br />Beck, Isabel, et al (2002). Bringing Words To Life. New York, NY: Guilford Press.<br />Faber, Sharon (2010). How to Teach Academic Vocabulary. Nashville, TN: Incentive <br /> Publications.<br />Marzano, Robert and Debra J. Pickering (2005). Building Academic Vocabulary <br /> Teacher’s Manual, Alexandria, VA: ASCD. <br />