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Content Area Vocabulary Sms 3 20 06b

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Presented as a study of vocabulary instruction in a 7th grade mathematics class. Presented 3/20/06 to Sparta Middle School, Sparta, Michigan.

Presented as a study of vocabulary instruction in a 7th grade mathematics class. Presented 3/20/06 to Sparta Middle School, Sparta, Michigan.


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  • Many students select specific and even general words instead of just technical to that specific subject. The program modeled on Mikki Murray’s Teaching Mathematics Vocabulary in Context incorporates the Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy (Haggard 1986 – Vacca & Vacca p.121), VSS. This element always students participates to be served at the level at which they are currently working. By selecting words that challenge them, or clarifying definitions, these students are working within their own range of vocabulary development. Students that choose to rely on the teacher’s word selections are working with on grade level words. While they may pass in the class participation element of the vocabulary selection they still have exposure to the content, hear correct definition and see the selection of meaningful words from the text or class discussion. A caveat of the Vocabulary Self-Selection strategy instruction implemented in this current study was what Blachowicz and Fisher (2006, pg. 8) called collaborative word choice. Blachowicz and Fisher suggest this would be appropriate in content areas, such as mathematics. Collaborative word choice is the teacher offering words for consideration in study. In Mrs. Christensen’s mathematics classroom the teacher utilizes collaborative word choice by adding key words from most often the text, sometimes classroom discussions and occasionally basic skills review. With three sections operating within one day of each other and covering the same content each class generally can cover the same words each week. At the start of school year 2005-2006 the teacher offered words at the end of the student brainstorming session by students. By the middle of the year the teacher is only occasionally supplying keywords to current and immediately crucial vocabulary words. After modeling what are good selections for present and future understanding in math class, the students want to choose words closely aligned to those the instructor picks because she models constructing definitions. Students are allowed to add teacher constructed definitions to their vocabulary notebooks hat require five new words each week. These words are most often offered by peers and definitions are constructed with contributions from the students as well as the teacher. The value of the words being offered by other students validates the importance to peers and the teacher underscores the importance by defining those words. (Biemilller & Solonim 2001 in Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 5) “Biemiller observes that after second grade ‘children in all vocabulary quartile groups acquire new words at about the same rate.’” Contrast to the statement (Biemiller & Slonim 2001 in Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 61) “…children’s growth in word meanings between grades 2 and 5…children in the bottom quartile learned more words per day (averaging 3 root words) than did children in the upper quartile (averaging 2.3 root words per day)” Those in the bottom quartile simply have more words to learn and have not reached the point of diminishing returns yet. Does this mean the optimal window for vocabulary instruction is before second grade? Biemiller & Slonim also include “children in the lowest quartile still knew only as many word meanings as a typical fourth grader, because they started so far behind in second grade.” These two statements seem to contradict each other – READ THIS STUDY FOR CLARIFICATION- Does this mean that after third grade below level readers will never catch up to on or above level readers? Stanovich 1986 (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 61) coined the phrase the Matthew Effect, referencing the sentiment in the Book of Matthew that the rich will grow richer and the poor will grow poorer, to present the momentum of the vocabulary-rich and the vocabulary-poor. The effect is not additive, but exponential. Those that are one grade level ahead will not just remain one learning year ahead, but those students will grow to two years eventually and beyond. The “gap between proficient and struggling reader grows each year.”
  • (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 16) “If the words used to define a target word are likely unknown to the students, then the word is too hard.” Words also have to have a use and capture the interest of the students. What makes a word grade level appropriate? If the student can understand the meaning of the words that define the vocabulary term, that term is an appropriate term. For instance, to use direct instruction with words that will immediately or shortly appear in student reading is more effective than simply directly instructing on those words (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 110 study from Stahl & Fairbanks, by Marzano). To compare the effect sizes (meta-analysis): “..instruction in general words…(from) high-frequency word lists had an average effect size of .30 on students’ comprehension of content. However, when the words taught to students are words they will encounter in the reading passages used in the study, the effect size was .97.” According to this information a word is three times as likely to be learned if followed with an appearance within context. Selecting their own words for vocabulary study takes a suspended state of judgment from the instructors’ point of view. Will the students choose appropriate words? Will the teacher be able to accurately evaluate if the words chosen are at level for his or her students? Student selection is supposed to be “powerful in vocabulary learning.” Haggard used interviews of secondary and previous students and reports that (Blachowicz, Fisher 2006, pg. 7-8) students reported peers influenced the learning of words. Other important factors were frequent words from reading and current words in the media that surrounded the students. Haggard further suggests that self-selection was a major factor in students learning generalized words. Her studies were based on reading class situations, not a mathematics classroom. “In all groups studied, the students consistently chose words at or above grade level…” (pg. 8)
  • (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 16) “If the words used to define a target word are likely unknown to the students, then the word is too hard.” Words also have to have a use and capture the interest of the students. What makes a word grade level appropriate? If the student can understand the meaning of the words that define the vocabulary term, that term is an appropriate term. For instance, to use direct instruction with words that will immediately or shortly appear in student reading is more effective than simply directly instructing on those words (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 110 study from Stahl & Fairbanks, by Marzano). To compare the effect sizes (meta-analysis): “..instruction in general words…(from) high-frequency word lists had an average effect size of .30 on students’ comprehension of content. However, when the words taught to students are words they will encounter in the reading passages used in the study, the effect size was .97.” According to this information a word is three times as likely to be learned if followed with an appearance within context. Selecting their own words for vocabulary study takes a suspended state of judgment from the instructors’ point of view. Will the students choose appropriate words? Will the teacher be able to accurately evaluate if the words chosen are at level for his or her students? Student selection is supposed to be “powerful in vocabulary learning.” Haggard used interviews of secondary and previous students and reports that (Blachowicz, Fisher 2006, pg. 7-8) students reported peers influenced the learning of words. Other important factors were frequent words from reading and current words in the media that surrounded the students. Haggard further suggests that self-selection was a major factor in students learning generalized words. Her studies were based on reading class situations, not a mathematics classroom. “In all groups studied, the students consistently chose words at or above grade level…” (pg. 8)
  • (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 16) “If the words used to define a target word are likely unknown to the students, then the word is too hard.” Words also have to have a use and capture the interest of the students. What makes a word grade level appropriate? If the student can understand the meaning of the words that define the vocabulary term, that term is an appropriate term. For instance, to use direct instruction with words that will immediately or shortly appear in student reading is more effective than simply directly instructing on those words (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 110 study from Stahl & Fairbanks, by Marzano). To compare the effect sizes (meta-analysis): “..instruction in general words…(from) high-frequency word lists had an average effect size of .30 on students’ comprehension of content. However, when the words taught to students are words they will encounter in the reading passages used in the study, the effect size was .97.” According to this information a word is three times as likely to be learned if followed with an appearance within context. Selecting their own words for vocabulary study takes a suspended state of judgment from the instructors’ point of view. Will the students choose appropriate words? Will the teacher be able to accurately evaluate if the words chosen are at level for his or her students? Student selection is supposed to be “powerful in vocabulary learning.” Haggard used interviews of secondary and previous students and reports that (Blachowicz, Fisher 2006, pg. 7-8) students reported peers influenced the learning of words. Other important factors were frequent words from reading and current words in the media that surrounded the students. Haggard further suggests that self-selection was a major factor in students learning generalized words. Her studies were based on reading class situations, not a mathematics classroom. “In all groups studied, the students consistently chose words at or above grade level…” (pg. 8)
  • (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 16) “If the words used to define a target word are likely unknown to the students, then the word is too hard.” Words also have to have a use and capture the interest of the students. What makes a word grade level appropriate? If the student can understand the meaning of the words that define the vocabulary term, that term is an appropriate term. For instance, to use direct instruction with words that will immediately or shortly appear in student reading is more effective than simply directly instructing on those words (Baumann & Kame’enui, pg. 110 study from Stahl & Fairbanks, by Marzano). To compare the effect sizes (meta-analysis): “..instruction in general words…(from) high-frequency word lists had an average effect size of .30 on students’ comprehension of content. However, when the words taught to students are words they will encounter in the reading passages used in the study, the effect size was .97.” According to this information a word is three times as likely to be learned if followed with an appearance within context. Selecting their own words for vocabulary study takes a suspended state of judgment from the instructors’ point of view. Will the students choose appropriate words? Will the teacher be able to accurately evaluate if the words chosen are at level for his or her students? Student selection is supposed to be “powerful in vocabulary learning.” Haggard used interviews of secondary and previous students and reports that (Blachowicz, Fisher 2006, pg. 7-8) students reported peers influenced the learning of words. Other important factors were frequent words from reading and current words in the media that surrounded the students. Haggard further suggests that self-selection was a major factor in students learning generalized words. Her studies were based on reading class situations, not a mathematics classroom. “In all groups studied, the students consistently chose words at or above grade level…” (pg. 8)
  • To develop the complete meaning of the words critical to content the students must have a variety of engaging delivery methods. These methods must include multiple pathways of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Instructors need to commit time and effort to the dissemination of vocabulary
  • Students debate the flow of their organizer before, during and as it is presented.
  • Students debate the flow of their organizer before, during and as it is presented.
  • “I see you have positive & negative separate from zero, any reason?”
  • “ Do you have any other words that might fit with greater than & less than?”
  • “Equivalent is a good choice, but you also need a heading for this new sub category.”
  • General, Specialized and Technical words are all important. “Accentuate” a general word that many 7 th graders select when starting “Accentuate the Negative” CMP book. Transference occurs when all teachers in all contents support this.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Content Area Vocabulary A current procedure in a 7 th grade mathematics classroom
    • 2. Procedures for “Vocab. Fridays”
      • Students:
      • Select five new words for each vocab. day
      • Have words written on correct paper before entering class
      • Participate by giving a word or “pass”
      • Over the weekend define your five words
      • Update your word wall weekly
    • 3. Procedures for “Vocab. Fridays”
      • Teacher:
      • Supply - vocab. paper, vocab. activities
      • Maintain – word wall, brainstorm lists
      • Use the same procedures each week
      • Define select words with students
      • Grade the vocab. section often for completeness, not accuracy
      • No judgments on student words!
    • 4. Vocabulary Self-Selection
      • Allows students to address their needs on their level (ESL, SPED)
      • Still concentrating on words occurring in text and standardized assessments
      • Teacher can still guide selection of grade level words, path of least resistance
      • Creates participation, ownership, importance on part of student
    • 5. What is acceptable understanding?
      • Assessments dictate depth of required knowledge
      • Exposure to words/concepts can be checked periodically
      • Scaffolding: It is okay to have partial understanding of a word, for awhile
    • 6. What is acceptable understanding?
      • Assessments dictate depth of required knowledge
        • Formative Assessments can be places to “check” important definitions
        • Repeated errors mean the definition needs to be teacher directed / re-teach time
    • 7. What is acceptable understanding?
      • Exposure to words/concepts can be checked periodically
        • End / start of unit:
      S. Koning
    • 8. What is acceptable understanding?
      • Scaffolding: It is okay to have partial understanding of a word, for awhile
        • Model adding to a definition as more in depth information appears
        • Encourage pencil & extra space for more information later
        • By summative assessment the information present should be correct
    • 9. Vocabulary Activities
      • Introduce and use words before encountering them in text
      • Explore concepts using accurate terminology
      • Self/Peer correcting activities are most efficient
    • 10. Anytime Vocabulary Activities
      • Cornell Notes to “review” background knowledge
      • Retype Vocabulary pages into computer
      • Concept Circles/Frayer Model
      • Context Sentences
      • Semantic Feature Analysis
      • Term Quiz, student choice or teacher choice
    • 11. Semantic Maps Semantic Map end of book vocabulary activity
    • 12. Semantic Maps Semantic Map
    • 13. Semantic Maps Semantic Map Misconception Revealed!
    • 14. Semantic Maps Semantic Map “ I see you have positive & negative at a different level than zero, any reason?”
    • 15. Semantic Maps Semantic Map “ Do you have any other words that might fit with greater than & less than?”
    • 16. Semantic Maps Semantic Map “ Equivalent is a good choice, but you also need a heading for this new sub category.”
    • 17. Trivia Type Definitions
    • 18.
      • Create first slide with all definitions
      • Delete a definition as you insert each duplicate slide
      • Create trivia slide shows at logical intervals – end of units, as review after vacations or before assessments
      Trivia Type Definitions
    • 19. Gradually Releasing... Sixth grade vocabulary
    • 20. Gradually Releasing... Seventh grade vocabulary
    • 21. Gradually Releasing... Eight grade vocabulary