Teaching for Academic Successby Targeting Vocabulary Instruction Keith Pruitt, Ed.S. Words of Wisdom Educational Consulting www.woweducationalconsulting.com
The relationshipbetween vocabularyknowledge andacademic achievementis well established.--Robert Marzano, Building Background Knowledge, p 31
Grades 4-12 Academic Difference 50 Gap of 6,000 words 40 30 Academic 20 Difference 10 0 Nagy & Herman, 1984, as Category 1 Category 2 quoted in Marzano, 2004
A word is the term used to describethe label given to a packet ofinformation stored in our permanentmemories. Marzano, 2004, p32 Nation insists that there are approximately 570 academic words from the Coxhead List that coupled with the 2,000 most frequently used words from the General Service List that constitute 90% of the reading students are to do. As quoted by Lebedev, 2008, Pearson, Vocabulary Power 1
For the teacher, then, the supreme task is to store as many words as possible into thepermanent memory of students.
So how would I use the idea of thematic instruction to teach vocabulary in a content?
NOAA Universe today.com The PowerfulForces of Nature ZMEScience.com Public domain
Step 1- Introduce the Big Idea How Does Nature Change the Earth around Us?
Step 2- Introduce the theme byintroducing the words you will study.ERUPT ASH LAVATYPHOON HURRICANE PLATETREMOR MAGMA EPICENTEREARTHQUAKE STORM SURGE
Inclusion of vocabulary. Now we can contextualize. We also now have supporting information that can lead to projects: Ring of Fire, Vesuvius We also can now link to career path by pointing students to www.usgs.gov where they can learn how scientists work with volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.
Wow, that’s cool, dude. Ithink I might like to study about volcanoes.
The volcano Etna has been on Sicily for more than a million years, longer than human beingshave inhabited the Mediterranean. It has been erupting nearly continuously throughout 3500years of recorded history, since 1500 BCE, and doubtless for long before that.Etna has had hundreds of recorded major eruptions; another began with the eruptions of spring2001. And like the hundreds of times before, the local people responded in the ways theyalways have. But modern technologies have allowed them to respond a bit more effectively, andwith a bit less resignation, than before.Etna Then and NowEtna is such an important volcano that the ancients made it the home of Vulcan, blacksmith tothe gods. Like the personality of Vulcan himself, Etna is always unpredictable, often gloomy andirritated, sometimes dangerously angry, even on rare occasions playful. All of the seafaringpeoples of the ancient Mediterranean knew Etna as a steady beacon and landmark, loomingnear the strategic Strait of Messina at Sicilys eastern tip.People have always lived near Etna, even upon its sides. The same is true with volcanoes aroundthe world. After all, volcanic ash weathers into rich soil, and the risk of injury or death from aneruption is pretty small. On many volcanoes, you can live your whole life without witnessing aneruption—or if there is one, it wont destroy your part of the mountainside. Thats the kind ofrisk we all accept about the place we live, whether its prone toearthquakes, hurricanes, sinkholes, or landslides.The 2001 eruption of Etna made news not only because it was a great spectacle, but becausethere was human drama as well. The lava engulfed an important skiing and tourism center onthe mountain, the Rifugio Sapienza. Nowadays we dont just send prayers to our current gods, asthe ancients did—although the archbishop of Sicily did just that in 2001. Today the Italianauthorities send bulldozers to throw up barriers to the lava.
Acting Against VolcanoesWeve tried other things against volcanoes, too, such as military bombing to divert lava flows. When a volcanothreatened the Icelandic town of Westmanneyjar in 1983, the main tactic was spraying the lava with seawater tofreeze it solid.But the first successful defense against a volcano was here in Catania, the city of half a million at Etnas foot. In1669, the Monti Rossi vent on Etnas southern flank began pouring out a river of lava uphill from Catania. The citysexisting walls held back the flood for a week. But after part of the wall gave way, the authorities built new walls inthe city streets that were effective against the lavas advance.Another tactic tried in 1669 was to break open the roof and sides of the lava tube feeding the flow. It was hopedthat this would cool and freeze the molten rock, as well as directing part of the flow elsewhere. The nearby town ofPaternò felt so threatened by this measure, it sent out an armed force to stop the work crews.As a result, laws were enacted to forbid tampering with lava flows. These remained in effect until 1983, when moremodern techniques were allowed. So the bulldozers of today are still an experimental technology when it comes tofighting eternal Etna.Another experimental technology was tried at Etna in 2009: gas sampling by remote-controlled helicopter. TheScots geologist whose brainstorm that was won a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2008. Remote-observationtechniques like this promise to spare volcanologists from some of the danger inherent in their work while helping ineruption forecasts.PS: The Etna eruption, among other things, produced a small quantity of Peles hair. This fine-fibered volcanic glassis more familiar from Hawaii, where the liquid basaltic lava is readily blown in the wind.
Step 6- Have students connect to media Step 7- Have students discuss their learning.
Step 8- Have students create from their learning. This is one of thefundamental elements of Common Core.
Why would we have students do anexperiment with earthquakes when we are studying volcanoes?
Step 1- Introduce the big ideaStep 2-Introduce wordsStep 3- Create BackgroundStep 4-Explore TextStep 5-Have students connect to textStep 6- Have students connect to mediaStep 7- Students discuss their learningStep 8- Students create from their learning
In following this methodology, students can learn inthe way the brain directs and learn a host of vocabulary along the way.And most important, learning will be fun.