Explicitly Teaching Academic Vocabulary

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TESOL session Thursday, March 25, 2010

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Explicitly Teaching Academic Vocabulary

  1. 1. Explicitly Teaching Academic Vocabulary to Help Students Transition TESOL Convention, March 25, 2010 Laurie Martin, Professional Development Specialist Adult Learning Resource Center, Arlington Heights, IL Lmartin@cntrmail.org Selecting Words ESOL students often need to expand their academic reading vocabulary in order to be able to transition into ABE, ASE, or higher education classes. In Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction (Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Linda Kucan, The Guilford Press, 2002) the authors propose that teachers select words for instruction based on their usefulness and frequency of use in print. Tier Two words appear across all content areas of academic texts, so they are words that can greatly contribute to students’ language knowledge. • Basic Tier One • Concrete • Oral • Abstract Tier Two • Academic (across content areas) • Written • Content/subject specific Tier Three • Infrequent Sources of Academic Words • The Academic Word List (Averil Coxhead) in sublists and word family sublists according to frequency: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist/ • The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, 4th Ed. by E.B. Fry, et al. (Jossey-Bass) 3-Step Explicit Vocabulary Instruction 1. Preparation & Presentation ♦ Tell students why ♦ Pronounce words and give meaning ♦ Give examples ♦ Students try 2. Practice – Low and High Impact Exercises ♦ Oral and written, simple to complex activities ♦ Words used in many contexts ♦ Students explore similarities and differences in word meanings ♦ Continual review 3. Independent Application ♦ Students use words by themselves, orally and in writing. ♦ Continual use L. Martin, Adult Learning Resource Center, www.thecenterweb.org 1
  2. 2. Preparing Teacher Notes Example: customary (adj) – usual, normal, habitual, traditional Antonyms: peculiar, unusual • In the U.S., it is customary for adults to shake hands when introduced in a business setting. • In China, it is customary for brides to wear red, whereas in the U.S. brides traditionally wear white. • I customarily walk my dog around 7:00 in the morning. Discussion prompts: In your country, what is the customary way that people greet each other? How do people customarily find jobs? Try it: Choose one word from the list below and write two sentences that use the word meaning in contexts that your students are likely understand. Be careful to use the meaning that is given. adequate (adj) good enough to get the job done, passable, sufficient appeal (v) to ask for something you need badly, to make an important request objection (n) a statement or a feeling of dislike, disapproval, or opposition 1.______________________________________________________________________________________ 2.______________________________________________________________________________________ Low Impact Exercises Fill-ins, matching words and definitions, and multiple choice exercises are useful at the beginning of vocabulary practice. They are highly supported and have only one correct answer. The context is supplied for the student, so completing them is not as personalized or rigorous as other types of exercises. High Impact Exercises The activities below will push students to explore the new word meanings in more depth. These activities are more open-ended and allow students to develop their own contexts for the word meanings. Make Sense? Students determine if the sentences make sense. If they don’t make sense, the students revise them so that they do. Personalize the contexts whenever possible. Example: Masaki knows about current cancer research because he read all the medical journals that were published two years ago. …were published recently. advise current deprive hesitate maintain minimum objection originate penalize reliable Try it: Use two of the words from the word bank to write statements below. Statement 1 (makes sense): Statement 2 (doesn’t make sense): L. Martin, Adult Learning Resource Center, www.thecenterweb.org 2
  3. 3. Examples and Non-Examples Students look at two sentences, one which reflects the meaning of the target vocabulary word and another that does not. Students must decide which sentence is the example. Example: reliable • Ewa could always count on Teresa to drive her to school. • Jakub’s car was old and he often had trouble starting it. [From Bringing Words to Life, Isabel Beck et al, The Guilford Press, ©2002.] Discussion or Writing Prompts Develop interesting topics for pair or small group discussions or short writing tasks using target vocabulary words. Example: When you were young, how did your parents advise you to live your life? Try it: Write a prompt using a word from the bank below.. ________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ Describing Pictures Put a list of vocabulary words on the board. Show students an interesting picture and ask them to use some of the vocabulary words to describe (or ask questions about) the picture. This activity can be done orally or in writing by students working alone, in pairs or small groups. advise current deprive hesitate maintain minimum objection originate penalize reliable Try it: Using a word from the word bank, write a sentence that describes the picture shown below. _________________________________________ _________________________________________ _________________________________________ Word Sorts Students are given a selection of vocabulary words to sort into categories of their own making. Then they explain how they sorted their words. This activity can be done by students working alone, in pairs, or in groups. L. Martin, Adult Learning Resource Center, www.thecenterweb.org 3
  4. 4. The Conversation Game Form two teams of students and distribute 2-3 cards or slips of paper with vocabulary words to each student. Begin by introducing a topic for conversation, such as, “I have some friends coming to visit me this summer, and I’m wondering what I should plan for their visit.” Students should raise their hands to participate in the conversation by using their vocabulary words in statements or questions to add to the conversation. Teams try to use all their words first. [From When Adolescents Can’t Read, Mary E. Curtis and Ann Marie Longo, Brookline Books, ©1999.] Raising Vocabulary Awareness Students often need to become more conscious of the words around them. As their awareness increases, so will their vocabulary. A few ideas for raising awareness are: • Word of the week / day • Word wall • Word spotting • Puns • Tracking vocabulary progress (vocabulary journal, quizzes, word knowledge charts) [Adapted from Teaching Word Meanings, by Steven A. Stahl and William E. Nagy, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, ©2006] Some Helpful Resources Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, by Isabel Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan, The Guilford Press, ©2002 Word Knowledge: A Vocabulary Teachers’ Handbook, by Cheryl Boyd Zimmerman, Oxford University Press, ©2008 Essentials of Teaching Academic Vocabulary, by Averil Coxhead, Houghton Mifflin, ©2006 Teaching Word Meanings, by Steven A. Stahl and William E. Nagy, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, ©2006 The Vocabulary Teacher’s Book of Lists, by Edward B. Fry, Jossey-Bass, ©2004 When Adolescents Can’t Read: Methods and Materials That Work, Mary E. Curtis and Ann Marie Longo, Brookline Books, ©1999. Ten complete downloadable vocabulary “units” with Tier Two words, teacher notes, and multiple activities can be found as Word documents at the website of the Adult Learning Resource Center at http://www.thecenterweb.org/alrc/reading-pub.html (scroll to bottom). L. Martin, Adult Learning Resource Center, www.thecenterweb.org 4

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