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Literacy Tip of the Week: October 6, 2019

posted Oct 6, 2019, 4:00 PM by Emily Richardson   [ updated Dec 8, 2019, 7:22 PM by Steven Richardson ]
Expanding Vocabulary

Research on vocabulary acquisition has revealed that most vocabulary is learned indirectly through everyday experiences with oral and written language, and that children benefit from direct instruction in new words and vocabulary strategies (Cunningham, 2009). Students learn vocabulary indirectly when they are read to, when they read on their own, and when they converse with others, especially adults. Although there are lots of exceptions (my husband is one), children from professional families generally have richer vocabularies because they hear more words in the home (Hart & Risley, 1995).

This week I want to suggest some steps for teaching vocabulary during whole class lessons. Next month I’ll address teaching vocabulary and vocabulary strategies during small group guided reading.

Explicitly Teaching Vocabulary During a Read Aloud

Step 1. Select a book that supports vocabulary development. It should have some challenging words that are defined in the glossary or supported by text clues or illustrations. For older readers, look for challenging multisyllabic words that contain common affixes and roots. Write 5-7 of these challenging words on index cards.

Step 2. During the read aloud, discuss the target vocabulary words you wrote on the index cards. Children have a better chance of remembering them when they can connect them to a book. Model how to use one of the following strategies:

- Substitute a word that makes sense.
- Reread or read on and search for clues.
- Make a connection to a word the students know. If you have English learners, use common cognates.
- Find a part they know. It could be part of a compound word or an affix or root.
- Use the glossary.

Step 3. After reading the book, distribute an index card to partners or triads and have them use the word to retell part of the book.

Step 4. Make a vocabulary word wall by posting the index cards with a copy of the book cover. Use some of these fun and engaging practice activities.

Vocabulary Review Activities

GUESS THIS WORD: Place the Vocabulary cards you have taught on the table. Give a clue about one of the words by saying, I’m thinking of a word… Students try to identify the word. You could give clues such as the definition, how many syllables, the part of speech, an antonym or synonym, the meaning of the affix, etc.

PUT TWO WORDS TOGETHER: Students create a sentence using two vocabulary words you have taught.

PICTURE THIS: Place the vocabulary cards face up on the table. One student draws or acts out one of the words while the others in the group try to guess it.

HIGH FIVE: One student writes down a word from their New Word List, and the others try to guess it by asking questions. The goal is to guess the word in less than five questions.

Jan Richardson, Ph.D.
Author and Consultant