Thursday, July 24, 2014

Enhancing Vocabulary Acquisition in the Classroom

One major component in building our students capacity to take on complex texts is their ability to grow their academic vocabulary. Researchers estimate students must learn 2,000 – 3,500 words each year after 3rd grade (Beck & McKeown), and graduating high school seniors should have a vocabulary of between 60,000 – 100,000 words (Hirsch, 2006).

We know that one variable of vocabulary acquisition is through direct instruction. However, the majority words learned each year takes place through conversations and readings of text. Below are three resources that address how we can increase the use of vocabulary in the classroom, expanding students growing internal word bank.

The Teaching Channel offers different videos of teachers incorporating high academic vocabulary into daily conversations. Teacher Jinny Kim uses words such as “socialize” and “garrulous” when redirecting and conversing with her second graders. Her idea is simple: take everyday terms and phrases such as “stop talking”, and introduce higher tiered words to create an enhanced phrase. This raises the vocabulary expectation of the class, while also providing multiple exposures to complex vocabulary words. Best of all, students internalize and take on the words increasing their own vocabulary.

Prior to students reading a complex text, we as educators take the time to identify higher tiered words that are essential in comprehending a passage. Then, with our students we pre-expose them to these words in order to assist in their overall understanding. There are many activities that center around vocabulary instruction that moves beyond pure exposure to a newly introduced word. Attached is a list of interactive learning activities compiled by Cornerstone Literacy. These activities range from independent to small and whole group interactions with the objective to assist in teaching vocabulary. Educators can keep these activities in their pocket to make vocabulary acquisition exciting and multi-sensory for students at any grade level.

Speaking of interactive activities, take a look at this second video from The Teaching Channel featuring 7th grade teacher Jodi Macauley. In this video she introduces the “kick me” game (no kicking involved!). Jodi’s ultimate objective to instruct and build her students academic vocabulary is filled with engagement and is an example of social learning at its best.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Disrupting the Balance

One of the six shifts in the 2011 Massachusetts Frameworks is the greater emphasis of informational texts throughout grade spans. The frameworks anticipate that students in K-3 will be equally balancing their instruction between fiction and informational texts. As students move into middle school, suddenly the demand shifts, asking students to read about 55% informational titles. This balance tips as they enter into high school. Approximately 75% of the content students are expected to read should be informational. K-5 classrooms are filled with narratives and fiction texts, while middle and high school curriculum focuses on literary fiction works of art. So how can educators integrate and access complex grade appropriate nonfiction to address this shift?

One resource to help educators find complex and interesting nonfiction texts can be found at the end of the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. Following the glossary, A Literary Heritage has an extensive list organized by grade level and then separated by genre. This list of exemplar titles is a great place to begin looking for high quality texts one can integrate into their instruction.  

A second resource can be found by subscribing to Nonfiction  Monday, a blog that is updated regularly by a group of contributors focused on providing titles and a quick synopsis of new and existing informational titles. Texts include a range of nonfiction- from informational poetry to the latest book by Gail Gibbons. What is refreshing about this site is that it is not run by authors pushing their latest and greatest title, rather by educators and librarians- true book enthusiasts who want to educate others and keep them up to date on nonfiction books.

Finally, check out the School Library Journal article.  Here you can find a list of informational titles all aligned to a specific standard for teachers to reference.  There are many resources out there filled with fantastic texts just waiting to be put into students’ hands. Now that summer is in full swing, take some time to explore these titles. You may come across one that would be a perfect fit in your classroom.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Teacher Learning Opportunities

So much of our time throughout the school year is spent preparing material and content for our students that we often put off our own innate desire to grow as learners. Summer offers the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a learning experience where you get to be the student. There are many opportunities that exist online for professional and personal growth. Kate Messner, author of the Marty McGuire series offers “TeachersWrite” a virtual writing camp where educators from around the country are able to participate and collaborate with over two dozen mentor authors. This camp provides teachers a weekly mini-lesson, time to “try-out” their own writing and also communicate with the authors asking them questions directly.  

Additionally, the website offers free courses online, where educators can audit or participate and earn a Certificate of Achievement. Each of the online courses has a video with a brief overview of the material and content being offered through this site. This week HarvardX is offering a “Leaders in Learning” course. Peruse through the literature and education tabs for additional upcoming learning opportunities.