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.


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