Friday, February 20, 2015

Importance of Vocabulary in the Literacy Instructional Block

Last week I attended the Literacy Partnership meeting focused on the importance of vocabulary instruction. My colleague, Tracey Martineau presented on the importance of vocabulary instruction as part of the core literacy instructional block. This week I wanted to highlight some research on vocabulary instruction and ways to increase the knowledge of words in the classroom.

Hart & Risley published a research study on students' early childhood language experiences. When you look at the graph below, it is shocking and worrisome to see how quickly a word deficit grows across socioeconomic groups.

There are two important articles worth taking the time to read; Four Practical Principles for Enhancing Vocabulary Instruction and Interrupting the Cycle of Word Poverty. These two publications discuss the value of deliberate vocabulary instruction as part of the literacy instructional block. In addition to the research, they offer instructional ideas and resources to bring back to the classroom.

As teachers, you play a crucial role in your students vocabulary development. My colleague Tracey Martineau would challenge us to think about the language we use with our students. Are we increasing our language and setting a high standard? Are we using those tier 2 words actively? It is food for thought.

Another way to increase vocabulary, could be a minor tweak by using synonyms for common phrases and throughout the day. For example, for the elementary and middle school teachers, how many times do you say, "Come to the rug."? What about instead using the phrase, "Congregate on the rug.", or "Assemble on the rug." There are creative ways we can increase the vocabulary heard throughout the school day. And, always remember one of the best ways to expose students to words is to read aloud, and have them read, read, read.

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