My first year of teaching, I was at a school who expected teachers to follow the basal reader script with fidelity, and every teacher must be teaching the same way. I remember absolutely dreading Mondays, vocabulary day. It was BEYOND dreadful, and the students agreed. Read the vocabulary passage, write down each word, give definition, use in a sentence, complete a worksheet, test on Friday.
This fantastic book follows Margot Holmes Smith and Leslie H. Montgomery's journey to make vocabulary instruction an engaging and key piece in the literacy classroom. They have a vocabulary cycle, or plan for instruction, and routines and activities in place to make sure they meet those goals.... more about that later! The first chapter is all about the why and how. So why is vocabulary instruction so important? And how do teachers get started?
Studies show there is a strong correlation between a student's knowledge of vocabulary and their reading comprehension. Which of course makes total sense! If the students understand what the words they are reading mean, overall they will have a better understanding of what they are reading as a whole. If the words are unfamiliar, little comprehension is possible.
The Common Core State Standards place more of an emphasis on vocabulary instruction than before. "From Kindergarten (RL.K.4) Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text" to grade five (RI.5.4) Determine the meaning of general academic and domain specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade five topic or subject area" (pg. 10). There are also additional standards in the Language and Writing strands.
Chapter 1 also talks about the RIGHT way to teach vocabulary. Which is obviously not the way I was doing it! Word Nerds authors use two main research based guides to help create their vocabulary cycles.
The first comes from Robert Marzano (2009), and includes a six step plan.
1. Teacher provides definition or example
2. Students restate in their own words
3. Construct a symbolic representation of the word
4. Engage in activities
5. Collaborative work and discussions
6. Games that allow students to better understand the vocabulary
The second comes from Michael Graves (2006)
1. Provide students with a variety of meaningful and deep vocabulary experiences
2. Teach individual words
3. Provide word learning strategies and instruction
4. Promote an understanding of words
I'll leave you with my favorite quote from this section. "All my life I've looked at words as though seeing them for the first time."- Ernest Hemingway.
Are you reading Word Nerds? Or have you already read this amazing book? We would love for you to share your thoughts with us as we post ours! Comment below and tell us what you are thinking about providing vocabulary practice and effective instruction in your classroom! And remember to check back in a few days as we talk about chapter 2!
7/5- Intro and Ch. 1
7/8- Ch 2
7/11- Ch 3
7/14- Ch 4
7/17- Ch 5
7/20- Ch 6
7/23- Ch 7
7/26- Ch 8
7/27- Recap & Giveaway