Many of our students arrive with insufficient vocabularies. In the case of some students, as Hart & Risley found, they may be MILLIONS of words behind their peers even when they begin kindergarten. See "The Power of Talking to Your Baby," by Tina Rosenberg (NY Times) for more information. Parents can help by READING ALOUD to their children, and so can teachers. For a great resource on reading aloud, see the Recommended Reading box below.
This section, “Building Robust Vocabulary,” provides a sample mini-unit of how to teach vocabulary using lessons from Bringing Words to Life, by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (New York: The Guilford Press, 2002). In the Download Zone, you will find strategies to introduce the words, Do Nows, a game, homework, and a quiz. Many thanks to Jessica Majerus for sharing these helpful models!
Another idea: WORD-COLLECTING, AKA "Make Your Own Dictionary."
To capitalize on teachable moments, have students collect new words as they emerge during class discussions. Establish a set of guidelines for what students should record each time:
e.g., the word, a sentence using the word in context, and a user-friendly definition.
Verbal Workout (www.verbalworkout.com) is a tremendous resource, particularly for high school teachers (and parents) who want to help students strengthen their vocabulary. It includes key vocabulary words (esp. SAT words) from many, many commonly-read texts and provides lists (sortable in various ways, such as by chapter or frequency) and quizzes. Moreover, it’s a great source to see lists of commonly-read texts, esp. if you are writing/revising curriculum:
PS--I recommend viewing the two brief (2-4 min.) video tutorials so you can see how to gain maximum benefit from this resource. Then you’ll be on your way! Many thanks to Jamie Sterlacci for this lead!
Achieve the Core's Academic Word Finder (http://achievethecore.org/academic-word-finder/) enables users to paste in up to 20,000 words (about 5 pages) of ANY text to find vocabulary words within that text that are on a certain grade level. It’s free and super-easy to use. Just paste in the text, select a grade, and see the results. In addition to identifying the grade levels of various words, it gives you multiple definitions and sample sentences for those words. And here’s another benefit: If you’re trying to determine if a text is “on grade-level,” this tool will give you some indication of that. Many thanks to Meghan Lowney at Great Oaks Legacy Charter School for bringing this resource to my attention!
FreeRice.com is a nonprofit that has two stated goals: 1) Provide education to everyone for free. 2) Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
The Website covers an array of subjects and enables users to learn vocabulary, grammar, and even other languages (and more!) with adaptive assessments (i.e., when you get a question correct, the next one is harder; when you get one wrong, the next one is easier). It features a cool graphic interface that shows you how much rice your correct answers are generating for the World Food Programme.
For more Web-based practice to boost vocabulary, check out http://www.vocabulary.com/
Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., and Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. New York: Guilford Press.
Trelease, J. (2006). The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York: Penguin Books.
Zwiers, J. (2008). Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
IN THE DOWNLOAD ZONE for Building Robust Vocabulary:
- SAMPLE Vocabulary Instructional Plan
- SAMPLE Vocab Hypothesis Sheet
- SAMPLE Vocab Notes
- SAMPLE Vocab Do Now
- SAMPLE Vocab HWNOW
- SAMPLE Vocab Quiz
- SAMPLE Root of the Week Hypothesis Sheet
- Vocabulary in Context Strategies--Signals and Context Clues