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Building Robust Vocabulary

 

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.

For ideas about how to teach VOCABULARY IN CONTEXT, see Vocabulary in Context Strategies--Signals and Context Clues in the Download Zone.  Thanks to Jessika Rao for inspiring this piece!

For more information on how to teach ROOTS, see the “Root of the Week” category in the READING section.

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:

--  Books Most Commonly Assigned in the 2011-12 HS Year According to a Renaissance Learning Survey

--  Books Most Commonly Read by High School Students (via Accelerated Reader)

--  Books Most Cited by AP Literature Open Response Questions Since 2000

--  College Board’s 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers

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 at Great Oaks Charter High School in Newark for this lead!

***

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/
 

***RECOMMENDED READING***

Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., and Kucan, L. (2002).  Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction.  New York: Guilford Press.

  • This book provides practical strategies for improving vocabulary instruction K-12, addressing how to select and introduce words, how to review/reinforce meanings, and how to assess vocabulary.

Trelease, J. (2006). The Read-Aloud Handbook.  New York: Penguin Books.

  • This book explains how reading aloud to children strengthens their literacy skills, enhances their interest in reading, and ultimately leads to academic achievement.  In addition to making the case for reading aloud, it also provides an annotated list of excellent texts to read aloud.
  • For more information, check out the author's Website HERE.

 

Zwiers, J. (2008).  Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • This book explains how language plays a key role in learning and shows what teachers can do to help ALL students develop the language they need to succeed academically.
  • You can see excerpts and links to additional resources HERE.
     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE DOWNLOAD ZONE for Building Robust Vocabulary:

 

 
 
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