Vocabulary is SUCH a huge weakness overall at our school, and I want to be more purposeful in my instruction. Admittedly, the beginning of the school year hit me like a freight train, so I've only made it about 40 pages into the book, but I took one idea away from the very beginning and have already started implementing it with each of my groups.
Beck talks about Tier 1, 2, and 3 words. Tier 1 are the words that students already know and/or are very easy to understand (dog, school, jump, etc). Tier 3 words are words that are not used by the average person. Many of them are area specific (isotope, chlorophyll), and we learn them for a time when we have to at school and then forget them unless it's a part of our profession. For vocabulary instruction, we should focus on Tier 2 words - words that expand students vocabulary and are found more frequently in books and/or everyday conversation. Examples of these words would be things like considerate, adapt, industrious, etc.
How am I teaching these words? First, I'm making a more conscious effort to not water down my vocabulary when I'm teaching. Yesterday, I used words like "benefits", "penalize", and "perks" to discuss my homework assignment. It was neat to see the students tuning in and having to use their context clues to figure out what I meant, but if I keep using words like that, they will get it!
Yes, you read that correctly. I'm assigning OPTIONAL HOMEWORK to all of my students (since I'm only a pull-out program and not their regular teacher). I can't even believe it, but that's why I'm stressing the OPTIONAL part. Each group has three vocabulary words for the week. I'm introducing the new words on Monday and we discuss the meaning and some examples of how these words are used in sentences. Then they have a challenge (the homework assignment): I give them a "Word Wizard" sheet with three columns. They are to go home and look/listen for the words being used (tv, newspaper, internet, conversations, books). Then they can write or glue these sentences on the paper. Any students who turn the sheet in at the end of the week gets a star for their chart (I haven't created it yet, but I'll share when I do). Once they have 5 stars, they will earn a prize!
So, what are some words I'm using this week? Since my 3rd and 5th were focusing on character traits, I chose mainly characteristics. I also paid attention to words they didn't seem to understand and may have already had an interest in.
3rd grade - adapt (Ecosystems tie-in), patient, and pleasant.
4th grade - outgoing, courageous, and amusing
5th grade - humble (they really wanted to know what this meant), eager, and considerate
Okay, I know that was a lot of rambling. There was more to explain than I thought! I hope it helps, and I will share my "Word Wizard" sheet later. Right now, it needs a few tweaks!