Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bringing Words to Life: Bringing Vocabulary into the Earliest Grades

Can you believe we're already four weeks into summer? Well, I know some of you are much further along than that. My mom starts back next week (she's a high school secretary). Eeek! I still feel like summer just started. I've seen a few people post about their goals for the school year, and it's freaking me out. I'm not ready to be at that point yet. Slow down and let me enjoy my summer!!

Of course, I am thinking about school a little with my weekly book study, but I swear to you that this is as far as it goes...for now. I'm sure once August hits, I'll be in the swing of things trying to get my room ready and plan for the beginning of the year. Maybe that's when I'll put down my reading for fun and actually pick up The Book Whisperer that I was given by our librarian who just retired. So excited to have snagged it for free!

Anyway, this week is all about bringing vocabulary to the primary grades. I honestly thought about skipping over this chapter since I work with 3-5, but I'm glad I didn't! It's fascinating to see what vocabulary students are capable of learning even at such a young age if they are given the best opportunities. And if you're an upper grades teacher (even up to middle and high school), next week is your chapter!

Of course, primary students will not come across very many Tier 2 words in their own reading, so instruction at this stage is almost completely through oral language. It doesn't matter if they cannot read the word yet as long as we can introduce it to their vocabulary. There are two great resources for selecting words to teach younger learners:

  • ideas presented in books that students can read on their own (A story about kids eating cookies would be an opportunity to teach words like scrumptious, devoured, and even famished.)
  • trade books that the teacher reads aloud to the class
When selecting words at this stage, look for words that are probably unfamiliar but that the student can relate to and use in regular conversation. The number of words taught depends on whatever time constraints you may have, although I would recommend anywhere from 6-10 over the period of at least one week (same as their recommendation in Chapter 3).

Unlike teaching vocabulary to older students, instruction at this age takes place AFTER the story is read and discussed. The only exception would be for quick explanations of words necessary for comprehension. The authors actually provide steps for instruction when working with students at this age.
  1. Review the story context for the word (In the story, the children devoured the cookies).
  2. Explain the meaning in a child-friendly way (Devour means to eat very quickly as if the food is about to disappear). Often this is best done by adding an example to the meaning.
  3. Ask children to repeat the word. This helps build a memory for the sound and meaning of the word.
  4. Provide examples in contexts other than the one used in the story. This is very important because students need to realize that there are other ways to use the word. (I could devour a really good book. A dog may devour your food if it falls on the floor.)
  5. Have students create their own examples, and encourage them to move away from simply repeating the same context as the story.
  6. And as always, it is very important to provide plenty of opportunities for students to interact with these new words.

As children are providing their own examples and experimenting with new vocabulary, teachers need to make sure examples are appropriate. This can be done through adding more context in their response to the child. For example, if you asked students to name something they might gaze at on a hot day, a student may say a swimming pool. The teacher would then respond by asking if the student might gaze at the pool because the water would help them cool down.

This chapter was also full of great ideas, and I may already be trying some of them out on my own son! Wouldn't it be fun to have a 2 year old announce that he was exhausted and needed to go to bed? Hehe!

1 comment:

  1. We go on long road trips in the summer and listen to many books on tape. We started the books on tape when my kids were 2 and 4. I think is has been a major factor in their vocabulary. They will use words like "exhausted" in their every day language. I love it! We also play a game at dinner where we name our favorite words. Words like "malevolent" come up because it has a good sound to it. It is a great activity. Thanks for sharing.