Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bringing Words to Life: Vocabulary and Writing

Chapter 8 was all about vocabulary and writing, which I was very excited to read. Unfortunately it was one of the shortest chapters because there is VERY little research that has been done on how robust vocabulary affects writing. If we think about it as teachers, though, we know that stronger vocabulary instruction will naturally produce stronger writers. You've probably heard millions of times that the best writers are great readers. They are exposed to better writing and therefore are better at modeling it on their own.

This is going to be a slightly different post because I mainly want to share some examples of how to intentionally work in some strong vocabulary instruction to help with writing.

One way that I've seen a lot in person and online is to focus on specific verbs that are overused and give students synonyms to use in their place.

Rescue Tired Words

"Dead" words to build vocabulary. Have students add better, more descriptive words to replace original word.

It's important to leave these words up so students have the visual reminder. This holds true for any new vocabulary (remember last week's chapter about maintaining vocabulary?)

Another way that the book mentioned was looking at specific ideas that are frequently mentioned and teach target words for those ideas. This especially works if you're giving a prompt or discussing a certain topic. For example, teach students the word hazardous to describe road conditions during icy weather. Or choose from words you notice them specifically overusing in their writing (or in your classroom in general). Then encourage students to use these target words in their writing.

One thing to consider before I go: It's not enough to simply introduce these words and teach them traditionally. Yes, they may try to use them and may even get it. But you may notice that they don't truly understand how to use the word correctly. If you're just starting to follow me, check back with my earlier posts to learn ways to incorporate robust vocabulary instruction into your day.

What are some ways that you work to improve students' word choice (vocabulary) in their writing?

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