Vocabulary is one of the five elements necessary for a reader to be considered proficient: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The vast majority of students have mastered phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency issues in elementary school, so the issues that continue to hamper reading in the middle and high school grades are those of vocabulary and comprehension. Arguably, without an understanding of the words they are reading, comprehension is hampered, so teaching vocabulary, both directly and indirectly, is important to students’ ability to access the curriculum.
Ideally, teachers should identify words that students will encounter across curriculum (Tier II words) and teach these words in depth and/or reinforce their meaning. Content specific vocabulary, particularly those words related to science and math curriculum are less transferable to other subjects, but often relate to other vocabulary in the subject.
The Key to Vocabulary Routine
- Preview for difficult material
- Identify problematic words, phrases, figurative language
- Generate previewing list
- Provide background knowledge about words to aid in comprehension when reading
- Use activities that connect background knowledge about the words to background knowledge and related words
- Semantic Mapping
- Semantic Feature Analysis
- Select specific words to teach in depth
- identify a small set of keywords
- teach all aspects of the words
- develop user friendly definitions
- Identify opportunities to teach word learning strategies
- use of context to determine word meaning
- use of word parts to determine word meaning
Promote word consciousness (Sedita 2013)
One method of measuring student familiarity with vocabulary is to provide them with a list of words from their literature or text and have them rate their level of understanding, see example below.
Creating templates using two column note format can be a thoughtful way to have students learn and record vocabulary.
Make sure that the definitions that students are given do not create further obstacles to their understanding. Using different sentence frames for each part of speech can be a helpful method of simplifying the definition and providing consistency:
Noun: A ____________ is a ____________ such as _____________________.
Verb: To ____________ is to ______________such as ___________________.
Adjective: To be __________ is to be ___________ such as ________________.
Remember, students learn best when provided with multiple opportunities to interact with new vocabulary. Activities such as having them write their own sentences, sort words into categories, create their own illustrations and rank words are just a few of the options available.