Monday, October 6, 2014

Vocabulary: The Secret Ingredient for Student Success

According to E.D. Hirsch, Jr., “Words don’t speak their own meaning.” (Interview on Turnitin; The Wealth in Words; October 6, 2014, Student Success Week 2014)

Robert Marzano notes, “Direct teaching of vocabulary might be one of the most underused instructional activities in K-12 education.” (A Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works, 2001, p. 293)

Mr. Smith used to create lists of 25 words that we had to memorize their spelling and definitions. The words were not connected to the context of the subject matter…they were just words that he thought would do us good to know. Not sure where he got them from, but I am sure that he thought he was doing something that was good for us. Unfortunately, we memorized the words for the test and then quickly did a brain dump…oh, come on you know what I am talking about…you leave the classroom…tilt your head at a 45 degree angle and tap slightly on your head not too far from your ear to cause those words to spill out of your brain…There you go…that is a brain dump!
The kids need help understanding the academic words of their classes. It does not come simply because the teacher talks about the words or because the kids may have memorized a few words (or mess of words) for a test.

(Robert Marzano)

Let’s take a look at Marzano’s Six Steps for Teaching Vocabulary:

1.     The teacher provides a description, explanation, or example of the new term.  
2.     The teacher asks students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.
3.     The teacher asks students to construct a picture, picto- graph, or symbolic representation of the term. 
4.     The teacher engages students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their vocabulary notebooks.
5.     The teacher periodically asks students to discuss the terms with one another.
6.     The teacher involves students periodically in games that enable them to play with terms.

Go to this link for some excellent examples and descriptions of this process…

Here are a couple more links for the same process…

For more ideas on Teaching Vocabulary take a look at my Pinterest Boards…

Also, take a look at resources on vocabulary instruction from Marzano Labs

Take a close look at what you are doing with the academic vocabulary in your classes….

Are you spending time working with the words?

Remember even your high level kids need help with understanding the words of the content.

So what are you waiting for?

…take a close look at Marzano’s 6 Steps and start making plans to engage kids with content academic vocabulary!