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Developing Usable Vocabulary Knowledge. William Nagy January 2008. Getting started: Some assumptions. Vocabulary knowledge is extremely important Promoting vocabulary growth is a demanding task Our goal is developing usable vocabulary knowledge. Vocabulary is important.

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Developing usable vocabulary knowledge l.jpg

Developing Usable Vocabulary Knowledge

William Nagy

January 2008


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Getting started:Some assumptions

  • Vocabulary knowledge is extremely important

  • Promoting vocabulary growth is a demanding task

  • Our goal is developing usable vocabulary knowledge


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Vocabulary is important

  • A large vocabulary is essential for academic success

    • Reading comprehension

    • Writing

    • Content area learning

  • Smaller vocabularies are associated with academic risk

    • ELLs

    • Students from low-income families


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Promoting vocabulary growth is a demanding task

  • The number of words students need to learn is immense

  • Traditional vocabulary instruction can be ineffective and boring

  • Effective vocabulary instruction can be time- and labor-intensive


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We need to help students develop usable vocabulary knowledge

Not all vocabulary knowledge is ‘usable’:

  • Almost any kind of vocabulary instruction can improve students’ performance on vocabulary tests

  • But many commonly-used methods of vocabulary instruction do not reliably increase reading comprehension


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We need to help students develop usable vocabulary knowledge

Usable vocabulary knowledge

  • Includes competence in the academic register

  • Involves procedural as well as declarative knowledge - learning a word is like learning to use a tool

  • Is generative – it supports the learning of additional words


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Developing usable vocabulary knowledge

  • A theme question for the day: How does it change your approach to vocabulary instruction to think of word knowledge as procedural / strategic knowledge rather than only as declarative knowledge?

  • See handout “Elements of Effective Strategy Instruction”


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Overview of the day: Four sections

  • Learning to understand and use vocabulary-rich language

  • Learning words well enough to use them

  • Learning to cope with new words

  • Putting it all together, with special attention to diversity


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Learning to understand and use vocabulary-rich language

  • Understanding the differences between conversational and academic language

  • Providing students with rich and varied oral and written language experiences


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Number of rare words per thousand words of text

  • Conversation (college educated) 17

  • Prime-time television shows 23

  • Preschool books

  • Children’s books

  • Comic books

  • Adult books

  • Popular magazines

  • Newspapers


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Number of rare words per thousand words of text

  • Conversation (college educated) 17

  • Prime-time television shows 23

  • Preschool books 16

  • Children’s books 31

  • Comic books 54

  • Adult books 53

  • Popular magazines 66

  • Newspapers 68


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Why is the Vocabulary of Conversation so Impoverished?

  • Different communicative purposes and demands

    (Explanation can be at odds with solidarity – “Do I have to explain it to you?”)

  • Processing demands on production and comprehension

    (It takes too much time to think of ‘just the right word’ while you’re talking)




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It’s not just oral vs. written language

  • Some uses of written language (e.g., text messaging, informal emails) have communicative purposes more like those of conversation

  • Some uses of oral language (e.g., storytelling) have communicative purposes more like those of academic language


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Contextualized oral language (4-Year-Old & Adult Playing with Legos)

Child: This is me and that’s you.

Adult: Okay

Child: No, This is me and that’s you and that’s me.

Adult: No, No. That’s me. Wait. That’s me?

Child: Yeah.

Adult: All right.


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Less-Contextualized Oral Language(Same Participants)

Adult: Where did you find out about Star Wars?

Child: I dreamed that I was in Star Wars and I saw this strange pack of ooie and I saw mud.

Adult: You saw a strange pack of ooie?

Child: I saw a big pack of stinky, ooie garbage. He lives in there, in a stinking pack of garbage.

Adult: Who does?

Child: Jabba!


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Providing students with rich and varied oral and written language experiences

  • Using and evoking richer oral language

  • Increasing students’ exposure to written language

  • Calling students’ attention to the differences between written and oral language


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Using and evoking richer oral language language experiences

What works

  • Wasik, B., Bond, M., & Hindman, A. (2006). The effects of a language and literacy intervention on Head Start children and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 63-74.

  • Jordan, G., Snow, C., & Porche, M. (2000). Project EASE: The effect of a family literacy product on kindergarten students’ early literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly,35(4), 524-546.


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Using and evoking richer oral language language experiences

Why a preschool intervention is relevant for older students

1) Well-documented principles of language development are unlikely to change completely as children get older

2) Patterns of teacher language use recommended in the preschool intervention have also been suggested on other grounds for improving the quality of classroom discussion for older students


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Using and evoking richer oral language language experiences

  • Use more descriptive language when speaking

  • Elaborate on student language

  • Ask open-ended questions


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Using More Descriptive Language When Speaking language experiences

“Teachers were trained to expand their use of vocabulary and to provide elaborate explanations and descriptions of common activities and events. A simple comment of ‘good job’ was encouraged to become ‘I like the way you use the color blue to draw the sky.’ Similarly, ‘the glue is on the table’ becomes ‘The glue is on the round table next to the scissors.’”

(Wasik et al., 2006, p. 67)


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Elaborating on Student Language language experiences

“The teacher acknowledged what the child said and tried to extend the child’s language about the concept about which the child was talking…. For example, if a child said, ‘I made a house,’ the teacher would respond with ‘Yes, you built a house with the 10 blocks,’ repeating or recasting what the child said using a more detailed explanation and vocabulary words” (Wasik et al., 2006, p. 67).


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Asking Open-Ended Questions language experiences

  • “‘Why’ questions are the essence of inquiry.... Aside from being the basis of at least one side of science and of logic, ‘why’ questions also develop children’s persuasion and argumentation abilities, and logical thinking” (Johnston, 2004, p. 37).


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Asking Open-Ended Questions language experiences

“Teachers were trained to use various questioning starters such as, ‘Tell me about it!’ ‘I wonder how…?’ ‘How did that happen?’ and “What if..?’ in their everyday conversations with children, thus encouraging the use of vocabulary words and facilitating children’s use of language” (Wasik et al., 2007, p. 67).


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Increasing students’ exposure to written language language experiences

  • Increase the amount of time students spend reading text at the appropriate level

  • Read aloud to students

  • Discuss what you have read aloud


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Calling students’ attention to the differences between written and oral language

  • Model appreciation for well-crafted phrases and sentences

  • Have students collect and share examples of well-crafted writing

    • “Write down a line you wish you had written” (Johnston, 2004, p. 16)

  • Post examples of well-crafted writing in the classroom

  • Use these examples as models for writing


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Additional Resources written and oral language

  • Beck, I., & McKeown, M. (2001). Text Talk: Capturing the benefits of read-aloud experiences for young children. The Reading Teacher,55(1), 10-20.

  • Beck, I., & McKeown, M. (2006). Improving Comprehension with Questioning the Author. New York: Scholastic.

  • Johnston, P. (2004). Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

  • van Kleeck, A., Stahl, S., & Bauer, E. (Eds.) (2003). On reading books to children. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.


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Section Wrap-up written and oral language

See Questions on Discussion handout:

Learning to understand and use vocabulary-rich language


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Learning words written and oral languagewell enough to use them

  • Why to teach words thoroughly

  • How to teach words thoroughly

  • Which words to teach thoroughly


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Why written and oral language to teach words thoroughly

Learning words well enough to use them

  • To understand text containing that word

  • To use that word in writing

  • To answer vocabulary items on new contextualized tests

  • The need for fluency of word knowledge


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Understanding Text Containing Instructed Words written and oral language

  • Definition-based vocabulary instruction does not reliably increase comprehension of texts containing the instructed words (McKeown, Beck, Omanson, & Pople, 1985; Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986)


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Using Words in Writing written and oral language

  • Knowing the definition of a word does not provide students enough information to produce meaningful, well-formed sentences using that word (McKeown, 1993; Miller & Gildea, 1987; Scott & Nagy, 1997)


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Answering vocabulary items on new contextualized tests written and oral language

“Vocabulary items will function both as a measure of passage comprehension and as a test of readers’ specific knowledge of the word’s meaning as intended by the passage author.” (National Assessment Governing Board, 2005, p. iv)


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Contextualized vocabulary item written and oral language

The citizens consumed their supply of gravel through wanton development.

a) ate or drank

b) used up

c) spent wastefully

d) destroyed

(Pearson, Hiebert, & Kamil, 2007, p. 287)


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The need for fluency written and oral languageof word knowledge

  • Fluent reading requires efficiency in retrieving word meanings as well as efficiency in word recognition

  • Fluency in retrieving word meanings is associated with depth of vocabulary knowledge

  • ELLs are likely to have less depth as well as less breadth of word knowledge

  • L2 fluency promotes transfer of L1 knowledge to L2 reading (Proctor et al., 2006)


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How written and oral language to teach words thoroughly

  • Three traits of effective vocabulary instruction

  • Providing sufficient scaffolding


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Three traits of written and oral languageeffective vocabulary instruction

For students to learn words well enough to use them, instruction must include:

  • Both definitional and contextual information (what it means, and how it is used)

  • Activities that require depth of processing (meaningful use)

  • Multiple encounters

    (Stahl, 1986; Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002)


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Providing sufficient scaffolding written and oral language

For students to learn words well enough to use them, instruction must include activities that:

  • Require students to actually use the words (i.e., understand or produce language that uses them)

  • Are sufficiently scaffolded that students who didn’t already know the words can be successful


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Learning words written and oral languagewell enough to use them

  • Activity that doesn’t involve using the word meaningfully: Matching words with their definitions

  • Activity which could be meaningful but which isn’t sufficiently scaffolded: Asking students to write a sentence for a word for which they have been given the definition


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Learning words written and oral languagewell enough to use them

Activities that involve using the word meaningfully, and are sufficiently scaffolded:

  • Asking students to answer questions that require using their knowledge of the word’s definition (“What is something you might need to confine?”)

  • Asking students to complete a sentence stem (“The two explorers decided they were not compatible because….”)


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Learning words written and oral languagewell enough to use them

More activities that involve meaningful use of instructed words

  • Asking questions that involve pairs of instructed words (“If you assist some new students, will they appreciate it?”)

  • Encouraging and rewarding reports of seeing, hearing, or using instructed words outside of the classroom


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Learning words written and oral languagewell enough to use them

More activities that involve meaningful use of instructed words

  • Asking students to choose which of two scenarios better fits a word, and to defend their choice (“Which is a better example of a strategy – thinking about whether to do your homework before or after you go to the movies, or thinking about what it would be like to have lived 100 years ago?)


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Possible limitations of intensive vocabulary instruction written and oral language

  • Time- and labor-intensive

  • Teacher-directed

  • Focuses on content (meanings and uses of specific words) rather than on strategies

  • Recommendations for activities and word selection may be biased towards narratives

  • Extent of transfer to uninstructed words is not known


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Which written and oral languagewords to teach thoroughly

Teachers must be strategic in choosing:

  • which words to teach

  • what level of instruction is appropriate for words that are taught


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Levels of intensity in vocabulary instruction written and oral language

  • Providing exposure to rich language

  • Explaining a word in passing

  • Explaining what a specific instance of a word contributes to a specific text

  • Teaching a word so that students can use it flexibly and effectively in a variety of contexts


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Choosing words for instruction / written and oral languagechoosing level of intensity of instruction

  • Frequency: Does this word occur often enough in written language to make it worth spending time on?

  • Productive control: Do I want my students to be able to use this word?

  • Distribution: Does this word occur in a variety of genres and subject areas?

  • Role in the lesson / curriculum: Is this word important for what we are learning about?

  • Role in the text: Do I need to know this word to understand the main point of the text?


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Why frequency is an important criterion for word selection written and oral language

  • There are many words which seem like high utility (“Tier 2”) words, but which in fact occur so rarely that they are unlikely to warrant intensive instruction

  • Examples of words that occur less than once in a million words of text: anthem, assert, bribe, conjecture, crumple, doze, fraud, inquire, lease, oblong, parody, pounce, pretense, sedate, synonymous


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Cumulative Frequency by Word Rank written and oral language


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Limitations of frequency as a (sole) basis for word selection

  • Frequency lists usually give frequency for the word form, not for specific meanings

  • High frequency words are more likely to have multiple meanings

  • High frequency words are more likely to already be known by many students


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Information about Frequency selection

Wordlists easy to locate on the Internet

  • General Service List – 2,000 most frequent words in English (West, 1953)

  • Academic Word List – 570 high-utility words not on the General Service List (Coxhead, 2000)

  • Dale-Chall Word list – 3,000 common words likely to be known by fourth graders


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Additional resources selection

  • Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life. NY: Guilford.

  • McKeown, M. G., Beck, I. L., Omanson, R. C., & Pople, M. T. (1985). Some effects of the nature and frequency of vocabulary instruction on the knowledge and use of words. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 522-535.

  • Stahl, S. (1986). Three principles of effective vocabulary instruction. Journal of Reading 29(7), 662-668.

  • Stahl, S., & Fairbanks, M. (1986). The effects of vocabulary instruction: A model-based meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 56, 72-110.


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Section Wrap-up selection

See Questions on Discussion handout:

Learning words well enough to use them


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Learning to cope with new words selection

  • Why students need to have word-learning strategies

  • What we know from research

  • Word-learning strategies as comprehension strategies

  • Metacognitive / metalinguistic foundations of word-learning strategies


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Why students need to have selectionword-learning strategies

  • There are too many words to teach them all

  • Encountering new words in text is the norm, not the exception

  • Familiar words are often used with figurative or other less-familiar meanings

  • Students should take increasing responsibility for all aspects of their learning, including vocabulary growth


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There are too many words selectionfor you to teach them all

Too many words in the English language

  • Number of main entries in Webster’s Third, unabridged: 200,000

  • Number of different words in printed school materials, grades 3-9: 88,000


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There are too many words selectionfor you to teach them all

  • Too many words in average children’s vocabularies

    • Conservative published estimates of school children’s annual vocabulary growth: 1,000 root words

    • Other widely-cited estimates of school children’s annual vocabulary growth: 2,000 – 3,000 words

    • If students with smaller vocabularies are to catch up, they have to learn words at a faster rate than average students


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Learning to cope with new words selection

What we know from the research:

  • Teaching students to use context clues improves their use of context (Fukkink & de Glopper, 1998)

  • Teaching students about word parts improves their use of word parts (Nunes & Bryant, 2006)

  • Students can be taught to use word parts and context in combination (Baumann et al. 2003)

  • Comprehension instruction that includes strategies for dealing with unfamiliar words can improve comprehension (Palincsar & Brown, 1984; Rosenshine & Meister, 1994; Klingner & Vaughn, 1999)


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Learning to cope with new words selection

Some things we know about effective strategy instruction (see handout “Elements of Effective Strategy Instruction”)

  • Explain why, when, how to use strategy

  • Model

  • Gradual transfer of responsibility to students

  • Prompt and encourage application across the curriculum


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Word-learning strategies as comprehension strategies selection

Compre-hension strategies

Word-learning strategies

Word-level comprehension strategies


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Some word-level selectioncomprehension strategies

  • Context

  • Morphology (word parts)

  • Dictionary use

  • Polysemy (figurative and other secondary meanings of words)


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Implications of understanding word learning strategies as comprehension strategies

  • Lower expectations (about word learning)

    • The goal is not to learn what the word means, but to see if one can get enough information about the word to proceed with an acceptable level of comprehension

  • Higher cognitive demands (relating to comprehension)

    • The goal is not just to learn something about what the word means, but to integrate what one can learn about the word with the rest of the text to construct a coherent meaning


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Implications of understanding word learning strategies as comprehension strategies

Two foundations of word learning

  • Strategic knowledge: What do you do when you encounter an unfamiliar word while reading?

  • Metalinguistic foundations: What do you need to know about language and about text to apply strategies effectively?


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Example of strategic knowledge comprehension strategies

  • When you come to an unfamiliar word, look for familiar meaningful parts

  • Make a hypothesis about what the word might mean on the basis of its parts

  • Check to see whether this hypothesis makes sense given the context


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Example of metalinguistic knowledge comprehension strategies

  • Certain suffixes (e.g., -al, -ity) can change the pronunciation of the word to which they are added

  • Derivational suffixes signal a change in part of speech

  • Greek roots tend to have consistent meanings in scientific words; Latin roots tend to shift in meaning


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Developing strategic and comprehension strategiesmetalinguistic knowledge

  • Developing strategic knowledge will tend to rely more heavily on ‘simulated’ and ‘integrated’ activities

  • Developing metalinguistic knowledge is likely to require ‘separated’ as well as ‘simulated’ activities, in which attention can be given to relationships among words not in a text


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The complexity of word-learning strategies comprehension strategies

Strategic word learners know

  • How to use context, word parts, & dictionaries

  • The limitations of context, word parts, & dictionaries

  • How to integrate information from multiple sources (context, word parts & dictionaries)


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The complexity of word-learning strategies comprehension strategies

Strategic word learners also know

  • When they don’t know the meaning of a word

  • How much they need to know about a word in order to understand a text well enough

  • Whether the resources at hand give them enough information (for example, when context only gives partial information about a word’s meaning, whether that partial information is enough to go on


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Context and ELLs comprehension strategies

  • English Language Learners, even those with high levels of oral proficiency in English, may be less sensitive to certain types of information supplied by context, especially syntax


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Word-learning strategies for informational text comprehension strategies

  • How might word learning strategies look different for informational text?

  • What are some word learning strategies that might be especially important for informational text?


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How might word learning strategies look different for informational text?

  • The hard words are more likely to be central to the point of the text

  • The text is likely to provide more explicit information about the meanings of new words

  • The hard words are more likely to be conceptually complex and difficult


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What are some word learning strategies that might be especially important for informational text?

  • Attention to informational text features and structures used to highlight and explain key terms

  • Using morphology as a mnemonic rather than as a means for inferring word meanings

  • Graphic organizers, e.g., “concept of definition”


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http://www.readingquest.org/strat/cdmap.html especially important for informational text?


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Additional Resources especially important for informational text?

  • Baumann, J. F., Edwards, E. C., Boland, E. M., Olejnik, S., & Kame’enui, E. (2003). Vocabulary tricks: Effects of instruction in morphology and context on fifth-grade students’ ability to derive and infer word meanings. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 447-494.

  • Bear, D., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2008). Words Their Way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary and spelling instruction (fourth edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

  • Johnston, F., Bear, D., & Invernizzi, M.(2006). Words Their Way: Word sorts for derivational relations spellers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

  • Nunes, T., & Bryant, P. (2006). Improving Literacy by Teaching Morphemes. New York: Routledge.

  • White, T., Sowell, J., & Yanagihara, A. (1989). Teaching elementary students to use word-part clues. The Reading Teacher, 42, 302-308.


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Section Wrap-up especially important for informational text?

See Questions on Discussion handout:

Learning to cope with new words


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Putting it all together, especially important for informational text?with special attention to diversity

  • A multi-faceted approach to promoting vocabulary growth

  • Carlo et al. (2004) as an example of a vocabulary intervention

  • Promoting word consciousness

  • Awareness of register, dialectal, and home language differences


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A multi-faceted approach to promoting vocabulary growth especially important for informational text?

Four components of a vocabulary curriculum (Graves, 2006)

  • Providing rich and varied language experiences

  • Fostering word consciousness

  • Teaching word-learning strategies

  • Teaching individual words


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A multi-faceted approach to promoting vocabulary growth especially important for informational text?

Resources for a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to promoting vocabulary growth

  • Graves, M. (2006). The Vocabulary Book. Newark, DE: International Reading Association

  • Stahl, S., & Nagy, W. (2006). Teaching Word Meanings. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum


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Carlo et al. (2004) as an example of a vocabulary intervention

  • Carlo, M., August, D., McLaughlin, B., Snow, c., Dressler, C., Lippman, D., Lively, T., & White, C. (2004). Closing the gap: Addressing the vocabulary needs of English-language learners in bilingual and mainstream classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly,39(2), 188-215


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Carlo et al. (2004) intervention

  • The participants

    • 254 bilingual & monolingual 5th graders

    • 9 classrooms, four schools in California, Virginia, & Massachusetts

  • The intervention

    • 15 weeks

    • Four days a week

    • 10-12 new words per week

    • 30-45 minutes per day


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Carlo et al. (2004) intervention

Instruction

  • Monday: Spanish speaking students get text in Spanish

  • Tuesday: Introduction of texts and words in English; using context to infer meanings of some of the words

  • Wednesday: cloze tasks with target words

  • Thursday: depth of word knowledge – word association tasks, synonyms & antonyms, semantic feature analysis

  • Friday: word awareness – root words, affixes, polysemy, cognates


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Carlo et al. (2004) intervention

Results

  • Significant gains on four out of five outcome measures

  • Learning to be word learners: Students who participated in the program in fourth and fifth grades learned more in fifth grade than those who didn’t participate in fourth grade


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Promoting word consciousness as a pervasive attribute of your classroom

  • Model being an appreciator of effective use of words

  • Model being a word learner

  • Students should feel safe asking about word meanings, without fear that they will just be sent to the dictionary by themselves

    (By all means, send students to the dictionary – but go with them, or at least send them in groups)

  • Make talk about words and language part of the everyday life of your classroom


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Awareness of register, dialectal, and home language differences

  • Non-judgmental discussion of language variation

    • Contrastive analysis as an aid to learning conventions of school language


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Awareness of register, dialectal, and home language differences

  • Bilingualism / bidialectalism as a resource

    • Metalinguistic benefits of bilingualism

    • Cognates as a resource

    • Translation/paraphrase as a comprehension strategy


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Additional Resources differences

  • Graves, M., & Watts-Taffe, S. The place of word consciousness in a research-based vocabulary program. In A. Farstrup & S. J. Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction, third edition (pp. 140-165). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Scott, J. A., & Nagy, W. (2004). Developing word consciousness. In J. Baumann & E. Kame’enui (Eds.). Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice (pp. 201-217). New York: Guilford.


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Section Wrap-up differences

See Questions on Discussion handout:

Putting it all together, with special attention to diversity


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