Mighty Vocabulary


"When we say word study is developmental, we mean that the study of word features must match the level of  the learner. Word study is not a one-size-fits-all program of instruction that begins in one place for all students within a grade level. One unique quality of word study as we describe it lies in what we believe is the critical role of differentiating instruction for levels of word knowledge." (Bear at all, 2004 from Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction.)

What does research tell us about vocabulary?
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  • Vocabulary assists students in expanding their knowledge to raise achievement.
  • Vocabulary development increases when students have visual images of word meaning and when the words are categorized into groups.  
  • In order to understand  spoken or written words a student must know 95% of the words.
  • The creation of labels is a tool for fostering new perceptions and increasing learning.
  • It takes a minimum of 15 encounters with a new word for a student to understand and apply the word independently.  
What are effective vocabulary strategies?

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  • Awareness of words
  • Wide reading and extensive writing
  • Strategies for independently inferring word meanings from context
  • Direct instruction of vocabulary and vocabulary related skills  
In a standards based world, where students have trouble understanding what words mean from the context, you have to directly teach them. There are so many words that I could teach with so little time remember I have to pick those words wisely.  Taking the time to provide direct vocabulary instruction is important for my students because I know that they don't do a whole lot of reading at home and it will strength their decoding and comprehension. Plus vocabulary is not one of their strengths.


One of my favorite ways to teach new vocabulary, is using Robert Marzano's 6 Steps to teach vocabulary.  His WIKIillustrates the six steps. I love this because I can use his 6 steps as an assessment it also gets students talking about words. It engages my students in vocabulary (an area that is not a strength) and they have fun with it. My students love activities at allow them to draw and not get busted for it. Marzano's 6 Steps take time so it forces you to choose you words very carefully.

Another powerful thing to include when teaching is non-linguistic representations. This can be pictures, graphic organizers, Thinking Maps, etc. The students make connections that make sense to them. I always have to use a timer or they think they have forever. Its meant to be quick.

A favorite of my students is Draw it!.  You'll find that Draw it! relies on students non-linguistic representations of words and not their ability to explain what the words mean to play the game. I use it more as a review game but you'll find one below for First grade math terms. I'll be talking more about vocabulary throughout the summer. 

Drop me a comment about how you teach vocabulary in your room.

1 comment:

  1. Have you heard of the app Draw Something (for iPads/iPhones) ? Your name/idea of this game reminds me of this app. I'm not sure if young students would know what the app is, but it might be another great way to get kids excited, if you can incorporate that too? Thanks for sharing and getting ideas flowing:)

    We are ALL Special!

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About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I'm Ms. Whiteley. I teach in the beautiful Mile High state--Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching in an rural K-6 Elementary school as a Exceptional Needs Teachers. As Exceptional Needs National Board Certified Teacher, I believe that ALL students can learn and be successful. When I'm not in school, I love to take my two Italian Greyhounds hiking 14ers and reaching for the stars. Thanks for Hopping By.
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