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Vocabulary Instruction: Best Practices

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Vocabulary Instruction: Best Practices
Raul A. Garcia
Grand Canyon University
SED: 535- Adolescent Literacy
Prof. Dennis Fare
May, 16, 2012

Meditation XVII:
"No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." (Donne, J., 1924/1987) I find it ironic that this poem is written in 1924 by a poet who has recently recovered an illness that nearly takes his life, and is again used in the book by Ernest Hemmingway For whom the bell tolls, in which the main Character is a professor at a University who is also an explosions expert on a mission to blow up a bridge. Yet knowing he will not survive his mission uses this poem as a reference to what he is sure will be his own death. However, as I think of this person being a professor would it be an irony that instead of being death it may talk about life as a teacher? For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, not to remind us of death but to remind us of our service to Mankinde. Does that bell toll for our students to get to class or does that bell toll to remind us of the commitment we made when we decided to be teachers of those students. Now that I have your attention the following information has been asked of me to be considered as I explain my plan for vocabulary instruction. Considering the fact that Karen Bromley tells us in her article Nine Things a Teacher should Know about Word that the larger the students vocabulary , the better they will read and understand the text they are reading . She starts out by telling us that the English language is six times larger in word numbers than French and three times larger than the German language. Also for the record three out of at least four words are derived from a foreign language. (Bromley, K., 2007) Other factors that affect the manner of teaching vocabulary are the students one is teaching, the words we have decided to teach, the purpose of the instruction of those word we have decided to teach and the strategy we have decided to use to teach those words. In figuring these four factors we as teachers need to keep in mind the cost of preparation and teaching so that all aspects are balanced in a manner that is sensible. (Flanagan, K. et. al. 2007) Flanagan tells us that there are four categories of word: * Critical before words (level one). * Foot in the door words(level two) * Critical after words (level three) * Word that one does not teach (level four)
(Flanagan, K. et. al. 2007) Furthermore, another way that words are chosen for the instruction of our students is by category: 1. Tier One words are basically words that need no further instruction since the students already have them in their memory bank. Watch, child, and angry for example. 2. Tier two words are higher frequency words used by a more mature language user, include words like industrious, coincidence and absurd. 3. Tier Three words are words whose usage is not as frequent and used only in certain learning situations. These are more content area words like temperature, mercury and heliotrope. Isabel Beck, 2012, tells us that most of our instruction should be focusing on Tier two and Tier Three. Since these are the verbiage our students will need in a workplace or a content class or possibly a business situation they may encounter. One must be aware of the three tiers to help find easier words and text for beginning students. The ability to teach at any proficiency level will depend on this type of knowledge.
(Beck, I., 2002) As far as how many words to be presented or number of words presented per week. According to Beck the guideline is demonstrate 5 to about 8 words per lesson or reading. The process recommended is vocabulary cards there is no bottom line as to how many per week. That depends on the ability of students and the teacher as to how many word they may be able to handle. When talking about the process one is to use when teaching, there are two. One is direct learning and the other is indirect learning, although all students require both methods of instruction. Those instructional styles will vary and shift as the students learn. Beginners usually start with direct instruction and as they become advanced they will begin to learn through Indirect Learning by reading a book or and by listening.
(Beck, I 2002) Initial exposure to words will begin with flash cards. I have personally experienced these cards in my own effort to learn new vocabulary and found the study of new words in this manner rewarding. As recommended the student can post these on the refrigerator, mirror, or use the flashcards as a review on the day of the test. My personal method is to review the flashcards every day and on the day of the test. The basic procedure Recommended by Beck is that on the of an index card, (3 X 5 is the preferred size); the student is to print the new word in large block print. The back side of the same index card will be the definition (from a good dictionary recommended), enunciation, a small picture to remind the student what it is and maybe a good sentence using the word in context. The student is then to use the cards to quiz him/her independently during class time or at home alone. If the student has a study partner, sibling, or parent to help them, then the cards can be pointed at the learner at random by the holder, categories may be used. (Beck, I 2002) My personal experience with index cards was to read the first word and define it. If I was correct I would move on to the next word, and define that one. When I got one wrong I would have to start over until I got all the words correct. Then I would shuffle the cards and practice them at random. Once again this is done diligently once or twice a day, the learning of the cards is a little time consuming , however your students will be amazed at the vocabulary learned and how fast they can go through the index cards after just a couple of days of practice. As far as review there are various ways to do this including: * Word Puzzles- where the student has to circle the word out of various lines of mixed letters. * Scrambled Words- here the teacher writes words on the board with the letters scrambled and the students go up to the board and re-write the word unscrambled. * Grab Bag- in this scenario the teacher prepares a bag of items and pictures of things on the vocabulary list. As they are withdrawn from the bag the students raise their hand and are called on to give the correct answer. This helps by giving the students a visual of the words. * Disappearing Word List- good for beginning students and advanced , 1. The vocabulary list is written on the blackboard/chalkboard. 2. Then the list is chanted several times, alone at first, so that the pronunciation is properly represented and then the students chant with the teacher. Eventually the teacher is silent and only the students chant. 3. One word is erased, but the space is marked showing its position on the list. The students should chant the list over again, but not leave out the erased word. 4. The chanting continues until all the words are erased from the board. 5. Finally the students can dictate the list back to you(the teacher) * Early Bird- (a. k. a. Real time English )
Sometimes there is a little time before official class starts; this is a good time to allow student centered vocabulary sharing. In this procedure the students are allowed to share a new word they may have learned, and that student then is given five minutes to share that word with the class. The other facet of this procedure would be if the students have a new word they heard and do not understand, then they can share it with the rest of the class. The class can get in on clarifying the word and then the teacher (yourself) can correct the definition if needed. (Beck, I., 2002) As far as monitoring the students progress there is a chart recommended for students to keep in a folder that show their progress throughout the semester or year . The chart can be filled in pencil so that when they become more adept or skilled with a new word they may change the stature of their knowledge. Materials needed would be a list of words, some of these the students would already know.
The example chart is show below:

I don’t know this word | I have seen this word before. | I understand this word. | I use this word easily. | 1. paradigm | | | | 2. | | | fast | 3. | summary | | | 4. | | race | | 5. | | | | 6. | | | | 7. | | | | 8. | | | | 9. | | | |
(Beck, I., 2002) This chart can be as long as the student wants or several copies can be made as their vocabulary increases. As we see different ways of getting the students to learn and remember I recall another method I have seen in practicum. The procedure is called four corners vocabulary or word association. Mr. Merrick at SEA Charter School East Los Angeles Calls it word mapping. In this procedure the draws a chart on the back of his vocabulary paper showing four corners , or folds the paper so that it has four corners. My experience with this procedure is that the individual students draw their own maps and write the appropriate information into each quadrant. However Beck (2002), informs us that this procedure may be done individually, in pairs, and even as a group. The drawing of the quadrants and filling it in with the new word helps the connection of the new word to various areas of the brain. Each of the corners should contain part of the map as labeled in the example below: Word | Picture | Context Sentence | Definition |
Illustration copied from Beck, I., 2002 The example below shows a chart with the word Volcano; Volcano | (sketch of volcano goes here) | The _______ sent lava and ash all over. It killed a lot of trees. | When melted rock pushes up a mountain, that’s a ________. |

Illustration copied from Beck, I., 2002

How does one monitor the accuracy of a students work? Students should be monitored for progress at least eight times during the school year. Although researchers recommend a more frequent weekly assessments there has been very little proof that weekly assessments have shown superiority to monthly assessments. Weekly mastery tests provide teachers a guide as to what needs to be reviewed and possibly re-taught

Reference
Beck, I., 2002, Bringing words to life: robust vocabulary instruction, The Guilford press. Retrieved on May 16, 2012 from http://www.slideshare.net/laurelpollard/effective-vocabulary-instruction-for-all-levels
Bromley, K., 2007. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy; Apr2007, Vol. 50 Issue 7, p528-537
Donne, J., 1924/1987, Devotions upon emergent occasions: meditation XVII Oxford University Press
Flanagan, K., Greenwood, S.C., 2007pp. 228-238 doi: 10.1588/Journal of aL.51:3, Effective content vocabulary instruction in the middle: matching students, purposes, word, and strategies Retrieved on May 15, 2012 from http://web.ebscohost.com.library.gcu.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=a660e2cf-cc67-4415-bac1-a64c4d5058d6%40sess
Pollard, L 2011, Instruction for all levels, Retrieved on May 15, 2012 from 40sesshttp://www.slideshare.net/laurelpollard/effective-vocabulary-instruction-for-all-levelsionmgr114&vid=2&hid =125

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