Activities to help support vocabulary instruction
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Assess Vocabulary with Cloze Passages After teaching a new concept, it's necessary to assess students' overall understanding and comprehension. When the instruction includes a heavy dose of new vocabulary, a cloze strategy works well. At first glance, a cloze passage may appear to be a simple fill-in-the-blank worksheet. However, if teachers follow these five steps, they can develop a tool that measures students' comprehension of essential vocabulary.
Identify 10-15 General Academic Words per Grade Level Standardized tests measure students' reading comprehension--however it's not just their understanding of the passage(s) that is being assessed. Eighty-five percent of achievement on these tests is based on understanding the academic language within the questions (Marilee Sprenger, 101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick).
Some teachers struggle to identify the 30 core terms to target in any given content area. Examples get mistaken for concepts. As we narrow our vocabulary instruction to focus on core words, it's important to remember that there is a difference between "examples" and "concepts." Narrowing down the core vocabulary list means prioritizing the important words that represent the bigger concepts students need to succeed.
Traditionally, publishers of textbooks have given a list of important vocabulary words at the beginning of a text to introduce to the students ahead of time. In the past, class time was used to pre-teach the words to students by looking words up in the dictionary and then using them in sentences. This practice can take away much needed class time that could be used to actually read the text.
Individual vocabulary notebooks can be a useful tool to support students as they learn subject-specific and domain-specific terms. They can be useful. Vocab notebooks could also be nothing more than a worksheet that adds little value. The key to a powerful vocabulary notebook is realizing its purpose of holding a student’s growing understanding of a term.
Distinguish Between Key Terms and Their Synonyms--Vocabulary instruction typically includes multiple layers of understanding. Explanation, definitions, pictorial representations, word parts, and sentence writing are all common strategies to support students in their growing knowledge of a new concept. Relating terms to synonyms can also be a powerful tool.
Use Word Spokes within Word Study & Vocab Development--Greek and Latin root-word instruction is an essential component of vocabulary development. (There are three types of root words: prefixes, suffixes, bases.) If students apply the meaning of word parts to unfamiliar words, they can determine the meaning of new content-area academic vocabulary. According to literacy expert Timothy Rasinski, this is known as the generative principle: one root can generate the meaning of 5-20 new words.
Targeting Vocabulary Using Visual Clues--A lot of teachers have kids draw pictures to represent words. This is a great strategy, and probably the most popular approach to achieving a visual representation of the word. A different twist to this approach is to have kids find photos to represent the words. For example, if the word is "confined,” students have to find a photo that represents "confined.”
Assess Independent Reading with a Cloze Activity--Cloze is short for closure. So a cloze activity can bring closure to a reading assignment by assessing how well students understood a passage after reading independently. During a cloze activity, students complete a fill-in-the-blank summary of the passageBigIdeas header WITHOUT looking back at the original text.
Vocabulary | Developing Core Vocabulary for Each Academic Area--Dr. Robert Marzano’s research explains the concept of 4-14-40. The highest-achieving students can learn a new term with as few as 4 exposures to it. The average student needs to work with a word up to 14 times in order to master it. And your most struggling learners need as many as 40 different opportunities to work with a single word to finally learn it.
Action-Packed Vocabulary Review Strategies--There are times during the year when the students -- and you -- could use a little lift. For content area teachers, one way to get kids excited about learning again is to revive your vocabulary strategies. Getting kids up and moving and interacting will increase their learning of key terms. Whenever possible, let them "play" with words in a game and/or small group activities.
Simple Acrostic Poems--When teaching students new vocabulary words in the content areas or in language arts, one thing you could do, beyond just talking about definitions, is to have students develop an acrostic poem for that term. For example, here is an acrostic poem used in a primary classroom for the term “Earth Day” and an acrostic poem on “setting” done in an intermediate language arts class.