I’ve been wanting to make this activity for quite some time. Kyle (fabulous artist) created these super cute cupcakes just for this activity designed for learning compound words. This activity contains 48 compound word cupcakes which are ideal for use either within your literacy centers or for small group instruction. Your students simply match the cupcake halves to create words. A recording sheet is included so that they can write their words. This activity is easily differentiated as you can choose which and how many cupcakes to use.
The Cupcake Matching Compound Words is available through my Teachers Pay Teachers online store.
Last week Kyle created these cute little acorns and I just couldn’t resist getting started on making a few fall-themed activities. We created 3 sets using the acorns- one for rhyming, one for beginning sounds and the other for vocabulary. When you download the rhyme activity you’ll receive 34 colorful acorns with rhyming matches.
I’m lovin’ the Acorn Beginning Sounds activity for working with learning letters and sounds. Of course, when you download this activity, you’ll receive 26 acorns with the letters of the alphabet and a corresponding picture.
One of my goals this school year is to create more activities for working with vocabulary. The Acorn Match- Go Together activity contains 35 acorns with pictures that go-together. This activity is especially helpful for students with language delays and students learning English.
Well, I have a few more fall-themed activities up my sleeve. Just can’t wait to get started!
After reading my earlier blog post on The Need for Explicit Vocabulary Instruction, my new friend, Erin, from the University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning sent me a link to Anita Archer and Charles Hughes’ website www.explicitinstruction.org. She thought I’d enjoy the vidoes on the website and she was absolutely right! Its one thing to read about an instructional strategy, but it’s another to see it in action–and demonstrated by a master teacher.
If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you may know that vocabulary instruction is one of my favorite topics. On the Explicit Instruction website there are are two videos of Dr. Archer demonstrating a vocabulary lesson (one for kindergarten and the other for second grade). They are both excellent. My favorite video, however, is the Active Participation video where she engages second grade students in a lesson.
The goal of the video is to demonstrate strategies to gain attention and engage students in learning. Earlier this week I had a conversation with one of my colleagues about instructional delivery and we talked about pacing. This video is an excellent example of how to deliver instruction at an appropriate pace which increases engagement and maximizes learning.
Just below the video is a written description outlining the purpose of the demonstration as well as the instructional strategies that were used during the lesson. For each strategy, a description of the strategy, when to use it and the exact procedures for implementing the strategy are provided.
The videos are super helpful. They aren’t too long– the active participation video is less that 7 minutes. So, take a few minutes and watch Dr. Archer’s lessons. The way in which we deliver our instruction has a direct impact on student learning.
I just ordered the book Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching. It’s was suppose to be on my summer reading list, but I just couldn’t wait. I’m already through chapter 2 and am looking forward to reading the chapter on vocabulary instruction. The book is pretty heavy with research (I love that!), but it also has tons of examples of the strategies in action.
This past week was our spring break. We did what it seems like half the population of Michigan did–travel down to the sunny beaches of Flordia. The drive down and back was a little crazy (okay, a lot crazy) and Ft. Myers Beach was jam-packed with tourists, but it was well worth sitting in the warm sun even for a few short days. During break, I learned a few things about myself. I suffer from two addictions. One I kind of knew about and the other was a surprise. My first addiction–the internet. Although our condo had internet and I did bring my computer with me, I didn’t take the right power cord. My uncharged computer sat in a corner of the bedroom all week long. I couldn’t work at all! It took about three days, but I eventually adjusted. My other addiction came as a surprise. I am addicted to my books. I have about 50 books on my countertop at home. I had to choose which books to take with me to read on the beach. So, which books made the cut. Here are my favorites.
I love neurology and I’m really interested in how a typical reader learns to reads and how a struggling reader reads. There are definite differences in the pathways that typical and struggling readers use when reading. What’s more important is that, when given intervention, the pathways in the brain used for reading change! It’s truly remarkable. My favorite books on the neurology of reading are David Sousa’s How The Brain Learns to Read, Building The Reading Brain Pre K-3 by Patricia Wolfe and Pamela Nevills and Overcoming Dylexia by Sally Shaywitz. Of course, I couldn’t leave these books behind.
On the Wednesday before break I was in one of my schools and a question came up regarding the best way to teach vocabulary. Being a Speech/Language Pathologist prior to my current job, the topic of vocabulary is one of my favorites. For sure I had to take my favorite books on vocabulary to the beach!
Isabel Beck’s book, Bringing Words To Life is my all-time favorite!
Janet Allen’s Words, Words, Words book made the beach read cut mostly because I really need to begin to think about literacy instruction in the upper grades.
You can’t talk about vocabulary instruction without talking about the king of educational research, Robert Marzano! The Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works and Vocabulary Games for the Classroom are both very heavy books, but well worth lugging to the beach.
I go nowhere without my two favorite books on Response to Intervention. Response to Intervention: A Practical Guide for Every Teacher and A Principal’s Guide: Implementing Response To Intervention explains RtI so nicely and have many examples of successful implementation in schools.
A few of our teachers are reading “the sisters” two books, The Cafe Book and The Daily 5. I’ve read selected chapters of the books, but really need to get a handle on the big picture and correlate it to the National Reading Panel’s recommendations.
Okay, listing all these books really does make it look like I’m really obsessive. Truth is there are a few more books I threw in my beach reading bag and trucked down to the beach everyday. There are even a few books that I wish I had with me. I know most people take steamy novels with them on spring break, but I sat happily reading my professional books. The only regret is that a few of them now have sand within their pages.
This year we are working on expanding our RtI efforts to upper elementary. Reading First so nicely laid out the expectations for quality core instruction for K-3, but we are finding that we are having to dig a little deeper into the research to find what effective literacy instruction looks like at the upper elementary level. Explict vocabulary instruction and reading comprehension strategies are recurring themes in our reading. Although very important in K-3 instruction, vocabulary and reading comprehension take center stage in upper elementary. So with this in mind, I pulled out my favorite vocabulary resource book, Bringing Words to Life, along with other resources on vocabulary, to help guide us.
What is vocabulary?
The following is the National Reading Panel’s definition of vocabulary. It’s important to make the distiction between oral vocabulary and reading vocabulary. Oral vocabulary can be further divided into listening vocabulary (receptive vocabulary, as our SLP’s call it) and speaking vocabulary (expressive vocabulary). The words that are encountered in text (reading vocabulary) are more complex than our speaking vocabulary.
Click the following link to download this definition Vocabulary Definition
Why is vocabulary important?
Vocabulary is important because it is a strong predictor of reading comprehension. If children are to understand the text, they must know what most of the words mean before they can comprehend what they are reading. Of course, this makes sense! Children with well developed vocabularies can recognize a new word in text faster and easier if the word has an identity in their mind. Let’s consider the following example from The Mitten:
“A waft of warm steam rose in the air, and a fox trotting by stopped to investigate. Just the sight of the cozy mitten made him feel drowsy.”
These two sentences are loaded with vocabulary (so cool!). What if the underlined words were not a part of the child’s vocabulary and he has never been exposed to those words in conversation or having books read to him? Certainly the child’s understanding of the text would be affected and when the child tried to read those words, he would not have the background knowledge that would help him figure out the word. Even if a child knew 4 of the 5 words, he would likely have an understanding of the text.
Choosing Words To Teach
So, if building vocabulary is so important, and with so many words, how do you choose which words to teach directly? Isabel Beck and her colleagues have developed a really nice framework for choosing the most important words that should be targeted for instruction. She divides words into three “tiers”. In a nutshell, Tier I words are the most common words, Tier II words are high-frequency words used by mature language users, and Tier III words are typically specialized words. She recommends identifying and teaching Tier II words as they occur and can be used across contexts.
Click the following link to download the graphic Vocabulary Instruction- Choosing Words to Teach
With young children, the vocabulary words are typically chosen from trade books; these are the books that teachers read aloud to their students. Choosing words from a text for direct teaching is not difficult, but there are some things you need to take into consideration. These considerations as well as examples are provided in the Bringing Words To Life book. I can’t say enough about this book. If you want to beef-up your vocabulary instruction, this is a must-read.
How Many Words do Children Need to Know?
Researchers say that children in grades 1-2 need to learn 800 new words a year (that’s 2 a day) and children from 3rd grade on need to learn 2,000-3,000 new words a year (6-8 words a day)(Diemiller; Nagy & Anderson). On top of that, consider that for a child to “truly” know a word he/she must have at least 10-12 exposures to the word in multiple contexts. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Now consider this. Researchers (Biemiller, 2001) noted that there is very little explicit vocabulary teaching occurring in the upper grades. In fact, one study revealed that upper-elementary teachers spent less than 1% of their overall reading instruction focused on vocabulary. Yikes!
How to Teach Vocabulary
Children learn words in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to improve vocabulary is through wide reading. One interesting study that I found reported that the average 5th grader reads 5 minutes a day out of school. 5th graders who fall at the 80th percentile read over 20 times as much students who fall at the 20th percentile who read only one minute outside of school. Although reading in and of itself is necessary for vocabulary growth, it is not sufficient. Students need direct and explicit vocabulary instruction. So what does that look like and what is the best way to teach vocabulary? Well, that’s going to the topic of upcoming blog posts (too long already). I do want to leave you with these videos that model explict vocabulary instruction. Sometimes it’s just easier to see it in practice than explain in words.
Anita Archer is a highly respected author and educator. The Sonoma County Office of Education has on their website a series of videos of Anitia Archer demonstrating specific teaching strategies. When you click the following link (the picture), you can see her teaching a vocabulary lesson to a kindergarten class and then to a second grade class.
Thanks for sticking with me on the quite long blog post. Hope this has been helpful in understanding the importance of direct vocabulary instruction.
Isabel Beck’s book Bringing Words to Life has been sitting on my “should read” pile for quite some time. Well, honestly, quite some time is an understatement. I’ve heard so many raves and reviews from co-workers, I certainly should have read this book long ago. The title of chapter 1 is “Rationale for Robust Vocabulary Instruction.” How cool is that word?- robust- love it! Reading this chapter started me thinking… how exactly strong, or robust, is vocabulary instruction in our schools. It seems as if so much of our efforts have focused on phonics and fluency, that vocabulary and comprehension have taken a back seat.
In chapter 1, Isabel Beck argues three “conventional wisdoms” about vocabulary development and instruction.
Conventional wisdom #1 was particularly interesting to me because, as in my past role as a Speech/Language Pathologist, I totally supported and preached that learning vocabulary was best accomplished within context (okay, I’ll give myself a break- I worked mainly with very young children with language disorders at the time). Okay, so what is wrong with relying on context alone to improve vocabulary? Well, very young children learn words through “oral context” (this means they hear new words and then use the words during conversation). As the child grows, the words they hear and use are the words they already know. The shift, then, for learning new words changes to written words (what they read or what is read to them). One of the problems with relying on independent reading alone to learn new words is that not all unfamiliar words they encounter will be learned. The student needs to see/read the word many times for the word to be truly learned. Isabel Beck sited a study that reported that from an estimate of 100 unfamiliar words encountered in reading only between 5 to 15 will be learned. Yikes! For a student’s vocabulary to flourish by reading independently, the student must read a lot so that they encounter tons of unfamiliar words and then what they read must be somewhat difficult so that the chances of coming across unfamiliar words increase.
Another issue with relying on independent reading alone to improve vocabulary is that the author’s purpose in writing is to tell a story and not to teach the meanings of words. This means that just by encountering an unfamiliar word in text, does not mean that the student will understand its meaning. Read the following sentence, for example. If you did not know the word “triumphantly” would you know it after reading the sentence?
The other mother smiled at this, triumphantly, and Coraline wondered if she made the right choice.
When coming across unknown words while reading independently, the reader must infer meanings as the author rarely adds in the definition for words. Isabel Beck indicated that the following conditions must be met in order for a word to be learned through context. First, the student must have adequate decoding skills so that the word can actually be read (horray for phonics!). Secondly, the student must be able to recognize that the word is unknown. Seems so simple, but how many times have you heard a student reading aloud blow past words you know he/she doesn’t understand the meaning. Third, the student has to “extract” the meaning of the word from the context.
Now let’s think about our struggling readers. Well, first they don’t tend to read a lot and what they read is not likely to be sufficiently “difficult” so that they encounter many words in which they do not know the meaning. Struggling readers most often have difficulty with decoding unfamiliar words making it difficult for them to even accurately read the word. Then to top it off, they need to recognize that the word is unknown and then, if they do, try to figure out the meaning by reading the words and sentences before and after (sometimes helpful, sometimes not). Unless our vocabulary instruction is deliberate and robust, the gap between our struggling readers and students who read well will continue to widen.
Keith Stanovich (1986) used the term the “Matthew Effect” to describe this widening gap in vocabulary between students who read well and those who do not. It is based on the Bible verse in the Gospel of Matthew, ”For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” Children who begin school with a good vocabulary and learn to read well, will enjoy reading and read. Their reading skills and vocabulary will flourish. Those who enter school with inadequate vocabularies and struggle with learning to read, do not find reading enjoyable, therefore, read less and continue to fall further and further behind.
Click the following link to download the pdf of this poster The Matthew Effect
Join me on my journey through Isabel Beck’s Book Bringing Words to Life. The book also has strategies for teaching vocabulary! Let’s all make our vocabulary instruction ROBUST! We can close that gap between our struggling students and proficient readers with deliberate vocabulary instruction!