I have often told the story about myself as a second grade teacher. As awesome as I thought I was as an educator, data speaks when gauging and understanding student academic achievement. Even if you dispute this thought, the fact that numbers don't lie still proves that data is important to understand and consider. My data was showing that the students I taught, both low achieving and normally achieving where not scoring well when it came to vocabulary. One of my core values both professional and personal is to make a difference so, to see that my students were not doing well did not leave me feeling effective. That thought is a seed that was planted and has grown into my research focus today. By the way, that research topic is still ever-evolving and growing as I both learn new ideas and experience new issues to explore. It became my mission to understand what I could do to change what the numbers revealed. I first needed to understand what it really meant to change those numbers.
My first thoughts were; "How do you even test for knowledge of words?" Vocabulary knowledge is an unconstrained skill (a skill that is learned gradually over time as your are exposed to "increasingly challenge words.). It is not like learning the letters of the alphabet and the sounds that go with them (even though English is a complex language, we can still learn all about them in a fixed amount of time). I will admit, my first thoughts were to find the words that were being tested and just teach those, but would that really "teach" children all the words they would need to be able to comprehend the text they word be exposed to when they left me and went to those tested grades later in their school careers? No it would not! I needed to teach them some words and also teach them how to figure out the meaning of other words. So, yes I started by teaching my students specific words (like the ones they would see on a standardized test, but I also began paying attention to what students were supposed to know about vocabulary before they got to me (second grade) and what they needed to learn while they were with me, but I am rambling on and getting off track. Here is why I feel teaching vocabulary in the early grades is important.
Vocabulary, whether you consider it the knowledge of words or the knowledge of word meanings is important to comprehending the text we read and hear. If we don't know the words we are reading or hearing, the text being read or heard may as well be a foreign language. The extent of knowledge I have about a topic depends on the vocabulary I use and understand about it. A researcher said; we think in words, so to change our thinking we learn more words. It is very true that students who know words, (and by know words I mean understand and use) learn more words and a greater rate than students who don't know many words. It is also very true that students who don't know many words when they begin school, will struggle to understand the text they hear or read. We cannot really control the amount of words (word meanings) children know when they get to us, but we can control their exposure to words while they are with us. The Matthew effect says "the rich get richer" this is one of the reasons that teaching vocabulary in the early grades is important.
We can begin to level the playing field for our students by teaching them more words, both intentionally by explicitly teaching words, word meanings, parts of speech, synonyms and antonyms, and morphology and by exposing them to more words through reading aloud to them and exposing them to classroom discussions and talk. It is important to do this while students are also learning the alphabetic principle and using that knowledge to learn to read words. When students begin to encounter those "increasingly challenging"(language from the TEKS) text we spoke about earlier, students are learning to use the skills they learned in the early grades both more strategically and with more automatically. Students learn about using context clues, using dictionaries, understanding the word parts carry meaning, and that words can relate to other words in the early grades through teachers reading aloud texts and modeling the skills they need to understand text and share learning experiences with other texts, but as children matriculate through each grade level, the amount of shared responsibility and understanding shifts to them as students carrying more of the load. It is at this point where we begin to see more of an issue if students don't have a strong foundation from the earlier grades. Those teachers who teach third, fourth, and fifth grade begin to see evidence of what is called the fourth grade slump. Students tend to struggle to comprehend text at the fourth grade level because of the increasingly challenging nature of text at that level and because of the student not being prepared well enough to tackle challenge of that text independently.
It is our responsibility as early grade educators to prepare our students to be able to handle the task of reading and comprehending text as it becomes increasingly challenging when they move from one grade to the next. We are teaching students to read and comprehend text so that when they get to the upper elementary grades they can use those skills to comprehend and gain knowledge from text independently at their current grade level or above.
Thank you for reading...
As a classroom teacher, with a little bit of experience under my belt, I used data and feedback from peers to drive my instruction. It was important to me to not only feel like I was an effective educator, I wanted to “look good on paper” too. I mean, it is one thing to hear administrators and other teachers talk about how effective you are as an educator, but if the data doesn’t reflect that then you have to ask yourself; “Am I really doing right by my students?” So, here was my epiphany! I guess it was about year 16 or 17 as an educator. I was thinking I am a fabulous educator and looking at my data and discovering that even my brightest students were not scoring well in vocabulary. That is when I realized that I didn’t know as much as I thought about teaching reading and more specifically, vocabulary instruction. I made it my mission that day to learn about how and why we should teach vocabulary in the early grades. I made vocabulary instruction my SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, timely) goal, my SLO (student learning outcome) goal and the focus of my graduate studies. I focused my time and energy on learning all I could about what vocabulary instruction was and why is was important to teach.
Why Teach Vocabulary?
Well, the biggest thing I can think of is the fact that words carry meaning, so like Arthur Draper and Gerald Mueller said in 1971; “we think with words, therefore to improve thinking; teach vocabulary”. I had to learn more about why it was important to teach vocabulary so, I began to research. The link between vocabulary knowledge and comprehension is very clear. No one can argue that students would not be able to comprehend the text they read if they don’t understand the words they are reading. In fact, vocabulary knowledge in reading is one of the best predictors of school success for most students whether their first language is English or not (Cooter, 2010; Solari, Aceves, Higareda, Richards-Tutor, Filippini, Gerber, & Leafstedt, 2014). One thing I have found encouraging is that although there is debatably a knowledge, learning, and education gap and although children do begin school knowing a different and varying about of words, Tanya Wright and Susan Neuman (2014) say that a good vocabulary instruction intervention can make reading struggles better later on and can help get students on track by 4th grade.
As a second grade teacher, I found it imperative that I begin teaching children vocabulary acquisition strategies and teaching them as much as I could about words and their meanings. I now know that it is important to have vocabulary instruction in the early grades to help students acquire and use these skills while they are learning to read because of what Chall and Jacobs (1983) call the “fourth grade slump”. The slump describes the dip in (scores) reading ability of fourth grade students because of the change in academic language and rigor of fourth grade content as reading instruction shifts from “learning to read” with its emphasis on understanding words and decoding to “reading to learn” with its emphasis on comprehending text at increasingly challenging rates.
What is the Science of Reading?
It seems as of late, that the phrases “science of reading” or the “science of teaching reading” have become buzz words, but what do these phrases really mean? Is reading or teaching reading a science? Indeed it is! Timothy Shanahan said that any real science of reading would include methods, approaches that have been found, through research to give kids a learning advantage in reading. If you ask some people what the science of teaching reading is, some will tell you that it is “teaching phonics”. Others will say they don’t really know. I will admit that until recently I had not even heard of the phrase at all, but my pursuit of knowledge about effectively teaching vocabulary brought me right to it. The science of reading or of teaching reading is basically the idea that I, as an educator use what research says is best for children, to teach them how to read. It pulls from brain research and from teacher’s practices as well as from what college professors, linguistic experts, reading specialists, and other experts all have proven from research studies and observations of classroom teaching. I had to dig into what others have shown and proved to work in order to learn what best to do for my students. I have had to digest ideas like the Simple View of Reading and the Reading Rope to see how to teach reading and to see how vocabulary instruction fit into the idea of skilled reading. The ideas are explained below.
The Simple View of Reading
In 1986, Philip Gough and William Tunmer developed a theory to explain the idea of skilled reading. They say that skilled reading is the product of word recognition and language comprehension. To learn more about the simple view check out this site: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/simple-view-reading. What I find interesting about this idea is that it can be used to explain why students have reading difficulties. It also can show why it is important to have a reading program that has a balance of portion of both word recognition and language comprehension instruction. It is important to note that this does not mean 50% and 50%. It means that your classroom instruction have the correct balance of each of these. In the early grades students are spending more time “learning to read” so the bigger portion of time might be spent in word recognition strategies rather than language comprehension, but language comprehension should not be ignored. I can use Hollis Scarborough’s Reading Rope to explain the idea with more detail.
Scarborough’s Reading Rope
In 2001 Hollis Scarborough used the model of an intertwined rope to illustrate what skilled reading looks like. The strands weave into two bigger strands, labeled similar to the components of the above mentioned Simple View —word recognition and language comprehension — and eventually into one woven rope that represents skilled reading .
Each strand unwoven correlates to a part of what skilled reading is. The bottom portion of the rope represents the components of word recognition which are phonological awareness, decoding and sight recognition which all become increasingly automatic as they interconnect toward skilled reading. The top portion of the rope represents the components of language comprehension which are background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge and become increasingly strategic as they interconnect toward skilled reading.
How Does Vocabulary Instruction fit?
Vocabulary knowledge falls under the language comprehension strand according to the Reading Rope (2001). It consists of aspect of knowing what a word means in order to comprehend texts that are read and/or heard. Our knowledge of a word’s meaning becomes increasingly strategic the more we are exposed to that word and words that are related to that word. In order to know a word we must know a lot about it. We should know the words part of speech, the words meaning in context, and well as how to read the word when we see it in print. Teaching students words, word meanings and strategies for figuring out meaning of unfamiliar words is very important because understanding word meanings is an important part of reading comprehension. Vocabulary instruction is a way to help students begin to know more words and to figure out the meaning of words that they don’t know. Understanding the importance of vocabulary instruction in reading comprehension is crucial.
Starting vocabulary instruction when students are “learning to read” in the early grades is a good way to ensure that students will have those crucial skills with they are “reading to learn” in late elementary where some students fall prey to what Jeanne Chall and Vicky Jacobs call the 4th grade slump (1983). To better understand the terms reading to learn and learning to read, I will refer to the reading rope again. The reading rope is sectioned into language comprehension and word recognition as I have mentioned above. Thinking about how children learn to read we understand that they must learn sounds, letters, and decoding and blending to begin to learn words. This all happens in the word recognition portion of the reading rope so we start there and word recognition becomes more automatic as children learn more (learning to read). It is important to note that the stands in the rope do intertwine and connect so, although we should begin with word recognition that does not mean that we teach our way from word recognizing to language comprehension, it mean that as our students gain automatic word reading skills, we are teaching language comprehension and word meanings first in isolation and then in context. As word recognition is becoming more automatic language comprehension is becoming more strategic. At this point, reading instruction shifts focus from learning to read to reading to learn. Then, teachers focus more on comprehension of increasingly challenging text and strategies that help students with comprehension, like vocabulary instruction. Vocabulary instruction, early and intentionally can help combat the knowledge gap students may come to school with. Keith Stanovich, coin the phrase “the Matthew Effect” in 1986. The Mathew Effect “the rich get richer” from Matthew in the bible. This idea says that children with poor reading ability tend to continually struggle; but children who have good reading ability, maintain, and grow their reading ability throughout their schooling. Good vocabulary instruction can combat these struggles and with time reverse them.
What does this mean for Teachers?
Again, like the Simple View of reading, the Reading Rope details how word recognition and language comprehension come together to show skilled reading; but what is interesting about the Reading Rope is that it lays out each of the components in much greater detail and our Texas standards for reading/language arts are aligned to the strands. All components come together, either increasingly strategic (language comprehension) or increasingly automatic (word recognition) but begin as skills introduced and learned in isolation. Because each component is truly meant to be performed in an interconnected way, once a skill or set of skills is learned (Introduced explicitly and systematically, modeled by the teacher, and practiced by the students) students should be allowed to practice the skills not only in isolation but also in the context of authentic reading and writing opportunities
What really is equity in education? It is a freedom from bias or favoritism. We also have to consider diversity. Everyone has a uniqueness to them that spans across race and culture and even household. We as educators have to embrace and cultivate this uniqueness. This has been on my mind and I am sure I am not alone. Educators know and have discussed the word gap, the knowledge gap or whatever you choose to call it. We talk about schools in low income areas not having enough resources to effectively educate children who are already grade levels behind their peers. We have even come up with a few ideas to help level the playing field so to speak, but this pandemic has exposed some more real inequalities to the world. School district and state officials are working on plans to lay out what instruction will look like in the next school year and are sure to focus on the digital divide as well as the gap that student groups who fall short academically will face so I will focus more on racial equity in this blog post.
2020 has been a year of a heighten awareness and exposure to the obvious signs that we STILL have issues with inequity in education and to add fuel to the fire, because of the exposure social media brings, we are also witnesses to the ongoing racial inequities that are causing uprisings all over the country. COVID-19 and the killing of blacks by police seems to be unfairly impacting the African American community. This inequity is visible across race and economic status but mostly targets poor people of color. We all see it even if we don’t admit it. Seeing these matters playing out in the news daily is a great stress on my spirit! If it is affecting me, I cannot imagine how it is affecting children and that is all children, not just children of color!
Children may experience emotions from fear, to depression, or anger or possibly a combination of this. I often reflect on the question of “what can I do for children?” especially children of color. I also think about how I can help prepare the teachers that I work with because quite often African American children and other children of color are not being supported and valued in their classrooms and communities. Teachers being aware of this is the first step in dealing with it. Something must be done! I am compelled to be an advocate and a voice for my community as it relates to education and educators, because that is where my real passion lies. My mind is in deep thought and I am seeking to answer the question: "What can I do to level the playing field?" How can I help teachers, teach all children?
I feel I need to say that black lives matter here and I also need to state, as has been echoed by others, that my previous statement does not mean that all other lives don’t matter, but that we matter too equally whether we are rich or poor! As an African American educator, I see the need to discuss these issues and write about what education should look like during these times and for the future because we are working through these issues, but still need to think about how to educate our future leaders. I am considering how we can cultivate diversity in our classrooms to better support all student, especially students of color. My thoughts are simply that if we show, discuss, and share the cultural differences each of the children in our classrooms have, we help build their pride and self-confidence. We also teach children to embrace the unique culture of others. I believe that this is the beginning of healing process of the racial tension we have. Start with the children! We can start with helping them build pride in self and an understanding and appreciation of others. A good way to do this is with multicultural literature.
Teachers introducing multicultural literature functions as an influential tool in empowering students to gain a better understanding of both their own culture and the cultures of others. Children develop better cognitive skills as they learn to engage with and critically evaluate the texts that they read as they learn their own culture and the culture of others. Teachers can and should consider ways to help their students engage in interacting with these types of texts. Suzanne Evans conducted a study in 2010 and found that exposure to multicultural literature increased children’s awareness of the social practices, values and belief systems of other cultures. I believe it is this awareness that is a part of the racial healing process we need.
Students are learning about their culture and the cultures of others as a part of the educational routine of the day. They are learning to think critically and to respond to literature and to life situations as independent thinkers who are aware of who they are and are aware of the cultures of others. They are also learning to esteem themselves when they see positive self-images. This combats the negative feelings students may face because of what they see on the news and on social media now. Once we build each students pride in self, we must continue to education them. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed stated: Education either serves as a tool to enable incorporation of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. It is our job as educators to help children speak freely about the system they are growing up in. We must educate and cultivate our future! We can do this by introducing children to their culture and the culture of others and by being culturally responsive teachers.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culture is who we are and teachers understanding that is a cornerstone to aid with learning. For teachers to be culturally responsive we have to think about reshaping our thinking process to create a pedagogy that recognizes, celebrates, and responds to all a culture offers and creates fair access to all students from all cultures. Gloria Ladson-Billings, the author of The Dream Keepers lists and explains some characteristics of culturally responsive teaching. They are:
Zaretta Hammond says that being a culturally responsive teacher begins with building relationships. Getting to know our students is one of the best ways to help educate them. As Theodore Roosevelt said, nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Our children need a champion! Children know when you are not being genuine. Taking time to get to know them is a good way to reach them and engage them in new learning. They will be more receptive to you as an educator and you will have a bit better insight into what to do to understand each of their unique needs. Feeling sorry for their status in life will only coddle them and keep you from applying the correct amount of push to keep them grappling in the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky) where the learning happens. We as educators — and yes I said we— should learn culturally relevant teaching. Culturally relevant teaching according to the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt) the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of your own culture as well as those from other cultures. It is this willingness that will help cultivate the relationships we build with our students as we teach them. It is our job as educators to teach children respectfully and equitably. It may require a little mindset change for some, but it is imperative that we do it. Our children are our future so in order to have a better, healed, well balanced tomorrow, we need to work on it today.
Thank you for reading!
As a classroom teacher, I found that my students who were mostly from low income areas were not acquiring and using new vocabulary in their reading, writing, and speaking. The problem with that for me really was discovering that even my students who would normally achieve and thrive, who were not from low-income backgrounds, were also not acquiring and using new vocabulary in their writing or speaking. I had been teaching awhile and considered myself an expert teacher, but the data was not reflecting that, not formally or informally.
I began to look for ways to combat the fact that students were not achieving this goal by looking at the state standards for vocabulary instruction to understand what they should know at their current grade level, what they should already know and what they will learn in subsequent years. I also began to look at what vocabulary instruction was from a research standpoint. I wanted to know more about teaching vocabulary. I wanted to know how vocabulary knowledge fit in the science of teaching reading and I wanted to know what other teachers were doing to teach vocabulary to their students.
Teaching second grade was my favorite time because these students were moving through learning to read and for the most part were grasping decoding and blending and are able to apply those skills to reading and comprehending more challenging texts. Developmentally, students in second grade are working with skills they learned in first grade and preparing to apply those skills to content they will learn in 3 grade when teachers’ focus transitions to instruction that has students reading to learn and focusing more on comprehension. Third grade is also when students in Texas begin to take standardized test, so second grade is a good grade to have students practice using skills that will become more challenging when teachers’ focus changes.
In second grade students need to know how to use print and digital resources, use context to determine the meaning of words that are unfamiliar, identify the meaning of and use words with affixes and explain the meaning and uses of synonyms, antonyms, idioms, and homographs as well as respond to text using new vocabulary when it is appropriate. I wanted to understand how vocabulary should be taught to help students achieve these expectations.
I read studies like the one that Lynn Cohen and Katherine Bynes (2007) a professor and a classroom teacher respectively conducted. Their action research was conducted to understand which instructional procedures for teaching vocabulary support of third grade bilingual and monolingual students’ use of literacy. Their research compared two instructional approaches. One that used read-aloud trade books that had targeted vocabulary and opportunities for daily direct word learning strategies and the other was a traditional definitional approach. Their findings showed that helping students develop strong vocabulary requires more than them looking up words in the dictionary. Another article I found informative focused on the types of children I taught. Lovelace and Stewart (2009) examined the effects of systematic vocabulary instruction techniques with African American 2nd grade children with below average vocabulary skills and also to examine the role of book type in the retaining novel vocabulary words. The study took a look at the use of multicultural books on word knowledge of these children. This study resulted in those students gaining word knowledge and maintaining at least two weeks after the introduction of those new words. These findings show that there is a potential impact of vocabulary instruction for facilitating vocabulary development with these children, but that the book choice did not matter as much as the robust instruction.
A thought emerged; what would happen if I was intentional with the way I taught vocabulary? What if, I thoughtfully choose words, planned how and when they were taught and created opportunities for students to use those new words in their reading, writing, listening and speaking? What would happen if I created opportunities for students to revisit words that they were exposed to previously and helped them connect those words to other thoughts, topics, and ideas? What does robust vocabulary instruction look like? My dissertation topic was born from these thoughts. My research has taken on a life of its own and I am excited by what I have learned. I began to share what I was learning with other teachers, but I also noticed that there were some educator who were already teaching vocabulary and that was evident because their students where using new words. Not only understanding them when reading, but also in their conversations and in writing. I want to study teachers’ thoughts, ideas, and practices around teaching vocabulary. I have chosen to do my study with second grade teachers because I believe that teaching vocabulary early and effectively can prevent and/or correct the knowledge gaps that some children may come to school with.
I have always worked in the public school setting and with students from low income areas and as I studied and read more, I understood that some students may come to school with achievement gaps so it is very important for teachers to be intentional with their classroom instruction and especially with vocabulary instruction because there is a direct link to comprehension of increasingly challenging text. The gap that some students come to school with is disheartening especially when I think about the link between early vocabulary knowledge and early reading achievement (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998; Berne & Blackowicz, 2009).
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts,
What really is equity in education? It's been on my mind and I am sure I am not alone. This pandemic and our new norm have brought this back to the forefront again for me. We know and have discussed the word gap, the knowledge gap or whatever you choose to call it. We talk about schools in low income areas not having enough resources to effectively educate children who are already grade levels behind their peers. We have even come up with a few ideas to help level the playing field so to speak., but this pandemic has exposed some real inequalities to the world. My mind is in deep thought and I am seeking to answer the question: "What can I do to level the playing field?"
Vocabulary Instruction: A Glimpse into the Planning of a Mini Lesson
Vocabulary instruction is teaching children word meaning and usage of words for reading, writing, listening, thinking and speaking. Effective teaching of vocabulary has children being exposed to new, rich, and robust vocabulary words, understanding how to find the meaning of those words, and using those new words in their reading, writing, and speaking. Research says there is not one specific way to teach vocabulary, there are various ways to do so. Teaching vocabulary should have ways for students to have multiple meaningful exposures with unfamiliar words by being intentional with teaching new words, helping students gain word consciousness by having them understand words parts, the contexts words are used in, and having them read deeply and widely in texts that expose they to these words. Understanding the meaning of new words in context helps with comprehension. Choosing the ideal words to focus on when teaching is very important and can have a very big impact on how well new words are retained and used later. It is ideal that students acquire new words in their reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Planning a Lesson
When planning a mini lesson using a mentor text, consider the vocabulary, ideas, and skills you want to teach. As I am planning my mini lesson I pre-read the book, I and consider the teaching points I can make to decide the direction I will go when highlighting and choosing words for students to practice understanding word meanings with. A good narrative text would have several “rich and robust” (Bringing words to life) words for students to be exposed to and will have a well-developed story structure. Because of research I have read, I suggest choosing no more than 3 to 5 words to highlight. I would possibly consider as many as 7 words if the students are older and the mentor text that I use has some words in it that students would need to know in order to comprehend and follow the literary structure of the story. I would consider highlighting words that would help with understanding the theme, story structure, and/or any words that would help me understand and explain a characters feelings, actions, or behaviors as well as those tier 2 (high frequency, multiple meaning words) and tier 3 (low frequency, content specific) words students can benefit from learning. In my planning, I would also consider whether I would take time to focus on the words as I am introducing the book or whether I would discuss the words as I come to them in the text. Here is a peek into the planning of a vocabulary lesson with the mentor text “The Name Jar”.
I am preparing a mini lesson with a focus on vocabulary using the mentor text “The Name Jar” written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi. The story is about a girl named Unhei who has moved from Korea to America and is attending an American school for the first time. Unhei, is unsure about telling her American classmates her name because children on the bus ride to school are having trouble pronouncing it. The theme of the story centers on your name being your identity. I will prepare for several reads of the book because there are various teaching points that can be taken from it. On the first day of the read, I choose to highlight the words fingered, pronounced, souvenir, and blush. As I pre-read, I notice words that are from the Korean culture and other tier 2 words like complained that I choose not to highlight for students before reading the book aloud because they don’t necessarily help with the comprehension of the text or with understanding the theme and not understanding them will not get in the way of students enjoyment of the reading. I chose intentionally not to highlight the Korean words because the author knew that these words might be words that students would not understand and chose to give context clues, whether by defining it or by restating it. I will however, explain that they are examples of using context clues as I think aloud when reading aloud to the students by giving the meaning of other tier 2 words on the fly, by giving a quick synonym of the word and moving on with the story because they help with understanding the theme but may be known by most of the students.
Discussing the Standards and Delivery
I will focus on ELAR TEKS 3.3B and 3.3C states: use context within and beyond the sentence to determine the relevant meaning of an unknown word and determine the meaning of and use affixes to determine the meaning of unknown words. I will use Marzano’s 6 Steps to help students understand the meaning of these words because as I have stated previously, I understand that it takes multiple meaningful exposures to new words for them to stick. This will be done over several days. Here are Marzano’s 6 steps:
On day one of my reading, I will introduce the words fingered, pronounced, souvenir, and blush before reading and give students a kid friendly definition of each word. I want to spark interest in the story so, once I tell students what each word means, I will ask them to think about what they think the story will be about based on those words and the title of the story and share that with their elbow partner. This story is a powerful one about the importance of a name so I will also mention to the children that names sometimes have meaning. Once I began reading I will stop at salient parts of the story to either think aloud or to ask questions about what is happening. I will also use the illustrations to help with comprehension. When I come to the words that I have introduced students to, I will have them restate the meaning of those words. Steps 3-6 of Marzano’s will be completed after the completion of the reading. Because I am focusing on vocabulary, I will alter my voice when coming to words and phrases that help with meaning of the words I am working on, and think aloud how context clues work. Here is an example:
“As she ran her fingers along the grooves and ridges of the Korean characters, she pictured her grandmother’s smile.” This sentences helps visualize what the word fingered means. “But her face still felt red” to help students get a picture of what blush means.
I mentioned that I will discuss context clues and what they mean when I come to them. One example of this is the word kimchi the text tells students that it is a Korean-style spicy pickled cabbage. I will explain to the students that this is an example of how an author would use a definition to tell the meaning of some words.
After the first read, students will both draw and write. I want them to use the response skills strand to tell me something about the story using the words so, students will draw a picture of what the word means and then they will create a sentence with the word. The sentence has to tell something from the story.
Before the second read of the book, I will write the words fingered and pronounced on the whiteboard or chart paper and have them focus on the inflectional ending –ed. We will then talk about how the ending changes the meaning of those words and at the end of that read students will complete a graphic organizer that has them working with the words at a deeper level. They will have to list a synonym, an antonym, an example and a non-example for each word.
Before the third read I will allow students to discuss what they know about each word. This is the last time we will focus on vocabulary for this book. My focus will tune to the theme. The fun of step six will involve several words students have learned over the semester with games like charades.
Vocabulary instruction, when intentional, explicit, and well planned is a good way to build students word knowledge. Knowing the meaning of words helps with comprehension. The evidence of vocabulary acquisition is having students use new words in reading, writing and speaking. As educators, we can help children learn new words if we plan opportunities for them to be exposed to new words. I have discussed one way that can be done. There are lots of other ways for vocabulary instruction to happen. We need to remember that research says that students need multiple, meaningful exposures to the words you want them to learn. We can affect this through conversations, read-alouds, or videos. The idea is that we do it and often.
Thank you for reading
As a classroom teacher, I noticed that although my students were improving academically there was one area where even my highest achieving students were struggling; that area was vocabulary. My students were not scoring well. When I noticed that, knew there was something that I needed to do. That is when I began to research ways to improve my student’s vocabulary scores which meant that I needed to improve the way that I taught vocabulary. That is when I realized that I wasn’t really teaching it at all. I started to be more intentional when planning vocabulary instruction and focused on it every day as a routine. The scores improved, a little and students even retained and transferred the meaning of some of the words they learned. They still were not using the words in their own writing and speaking but that was another goal.
I found that reading aloud books — books that caught my attention, mostly narratives— gave me a way to introduce words to the students that they otherwise would never hear. “Read-aloud expose children to a multitude of new words.” (McKenzie, 2014) I would talk about the words before I read the book and sometimes while I was reading. I did this, it worked the students loved it and would want to read the books that I had read to them again and again, and again.
When I became an instructional specialist I remembered how my students loved to hear me read and found that using the read-aloud was a good way to teach a mini lesson to any child. That was when I decided to research how many different skills I could teach using it. I realized that I was on the right track when using the read-aloud to help with vocabulary instruction and that there was a way to introduce phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, and fluency. I can take those mini lessons and extend them into an activity or a simple anchor chart to help student remember the skills induced with the story I have read to them. This idea (the read-aloud) is especially useful to teachers when they take the time to model their thinking as they read the text. I used a good read-aloud as a mentor text to model the teaching ideas I used as a classroom teacher.
I am now a literacy coach at Region 10 Education Service Center. I work with more teachers in various school districts. Not only do I recommend the read-aloud to my teachers as a good way to increase student’s exposure to rich and robust tier 2 words, I also recommend other ways and times in the school day that teachers can sneak in extra exposures to those words. I recommend activities like: the word of the day, rubrics and check list to gauge the students “word consciousness”, vocabulary notebooks for students to see the relationships words have with content area literacy, and even inserting a quick vocabulary lesson during your guided reading (small group instruction).
I am a doctoral candidate and for the purposes of my research topic I am going back to my first love, vocabulary instruction. “Vocabulary development is one of the top areas of focus for a child to learn to read and a central goal for primary grade students.” (McKenzie, 2014) I am now researching ways to implement explicit vocabulary instruction with the use of the read-aloud as a tool along with graphic organizer, anchor charts, and other ways to help students develop knowledge of words. “Vocabulary development is dependent on vocabulary knowledge.” (McKenzie, 2014) I believe that this will build word consciousness in students and that students will learn to read, write, and speak the vocabulary words they have learned.
Thank you for reading.
McKenzie, Ellen. "Vocabulary Development Using Visual Displays: Visual Displays Can support Vocabulary Development in Unique and Creative Ways.” Dimension of Early Childhood Vol 42.No 2 (2014): 12-17. Print.
Here is my synopsis of the article: Fisher, Douglas et al. "Interactive Read-Alouds: Is There a Common Set Of Implementation Practices?” The Reading Teacher 58.1 (2004): 8-17. Web.
The article was written about a study done on 25 expert teachers doing read-alouds with their students. The article showed seven things expert teachers consistently did when reading aloud to students. Today I want to write about those seven things expert teachers did to implement their read-alouds to students. The expert teachers chose books that were appropriate. They made sure the purpose for reading was clearly stated. These teachers were animated and expressive when reading. They stopped to ask questions. They were also able to make connections for independent reading and writing. Here are each of the components explained.
The books selected for the read-aloud were purposefully chosen. The expert teachers took student interest, age appropriateness, and content into account when selections were made. They made sure to include books with rich vocabulary to further the impact of these read-alouds.
Preview and Practice:
The expert teacher read through the books they selected. While reading they practiced stopping points to model fluent reading for making stopping for questions a natural transition during reading. They were able to also stop to discuss difficult vocabulary that might otherwise mess up the flow of the story because students stop comprehending when they don't know or are unsure of the meaning of the word or words. These teachers also stopped to let students write those words in a vocabulary journal. The expert teachers knew when, where, and how to add animation and expression because of this pre-reading.
Clear Purpose Established:
Beginning with the book's introduction, the expert teachers clearly stated and restated their purpose for reading the selected book. It was very clear what the purpose for reading would be. The expert teachers used some of their planned stopping points to restate the purpose. These teachers also had anchor charts, word walls, or areas in their room that had evidence of the skill being previously taught and made sure to help the student focus on the purpose by referring to the charts or areas as well.
Fluent Reading Modeled:
It was very evident that the teachers had followed step two (read the book beforehand) because they were able to fluently read the books to the students. Things like, mispronunciations were taken care of by this pre-reading. The flow of the story is flawless with practice and students get the full benefit of the read-aloud when the educator is prepared. Students also learned what fluent reading looked and sounded like.
Animation and Expression:
Each of the other components of effective interactive read-alouds need to be present for this component to have maximum effect. It is hard to measure animation and expression but when a teacher is prepared--by having pre-read the book--he or she knows when and what types of animations and expressions will bring home the purpose. You can show expression and animation during reading, like lowering or raising your voice with the correct intonation this helps to keep students engaged with the text being read aloud.
Discussing the Text:
This is a strategy to be completed before, during, and after the read-aloud to help students interact with the text. The article states that the expert teachers used a balance of efferent and aesthetic questions - efferent meaning, about details from the text and aesthetic meaning, making the text connect to the students' lives. Modeling good questions before, during, and after a read-aloud is a good way to show students how to ask themselves questions when they read. As teachers prepare for the read-aloud getting a good balance of these questions is a good way to reinforce the skill of questioning.
Independent Reading and Writing:
The expert teachers where able to connect what they had read to the students independent reading and writing time. They used ideas like, providing time for student to write in their journal about their favorite parts of the story, or creating an alternate ending to the story they heard. Students were also able to revisit vocabulary words and ideas that were written down during the reading. Some students were given independent reading time to read books that had the same or similar topics or themes. Some other students were also given the option to research other ideas related to the topic or purpose the expert teacher gave for the read-aloud.
To ensure that each of these components are effectively completed the article mentions that the expert teacher did things like place post-it notes with key questions, vocabulary words or ideas in the book where a reminder was needed.
The article ended with some questions for further research that kind of caught my attention as something to explore further. The questions were:
Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave me a comment.
I continue reading about skills and strategies educators can model while conducting a read-aloud. In my opinion, the read-aloud is something that needs to be revisited as a tool that can be used as a part of the gradual release model to help students see an exemplar of the skill you are teaching. There are so many ways that the read-aloud can be used to model lessons for children in a safe and engaging way. This time I will focus on interactive read-aloud with non-fiction text. More specifically, the think-aloud a teacher can do while conducted a read-aloud. The think-aloud used during modeling is a good way to help students learn how to think about their thinking (meta-cognition) when they are reading informational and narrative texts. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on the informational text.
I read an article written by Erin L. McClure and Susan King Fullerton titled: "Instructional Interactions: Supporting Students' Reading Development Through Interactive Read-Aloud of Informational Texts. In this article I saw a pattern of what good teachers do consistently when conducting a read-aloud and how they are able to model their thinking and thus are able to teach their students how to think for themselves when reading an informational text. To paraphrase the authors, "the goals of an interactive read-aloud is to expose students to a variety of text, model fluent reading and meaning making strategies, encourage communication to facilitate understanding, lift the level of student thinking, and demonstrate behaviors students will be able to use independently in texts." In my reading I am finding that the interactive read-aloud is a good tool to use with students of varied age levels to model the thinking process of good readers in a safe way.
As I have stated before, when wanting to conduct a read-aloud there are some things to take into consideration for those read-aloud to have the maximum benefit for the students. You would want to...
During your read-aloud, you will model your thinking, focus on key ideas and vocabulary you want to highlight, and stop periodically for student to have the opportunity to interact with the text. (consider these stopping points when you are planning) It’s important to establish routines and have a structure to make your classroom a place where students feel comfortable enough to engage with the text, share their thoughts, and participate in conversations about the text. Your goal is to begin to allow your students to engage in whole group conversations about informational texts. Rosenblatt (2013) said: "textual interpretation is socially situated as readers transact with the text by relying on their unique experiences, which mediates the construction of meaning." Basically, each student can learn and share information when they spent time sharing (interacting) with the text. Students are developing their understanding by listening to you conduct a think-aloud, their classmate's thought and sharing their own.
The idea of the read-aloud/think-aloud is that you as the educator have the opportunity to co-construct meaning with your students by using the gradual release of responsibility. (model, shared practice, practice with a partner or small group, and sharing with the whole group and working independently) The read-aloud is a good scaffold for creating a safe place for students to apply their thoughts about the texts they are reading. Using the read-aloud is an aid to cultivate students independent reading.
Thanks for reading...
McClure, Erin L., and Susan King Fullerton. "Instructional Interactions: Supporting
Students’ Reading Development Through Interactive Read-Alouds of
Informational Texts". The Reading Teacher (2017): n. page. Web.
This week’s blog is a revisit of a post I made in 2016. I read: Reading Literature in Elementary Classrooms by Kathy Short. Kathy argues that it is possible to create practices of literary reading that support children's interests in reading processes, enjoyment in personal reading, and engagement in critical inquiry about the representations and themes literature presents." I do agree with her but it will take a lot of work to make this wide stream knowledge,
I remember reading in school as having two parts; reading for a grade and reading for fun and both of those did not happen at the same time for me. I enjoyed reading (still do) but still managed to get into trouble in the 5th grade for daydreaming while watching a bird in a tree outside of the window. Short suggests ways of bringing all aspects of reading together to engage the whole child. I do believe that would have helped me cut down some of my lack of focus. As I reflect on this post and think about my work with teachers. As a classroom teacher, I would complete a read aloud with my students, reinforce a reading skill and put the book out for them to enjoy on their own. Often times most of the students could only enjoy the pictures which is fine but not as effective as it could have been. I read of one teacher who took his read alouds, made shared readings out of them and taught spelling patterns with the books before releasing them for his students to enjoy. I like the idea, it's rigorous, it's engaging, and a fun way to step away from the Basel driven normal classroom structure. This idea also increases reading volume and Richard Allington states that is a contributing factor to improved reading in students. Not only could a teacher take literature (fiction or non-fiction) and make it a shared reading, educators can conduct repeated reading of the same text and target a new or routine skill. This would allow students to enjoy a story that is familiar and at the same time, the teacher can think aloud to show his or her students how to think their way through a comprehension skill. Our newly revised Texas State Standards (TEKS) are designed in a way that really makes it easy to design instruction this way.
My reading also lead me to find out more about having students read and respond to literature as well as ask and answer questions of each other both orally and in written form. This gives students the opportunity to experience reading in various different ways. Quoting Kathy Short again: Reading and responding to literature as problem-posing as well as problem solving, provides a critical frame through which multiple voices and perspectives can contribute to inquiry about one’s self and the world." (Short page 50) When considering children and their reading backpacks (the skills they come to us with) some students, especially those who come from poorer backgrounds with limited experiences, we have to know that they may have oral language related to situations that they deal with daily, like family letters, games on cell phones, bills and bill collector conversations as well as environmental print which is as good of a place to start as any. Student’s responses to literature may begin with picture representations but again they are able to respond to reading and share their thoughts with others. The idea is that we find places in the curriculum that invite children to make meaning of the texts we read to them and text they read for themselves. We want students to engage with the literature we expose them to, make connections with that literature, and to think about it, speak about it, and write about it. .
Reading Literature in the Elementary Classrooms is an article in the Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature written by Kathy Short.
Thank you for reading,
Pearl Garden is a doctoral candidate at Texas A&M- Commerce. Follow along as she drops "pearls' of literacy and chronicles her pursuit of her Ed. D in Supervision-Curriculum and Instruction- Elementary Education. Just know that these are the ramblings of a doc student and a lot of what you read is a first draft and will go through some rewrites.