From Fountas & Pinnell’s Literacy Beginnings: A Pre-Kindergarten Handbook & William Himmele’s The Language Rich Classroom
Vocabulary development is an essential part of a learner’s language development and there is no shortage of data showing how vocabulary acquisition varies based on socio-economic status. That is why it is essential that we establish routines for students to use new vocabulary in relevant (context driven) ways where they can hear words “again and again in sentences with examples they [can] see, touch and feel.” Read alouds are an excellent way to expand a child’s oral vocabulary; however, this can be accomplished in a verity of other contexts as well! Below are some effective (and easily integrated) best practices from the text Bringing Words to Life (Beck, et al) that promotes oral vocabulary development!
Artistically Representing the Words: Students choose a word(s) each week to artistically represent and display or keep in a folder…don’t forget to include the rich dialog that can take place throughout this process!
Word Wizard Wall: Select and post a robust word of the week and reward students for using the Word Wizard Words in oral and/or written language. You can give tokens/prizes to students or place stickers on a chart for each student who uses the word. In one classroom I observed, the Weekly Word Wizard (who received the most stickers) even gets to wear a wizard’s cape all day each Friday! This is a fantastic routine to support our students as we work with & develop content specific word walls in our classrooms, ensuring they are not just wallpaper!
Synonymous Tags (Himmele, 2009): Use academic language (non-content-specific “fancy” words), and then buffer it with a synonymous tag that makes the meaning clear to students. For example, say, “What are some ideas for categorizing your words? How can you make categories, or different groups?”
As we work with our students to increase their understanding & use of Tier 2 & Tier 3 vocabulary, it is essential that we maintain high standards. According to Krashen’s “input hypothesis” vocabulary exposure must be “slightly above the level of language acquisition for [our students] for them to acquire new terms (Himmele, 2009). Feel free to share some comments below and share some bite-sized best practices from your classroom that help to embed authentic & relevant vocabulary into meaningful contexts!