Friday, July 10, 2015

Kirti on Vocabulary

Traditional science lessons have often begun with teachers presenting students with science vocabulary words and asking them to write the words, find the definitions in a dictionary or the glossary of the textbook, match the words to definitions, or use the words in a sentence. In this model of instruction, words are often presented in isolation and students are tested on the words alone, without application to concepts.

Just as really mechanics can pull out the right tools to make a engine even more powerful, writers can pull out the right tools at the right time to make good writing. One tool that can power up writing is a strong vocabulary.

Within student learning throughout the primary years program, students acquire and apply a set of trans disciplinary skills: social skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills, research skills and self-management skills. As a teacher I had to always incorporate these skills for any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom. I used to always wonder and look for strategies for different content area and this article

(Research on vocabulary instruction in the content areas: Implications for struggling readers) offers suggestions for providing effective vocabulary instructions in particular subject areas including mathematics, social studies and science for students reading below grade level.

Students come across concepts represented by many unfamiliar terms that many a times are not integrated across their content areas. As Baumann and Kameenui, have explained it so well “We know too much to say we know too little, and we know too little to say that we know enough. Indeed, language is difficult to put into words”

I totally agree that a critical aspect of students’ difficulty in understanding text in their content area is due to lack of sufficient vocabulary knowledge. And as a teacher, I frequently and consistently try to teach vocabulary but my efforts are mostly in vain. As now, I realize I need to work with different strategies in different content areas. In this article with Carr investigations I found that students learnt and retained contents vocabulary, when they learnt how to self select important terms in a passage, make personal connections with the term, and analyze their progress. In content area reading, students need a thorough understanding of vocabulary because the words are labels for important concepts. Many words have both a common meaning plus a specialized meaning for a particular subject area. Such coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase can be challenging for a student, the teacher needs to address them in content area instructions.

Studies indicate that clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt instructions positively impacts the learning or developing of vocabulary skills. Several features characterize these instructions: integration, repetition and meaningful use.

Researchers have reported a relationship between success in reading mathematics and specific reading strategies, including knowledge of technical vocabulary. Monroe discussed four categories of mathematical terms: technical, sub-technical, general, and symbolic. Knowledge of these categories can help teachers understand the cognitive demands of students. Teachers need to make students aware of the different terms and how the mathematics content can change the meanings of the simplest of terms. Teachers should acknowledge the close relationship between conceptual understanding and the vocabulary knowledge. Students must be given the opportunities to confront, problem solving, and actively engaging in mathematics reading. Students should be able to apply their understandings and vocabulary in different language modes, such as in writing, speaking and in visual representations. After reading this article, it appears that the use of graphic organizers accompanied by in-depth discussion can effectively impact the mathematical vocabulary of the students.

Researchers recommend the frequent use of systematic drill and strategies that assists in remembering a pattern of letters, ideas or associations is an effective way to help students learn place vocabulary. They also recommend instructional strategies such as, pre-reading tasks, categorizing, and contextual approaches can work effectively with social studies.

Students often try to only memorize the terms and facts and completely ignore to understand the meaning of science concepts. Teachers take it for granted that students understand nontechnical words, such as component, consistent, exclude and interpret. Teachers need to pay attention to nontechnical words and try to determine vocabulary of the language and conceptual knowledge of their students. Science vocabulary instructions must be addressed in pre-reading activity, such as Possible Sentences and semantic mapping, where students have the opportunity to activate and build important background knowledge about science concepts and the terms associated with the concepts. Science vocabulary is also supported with the class discussion, structural analysis and repetition.

Some suggestions for struggling readers

· Provide opportunities to engage independent reading.

· Relate below grade level trade books to content area topics.

· Use contextual-based approaches.

· Encourage independent learning by allowing students to self-select terms to be studied.

· Teach key vocabulary explicitly.

· Provide opportunities for multiple exposures to key terms.

· Avoid drill and practice activities.

· Emphasize structural analysis when teaching vocabulary.

· Provide staff development training in effective vocabulary instruction.

Furthermore, whether you teach kindergarten or high school students, having a strategic plan for teaching vocabulary should be at the top of “must- do” list of a teacher. It is my duty as a teacher to bridge the gap between traditional educational practices and to create an opportunity that gives an expression, both creatively and intellectually.

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