Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vocabulary and Comprehension

Do you have students who are able to read every word on a page yet struggle to answer questions about what they have just read? I do. These kids are fluent readers with no issues decoding the words on a page. They are not showing up as red flags on any reading screeners we have administered yet don't understand what they just read. They are the ones in jeopardy of not passing the state reading test this spring. One of the missing pieces for some of these students may be in the area of vocabulary knowledge. Here are some great books on the topic of vocabulary as it relates to comprehension.
This one is a very practical look at the subject:

This one is great in relating the research done on the topic: This is my favorite and is a good balance of research and practice: So what are the experts saying about vocabulary acquisition? For one, we have to learn LOTS of new words! This means lots of multiple exposures to words, what they mean and how to use them.

We learn words related to basal stories we are reading during whole group reading. My students are given the word and a child friendly definition. They must draw the "meaningful illustration" to match the defintion. This is research put into practice. Research indicates that a visualization of a word will help them recall it. We call the pictures the "glue" that cements the word into the mind!

These word cards are then manipulated a lot during that week. Students keep them in vocabulary baggies for the week and take them out to match definitions and then to use them. Lots of sorting goes on here: we can sort them by parts of speech, by number of syllables, into abc order, etc. We always go back to meaning though. Lots of examples of usage...lots of discussion.

At the end of the week, these words are glued with the word and definition
matching onto a piece of lined paper and then this page is added to their three pronged vocabulary notebook. At the end of the year they will go home with all these words that they learned this year.

Along with the vocabulary notebooks, we also are always collecting words.
We do it on this big chart which stays up. As I read books aloud to students, we pause when we get to a "pizzazzy" word. I give them a kid friendly definition and it gets posted to the poster on a sticky note.
This poster is hard to see here but it is boxed for the letters of the alphabet. Kids are great about telling me "We should add that to the pizzazzy word chart!" when we get to a good word.
Right beside this poster is our vocabulary strategy poster. These are strategies that I took from Jan Richardson's Next Step in Guided Reading book.
Finally, we also collect words into our reading journals in our small group guided reading clubs. Again, the word and child friendly definition is inserted. They draw lines to separate the words they collect from different stories they are reading with me.
I love the way the kids then try to use these words as they write during writer's workshop. You will also be surprised at how excited some get when they run across one of these words in another story. So, how do you handle teaching vocabualry in your classroom. Please share!!


  1. Wonderful ideas! I love your blog....this vocab work is going into place in my class after spring break! What does your vocab strategies poster say? Thanks!

  2. I love your ideas! Thanks for sharing them! I will be focusing a lot more time on vocabulary instruction next year!

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    Spotted in Second Grade