Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Word Posters, Word Maps, Word Sorts, Word Chains....word, words, words....

I just finished reading Chapter 7: “Expanding Student’s Knowledge of Words”, from Gail E. Tompkins’ book Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach, fifth edition. I really enjoyed reading this chapter. I know you’ll all think I’m a huge dork for saying this (I already know I am), but I LOVE vocabulary. I have a vivid memory of my fifth grade class and how excited my teacher was about getting us to use new words, making vocabulary into games as opposed to tests, and giving us a word a day to use in our writing. I think that year impacted me in a very positive manner. I am an English major; therefore, I think I’ve been writing about a paper a week for the past 5 years…crazy. But, it has really deepened my appreciation for words, and I am permanently connected to my thesaurus! Lol, I even had my boyfriend buy me a new one for Valentine’s Day! Lame, I know…But, I really do believe that my ability to use and understand vocabulary has positively impacted my reading abilities, and my passion for reading and writing. I really want my future students to feel this excitement as well!

When I finished reading this chapter, I came away with a few main ideas. I feel that instilling a sense of excitement and fun into a vocabulary lesson is an essential element of a successful language arts curriculum. If students are able to see the joy in learning new vocabulary and using new and exciting words, then they may be motivated to push the extra mile, and perform the work that is necessary in developing a larger vocabulary.

I also came away from this reading with a heightened enthusiasm for…wait for it…READING! Yes, I am incredibly enthusiastic and READY to incorporate NUMEROUS opportunities for students to read throughout the entire school day. Whether it’s through the use of read-alouds, or independent reading, my future students will be AVID readers. One particular reading opportunity I really like is: Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). In this format, students are able to choose a book they are interested in and excited about reading. They aren’t being forced to read a textbook, or something boring. This is highly motivating! I remember my time spent silent reading in elementary school; I loved it. I will definitely make sure to have comfortable cushions, chairs, couches, and what not in a cozy literacy corner in my future classroom!

Reading is incredibly important in order for students to learn new words and enhance their reading abilities. Tompkins stated, explicitly, “the amount of time students spend reading independently is the best predictor of vocabulary growth between second and fifth grades” (p. 226). That being said, if we’re going to have our students go off on their own to read independently, then it is our jobs as teachers to provide the class with tools necessary to help them understand and learn the words they are reading.

There are a lot of strategies throughout this entire chapter that detail ways teachers can model and scaffold strategies for students to utilize when they come across an unfamiliar word. A few of these are as follows:

  • Context clues
  • Analyze word parts
  • Check a dictionary
  • Look at the illustrations
  • Use logic
  • Look at the root words/affixes

These strategies are ALL helpful and the more students have under their belt the better prepared they will be when presented with unfamiliar vocabulary.

Finally, I just want to say that it is important, as teachers, to push our students. We have to give them those tier 2 and tier 3 words. They can handle it.

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