During my earlier years as a Literacy Coach, I had the opportunity to work closely with a Literacy Expert from Johns Hopkins University who created an impactful program, titled Student Team Literature. As a key part of my coaching role, I modeled the program’s vocabulary acquisition strategies and supported middle school teachers in implementing the program within their classrooms. Together, we observed students learn vocabulary words at a faster rate, use the vocabulary words in the correct context and adopt the words as parts of their everyday vocabularies. The below strategies for teaching vocabulary words are geared toward middle school students but could also be adopted at the high school level.
Resource Reference 1: Leslie Jones, Student Team Literature Curriculum, Johns Hopkins University, 2006-2015
Strategy Goal/Overview: The goal of the strategy is to help students create definitions for new words based on their prior knowledge and use of context clues. This strategy is implemented at the start of a lesson and can be used to introduce words that may be observed in literature or trade books. To introduce new vocabulary words found in a reading selections, teachers use a “call and response” approach encouraging students to use decoding strategies, Latin roots, suffixes and prefixes, and prior knowledge to “build” definitions and/or synonyms. No more than 5 words should be reviewed at a time with this strategy.
Timing: This strategy could be implemented in 15-25 minute timeframe.
Resources Needed: Chalk Board/ Dry Erase Board/ Projector/ Student Notebooks
Steps to Implementation:
Step 1: Read aloud the list of words in the order in which they appear.
Step 2: Reread the words and have students repeat each one after you. If students' decoding skills are below level, stress at this time the sounds of syllables.
Step 3: Ask students if they know the definitions of any of the words. Confirm and record correct definitions, or, in the case of multiple meaning words, identify definitions that match the context in which the words are used in the text.
Step 4: Ask students if they recognize parts of remaining unfamiliar words.
Step 5: Where all students are concerned, use this time to focus on identifying the meaning of any prefixes, suffixes or roots that are contained in unfamiliar words.
Step 6: Lead students to formulate definitions of remaining undefined words based upon the meanings of their roots and affixes.
Step 7: Provide definitions for any words left undefined.
Step 8: Reread the list again, in random order, and have students repeat each word after you.
Step 9: Point to the words in random order and without your assistance, have the students pronounce each one.
Step 10: Return to any words that students have difficulty pronouncing until you are satisfied that they can pronounce them correctly.
Resource Reference 2: Leslie Jones, Student Team Literature Curriculum, Johns Hopkins University, 2006-2015
Strategy Goal/Overview: The goal of meaningful sentences is to teach students how to use vocabulary in the correct context. In a meaningful sentence the writer embeds words, phrases, etc., that convey to the reader his/her knowledge of the meaning of a vocabulary word. Initially, students will need much modeling of the skill of writing meaningful sentences for each vocabulary word but gradually they will begin to master it. When students are ready to write meaningful sentences for key vocabulary words, meaningful sentence composition becomes a post-reading activity.
Timing: Class Period (45-90 minute block)
Resources Needed: Meaningful Sentence Graphic Organizers, Smart Board/White Board/Black Board, Meaningful Sentence Rubric
Steps to Implementation:
Step 1: Teach the concept before asking students to compose meaningful sentences for new words by:
(2) Can the key word be replaced only by synonyms?
Step 3. Use teacher-led, whole-class direct instruction in composing meaningful sentences, again using familiar words as key words.
Step 4. As you sense that students are beginning to understand the concept, begin to allow them to work in teams or partnerships before gradually moving them toward individual composition of meaningful sentences with familiar key words. Encourage teammates or partners to revise and polish their sentences before sharing them with the whole class.
Step 5. Once students have grasped the concept, follow the same process to lead them to compose meaningful sentences for unfamiliar words.