Improving vocabulary (and making it fun!)

Vocabulary is one of the 5 pillars of reading, and it might be the hardest to assess, develop, and monitor over time.

While students can grow as readers through decoding, their understanding and use of vocabulary can slow comprehension.

Beck, McKeown, and Kucan have described 3 Tiers of Vocabulary, which are highly informative and can guide the teaching of any speech/language therapist, reading teacher, or classroom teacher.

The 3 Tiers help us to look at and understand words, but they don’t always guide our teaching. The authors talk about context clues, and how it can be an overused strategy. At the very least, context clues should be explicit and planned. Just figuring that our students are “pulling” out information without guidance, is, well.. misguided.

When working with my younger students on vocabulary goals I like to target attributes.

When students can talk about functions, locations, parts, sounds, size, shape, color, I find that they develop more overall understanding of words. Later, we can use this information to shape comparing and contrasting skills (which also lay the foundation for comparing/contrasting from text!).

When a student knows the different attributes of an item, it makes it much simpler to be able to complete a venn diagram or to talk about similarities and differences.

This visual is a big help for asking questions to get through naming attributes for items. I use it a lot when starting out with some of my students as well as when giving reminders on “how” we talk about vocabulary.

Download it here..

This visual is also helpful for students who like to write and are more adept at naming attributes (instead of answering questions about them).

Download it here…

I Can Do Apps makes a really fun game called “Guess What?” that allows teachers and therapists to work on receptive understanding of attributes.

Like Hedbanz or Jeepers Peepers, this app gets students to organize clues so that they may guess an item. I like this aspect of synthesizing cues before working on students asking questions about their item. Formulating questions can be a challenge for some students, so the use of clues can be a helpful scaffold.

While a continual challenge, vocabulary growth is attainable for our students. Staying mindful of Tiers of vocabulary as well as working to establish strong foundations through comprehending and using attributes can help students on the course to more sophisticated vocabulary…

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