Thursday, June 13, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 1 - What's the Big Deal about Vocabulary Instruction?

It's finally here!  We're kicking off the start of our summer book study and I will be your lovely host for Chapter 1: What's the Big Deal about Vocabulary Instruction?  This is a long post, but lots of fun pics and videos included, :o) so please forgive me now.  I wanted to make sure I got the goods for those of y'all who are still waiting on the book to arrive.  Don't forget you can also read a free online preview (the whole book, lol) at the publisher's website!  As you read you will notice that a lot of my thoughts are in italics next to what the book says.

Let us begin...

Chapter 1 discusses the importance of good vocabulary instruction in classrooms, especially with at risk kids (a good portion of my kiddos).  The authors connect the instructional strategies to the Common Core standards: Reading, Writing, Language, and Speaking and Listening.  No matter what grade you teach, all of these standards are hit ACROSS GRADE LEVELS!  Love that!  They also give you key components for your vocabulary instruction and discuss the positive results of a six-step instructional plan.

Key Components: "Because the old method just aint cuttin' it"
  • Some words are more important to teach than others - Tier 1 (words they know coming in to school), Tier 2 (high frequency words that you will use all day/for any subject), Tier 3 (academic vocabulary).  Base most of your instruction on Tier 2 words as Tier 3 words you will teach in context.
  • Students have to learn words at more than one level - Did anyone else think of Marzano's scale when you read this?! LOL
  • Students learn words when they experience them multiple times - One study said 6 was the magic number and another said 12.  I feel like you could just go with 9 and call it a day but I'm going to go with 12 just to be on the safe side ;o)  After you start thinking about it, twelve is not a lot in the span of a week (or however long your vocabulary units of study are) so it shouldn't be too hard to accomplish.
  • Asking students to look up words in the dictionary and write the definition does NOT help them learn words - over 60% of student created sentences from dictionary definitions didn't make sense.  When introducing your vocabulary words, use kid friendly language!
  • When students learn words, they build patterns and networks of meaning called "word schemas" - They use synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, and/or root words to break down an unfamiliar word.  The students with sparse word schema are going to have a more difficult time inferring the context.  In our class we create a different prefix/suffix note card each week.  The kids learn a new affix and its meaning, come up with examples and create a visual on the front that would help them remember the meaning.  I pick one to put up on our intermediate version of a Word Wall.
  • Students can learn some words through the use of wide reading - Use different types of text, trade books, periodicals, direct instruction, etc.!
  • Students can learn some words through rich conversation with adults and peers - Just think about how many times your students say something and you know it was straight from their parent's mouth!  The majority of this section blew my mind!  Children's literature contains two times as many rare words compared to a conversation between two college educated adults and more than all adult conversation except courtroom testimony!  The example from The Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon was amazing supporting evidence - "The Creams were swamped with all kinds of remedies from psychologists, allergists, herbalists, nutritionists, psychics, an old medicine man, a guru, and even a veterinarian.  Each so-called cure only added to poor Camilla's strange appearance until it was hard to even recognize her."  Check out all those terrific words!
I found this video of Sean Astin reading it aloud as part of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation  program Book Pals, a program where actors read children's literature to help motivate our students.
  • Students can learn some words through word play - Let them learn and play with words through multisensory activities.  Our learning cubes, Vocabulary Dance Out, and so many other great resources that I will be sharing later instantly come to mind!
  • Students can learn some words by direct instruction - Marzano's Six Step Instructional Program.

    Ideas for this program (click on the images for more information):

    Learning Cubes

Vocabulary Notebooks
    Wordbooks app for iPad or iPhone
    *I really like this app because you can create your own vocab book and it will find the definition for you!  If you don't like what it has to say, type in your own definition.  It also has a matching/quiz type card game.  Great way for students to review at any time and... IT'S FREE*
  • Most students need word-learning strategies to become independent readers - Context clues and morphology (students find a key to unlock the meanings of longer, multisyllabic words).

 Things that made me say "Oh my gosh!" and my thoughts:
  • I loved how she opened the chapter with the example of Brenda learning to read Spanish fluently but having NO idea what she was reading.  I could instantly think of at least six students who do this!  Anyone else???
  • Teachers use simpler words to help a student understand (especially with at risk kids)... I totally do this sometimes :o(  I will say that I have tried to be better about saying both ("What is your hypothesis, your guess, for this experiment?") especially if I'm talking to my ELL's or SLD students.
  • I feel like that piece on children's literature needs to be mentioned again!  It just goes to show, and prove, that trade books are essential in the classroom!  Our textbooks are only written at our specific grade level, whereas their literature is giving them a wide range and full scope.  LOVE IT!
I'm so excited for this book!  I feel like it has so much information and goodies (and that was just in the introductory chapter) that I can't wait to see what else it has in store for us!  Don't forget to link up your thoughts on Chapter 1 below and if you could, after your name, please put what grade you teach so that other primary or intermediate teachers can locate your thoughts and ideas as well. Come back next Thursday when Raye from The Caffeinated Teacher and Misty from Think, Wonder, & Teach will be our wonderful hosts for Chapter 2: Classrooms that Foster Word Confidence!


  1. Thanks for sharing the Wordbooks App - I'll have to check that out! Great book so far - already on to Chapter 2. :-)

    From Mrs. Allen’s Teaching Files

  2. This was a great chapter...and I had a long post becuase of it too! So much MEAT to dig into! :) It's crazy how well aligned this is to CCSS objectives! :0) As a Florida public school teacher it is a definate must read! I love how you tied Marzano into your reflections as well! :) Thanks for sharing this book with me! :) I'll be an even better teacher because of it! ;)

  3. I try and write a post tomorrow about chapter 1. This book is phenomenal!!!!!! I have already read the WHOLE book!!! :)


  4. I've been so busy that I haven't had time to read but I feel as though I did thanks to your summary! The blogger book studies are awesome this summer! Thanks so much for sharing. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  5. Thanks so much for hosting this book study! I am joining in late, but so glad I followed through:) The wheels are already spinning on how I will be changing my instruction. It is a must read!

    The Resourceful Apple

  6. I saw your book study as I was blog hoppin and decided to get the book yesterday. I ordered it for my Kindle and started chapter one last night. I had a hard time putting it down, but knew I needed time to digest and reflect on how I teach vocabulary. My goal this year is to focus on vocabulary because my school is the #1 poverty school in our district and my class is 75% ELL. When I read aloud and they ask questions about a word, in my mind I say, "They should know that." But, they don't. I take for granted what I came to school knowing and what they came to school knowing. I can't wait to delve deeper into this book.

  7. I enjoyed reading the book and found your detailed summary helpful. I would love to start using the app you mentioned however, I can't seem to find that exact one in the iTunes Store. Can you post a link to it?

  8. Great summary of the chapter. I can't wait to start using Nerd Words this year.
    Quick question, I can't seem to find the WordBooks app. I bought one called WordBooks but it is not the same and the one mentioned above. Can you provide some more details about the app so I can find it?