Vocabulary Acquisition

Emily Parham

What I've Learned:

1. Vocabulary is categorized into Tiers

There are three "tiers", or levels, of vocabulary. Tier 1 consists of commonly know words (ex. big, small, house, table, family). Tier 2 consists of high-frequency words that are seen across various contexts (ex. justify, explain, expand, predict, summarize). Tier 3 consists of low frequency words that are domain specific (ex. isotope, tectonic plates, mitosis, lithosphere).

2. The Old Methods are Out

Instruction of vocabulary in the past consisted of emphasis on individual words, with learning techniques based around memorization and weekly vocabulary tests. The tasks of searching for definitions, writing words in alphabetical order, and using them in sentences have been proven inadequate in teaching vocabulary. Researchers have determined that things have to go a lot deeper than those superficial tasks in order for students to be properly learning vocabulary.

3. There are Four Thing That Should Be Happening

Literary researchers Blachowicz and Fisher have identified four principals that they deem effective for vocabulary instruction. Teachers should make sure that their instruction is allowing students tackle all of these principals in order to properly learn and apply their vocabulary. These principals state that students should be:

  1. Actively involved in word learning
  2. Making personal connections with the vocabulary
  3. Immersed in vocabulary
  4. Consolidating meaning through multiple informational sources

4. Knowing Affixes and Root Words are Extremely Beneficial

Since words can have multiple meanings across different content areas, it is important for students to be able to break those words down into parts that can help them determine their meanings. Teaching the parts that make up words can give students the skills necessary to figure out what a word means when they are stuck despite the content area they are studying.

Applying This in My Content Area:

My content area is Reading and Language Arts. Vocabulary is very important to the foundation of the skills taught in this area, for these skills will carry you throughout your educational career. When vocabulary isn't taught effectively there are many issues that can occur in a students ability to perform across all content areas, with issues in comprehension being the most devastating one. I will use my new knowledge in vocabulary to...

  • Choose the most appropriate and important vocabulary for my students to focus on. I will use my newfound knowledge of the different tiers of vocabulary to do so. I plan to focus most of my instruction on the vocabulary that reside in Tier 2. Tier 2 vocabulary consist of words that are imperative for the comprehension of material no matter what content area is being studied, therefore making it very important that students are able to understand and apply their knowledge of these terms.
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  • Ensure that I am giving my students the tools necessary to fully understand the words they are presented with. Like stated above, knowing affixed and root words are extremely beneficial in vocabulary study. Being able to break down unfamiliar words into parts that they do know is a skill that all students should be able to do. The ability to do this not only allows for better understanding when reading, but also gives students the upper hand by allowing them to challenge themselves and tackle difficult Tier 3 words without hesitation. I plan to instill this ability into my students by teaching it in relation to words that they already know. Doing this ensures that they are able to make connections and see the relationships that exist between various words.
  • Create proper assignments and activities that immerse my students in vocabulary learning. I will focus a lot of my vocabulary instruction time on completing work in groups, giving assignments that require application and higher order thinking, and allowing activities that engage students in learning. These will vary from group centered word sorts, to making vocabulary cards with drawings, and even skits with students acting out different vocabulary terms. I will use these strategies to keep vocabulary learning fun and interactive, for students will be more likely to recall word meanings easily and succeed in vocabulary application when instruction is designed in this way.

Why is this Important?

I feel that approaching vocabulary acquisition in the ways that I listed above are important for various reasons. The diverse methods of teaching and approaching vocabulary that are highlighted in this flyer are based on the knowledge i've gained throughout this module. In Module 1 we learned a lot about ourselves as readers and literary students, but in Module 2 we have shifted our thinking and began to focus on benefits of text and vocabulary for the students we will teach. It is easy to see that vocabulary plays an important part in a students ability to comprehend material and succeed in school. Understanding and utilizing vocabulary sets the basis for success throughout various content areas. Without vocabulary knowledge and skill, students will have a hard time thriving in school. Proper foundational skills are the key to success in any classroom, and it is our job as teachers to ensure that students are exposed to and challenged by vocabulary acquisition on a daily basis.
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Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2016). Robust Vocabulary Learning. In Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work (4th ed., pp. 61-75). Pearson Education.

Harmon, J. M., & Wood, K. D. (2008, October). Content-Area Vocabulary: A Critical Key to Conceptual Learning. In Perspective. Retrieved February 3, 2016, from http://ohiorc.org/adlit/InPerspective/Issue/2008-10/Article/feature.aspx

Tyson, K. (2013, May 26). No Tears for Tiers: Common Core Tiered Vocabulary Made Simple. Retried February 3, 2016, from http://www.learningunlimitedllc.com/2013/05/tiered-vocabulary/