Increasing student vocabulary IS important…
Research shows time and again that the more vocabulary a student understands, the better they will be able to comprehend.
A Focus on Vocabulary states:
Indeed, one of the most enduring findings in reading research is the extent to which students’ vocabulary knowledge relates to their reading comprehension (e.g., Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Baumann, Kame‘enui, & Ash, 2003; Becker, 1977; Davis, 1942; Whipple, 1925). Most recently, the National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that comprehension development cannot be understood without a critical examination of the role played by vocabulary knowledge. –Fran Lehr, M.A., Lehr & Associates, Jean Osborn, M.Ed., Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert
Baker, Simmons and Kameenui from the University of Oregon also concluded that: Directly teaching word meanings does not adequately reduce the gap between students with poor versus rich vocabularies because of the size of the gap. It is crucial, therefore, that students also learn strategies for learning word meanings independently. (Vocabulary Acquisition: Synthesis of Research)
TASK: Improve vocabulary, and ability to figure out unknown words independently
PURPOSE: to help students increase their ability to comprehend text and be more successful across all contents
Instead of asking students to simply ‘look up words and write out their definitions’ or ‘memorize definitions and have a matching or M/C test to show they know them’, let’s engage them in lessons where they are manipulating words and learning how to break apart words in order to independently figure out unknown words.
Ways to digitalize vocabulary learning:
Create vocabulary videos:
The idea here is to engage students in more project-based tasks that, when done shows true evidence of understanding the words (and parts of those words) they are working with. VocabAhead has some great ideas on how to engage your students in the vocabulary building process.
Create Vocabulary Podcasts:
Once again, have students more engaged in vocabulary, including roots, prefixes, and suffixes by having them create podcasts about words. Then publish them using podbean.com or posterous.com and have other students subscribe, listen and comment on them. You can listen to some examples of vocabulary podcasts at the Princetown’s Review Vocab Minute.
Expose students to, and have them create visual representations of words:
Check out the Weboword website and see what I mean! Words come alive when students see them in action, and then create their own vocabulary visually! There are many web tools that students can use to create these visual definitions, or have them hand draw them, scan them, then publish using slideshare or docstoc.com.
The biggest ‘bang for your buck’ in vocabulary learning with older students is for them to be able to figure out unknown words by breaking them apart into their parts (prefix,root,suffix). Armed with this knowledge students can then go forth and figure out words they don’t know. Give students a prefix or suffix and have them create a mindmap of words that use that prefix/suffix. Check out my Web 2.0 Tools mindmap for different mindmap tools that are free and easy to use (my favorite is Mind42.com, but bubbl.us would also work well)
For more ideas checkout:
How the Internet can Help Kids Build their Vocabulary from Jim Moulton and Edutopia.