Thoughts on Vocabulary

As an ESL instructor, rarely do we have an entire class period that does not have time devoted to direct vocabulary instruction or guided practice. This emphasis on vocabulary acquisition is necessary for my students to comprehend text. Every student comes to school with a different sized word bank and varying levels of word knowledge. Through instruction, we can grow our students’ vocabulary base of known words. There are many strategies educators can use to help students learn content area language.

The first step is choosing words to teach. Our content area textbooks contain boxes of key words that we should focus our attention on. Since most of my classroom’s textbooks are designed for students whose first language is English, there are often additional words throughout each chapter that also require direct instruction. It is essential to select words that are important for understanding a reading selection or concept and words that are generally useful to know and likely to be often encountered in reading.

I frequently teach new vocabulary words through directive context and using the Talk Through technique. We can give students a rich understanding of new vocabulary by connecting with students’ lives to make complicated concepts within reach of our learners. Providing opportunities to encounter vocabulary words frequently and in more than one context is also essential for learning vocabulary (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2017). This could be accomplished through field trips, the use of different mediums, and by using a variety of practice exercises. The use of semantic gradients can help students distinguish the between the meanings of related words and help students (Wolfe, 2016). I find that these help my students become more imaginative in their writing and help them grow out of using tired words. Guiding students to classify and categorize vocabulary words helps students understand word relationships so that a new word becomes known.

References:
Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. (2017, February 13). Teaching Vocabulary. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/teaching-vocabulary

Wolfe, L. (2016, May 11). Using Semantic Gradients in the Classroom. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/community/semantic-gradients-and-the-common-core-standards/

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Change a Word / Change the Sentence

Language Skill/Content: Reading and writing – allows students to develop an understanding of parts of speech, syntax, semantics, synonyms, and antonyms.

Level: Novice to Advanced

Preparation Time: Minimal

Implementation Time: About ten minutes

Teaching Materials/Equipment: Paper

Procedures: Students and teacher sit in a circle at a table or move desks to create a circle. Can be done with small or large groups. Teacher asks students to write a sentence. Students pass their papers to the right, read the previous writer’s sentence, and rewrite the sentence changing one word. Once the papers have rotated all the way back to their original owner. The teacher or students can read their first and last sentences on their papers. Teachers can use this activity to assess their students’ understanding of parts of speech, syntax, semantics, synonyms, and antonyms.

Options: Lower-ability students may benefit from partnering with a higher-ability student, a teacher, or teacher’s aid.

Adapted From: Gipe, J. P. (2014). Multiple paths to literacy: assessment and differentiated instruction for diverse learners, K-12. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Example:

The children rode the scary rollercoaster.

The children rode the scary donkey.

The children rode the friendly donkey.

The children fed the friendly donkey.

The teacher fed the friendly donkey.

The teacher kissed the friendly donkey.

The dinosaur kissed the friendly donkey.

The dinosaur ate the friendly donkey.

Case Study of a Struggling Reader

The following is a case study of a student with reading difficulties. It is a portion of my final project for Marygrove College’s Reading 510 – Reading Diagnosis and Differentiated Instruction for Diverse Learners which I took during winter 2017. I utilized a variety of formal and informal literacy assessment tools to provide information that was useful in planning effective strategies to better meet my struggling student’s instructional needs.

Introduction

Emma (name changed for confidentiality) is a ten year old student at Yan-Feng Elementary School in Caotun Township, Nantou County. After school, she receives English instruction at U-Best Educational Institute. I chose to work with Emma for this course because over the last few months I have observed her mumbling difficult words when reading aloud, she often asks me or her classmates how to spell high-frequency words when writing, and she looks unhappy when presented with large blocks of text to read.

Continue reading Case Study of a Struggling Reader

Comic Book-Style Summaries

LostWorldChapter4
A student’s summary of The Lost World – Chapter 4

One activity that my students really enjoy is creating their own comic book pages to summarize chapters in our class readers. For my beginner to lower-intermediate level students I supply the narration boxes and have the students create their own artwork along with speech bubbles and thought clouds. I find that my mid to upper-intermediate level English language learners have no difficulty deciding what to write in their own narration boxes. At the end of the reader, students use their chapter summaries to create their own graphic novels.

Text Messages

PhoneChatLayout

During a discussion of teaching techniques, a classmate of mine shared Senora Holeman’s blank iPhone texting template. There are several similar templates out there but hers is free. The photo above contains a few slight modifications I made to the original design so there’s only one template per page making it better fit my printing needs. These templates can be used in a variety of activities, such as:

  • Making plans
  • Invitations
  • Conversations between story characters
  • Giving advice

After reading a short story in The Real McCoy and Other Ghost Stories about a ghost that used instant messages to encourage the main character to follow her dream, I had my third grade ELLs use texting templates to create their own conversations.

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Skimming and Scanning

Skimming and scanning are two rapid reading techniques. Anyone teaching young or weak readers will notice that they tend to read every word. Skimming and scanning are essential techniques for learners to develop as they become more proficient readers. Scanning is fast reading used to find the answers to questions while skimming is fast reading to find the general idea of a text.

A good way to illustrate to students the importance of these techniques is to ask them to find a word in the dictionary. Any student with basic dictionary skills will first flip till he or she finds the page with the correct first letter, followed by looking for the entry based on the guide words, followed by scanning the page for the correct word. Unless students have no experience using a dictionary, they will very unlikely start reading the first page to find the definition of the word preposterous.

Students can probably think of other times that they skim or scan material outside of school: movie times, restaurant menus, troubleshooting guides, ect.

Here are a few techniques from Gipe’s Multiple Paths to Literacy: Assessment and Differentiated Instruction for Diverse Learners, K-12 that I have found useful for helping students develop scanning and skimming:

  • Give students menus and ask them to find items that cost below a certain amount of money.
  • Ask students find a certain number of verbs (or another part of speech) from a passage within a certain amount of time and continually decrease the amount of time or increase the number of words they need to find with each practice.
  • Grab books from the library and have students skim the books then share the general idea with a group.
  • Give students questions they need to answer from the classified section of a newspaper. For example: How much does a 2006 Dodge Stratus cost? Or what is the cheapest riding lawnmower available?
  • Prepare questions related to the table of contents or the index in a content area book. For example, which page has information about Eugene Debs?

Dialogue Journals

Language Skill/Content: Writing

Level: Novice to Advanced

Preparation Time: Time required to respond to previous entry. Depends on the level of the students’ writing and how many students are participating in dialogue journals.

Implementation Time: Roughly ten minutes per session

Teaching Materials/Equipment: One notebook per student

Procedures: With your students, carry on a conversation over time in journals. Dialogue journals provide a chance for students to participate in risk-free writing. Journals are never graded or corrected. Teacher responds to each entry and models spelling, handwriting, and grammar in his or her response entries. In responses, teachers stay on the topic that the student wrote about and compliment students’ work, effort, and keep the conversation moving. Implementing dialogue journals is simple: give each student a notebook, give time for each student to write an entry, collect notebooks, write a response, and repeat.

Options: Can be done over e-mail.

Adapted From: Gipe, J. P. (2014). Multiple paths to literacy: assessment and differentiated instruction for diverse learners, K-12. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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