Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Blog Hop: Vivacious Vocabulary (The Power of Words)

As educators, we know the importance of vocabulary and how crucial it is to our students comprehension.  But we need to make sure our students understand the power of words. 

First, I'd like to share some information I read recently about vocabulary and the correlation it has to our students. I came across a very interesting article from American Educator (Summer 2014 edition) called The Magic of Words.  According to  Susan Neuman and Tanya Wright, recent analyses indicate that environmental factors associated with vocabulary development and emergent literacy skills are already present among children as young as fifteen months of age.  Plus, by first grade, children from high income families are likely to know about twice as many words as children from low-income families.  (WOW!)  Therefore, children from low-socioeconomic circumstances are not receiving the language support they need which means they start school with limited opportunities. (UGH!) Luckily, we (the educators) can intervene with effective vocabulary instruction during these crucial times of their development.  Research shows that certain practices can accelerate young children's vocabulary development, regardless of their background. (YAY!)

For the past ten years, I have been teaching students who come from low-socioeconomic
families. We know that reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge go together like two perfect puzzle pieces. I've experienced first-hand in my classroom that students with limited vocabulary knowledge struggle when it comes to comprehending a text--which means I have some major catching up to do starting the very first day of school.  Direct instruction and independent reading are pivotal to acquiring word knowledge. Knowing that my students may have a slight deficit in their vocabulary development, I work hard to teach vocabulary explicitly and implicitly. For example, my explicit instruction will sometimes consist of child-friendly definitions of words and visuals before reading a text.  Visuals are huge in my classroom and I think they teach my students more than definitions do.  I have also found that acting out vocabulary words after introducing definitions has been beneficial in their understanding.   Implicit instruction is when my students learn new words by simply listening to read-alouds.  I, also, try to be careful when selecting vocabulary words. I have to follow our district's adopted reading program, but I do my best to use tier 2 words and content-related words when necessary.

Secondly, I have three picture books that would be worthwhile reading to students, especially at the beginning of the school year.  These picture books will help your students understand the power of words which can lead us into teaching the importance it has on their comprehension.

First book is Max's Words by Kate Banks.  This is a book is about a little boy, Max, who starts his own collection.  His brothers collect stamps and coins, so, Max decides to collect words.  The book includes beautiful illustrations along with hundreds of words in different colors and fonts.  This can get students really excited about words!  

The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer is a great picture book to read to your students when discussing the power and importance of words (especially positive words).  The story is about a little girl named Luna.  She has a love and passion for words.  But one day, Luna has learned that the people have become too busy to remember the importance of words.  So, Luna decides to take action.  She gathers all of her words, puts them in her suitcase, and sets out on a journey to share her words with the world.

I love the illustrations and the way the words are displayed on each page.  It's such a wonderful book for you to enjoy with your students. This book can help you lead into teaching students how to celebrate and notice words.  Maybe you could start a graffiti bulletin board of new words.  Students could have their own "word collector" sheet in their notebooks and record new words when necessary.

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter is a great book to celebrate language.  In this book, Selig loves words.  He loves the way they sound, taste, and stir in his heart.  As Selig takes a journey and travels around, he finds that people are always looking for the perfect word (a word that he can provide).  This would be a great introduction to creating a word tree in class.  This will help inspire students to look for new words wherever they go.

Here are a few more books you can share with your students when teaching about the power of words:
  • The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant
  • Noah Webster and His Words by Cheri Chase Ferris
  • Boris Ate A Thesaurus by Neil Steven Klayman
  • Thesaurus Rex by Layla Steinberg
  • The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Leslea Newman
  • Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet
  • The Word Eater by Mary Amato (novel)

Are there any other books you read to your students to celebrate the power of words?

1 comment:

  1. "The Boy Who Loved Words" is one of my favorites! I'm excited to try out some of the others you recommended! Thanks! :) Elementary Excellence