Posts made in July, 2012

Know or No

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” —Benjamin Franklin

Exactly what does it mean to know a word? Is knowing a word being able to read it or say it? Is it being able to restate a definition? Research suggests that the answer to these questions is no. Knowing a word by sight and sound and recalling its dictionary definition are not knowing how to use the word correctly and understanding it in different contexts (Miller & Gildea 1987).

Nagy and Scott (2000) shared a process that describes the complexity of what it means to know a word. First, word knowledge is incremental; readers need to have many exposures in different contexts to a word before they can “know” it. Second, word knowledge is multidimensional; many words have multiple meanings and serve different functions (one word can be a noun, a verb, and an adjective). Third, word knowledge is interrelated; knowledge of one word connects to knowledge of other words.

“Knowing” a word is a matter of degree; it is not all-or-nothing (Beck & McKeown 1991, Nagy & Scott 2000). The degrees of knowing a word are shown by how we use a word, how quickly we understand a word, and how well we understand and use a word in different contexts and for different purposes.

Knowing a word also means connecting that word to other words. The more we know about a specific concept, the more words we acquire related to that concept, for example knitting or scuba diving. Based on interests and backgrounds, individuals bring different words to shape understanding.

Finally, knowing a word means being able to appreciate its connotations and subtleties. We really know a word when we can use and recognize it in idioms, jokes, slang, and puns (Johnson, Johnson & Schlicting 2004).

Knowledge Rating

I use many formative assessment activities in my classroom when introducing new vocabulary. A fast and easy one is “corners.” The numbers 1-4 are hung in the corners of my classroom. Students move to the corner that identifies their level of comfort with the word. I give silly explanations each time about what the corners mean. For example, sometimes its a rating between “Duh” and “Ah ha.” Basically, 1 means “I don’t know anything about this word.” 2 means “I’ve seen it or heard it, but am not sure what it means.” Students choose 3 when they have some connections and are somewhat comfortable with the word, while 4 is for students who are ready to explain the word to the class. This is a great activity because it allows for movement and it is easy to see at a glance a basic level for starting a discussion on a word.

Another activity I use is “Know or No?” Complete the sheet (shown below) with a list of words the students will need for a new concept. This list gives a picture of each child’s readiness for that concept. After the students complete the list, it is important to give the kids a chance to discuss their knowledge with a shoulder partner, small group, and/or the class. This immediately begins the knowledge building process.

Consider using knowledge rating assessments in your classroom to get your kids started on new word acquisition.


Knowledge Rating Chart created by Ann Fausnight

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The Matthew Effect

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” —Matthew 25:29

In terms of vocabulary development, good readers read more, becoming better readers and learning more words; poor readers read less, becoming poorer readers and learning fewer words.

What can we do about this?

The short answer is we need to get all kids immersed in words!

The longer answer will be addressed by many strategies I present throughout my upcoming blogs.

Third Grade Set 1 # 5

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Christmas in July Sale

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Vocabulary Development Word of the Day cards are available at my TpT store and at my TN store.

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Choosing Vocabulary Words for Read Alouds

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” —Maya Angelou

When planning read alouds, which words are the ones to teach? You must be careful not to make the reading into a vocabulary lesson. The story needs to flow. Students need the chance to be pulled into the magic of the story. However, they do need you to explain and discuss words that will help them make sense of the text. As I said yesterday, approximately 6 words per read aloud is an appropriate number.

When previewing a book, there are some questions that can guide you in choosing a vocabulary list:

  1. Is this word necessary to the understanding of the text?
  2. How much prior knowledge about this word are the students likely to have?
  3. How often is this word repeated throughout the text? In other books they have read?
  4. Does the word have multiple meanings that could confuse the listeners?
  5. Does the text provide context clues to the word?

After choosing the vocabulary, I plan briefly what I will say to explain the word. Often I just give a synonym (or possibly an antonym) and go on with the story. Sometimes, I ask the students about their familiarity with the word or have them discuss with their shoulder partner what they already know about it. Occasionally, we discuss the prefix or suffix of a word and notice how its affix has affected its meaning. I probably do mention context clues daily, but briefly, to reinforce that authors help you to learn new words in your reading.

Here’s a fun activity to use on occasion:


List the words.

Ask students to predict how the author might use these words to tell the story.

Try to predict the plot or the main idea of the story.

This activity also works well with non-fiction reading, such as science and social studies text.

Find a good book to share that first day!

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No Words for Our Loss

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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