Posts made in July, 2012

Read Alouds Increase Vocabulary

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

“Children can learn to read easily without being taught, by being read to, by playing games with words, and by falling head over heels in love with books.” —Mem Fox

My students’ favorite part of the day is “read aloud.” We do it every day for about 15 – 20 minutes after recess. I have to set a timer because we would just keep going. Our favorites this year? Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Richard and Florence Atwater), The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda (Tom Angleberger), Out of My Mind (Sharon M. Draper), Home of the Brave (Katherine Applegate), Love That Dog (Sharon Creech), Hate the Cat (Sharon Creech), and the list continues. I think our favorite book was always the one we were reading. Usually no one asked what was next until our current one was done.

What does research say about the benefits of reading aloud to children?

Many times children from lower socioeconomic status families have a more limited vocabulary when they begin school. Because they are struggling readers, they are not reading text that will help them gain new vocabulary. A poor reader reads easier books and fewer books, causing vocabulary to grow at a slower rate.

Can reading aloud provide a benefit for these students? Many studies have determined that reading aloud to students increases vocabulary. A study done by Warwick Elley found vocabulary gains can more than double when a teacher explains words from the text they are reading. This important study is often referenced in many of the other studies conducted on read alouds. Elley states in his notes that for children to gain new word meaning from context requires persistent attention to the meaning of the stories (Elley 1989).

It is important to plan this vocabulary learning. Choose appropriate books and then target words to teach as the books are read aloud. These should be words that are unfamiliar to the children. An appropriate number of words to choose from a picture book (or from a chapter) is about six.

Do you have a favorite read aloud? What vocabulary gems are hiding within?


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Word of the Day Cards

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

These are my idea for a new product. A trial pack is available free on Teachers Pay Teachers. These posters have important vocabulary words for third graders. Each poster contains an important word from basal readers or content learning. The word is defined, used in a sentence, and illustrated. Some posters contain multiple meaning uses and some posters contain synonyms. Do you find these posters valuable? Would you use them in your classroom? Please let me know what you think and how you would improve them.


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3,000 Words a Year

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Uncategorized, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” —Nathaniel Hawthorne

Yes, three thousand! That is how many words a student needs to learn every year to keep up. Yet, according to research, students do not receive enough instruction in vocabulary. Vocabulary is instrumental in kids’ comprehension of text, reading fluency, and achievement (Bromley 2007). And, vocabulary knowledge is a top indicator of reading success (Richek 2005).

Let’s do a little test. How good is your comprehension if you cannot read 5% of the words? I have changed only 3 words out of the 60 (5%), of course, they were important words to the story…

“This game is a xwxw zyzy challenge,” Dr.

Lee explained, giving everyone a xwxw zyzy.

“Should we see how far we can abab

them?” Andy wondered aloud.

“No. Your challenge is to xwxw zyzy for as

long as possible. Once your zyzy hits the ground,

you will be disqualified. The last person xwxw zyzying

will win the challenge for their team.”

Could you read it? Did it take you a while to figure out the missing words? Those three words made a huge difference to the ease of reading and comprehending this simple story!

“This game is a hula hoop challenge,” Dr.

Lee explained, giving everyone a hula hoop.

“Should we see how far we can roll

them?” Andy wondered aloud.

“No. Your challenge is to hula hoop for as

long as possible. Once your hoop hits the ground,

you will be disqualified. The last person hula hooping

will win the challenge for their team.”

We need to build students’ vocabularies. We need to work on it every day in every subject area. We need to encourage parents to help their kids learn words through conversation and reading aloud. And we need to encourage students to read as much as possible.

Research has shown that children who read even ten minutes a day outside of school experience substantially higher rates of vocabulary growth between second and fifth grade than children who do little or no reading (Anderson & Nagy 1992, see References).

Percentile Rank Minutes Per Day Words Read Per Year
Books Text Books Text
98 65.0 67.3 4,358,000 4,733,000
90 21.2 33.4 1,823,000 2,357,000
80 14.2 24.6 1,146,000 1,697,000
70 9.6 16.9 622,000 1,168,000
60 6.5 13.1 432,000 722,000
50 4.6 9.2 282,000 601,000
40 3.2 6.2 200,000 421,000
30 1.8 4.3 106,000 251,000
20 0.7 2.4 21,000 134,000
10 0.1 1.0 8,000 51,000
2 0 0 0 8,000


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Vocabulary Overload

Posted by on Jul 12, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein


I have used this activity very successfully in my classroom. I use it to introduce topics, then again as a great follow up after instruction.

badge, widget, ribbon, domain, URL, scriptaculous, plugins…

Wow! Have I been expanding my computer-literacy vocabulary this summer! (Not that I know all these words yet!) I have learned so much and it has been hard work. So many things I didn’t have the words for, so many I still don’t! It shows me how difficult reading must be for struggling readers. And I have an edge… I’m really interested and motivated. Yet, I still give up 4 or 5 times a day and come back to it later. But that’s the key: I come back to it, on my own, because I want to. Struggling readers won’t go back on their own because they don’t want to—it’s too hard.

My whole experience is showing me that my concept of being “devoted to vocabulary development” is of huge importance to kids and, thus, to teachers.

I hope I can fill this blog with great ideas to help teachers build vocabularies for their struggling and not even struggling readers.

And so, I’ll begin today by providing an idea for making connections. Students need to connect new learning to their schemata, their background knowledge. If I can figure out how to add it, I am posting an organizer to use when introducing a new topic. While students are listing words they know about a topic, it is good to casually mention a few of the vocabulary words. Notice who picks up on them and what ideas the words bring to their minds. If you use a new word again after instruction, notice which students have added the new vocabulary and how they use it. Discuss the terms with them to try to help add depth to their new understandings.

Well, now back to trying to set up badges, widgets, tags, and buttons on this board. Unfortunately, I still have no idea what I am doing!


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Be a Meteorologist

Posted by on Jul 10, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


This is a freebie found at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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