Vocabulary skills are destiny for young children. Students with strong vocabulary skills, usually a result of solid educational foundation, learn faster and succeed. Children lacking vocabulary, especially academic vocabulary and key foundation skills, have trouble learning at the same pace as their peers and they tend towards being students at risk. This blog is a collection of thoughts and notes about what we can and should do about vocabulary instruction.
Another valuable resource would be the homeschool curriculum from Time4Learning which includes Third Grade Spelling Words. A site that has collected resources from lots of place and is dedicated is the third grade online curriculum site. This site led me to look deeper into the Time4Learning homeschool curriculum which meant that I found:
I can some with some confidence that third grade students like playing games. So I looked more at what could be learned from online games. The Vocabulary.co.il Learning Vocabulary site has an array of 3rd grade vocabulary games.
Because vocabulary acquisition plays such an important role in third grade writing standards, it is important for parents to encourage third grade vocabulary activities at home to complement and reinforce the regular school curriculum. A great way to do this is by including fun online vocabulary games that help students master vocabulary strategies within the context of reading comprehension exercises. Kids can practice playing with third grade math and science vocabulary games as well as third grade literature games. Other third grade vocabulary word lists cover the older concepts of syllables, compound words, contractions and parts of speech as well as the newer concepts of antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, homophones, root words, prefixes and suffixes.
Third grade is a crucial grade. For most states, it is the first grade where students can be held back if they don't apss the high stakes standardized test, a system created by the Bush Adminstrations NCLB programsand modelled after the race to the bottom that the Texas school system pursued under George Bush before he became the national president.
I'm on a mission and in a hurry. We need to move education forward but we seem to sound like a broken record repeating some things that just aren't true and that just aren't working.
It's no secret. Reading comprehension around the country continues to be a problem. A big problem. It's a big problem in elementary schools and it only gets worse from there. Our students are not making the progress that they should and part of the answer to me seems to be simple.
The fact is that if the kids don't understand enough of the words that they are reading, they can't comprehend the text. They just can't. Where I get impatient is that so many school systems, teachers, bloggers and social media people seem to keep repeating that the kids should learn to use context clues and word attack strategies based word roots and affixes. And they say it as if only the kids would read more, they'd pick up the vocabulary that they need.
The problem with these ideas is that it has either been proven to be untrue or at least, has not been proven to work. Yet they keep repeating it as if it's the solution to the problem. It's not. Lets look at it point by point.
There are a lot of words that students need to learn. Beck organizes them into Tier I, II, and III. There's also strategically important academic vocabulary and content vocabulary. As far as I can tell, nobody has ever quantified what percent of the Tier I & II words can be accessed through word roots and affixes. I believe it's a tiny percent, less than 15%. Probably less than 5%. And in fact, in a good percentage of the words, the apparent word root is more misleading than illuminating. Yet, we keep promoting these word attack strategies as if they are going to move mountains. They are not, they are side shows to the core problem of learning thousands of words, thousands of words per year! These tactics are not magic keys to building vocabulary.
Does reading enough help students master the vocabulary that they need? Empirically, this has been shown to be false. NOT TRUE, Also, basic common sense suggests that it's not true too. Research (and most people's experience) has shown that a few encounters to a word does not lead to proficiency or mastery of it. The research says that students, to learn and retain a word must:
Encountere it 12 to 14 times
Encounter in a variety of modalities meaning the word must be heard, read, spoken, written, and played with. Seeing it while reading is just one modality and the least likely one to lead to retention.
Encountered over a spaced period of 4-5 weeks
We all know that students can cram for a test on a Friday, get 100% on the meaning of the words, and know practically none of these words a week later. Cramming and random encounters with words are not a vocabulary building strategy, they are just wishful thinking but way too many schools base their vocabulary program on this type of wishful thinking.
Basic stats: The National Research Council said that 70% of our comprehension problem is a vocabulary problem. Not 7%, but 70%. They were looking specifically at elementary schools (actually fourth grade).
Schools talk about how students need to build reading endurance which makes me crazy angry. There's no point making students struggle through long passages if they kids aren't getting anything from the exercise. And while the kids today do seem to have strong proficiency at decoding, they are not understanding very much primarily because they don't hit the minimum threshold of vocabulary knowledge or automaticity required to decipher the rest. (Some background sources: Professor Tim Rasinski on Automaticity and McREL's Research Paper on Vocabulary Building).
Here's where I get crazy annoyed. The teachers and curriculum are actually doing a solid job of introducing and teaching new vocabulary to students. I see this in classroom after classroom. But they introduce and teach each week and then they move onto the next lesson the next week and they don't have the time, tools, or training to translate their teaching into retention. Vocabulary retention requires strategic spaced practice over a number of weeks.
VocabularySpellingCity has as its mission, the creation and dissemination of a system so that students retain a far larger percentage of the vocabulary words that they are being taught. Join us now on this vocabulary matters journey!
VocabularySpellingCity went through a transition, moving from spelling to vocabulary-building. Here’s the story:.
Our Journey from SpellingCity to VocabularySpellingCity
SpellingCity was how the company was first started. After a while, it emerged that the educational excitement was all about vocabulary. Ironically, at the same time, schools stopped reporting vocabulary scores from the standardized tests and now only comprehension is reported.
In fast, the vocabulary tested was sort of dumb, it really focused on memorized definitions more than core literacy skills so all in all, it's a good switch. But it did sort of fake out many schools who stopped focusing on vocabulary. This turns out to be dumb.
I’m just back from the International Literacy Conference and I was struck my some apparent elementary ELA industry trends:
Games on VocabularySpellingCity.
Principals, literacy coaches, and teachers all seemed to be moving away from basal readers as core curriculum. More often, they are now using them as supplementary materials.
The educational standards are taking center stage as the organizing principle of ELA curriculum. In many cases, they are taking the “One Standard a Week” approach, which everyone knows is an odd way to organize curriculum. Despite that, they like the focus on core skills as defined by the standards.
Many schools are using modified Depth of Knowledge (DOK) approaches with their own interpretations of the DOK.
Words Their Way (WTW) seems to be growing in popularity, although I often heard that they are “taking a WTW approach” but not necessarily trying for a high fidelity implementation.
The role that technology-based solutions can play in ELA is becoming much better understood.
The need for better vocabulary-building strategies is being recognized as a missing link or key strategy to improve reading comprehension and to build overall academic success and reading habits. Several people mentioned the statistic that 70% of reading comprehension problems can be traced to vocabulary issues.
These are my working notes as I work my way through the literature on learning vocabulary. Just rough notes for myself. Kept here so I don't lose them and htey don't clutter up my desk.
Beck has several tiers.
Tier 1. About 5K words, Known to native speakers. Sad, funny, blue, old, etc
Tier 2. About 7K words. These we need to learn. adept, adopt, conundrum, remorse. These are basically words with a shade of difference meaning than a tier 1 word. Example: "sad" is a tier 1 word but "forlorn", "regretful", "melancholy", and "depressed" would be tier 2. (source: John & Beck Videos)
Tier 3. About 10K more words of domain specific and academic vocabulary.
Tier 4. There's also another 300K of very specialized vocabulary.
Sadly, many schools have students from language deprived backgrounds who need help mastering even the basic 5K of Tier 1 words.
VocabularySpellingCity is doing this research review on vocabulary so that we fully understnad which words lists are worth studying and in which way. Of course, the gola is tention and our key is to avoid the weekly cycle with cramming, to support a multiweek cycle of encounters with the words which include 12-1 word encounters of a large variety of types. And to truly deal with nuance and context, not just to oversimplify...
VocabularySpellingCity offers hundreds of free second grade spelling and vocabulary lists that correlate with 2nd grade state standards. Second grade teachers have the option of importing from a wide variety of word lists and assigning interactive games and activities to students. Teachers can also access supplemental literacy tools, such as free handwriting printables, via VocabularySpellingCity.
Second grade spelling word lists include Dolch and Fry sight word lists, Words Their Way® word pattern lists, and word structure lists (compound words). Second grade students can build sight word fluency and phonics mastery through the use of VocabularySpellingCity’s interactive online games. Second grade games feature both audio and visual elements, an effective learning tool for all maturing readers and writers, specifically English Language Learners (ELLs).
I'm reading a book which I will start annotating here on the blog about Learning. The focus of the book is that they methodology of learning, the science of learning, is now (and has been for awhile) largely understood. And ignored in common practice.
Yes, we know how to make learning stick. It does not cost more. It is not really harder to do. It just means following a methodology. But mostly we don't...