Improving vocabulary is one of the five tenets to teaching reading as well as improving reading skills. Vocabulary is a strong indicator of student success. Knowledge of words and word meanings is an important key to reading, speaking, and listening success. Baker, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 1998. Additionally, the National Research Council (1998; see References) concluded that vocabulary development is a fundamental goal for students in the early grades.
5 Components of Reading
The last few weeks I’ve written about phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency. This week we are delving into five specific ways to improve vocabulary.
5 Ways to Teach and Improve Vocabulary
Explicit or Direct Instruction is systematic, engaging, and success orientated. This includes the “I Do” piece (teacher modeling), the “We Do” piece (guided practice), and the “You Do” (independent practice). This is what is known as ‘conscious’ learning. This is commonly done by pre-teaching vocabulary before reading a selection as well as teaching students to analyze root words and suffixes.
Implicit Instruction is where the student is told to perform a task and the student needs to figure out how to do the task themselves. This is where the learner doesn’t realize they are learning. By doing an activity they are learning too. An example of this is learning through game playing. Implicit means that something is not directly stated, but clues are given, and you can figure it out by drawing conclusions.
Multimedia Instruction uses a combination of video, pictures, maps, or graphic aids to teach vocabulary.
Kim, D., & Gilman, D. A. (2008) concluded in their study on the effects of text, audio, and graphic aids in multimedia instruction for vocabulary learning that “an effective way to improve the learning of English vocabulary is to offer graphics to illustrate the definition. Students were likely motivated to success and achievement in vocabulary learning when visual text was presented with graphics because text alone did not usually translate in a manner that is meaningful to the learners, while graphics allowed them to visualize the definition in a more meaningful way.”
Capacity Methods assume that learners need to make other aspects of the reading process automatic in order to have enough mental capacity to be able to focus on new vocabulary. These methods instruct learners to be able to automatically decode and read fluently, so when they come upon a new word it is not as daunting to pronounce it and understand the meaning.
Association Methods teach students to make connections between words they know and words they encounter. Association methods can be implements with thinking of words rhyme with ‘hat’. This association is relating to words that end with the same ‘at’ sound. Other associations may be with multiple meaning words or with words that fit in a specific category such as ‘space’.
Three Improve Vocabulary Activities
Activity 1: Thinking of Associations and Words
As a prompt, ask your students or kids to think of things in a category. Give an example to start off:
Water: pond, river, lake, ocean, stream, sea, etc.
Have your students try to come up with as many words as they can for each category. You can do this orally for a few categories as well as individually by having each student write the words down on a piece of paper. Compare notes after for each category. Some ideas:
Activity 2: Think of Multiple Meaning Words
This time, instead of giving categories, prompt your students to think of multiple meaning words. This one can be great to teach using a dictionary after to double check what words you all came up with.
Example: Address – Apply, Speech, Home
Activity 3: Rhyming Words and Poems
For the last activity, think of words that rhyme.
You can expand on this by doing an exercise where you teach and come up with Limericks. These are the often witty 5-line poems with a distinct syllable rhythm.
How to write a Limerick
The 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines rhyme. (7-10 syllables)
Are you interested in learning more about solutions to reading or spelling problems? What about solutions that also improve your auditory, visual, and tactile-kinesthetic systems? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Bonnie Terry M.Ed., BCET.