LSHSS Forum: Best Practices in Vocabulary Instruction

LSHSS Forum: Best Practices in Vocabulary Instruction


Everyone has words they can learn, right?
So we never stop learning words throughout the lifespan. There’s always
more words that can be learned. And improving our vocabulary knowledge
improves our ability to comprehend complex text and to express ourselves
verbally through speech and in writing. Really, vocabulary instruction can be done by multiple practitioners, right? It can be the regular classroom teacher,
a special education teacher, a speech-language pathologist. It can be,
you know, across the school environment and even at home. Getting kids excited
about learning new words and motivating them to be, you know, to take on this
challenge can be really helpful. A lot of the words that we learn are just through
things that we read, and so if children are curious about new words and
motivated to, you know, learn them, they can increase their vocabulary knowledge,
even on their own. The way vocabulary instruction has traditionally occurred
with worksheets or see a word and memorize the definition is not so
effective. And so one of the things that we want to remember across all grade
levels is the importance of giving children both the definition and
multiple examples in real authentic contexts, and so they get to see how the
word is used in a variety of sentence contexts. And that allows them to have a
deeper representation of the word’s meaning and and how it can be used.
Additionally, we want children to do more than just memorize, “this word goes with
this definition, in this syntactic frame.” We want them to actually be able to
reflect on the meaning in the context and where a word might apply and where
it might not apply. And in the vocabulary research, this is often called “active
processing” and so, by engaging children in active processing activities, we
naturally see that the instruction is a lot more dynamic and
interactive than it would be with just a simple worksheet. With repetition and review, it’s a really really important component of vocabulary instruction, and
traditionally, words might be taught on Monday and you have a test on Friday and
then you never revisit them. But that’s not effective for keeping the word in
your long-term memory and having it affect your reading comprehension later
on. It’s better if words are reviewed over time so that they can be remembered longer. And for children who have developmental language disorder, we know
that more instruction is needed than for typically developing children to have
those meanings be well learned and remembered. Vocabulary is something that
all students can still learn and everyone can benefit from additional
vocabulary instruction, so I actually hope it appeals to a broader audience to
include regular classroom teachers and school administrators as well as parents
who may wish to support their children’s vocabulary and literacy learning.

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