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Teaching Vocabulary Study
Tools to Unleash Your Students’ Word Power
Research consistently shows the power of vocabulary in determining academic destiny. Students with weak vocabularies tend to decline academically, while students with stronger vocabularies tend to learn faster. VocabularySpellingCity, in partnership with McREL International, released a report showing direct vocabulary instruction, coupled with engaging word and vocabulary study activities, builds critical vocabulary skills necessary to ensure academic success.
Shawn Allen, Principal, Lloyd Estates Elementary, Oakland Park, FL
Effective teaching of vocabulary study requires:
- Showing how words are formed.
- Showing how words are used in context.
- Selecting words critical to overall reading comprehension.
Educational research on the importance of vocabulary development has proven:
- This explicit, direct approach has a positive effect on a student’s learning potential.
- Students need between 12 and 15 exposures to a new word in order for it to become rooted into long-term memory.
- Teachers should explicitly teach between 400 and 700 words per year as part of their vocabulary study program.
Effects of Spaced Practice
E. Glass, Teacher, Loma Vista Elementary School, Salinas, CA
This chart illustrates the ‘spacing effect’: the top trend line represents the learning curve over time using spaced practice while teaching vocabulary study, and the bottom trend line represents the learning curve over time after a single instance of learning.
How can teachers accommodate a learning cycle of practice, review, and revisit with the challenges of a classroom schedule?
This is where VocabularySpellingCity comes to the rescue, providing meaningful practice for teachers to integrate into their existing curriculum for teaching vocabulary study. After you explicitly teach the vocabulary words, students use our site to hear, say, read, write, and play with their words through engaging learning activities, leading to better vocabulary retention. VocabularySpellingCity knows the importance of vocabulary development, and we help teachers provide more effective vocabulary instruction than ever before!
Research-Based for Effectiveness and Better Outcomes in Student Achievement
Educational researchers Robert Marzano and Dr. Joe Lockavitch say learning vocabulary is critical to reading comprehension, writing, and other literacy and communication skills. The National Research Council reported in a 1998 study that in fourth grade, 70 percent of the reading comprehension problem is students’ lack of vocabulary. Blachowicz, Fisher, Ogle and Watts-Taffe’s (2006) review of the research found that this connection can be partly explained by how deeper vocabulary knowledge helps make connections, and a broad verbal ability may be fundamental to all learning.
|Best Practice||How VocabularySpellingCity Supports the Practice|
|Daily Practice||VocabularySpellingCity is a web and app-based productivity tool that students access directly for supplemental vocabulary study practice, whether at school, home, or on the go via computer, Chromebook, tablet, or smartphone. User-based, unlimited access enables teachers to assign student tasks that are tailored to specific word lists and tracked over time, with records of students’ activities and progress, making VocabularySpellingCity a valuable tool when teaching vocabulary study.|
|Strategic Word Selection||Strategic word selection is imperative if teachers are to differentiate word lists. VocabularySpellingCity has leveled lists that support learning high-frequency words and general academic as well as domain-specific vocabulary. When words are selected with students’ needs in mind, students can systematically increase their vocabulary which impacts their academic success and fosters more effective vocabulary instruction.|
|Spaced Practice||Teachers are challenged with managing a cycle in which students practice, review, and revisit vocabulary words. Using VocabularySpellingCity as a productivity tool allows teachers to more easily manage the instructional cycle and allows students to practice their vocabulary words beyond this cycle, leading to better vocabulary retention.|
|Multiple Modalities||VocabularySpellingCity’s learning activities deliver content through audio and visual modalities. Additionally, VocabularySpellingCity’s learning activities provide practice with both open-ended and closed responses, enhancing teaching of vocabulary study.|
|Integrated Practice||VocabularySpellingCity allows teachers to integrate meaningful practice into their existing curriculum. Whether importing a ready-made list or creating a new list, it is easy to select or edit a word’s definition, part of speech, and sentence.|
|Audio Support and Immediate Feedback||Students benefit from both audio support and immediate feedback, while using VocabularySpellingCity. When students hear a word, its syllables, its sounds, its definition and the word being used in context, word knowledge accelerates. Immediate feedback corrects students’ thinking, guides their thought process, and celebrates success, improving the effectiveness of their vocabulary instruction.|
|Students Responsible for Own Learning through Formative Assessments||Students who learn from mistakes take ownership of their learning. Holding students responsible for their results becomes an exercise in metacognition. VocabularySpellingCity provides opportunities for students to receive immediate feedback during practice and after assessments. The immediacy of this feedback allows students to take responsibility for their own learning and take part in making their own instructional decisions. These formative assessments, whether from a practice test or a learning activity, are used by teachers to drive instruction and provide appropriate practice, and by students for self-evaluation and additional vocabulary study practice.|
Marzano, co-author of Building Academic Vocabulary: Teacher’s Manual, recommends allowing students to generate their own explanation or description of a word, rather than copying the teacher’s description, for stronger comprehension and retention. He adds that playing games with words is a “brain-compatible strategy” for reinforcing learning and is of high importance to vocabulary development.
“Games seem to engage students at a high level and have a powerful effect on students’ recall of the terms,” Marzano says. “Games not only add fun to the teaching and learning process, but also provide an opportunity to review the terms in a non-threatening way. After the class has played a vocabulary game, the teacher should invite students to identify difficult terms and go over the crucial aspects of those terms in a whole-class discussion.”
According to Lockavitch, author of Failure Free Reading:
- Exposure to oral language improves vocabulary growth;
- Repetition improves vocabulary acquisition;
- Computer-assisted multimedia programs impact reading comprehension and standardized test scores.
Lockavitch and other educational researchers say that providing multiple engagements with new words over an extended period is necessary to commit them to long-term memory. Word exposures should be done in ways that engage different senses: The student should read the word, write the word, hear the word, and say the word. To tap into multiple modalities in vocabulary study, Steven A. Stahl (1999) found that teachers must include definitional, contextual, and usage information when explicitly teaching word study. After reading new words, students must be able to access the phonological processes that give those words meaning, by hearing and speaking new words in addition to reading them (University of Michigan, 2016). Marzano reinforced this finding, asserting that as students hear phonemes while seeing corresponding letters in the new words, the brain makes deeper connections leading to retention. Finally, a study by McKeown, Beck, Omanson, & Pople (1985) noted that once students encounter a word 12 times or more, they are better able to comprehend it, and then integrate it into their writing, speech, and play, where it can now become a part of their personal word bank.
Help your students achieve vocabulary growth from year to year. Sample these games from more than 35 activities:
Word Study, when played with a K-2 Number word list, helps build literacy skills with word building and recognition, multiple exposures to words, and vocabulary development and acquisition.
WhichWord? Sentences, when played with a 3rd-5th grade Antonyms word list, helps build literacy skills that increase word knowledge by providing opportunities that apply the ability to make effective choices for meaning.
Sentence Writing Practice activity, when completed with a middle school Homophones word list, helps build literacy skills by providing opportunities to apply acquired writing and language skills in context. This is a great activity to apply what is learned by students when teaching vocabulary study.