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Brainy Apples: ELA Summer Book Club- Chapter 7: Vocabulary
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ELA Summer Book Club- Chapter 7: Vocabulary

I am very excited that I got to read Chapter 7. No, seriously, I really am! Why??? you ask. Well, because out of all the ELA standards, vocabulary always seemed to be the most elusive to me. I was NEVER a fan of giving students a set of weekly "vocabulary" words that went with a story of the week to be memorized and then regurgitated or written in blanks on a Friday test. Shoot, I never even liked using basals, period! I always created vocabulary lists to go along with our math, science, or social studies, for example. I also chose meaty words from read-alouds or from the books students read in our leveled reading groups that I felt would enhance my students vocabulary, as well as help them comprehend the books. But I still felt like there was MORE I could be doing.

I am not going to go into all the research the authors included in this chapter to support their suggestions, because I know as a teacher myself, while I want to know there is research behind it (proven research, of course!) sometimes I just want to get right to it :) So, let's just get right to it! Join me, as I lead our Book Study Group's discussion of Chapter 7 from "Teaching with the Common Core Standards for ELA: Grades 3-5" by Morrow, Wixson, and Shanahan.

Why, oh why, must there always be challenges???

There 5 main challenges that we, as educators, face in regards to CCSS instruction in grades 3-5. We must prepare our students to:
1. Read and comprehend narrative text and learn from informational text.
2. Read increasingly complex texts.
3. Use a text's evidence to construct meaning and arguments that can be turned into pieces of writing and presentations.
4. Learn lots of complex academic vocabulary as well as how to determine word meanings of unknown words.
5. Read, analyze, write about, and learn in a cross-curricular manner.

These are 5 meaty challenges, and a common thread is vocabulary.

Where are those vocabulary standards hiding, anyways???

I have been teaching for a L.O.N.G. time. So far the CCSS is my THIRD set of standards that I have to teach. I know some of you who have taught longer have had even more sets of standards to teach. I am not sure how the CCSS differs from other states' previous standards, but the CCSS include vocabulary under the Language domain strand with the header "Vocabulary Acquisition and Use" These include the anchor standards L4, L5, and L6. Kind of hard to miss. 

So that means we're done looking for those vocab standards then, right? Well, no. Because of how the CCSS were designed (reading, writing, speaking and listening are all connected), there are additional vocabulary standards sprinkled throughout the CCSS besides these obvious ones. Thankfully the authors combed through the CCSS for us and have a nice little table 7.1 on page 133 that shows where else these pesky vocab standards are hiding. Those of you without the book, the other hiding places are CCSS anchor standards for:
Reading: RL4, RI4, RF3ab, RF4c
Writing: W2d, W3d
Language: L2f, L3a

Got Milk a vocabulary instruction framework???

Here's the part that I couldn't wait to get to!
The authors include M.F. Graves's four-component vocabulary instruction framework for teachers to help them create a "balanced, comprehensive, multifaceted vocabulary instruction program" (pg.134). I don't know about you all, but when I complete professional readings or sit through trainings, I want something to take away that I can use. It doesn't have to be make-and-take, but one of my biggest pet peeves is sitting through a training and being told what I should teach, but not ANY suggestions on HOW to teach it. I don't want to be spoon-fed, but I do want to be pointed in a direction so that I can decide what would work best for my students. And I would like them to be realistic. I found the 4 components interesting and I also reflected back on my own teaching and realized that these 4 components did have a presence in my classroom.

Again, this is a framework, so very specific and detailed strategies are not given. But, many of us already know of great strategies that would fit under each component or we can collaborate with other teachers to learn new strategies.

Component #1- Provide Rich and Varied Language Experiences (RVL)
This is pretty much what it says: read to children, have children read, have children listen to others read,  encourage children to speak about what they are reading. Seems pretty realistic to me. Bring in books about your science, social studies, or math topics and you are well on your way to implementing this strategy.

Component #2- Teach Individual Words (TIW)
This goes along with giving students specific words to learn. However, not in the weekly definitional sense. Children need multiple exposures to vocabulary words and opportunities for students to deeply process the meaning and nuances of the word. Realistic? Yes, but this component will require thoughtful selection of activities for students to complete. 

Component #3- Teach Word Learning Strategies (WLS)
Teaching students to use context clues and word parts (morphemic analysis) falls under this component. Students need to be explicitly taught how to use context clues AND root words, prefixes, suffixes, and Latin/Greek word roots. By directly teaching these to students, a whole new world of vocabulary opens up for them. Very realistic, but it will take deliberate and selective picking when it comes to specific strategies.

Component #4- Foster Word Consciousness (WC)
This is pretty much having the students acknowledge, "Yep,  I understood that word(s) and the sentence/paragraph/chapter/book made perfect sense" or "Nope, I have no clue what word I just read was, and I couldn't tell you what the sentence/paragraph/chapter/book was about." Oh, and it also includes students gaining an appreciation of figurative language, AND they actually use these new words often AND correctly in their own writing. Realistic? Ehhhhhh....I think this one is the most difficult for me, and, quite possibly for most teachers. Sometimes I don't know what goes on in their little old heads, and I do wish I could take a ride inside so I could say, "Stop! You have to figure out what that word means before you continue reading or you will be lost!" But, until I can make this my super power (and even if I could make it my super power, I don't know if I would be willing to give up my teleportation), alas, I must try to find activities that encourage my students to do this. 

So where do we go from here???

The rest of the chapter gave a few activities that teachers can use underneath some of these components which is always helpful. But you will certainly have to scour the web and collaborate with other educators to find strategies/create activities that will help your students become vocab masters. The authors also gave an example of how to address the vocabulary standards throughout the day, which can be easily achieved by centering your vocabulary words around your science, social studies, or math content. 

Overall I did enjoy reading this chapter. It did give me a few things to contemplate such as: Am I making sure I am helping my students meet the 5 challenges listed above? Am I immersing my students in language? Am I explicitly teaching my students how to infer the meaning of new/uknown words? Am I teaching them specific strategies on how to break a word apart to determine the meaning? Am I choosing relevant vocab words that are meaningful across many disciplines to which students can relate or connect? Am I teaching students how to appreciate language and to have the metacognition required to be mindful readers? Whew! My brain has a lot to think about tonight!

I do wish there would have been more strategies/activities/lessons given, though. 

What about you? What did you like most/least from this chapter? We would love to hear from ya!  

What's that? Goodies you want???

I apologize for sounding like Yoda above, but, love that little green guy, I do ;) 
I am going to try my HARDEST this week to post some freebies here that go along with this chapter. Right now my daughter is sick, and I have heard that this little virus likes to stick around for a few days. Those of you with multiple children knows this means MANY MANY days of sick kids. I have 3, so hopefully there aren't going to be 9 days of sickness, not including myself. Bleh! I will try to create some useful freebies that you can hopefully utilize in your classrooms this year as you tackle teaching vocab.

And in case you missed the previous chapters, here they are:
Chapter 6

And next Monday, July 29, be sure to visit Mindy at Little Red Schoolhouse as she discusses Chapter 8: Technology. 

As always, thanks for listening!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
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  1. Question #1
    Will you be adding any new components to your vocabulary instruction this year?

    1. YES! I actually attended a 4 day workshop on Close Reading and it was AWESOME! We talked some about vocabulary and how to deal with it. I plan to add several new components, including one I am creating from scratch so that it fits my students needs closely.

    2. How wonderful you got to attend a 4 day session on Close Reading! I would love to hear all about it! I have been reading a book this summer about Close Reads to better educate myself. I was surprised to learn it has been around for a LONG time in the higher ed world. Funny how it is just now beginning to filter to our neck of the woods :)

    3. That is what we learned. That close reading has been around in higher ed for a long time. I guess we pretended that we didn't need it... ha ha. I love the idea of close reading. I am planning a series of blog posts with what we learned and links to all the resources and activities they gave us. WAHOO!

    4. Fantabulous! I will definitely be checking those posts out then! I love gathering as much info as possible on current strategies to help all my students succeed (even though I am not teaching this year.......but still!)

  2. Question #2
    How will you integrate any new ideas into your vocabulary instruction?

  3. Question #3
    How do you or will you help your students use word learning strategies other than context? Give examples, please :)

  4. Question #4
    How do you ensure integration of vocabulary across content areas?

    1. For me, non-fiction is inherently a vocabulary experience because we are always trying to teach our kids key words so they have clue what we are talking about. We won't get far in science or social studies, or even math, without addressing key vocabulary words. Interestingly enough, at my workshop, we were told to not front load the students anymore, but to address the vocabulary in the context of the piece. Did any of that make sense... ha ha.

    2. It absolutely makes sense. From what I understand, Close Reading helps our students learn how to comprehend a text with having zero background knowledge about the topic. They should be able to use the clues in the text to understand what is going on. I find this very interesting, because it wasn't that long ago we were told to give our students as much background knowledge as possible about a topic so when they read about it, they will understand it better.

      Front loading with key words could overwhelm students and I think helping them find meaning of the word using the context clues and morphemic clues of the word is like the old saying, "Give a man a fish, feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for his life." I akin this to vocabulary for our students.