Vocabulary TN TESOL

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Transcript Vocabulary TN TESOL

Current Theory
and Promising
Practices for
the Elementary
ESL Classroom
Sheri Sather
[email protected]
How much is enough?
 6,000
to 8,000 word families to interact
with spoken text
 8,000
to 9,000 word families to interact
with written text
(Nation, 2006)
What does that mean in
elementary school?
4th grade reading program contains
84% of the vocabulary that a student will
be expected to master by the time he or
she finishes high school. (Zeno, et. al 1995)
What that looked like for my
students in their classes…
 Students
in 3rd grade and higher were
getting lists of vocabulary words to study.
These were words like ‘coronation’,
‘impediment’ and ‘minotaur’.
 However,
my students did not know the
vocabulary from the definitions. (royalty,
mythology, etc.)
We’re not talking about the
same thing!
 Although
both ESL teachers and regular
classroom teachers are teaching
‘vocabulary’, we mean vastly different
things when we say the word
 I think that they are teaching ‘aspirational
vocabulary’, and I am teaching
‘essential’ vocabulary.
What is easier to learn?
 Nouns
are easiest.
 Adverbs are most difficult. (Laufer, 1990)
 In
my research, teachers never chose an
adverb as a word that a student might
not understand. However, my students
have so much difficulty with words like
‘usually’. This was a large perception
Using translations to learn
 L1
is active in lexical processing, and
students think it is helpful, so we might as
well use it in teaching. (reported in
Schmitt, 2009)
 Using
L1 glossaries in the margins of text or
bi-lingual dictionaries is a good way to
form initial word-meaning relationship.
Teach form in addition to
 The
word-meaning relationship is not more
important than teaching the form of the
 Spelling
and pronunciation cause trouble
with use of words, so they need to be
explicitly taught. (Laufer, 1988)
Choosing what to teach…
 “Addressing
words in semantic families
with two or more members from among
the most frequently used words in written
language, a curriculum can be more
efficient…” (Hiebert, 2005)
 In
addition, students need vocabulary
from areas of study such as science, math
and social studies.
A Frequency Dictionary of
Contemporary American English
 It
 It
also includes
special lists such as
the most frequently
animals, phrasal
verbs or terms for
family members.
3 questions to ask to help choose
what to teach in a particular text
 #1
What unknown words might students
be able to associate with already known
This is a good place to let students make L1
connections, or the place to give short,
simple definitions using words they already
Question #2
 Which
words in the text have derivatives
that are frequent in students’ reading and
For example, if students know the word
‘remember’ and the text includes words like
‘memorial’ or ‘remembrance’, making this
connection explicit is a good way to
expand their vocabulary.
Question #3
 Which
words will students need support
with because of multiple meanings?
(Hiebert, 2005)
For example, the phrase ‘force of arms’ was
confusing to 6th graders who didn’t know
arms as anything other than body parts.
What does it take to acquire a
new word?
 It
takes from 7 to 12 instructional
encounters for a student to get real
ownership of a word (Stahl, 1988).
 This
includes instruction in not only what a
word means, and how it is used but also
‘deep’ encounters that require creativity
and connection to prior knowledge
(Nagy, 2005).
Learning by ‘exposure’
 The
chances of learning the meaning of a
word by one exposure to it in text is about
15% (Swanborn & deGlopper, 1999).
 However,
rich exposure is essential in
building vocabulary, but it grows slowly
over time and through repeated
encounters in different contexts (Nagy,
What is ‘rich exposure’ if a student
is not able to read extensively?
Young learners
 Read
 Imaginative play
 Storytelling
Older, non-proficient
 Classroom
 Read alouds
‘Text Talk’ with read alouds
Explain the word.
2. Give an example or two of the
3. Give some instances than may or may
not be examples of the word. Students
give feedback.
4. Students give examples. Ask other
students to see if the example fits.
(McKeown & Beck, 2003)
Generating rich connections
When teaching vocabulary, it’s important to
go beyond simple definitions and
connections. Learners should create
connections between this new thing and
what they already know.
Discussion is a powerful way to do this. ‘Real’
discussion (rather than teacher-led turn
taking) is best for this if the environment is
accepting and open.
(Stahl, 2005)
A good program will…
 Teach
individual words
 Provide
exposure to rich language
 Support
generative word knowledge
(Nagy, 2005)
Developing generative word
Using vocabulary we know, and what we
know about vocabulary, to learn new
Understanding context and developing
‘word consciousness’
80% of affixed words come from…
These 11 prefixes
Un, re, in
(im, il, for ‘not’),
dis, en (em),
non, in (im),
over, mis,
sub, pre
-s (es),
-ing, -ed,
-er, or (agent)
-ion (-tion, -ation, ition)
Easy (or lazy) solution…
on Teachers Pay Teachers…Poster set
includes definitions, examples in sentences.
A spiraling process
 The
more vocabulary students learn, the
better they will be able to read.
 The
better they read, the more they will
 The
more they read, the more vocabulary
they learn.
(Nagy, 2005)
However, knowing the ‘words’
is not enough…
Students also need to be able to recognize
where their understanding of reading breaks
down if they don’t know a word.
Then they need to be able to use metacognitive strategies to fix the problem before
picking up the meaning again.
So part of improving vocabulary is improving
skills in figuring out words in context since
students need to be learning as they read.
And still not enough…
 Students
need to have the background
knowledge to understand the text. Words
alone do not constitute background
 Reading
is especially helpful in
developing and enriching partially known
vocabulary (Schmitt, 2009)
Combine cognitive and
meta-cognitive techniques
 All
the researchers that I read agreed that
there is no one ‘best way’ to learn or
teach vocabulary. Instead we need to
use every good way.
 They also agreed that students need to
learn both cognitive strategies and metacognitive strategies to be most successful.
Effective cognitive strategies
 Vocalizing
 Collocations
 Writing
 Rehearsing
Effective Meta-cognitive
 Testing
(using test prep ‘stress’)
 Students setting goals for learning (such as
setting a number of new words to learn in
a week)
 Consciously linking new words to words
they know
 Using mind trap tricks like writing silly, gross
or funny stories using the words
Don’t do this…
Using lists of related words (think a list of all the
parts of an engine) helps to create confusion
in the word-meaning relationship and hurts a
student’s ability to retain vocabulary.
This includes teaching antonyms together.
The suggestion is to teach the more common
one of the pair first, and add the opposite
What I learned…
need to provide explicit instruction in
cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies
to learn vocabulary, and understand
vocabulary in context and also provide
explicit and systematic instruction on
specific vocabulary words that are
frequently used in academic texts.
A bit of
based research
They don’t know as much
as anyone thinks they know.
The information I gathered…
I asked 6 teachers to give me copies of 2
assignments that they would be doing with
their class and to highlight the words they
thought their ELLs would not know.
I took those and interviewed the students,
asking them to define words in the work.
If they had some idea of what the word
meant, I counted it as ‘knowing’. If they
could explain the word using the context of
the work, it also counted as ‘knowing’ it.
What I found…
 Every
teacher overestimated the
students’ knowledge.
 In
most of the papers, the students had
trouble with 2 - 3x more words than their
teachers anticipated.
 Students
knew very few of the
instructional vocabulary (explain,
compare, describe, etc.), but no teacher
chose any of those words as words that
would be difficult for students.
 This
was true of kindergarteners and 5th
and 6th graders.
The students all said they felt comfortable
asking their teachers questions, and the
teachers felt like students were coming to
them with questions.
However, students also admitted that they
didn’t want to ask too many questions or
questions that they felt would make them look
The older students tended to ask fewer
questions overall.
I have changed my
 I’ve
been modeling and having students
practice more active ways of asking for
vocabulary help.
“Does xx mean xxx?”
“Could you tell me an example of xxx?”
I’m including much, much more explicit
instruction in vocabulary for instructions.
For example, we’ll read two paragraphs and
read one set of instructions. Students need to
decide which paragraph is following the
(Compare character x and character y’s
motive. Give examples for your ideas.)
For the future…
 When
I have a bit of time, I plan to make
a diagnostic that I can give to all students
at the beginning of the year for essential
academic vocabulary. I want to give this
to the student’s teacher so they will better
understand the student’s needs.
Storybook Reading…
 The
most important element in storybook
reading in vocabulary development is the
interaction between the teacher and the
 The book serves as a stimulus around
which a high level conversation takes
(Biemiller, 2001)
CAR Talk Method
 C=
competence questions
(Can you find the X in the picture? Who said
 A= abstract thinking
(What will happen next? What is that
character thinking?)
 R= relate talk
(How is that character like you? What
would you do?)
Supplying definitions…
Stopping a story to supply definitions is also
effective in teaching new vocabulary and is
much more effective than reading a story
through without comment.
Reuse those words…
Whole class or center activities such as
retellings of the story, word or picture sorts,
word walls, etc. are helpful in getting to the
needed number of interactions.
All activities are more useful if they are used
systematically over the year.
This book explicitly
explains 440 of
these. This
includes an index
by animal.
Animal idioms are
everywhere, and
they can be SO
** index of animals and related idioms so that students can
look up items on their own
** simple definitions
For example:
“in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” = quickly
Eager beaver= enthusiastic person
Busy beaver= busy person
For younger students…
 Choose
an animal with several idioms.
(There are 12 cow and bull idioms, for
 A pair of students acts out the idiom and
the class guesses which one it is and class
discusses the meaning of the idiom.
For older students…
keep the book in the reference section
because so many novels and even story
books use animal idioms.
Teaching students to ‘grade’
readers for themselves
 This
technique comes from Judy
Freeman’s workshops on children’s
 Scan a page of a book and hold up a
finger for each word you don’t’ know. If
you run out of fingers before the end of
the page, you may want to put the book
back because you want to challenge
yourself, not drive yourself crazy.
Songs and Chants
 Jazz
Chants by Carolyn Graham
(On her website, there is info on how to
write good chants
on your own!)
Ella Jenkins
The words are clearly
enunciated; the songs
tend to be very
repetitive, so they
are easy for students
to master. Then we
can change it up with
different vocabulary.
(Follow the Leader is awesome
for teaching body parts and actions.)
Using pictures to develop
descriptive vocabulary and to
practice making inferences
 Students
the picture in
detail. For k’s the
teacher can take
dictation, but the
descriptions must
include color,
texture, size, shape,
brightness, etc.
 Students
need to
be able to make
inferences to read
well, so after they
describe the
picture, they make
inferences about it.
“I think _____
because __________.”
Focusing on form…
I HATED spelling activities as a student; I’m a
terrible speller still, so I take advantage of
games to enforce the spelling aspect of
vocabulary learning.
Spelling City is a site with free and paid
apps. I put in 5 words for kindergarteners
and let them play games like hangman with
the words for a few minutes.
Provide opportunities for students to
elaborate vocabulary knowledge
(Schmitt, 2009)
Using the novel, Wonderstruck by Brian
Seltzer, got my students looking for new
vocabulary and trying out new vocabulary
in creative ways.
The novel has two stories; one is told in
drawings; the other is written.
Telling the story of Rose
Students take turns ‘telling’
the illustrated story (by
Because of the way the
two stories parallel each
other, it is very important
for the details to be
included. For example,
what is the time period?
Students would need to
look up clothing styles to
know that and narrate
Preparing to narrate…
 Students
search the pictures for
information and prepare by taking notes
on details they want to include.
 They can consult dictionaries, Wikimedia
or other resources to make sure they are
 Because other students are not looking at
the pictures, there is a lot of good
Tips on Teaching Vocabulary
(Schmitt, 2009)
 Integrate
new words with old
 Provide numerous encounters with a word
 Promote a deep level of processing
 Make new words "real" by connecting
them to the student's world in some way
 Provide opportunities for developing
fluency with known vocabulary
The WORD: _______________________________
Date I found the word: ______________________
Date when I KNEW the word: ________________
Sentence where I found the word:
Words that have similar
This word is
Words that are opposites:
Definition in my own
This word has only
one meaning. It has
several meanings.
It has positive/
You’ll often find this
word in these
It is abstract/
Personal Example
Personal Example Sentence
Using the worksheet
 The
worksheet is completed over a
number of classes.
 The student decides when the word is
‘known’. After that, it can be tested at
any time. The ‘test’ is writing a short story
using 2-4 words randomly chosen by the
teacher. The sillier the story, the better!
 Worksheets are also used for students to
teach each other new words.
Incorporating vocabulary
instruction with novel reading
For each chapter or set of chapters:
1. Give a list of words from the chapter that
they ‘need’ to know. First, have each
individual put a check by each word
they ‘know’, an x by each word they
‘think they know’.
2. Put them in pairs and have them help
each other out. Monitor because they
are frequently wrong.
Quick and dirty glossary
I give them a glossary for each chapter. I put
the words in order that they will encounter
The definition is simple and hopefully short
and explains the word for the context.
If the word has multiple meanings or is used in
an unusual way, I put an * on it so that they
don’t overgeneralize the meaning.
It sounds very time consuming, but I do it as
habit while I’m reading the chapter now.
This is web tool is completely free; the pages
are never deleted, and it is so easy to make a
I use it for anything, story book to novel, to get
students acquainted with the vocabulary and
context before we read.
Older students can take turns making the
Padlet for a chapter as an assignment.
Reading chapter 1
 Reading
the first chapter in a novel takes
a LONG time, and a lot of that time is
spent in vocabulary development.
 To activate schema, we discuss genre,
themes we might encounter, etc.
Dreyer, C., & Brits, J. (2013). Memory strategies and ESL
vocabulary acquisition. Per Linguam, 10(1).
Zhang, W. (2009). Semantic prosody and ESL/EFL vocabulary
pedagogy. TESL Canada Journal, 26(2), 1+. Retrieved from
Schmitt, N. (2009). Teaching vocabulary. ESL Magazine, (67),
9+. Retrieved from