"How Can Teachers Increase Classroom Use of Academic Vocabulary?’’ by Lisa Larson, Temoca Dixon and Dianna Townsend
The writer uses brainstorming strategy to create a better understanding of the prefix ‘’re-‘’. After 10 minutes of brainstorming, she comes with a handful of words that begins with the prefix. Yet, the teacher claims that the class hasn’t thought all the other words that the previous classes have found. At one point, one of her students claims that such active vocabulary study is very valuable for their academic studies. As the students encounter academic texts in their clasroom environment, it’s vital for the students to learn the words in such way. As provided by Flynt and Brozo ( 2010), academic vocabulary is the “word knowledge that makes it possible for students to engage with, produce, and talk about texts that are valued in school” (p. 500). The writers of the article have examined the ways for helping students to increase their academic vocabulary knowledge and their research question was based on Blachowicz and Fisher’s (2000) assertion that students should be responsible for taking an active role in learning new vocabulary words. Such active role means that ‘’ students should learn the meaning of specific words and learning ways to become independent word learners.’’ (p. 505) Therefore, the researchers main purpose was to find the ways to improve students’ active engagement with academic word acquisition while studying the texts in their social study classes. The writers have come with the seperation of the academic words into two groups, namely general academic words and content-specific words. The first is a descriptive list that will guide students through the texts in their studies. In order to create the second, students create whole-class discussions and talk about how the words in the first list can be used in different contexts. There are also several strategies that can boost students’ academic vocabulary knowledge. Word walls are one of these strategies which provide visual support for the learners. The writers of the article have put the words into tiers according to Beck, McKeown, and Kucan’s (2002) tiers. Tier 1 words are basic words, tier 2 words are similar to general academic words and tier 3 words are similar to content-specific words. The class discussions that included which word belonged to which tier simply improved the understanding of the words. Another strategy that the writers supported was the utilization of vocabulary journals. They suggest the idea that there should be a vocabulary section for each unit that they have studied in which students can revisit and add new informations to the words that they previously learned. To conclude, in addition to the strategies that are listed by the writers, there can be other activities that are used to improve academic vocabulary knowledge, which includes role plays, jeopardy-esque games and flash cards. The utilization of such quick vocabulary sessions before the instructions, rather than a seperate lesson, can help students to dig more into the context of their lessons. It’s highly emphasized in the article that such strategy of learning vocabulary shouldn’t limit the amount of time that a teacher has in the class.
There are several issues on the article that I find useful. First of all, I believe that such utilization of academic vocabulary sessions just before the instructions can be useful for several reasons. First, as the words are directly related to the topic that the students will be instructed about, they can give a clearer meaning about what they’re about to learn. As students’ are provided by the definitions of such complex words, it would be much easier for them to gain a deeper understanding of the topic. In addition, the academic vocabulary knowledge that is instructed by those sessions can be used both in understanding the academic text and writing an analysis for the text. Secondly, the vocabulary learning strategies that are presented in the article seemed pretty useful to me. Especially the word walls activity allow students to think more about the levels of the words, which may increase their cognition skills. Also, vocabulary journals give students the idea that words are not items that are learned once and never revisited again. By the utilization of the vocabulary journals, the improvement of the students’ vocabulary knowledge can be tracked. If a teacher wants to see whether his&her students are making any progress about their vocabulary knowledge, such strategy can be followed by him&her. The article was highly on the practical applications of the vocabulary learning strategies, rather than giving us an insight to the theories related to the issue. To conclude, I find them really useful and adoptable in classes.
Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Blachowicz, C. L. Z., & Fisher, P. (2000). Vocabulary instruction. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 3).Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Flynt, E. S., & Brozo, W. G. (2008). Developing academic language: Got words? The Reading Teacher, 61, 500–502.
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