Time for Another Vocabulary Upgrade


Time for Another Vocabulary Upgrade

A while back I wrote a post called Time for a Vocabulary Upgrade which centered around a pre-k classroom where opportunities for complex vocabulary usage were being missed.  For upper grades, those opportunities also exist and present themselves on a daily basis. When introducing students to complex vocabulary, new words can be scaffolded by contextualizing them with words students are familiar with. For example, you might say “I need some adhesive. Can you hand me the glue?”  Glue is the scaffold for the target word adhesive.  As students begin to associate these two words as synonyms, the word glue can be eliminated altogether.

As a first and second grade teacher I was constantly on the lookout for new words I could share with my students. Television, books, and conversations were fertile ground for words students could both enjoy and use. Like shells on the beach, I collected new and intriguing words to be taken out and appreciated later with my students (I consider myself a logophile- a lover of words). In my classroom students who went the wrong way up the playground slide were “banned” from its use.  It wasn’t uncommon for students to run up to me and say, “Did you see so-and-so go up the slide? He needs to be banned!”  It wasn’t out of the norm to hear one student say to another, “Stop antagonizing me.” or to call out, “He’s aggravating me!” My student’s didn’t go down the hall, they proceeded. Not because I had gifted students who arrived into my classroom with sophisticated vocabulary, but rather because I intentionally, consistently, modeled and scaffolded advanced vocabulary for my students.

That is the very thing that I love most about this language acquisition strategy, you don’t have to cut it out or laminate it. It doesn’t take precious planning time and you don’t have to collect or collate data. It just takes intentionality of the part of teachers to use and expose students to increasingly complex vocabulary.  Anyone can do it, any time. Just listen for great words that are relevant to students’ daily experiences and incorporate them into your everyday classroom language. I am not saying waste your time teaching first graders obscure words no one uses (i.e. contumacious, flapdoodle, lachrymose). Instead focus on words that are advanced, but yet still have high utility for students in their current level of learning and thinking. As you scaffold and model, students will begin to incorporate the words you use into their speech and eventually into their writing, be more likely to decode them accurately when the encounter, and comprehend text better.  Consider some of the examples below:

Vocabulary Upgrade 2

Click Vocabulary Upgrade 2 for a PDF of this chart.

This is by no means even a fraction of the splendid words you can and should introduce your students too. The possibilities are endless and the benefits exponential.

Check out the original post: Time for a Vocabulary Upgrade!


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