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    My first year teaching, before my tenth graders began reading Lord of the Flies, I went through every chapter and made lists of all the vocabulary words I thought they'd have trouble with, so that I could per-teach them. (You have content to teach!) So, I'd like end with a few quotes for you to consider:

    Vocabulary is the best single indicator of intellectual ability and an accurate predictor of success at school. It's time to teach.

    Tier Two: Words that appear with high frequency, across a variety of domains, and are crucial when using mature, academic language (coincidence, reluctant, analysis). Passive learning hardly ever is. -- W.

    Step six: Students periodically play games to review new vocabulary (Pyramid, Jeopardy, Telephone). When choosing which words deserve special instructional time, we don't have to do it alone.

    Step five: Students discuss the new word (pair-share, elbow partners). Moeller

    Resources

    Books to help you focus and fine-tune your vocabulary instruction:

    • Bringing Words to Life by Isabel Beck
    • Vocabulary Games for the Classroom by Lindsey Carlton and Robert J. -- A. So your learning speed, or pace, should increase as your vocabulary grows.

      The truth is, and the research shows, students need multiple and various exposures to a word before they fully understand that word and can apply it. This guy is pretty amazing, having spent countless hours observing students and teachers.

      Step four: Students engage in activities to deepen their knowledge of the new word (compare words, classify terms, write their own analogies and metaphors).

      Ranking Words

      When considering which words need the most instructional attention, let's turn to Isabel Beck's practical way of categorizing vocabulary words into three tiers:

      Tier One: Basic words that rarely require instructional focus (door, house, book).

      The Rationale

      At this point, you might be thinking that there just isn't enough time for all this pre-reading word analysis, direct instruction of vocabulary, and game playing. Students think about, talk about, apply, and play with new words. So, this is when you take a look at the pre-reading vocabulary charts your kids created and choose "kind of" and "don't know at all" words that you deem to be tier two words. Old school, yes.

      Copying definitions from the dictionary we would probably all agree is not an effective way to learn vocabulary. Draper and G. Marzano

    . Test on Friday and never for those 25 words to be seen again. Of course the way we learn words in context, or implicitly, is by reading, then reading some more.

    Teaching Words

    If you haven't heard of him, I'd like to introduce Robert Marzano. An education researcher and teacher, he stresses that in all content areas, direct vocabulary instruction is essential and suggests six steps:

    Step one: The teacher explains a new word, going beyond reciting its definition (tap into prior knowledge of students, use imagery).

    Step three: Ask students to create a non-linguistic representation of the word (a picture, or symbolic representation).

    Doing It Differently: Tips for Teaching Vocabulary



    Good, now you know it. -- Johnson O'Connor

    We think with words, therefore to improve thinking, teach vocabulary. It's just often the way we learned, and as teachers, we sometimes fall back on using these ways when teaching rather than taking a good look at student data, the latest research, and then trying something new. And Webster doesn't get a word in edgewise.

    Step two: Students restate or explain the new word in their own words (verbally and/or in writing). They need also to learn words in context, not stand alone lists that come and go each week.

    Then, here's what to do after the students pick their own words:

    • Ask each child to create a chart where he/she writes down words of choice, and rates each one as "know it," "sort of know it," or "don't know it at all. Poof. Go ahead and select some content-specific words (tier three) but only those directly related to the chapter, article, short story, or whatever you are about to read. Elley

    Because each new word has to be studied and learned on its own, the larger your vocabulary becomes, the easier it will be to connect a new word with words you already know, and thus remember its meaning.B. (This is why every classroom should have a killer classroom library stocked full of high-interest, age appropriate books.

    The kids have selected and rated the words, and now it's your turn. This data will show you which words they know, those they have some understanding of, and those words that are completely foreign to them. One of the biggest mistakes we teachers make in vocabulary instruction is selecting all the words for the students and not giving them a say in the matter. Mundane task, yes.

    Read through them all and use the results as a formative assessment. Probably not."

  • Then, on the same paper, have them write a definition or "my guess on meaning" for the words they know and kind of know (No dictionaries!)

Before they turn in these pre-reading charts, be sure to emphasize this is not about "being right" but that they are providing you with information to guide next steps in class vocabulary instruction.

Marzano's six steps do something revolutionary to vocabulary learning: They make it fun.

Beck suggests that students will benefit the most academically by focusing instruction on the tier two words (since these appear with much higher frequency than tier three words, and are used across domains).

When I looked at those long lists, I began to freak out. Did it work? I don't remember.)

Selecting Words

Ah, so many words, so little time. How will I teach all these words, and still have class time for all the other things we need to do? First off, rather than waste my time compiling lists, I should have let the kids skim the text in chapter one and select their own words.

You now have a vocabulary list. Marzano

  • Words, Words, Words by Janet Allen
  • Teaching Basic and Advanced Vocabulary: A Framework for Direct Instruction by Robert J.

    Tier Three: Frequency of these words is quite low and often limited to specific fields of study (isotope, Reconstruction, Buddhism)
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