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Isabel Beck: Bringing Words to Life
Transcript of Isabel Beck: Bringing Words to Life
• Studies estimate that only approximately 5 to 15 words are learned out of 100 unfamiliar words in written context
• A robust approach to vocabulary involves directly explaining the meanings of words along with thought-provoking, playful, and interactive follow-up
• Robust instruction offers rich information about words and their uses, provides frequent and varied opportunities for students to think about and use words, and enhances students’ language comprehension and production
• Students become interested and enthusiastic about words when instruction is rich and lively, and that conditions can be arranged that encourage them to notice words in environments beyond school
• What does it mean to know a word?
Carey (1978) distinguishes between fast mapping (students quickly grasping a word’s meaning) and extended mapping (students fully understanding and using a word through multiple encounters and over time)
Dale (1965) divides word knowledge into four stages:
Stage 1: “Never saw it before.”
Stage 2: “Heard it, but doesn’t know what it means.”
Stage 3: “Recognizes it in context as having something to do with _____.”
Stage 4: “Knows it well.”
Cronbach (1942) describes it through its qualitative factors:
Generalization (the ability to define a word)
Application (the ability to select or recognize situations appropriate to a word
Breadth (knowledge of multiple meanings)
Precision (the ability to apply a term correctly to all situations and to recognize inappropriate use)
Availability (the actual use of a word in thinking and discourse)
Beck, McKeown, and Omanson (1987) depict a continuum spanning from:
a general sense of connotation (i.e., negative or positive)
narrow, context-bound knowledge (only able to use it within one context)
having knowledge of a word but not being able to recall it readily enough to use it in appropriate situations
rich, decontextualized knowledge of a word’s meaning, its relationship to other words, and its extension to metaphorical uses Introducing Vocabulary • Just providing information—even rich, meaningful explanations—will not result in deep or sustained knowledge of a word. Multiple encounters over time are called for if the goal is more than a temporary surface-level understanding and if new words are to become permanently and flexibly represented in students’ vocabulary repertoires.
• Definitions are not an effective vehicle for learning word meanings. Dictionary definitions are required to be succinct due to space limitations. Students also routinely construe only one or two words from the definition as the complete definition. Four problems detract from the meanings given by dictionary definitions:
weak differentiation: dictionary definitions do not explicitly distinguish between how that word is distinct from another similar word
vague language: dictionary definitions sometimes do not impart enough information to make meaning clear
more likely misinterpretation: definitions use familiar words in unfamiliar ways, leading to a misinterpretation of meaning rather than the one intended
multiple pieces of information: some definitions give various meanings but do not recommend how the meanings should be integrated or applied
• Instead, characterize the word, such as where and when it can be used, and explain it in everyday student-understood language. Then information on its meaning can be conveyed through instructional rather than natural contexts. Instructional contexts apply to circumstances that have been developed with the objective of giving powerful clues to the meaning of the word.
• The assumption is to introduce words before a text is read, to assist in comprehension, but the most effective place to introduce word meaning may be at the moment the word is met in the text. The meaning can then be integrated into the context of use immediately, which provides strong support for comprehension. In this way, students are not called upon to put comprehension on hold as they access their memories for the word’s meaning.
Developing Vocabulary in the Later Grades • In designing vocabulary instruction, there should be frequent encounters with the words, the instruction should be “rich,” meaning that the instruction goes beyond definitional information to get students actively involved in using and thinking about word meanings and creating lots of associations among words, and there should be an extension of word use beyond the classroom.
• Especially in the secondary grade levels, vocabulary instruction should allow deeper explorations of language—how language gives meaning and how words mean what they mean. It is not just teaching synonyms; it is building understanding of language by developing knowledge of both the similarities and differences among words and the precise roles they can play. Focus on the complex dimensions of a word’s meaning and the relationships that exist to other words along some of those facets—how the word may be related to others through some components but not others. Choosing Words to Teach Developing Vocabulary in the Earliest Grades Making the Most of Natural Contexts isotope coincidence Tier One Tier Two Tier Three baby happy walk clock absurd industrious fortunate lathe peninsula refinery require benevolent occurrence sinister reality Tier Two words Students' likely expressions absurd
scary Enriching the Verbal Environment • Sequence activities for teaching words to young children:
1. Contextualize the word for its role in the story (Emphasize the sentence from the text: In the story, Lisa was reluctant to leave the Laundromat without Corduroy.)
2. Ask the students to repeat the word so that they can create a phonological representation of the word (Say the word with me.)
3. Explain the meaning of the word (Reluctant means you are not sure you want to do something.)
4. Provide examples in contexts other than the one used in the story (Someone might be reluctant to eat a food that they have never had before, or someone might be reluctant to ride a rollercoaster because it looks scary.)
5. Have children interact with examples or provide their own examples (Tell about something you would be reluctant to do. Try to use reluctant when you tell about it. You could start by saying something like “I would be reluctant to _____.”)
6. Finally, children say the word again to reinforce its phonological representation (What’s the word we’ve been talking about?)
• The teacher’s role in supporting children’s learning includes reinforcing connections between words and meanings, helping students understand how new words fit into their previous knowledge network of related words, suggesting ways to apply the word, and getting children involved in responding to peers’ comments.
Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. • Understanding contexts is essential to vocabulary understanding. Natural contexts can be especially difficult from which to construe meaning; they do not act in logical and systematic ways and vary widely in the amount of information they provide about a given word. Some problems students have had include a limited use of context, attaching the meaning of the entire context to the target word, and going past its context and creating a scenario in which a meaning might fit.
• It is recommended that instructional strategies need to focus on the process of deriving word meanings, in contrast to the product of coming up with the right meaning of an unknown word.
• Teach students an instructional sequence to approaching a new word in context that includes five components:
Read/paraphrase the text being read
Establish full meaning of the context
Provide an initial identification/rationale
Consider further possibilities (refrain from the expectation that it is necessary or even possible to find one right meaning for every unfamiliar word)
Summarize (bring together all available information to reconsider and draw conclusions about what was known about the word’s meaning)
The idea of a rich verbal environment is to have words interacting in the classroom all the time. This requires frequent use of words and opportunities to add words to students’ surroundings. Students should become aware of the worth of paying attention to words everywhere, either through an incentive activity where students can earn “points” for reporting vocabulary sightings or using vocabulary outside of school. Teachers themselves should use “mature” or “grown-up” words in their everyday language, make it visible through daily practice, and have students become accustomed to constantly hearing unfamiliar words beyond their current knowledge. This will lead to students themselves extending their expectations about language. It also encourages students to constantly question what unfamiliar words mean. Even if a teacher can’t keep track of all of them, it is valuable to “sprinkle the environment generously with words!”