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Robust Vocabulary Instruction: An Introduction

Principles of Robust Vocabulary Instruction
by

Rachel Ou

on 9 October 2013

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Transcript of Robust Vocabulary Instruction: An Introduction

What is Robust Vocabulary Instruction?
Robust Vocabulary Instruction: An Introduction
Using Robust Vocabulary Instruction
Classroom teachers can use this approach at the:

Class level (Tier 1 RTI)
small group level (Tier 2 RTI)
Individual level (Tier 3 RTI)

...across various subjects (e.g. English, History)
Selecting words to teach
General principles for introducing word meanings
Words with multiple meanings
When a word has multiple meanings, students need to be exposed to the word multiple times in many contexts to understand the nuances of the word’s meanings. Here is a mind map example of how to connect a word to its various meanings:
Why use Robust Vocabulary Instruction?
As the curriculum becomes increasingly reliant on written instruction and materials through the year levels, a developed vocabulary repertoire is required for fluent reading, which is a crucial link between reading and reading comprehension (Malatesha Joshi, 2005).

Robust vocabulary instruction has been used in the classroom with efficacious results (e.g. Lovelace & Stewart, 2009). This approach of explicitly thinking about words has been shown to improve vocabulary for students when instruction is provided as often as possible (preferably daily), with a review session revising words learned each week (Feezell, 2012).
Three-Tiers Framework
Tier One – Everyday words typically used in spoken language; generally learned independently. (e.g. ‘dog’, ‘house’, ‘party’)

Tier Two – High utility words for more mature language users. Tier Two words are more abstract than Tier One words, and can be found across a range of topics. They are used more frequently in text than conversation. (e.g. ‘contradict’, ‘emerge’, and ‘auspicious’)

Tier Three – Low frequency of use, related to specific topics and domains such as Science and Social Studies. (e.g. ‘epidermis’)
As Tier Two words have a powerful impact on verbal functioning, it would be more productive to target Tier Two words.
1. Identify Tier Two words in a given text
If a student has a less specific way of describing a word, this is often an indication that it is a Tier Two word.

e.g. Instead of using ‘merchant’, a student who has not yet acquired the use of this Tier Two word may say ‘salesperson’ instead
2. Select from a pool of words
If it is more practical to focus on a smaller number of identified Tier Two words, select those that would be most helpful in helping students understand the text.
Consider:
a) Importance and utility – Select words across a range of categories (e.g. emotion, atmosphere) that can be used in a variety of contexts

b) Conceptual understanding – Select words for which students have a general understanding of but that provide more specificity for the message that is conveyed (e.g. ‘merchant’ over ‘salesperson’)

c) Instructional potential – Select words that are multi-dimensional, with extended usages (e.g. ‘establish’ may be used in a greater variety of contexts than ‘start’ whereas ‘aid’ does not vary much from ‘help’)
a) Create a balance between number of words introduced before and during reading
Before reading:
Introduce words that may disrupt comprehension of major ideas

During reading:
Pause briefly to introduce a word’s meaning to facilitate continued comprehension of major ideas

Following reading:
Discuss words whose unfamiliarity may not be disruptive to comprehension of major ideas

b) Explore students' understanding of the word
c) Develop student-friendly meanings
Capture the essence of the word and how it is typically used, NOT a dictionary definition
(e.g. an ‘ally’ is ‘someone who helps you in achieving your goal’ VS ‘one associated with another’).

Explain the meaning in everyday language – be sure to explain the word wholly so that students get a true sense of the word
(e.g. ‘meticulous’ means ‘neat and careful’ VS simply ‘extremely careful’).
Tip!
Learner’s dictionaries (i.e. for learners of English as a second language) are helpful sources for word definitions in more accessible and everyday language
A meaning-based approach to vocabulary teaching developed by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2013)

Aims to increase the student’s interest in and awareness of words

...in order to build their vocabulary store
Which Tier to target?
Ask if the student:

1. Knows the word well, can explain it, use it
2. Knows something about the word, can relate it to a situation
3. Has seen or heard the word
4. Does not know the word
References:
Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction (2nd ed.). NY: Guilford Press.

Feezell, G. (2012). Robust vocabulary instruction in a readers’ workshop. The Reading Teacher, 66(3), 233-237. doi: 10.1002/TRTR01087

Lovelace, S., & Stewart, S. R. (2009). Effects of robust vocabulary instruction and multicultural text on the development of word knowledge among African American children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18(2), 168-179. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2008/08-0023)

Malatesha Joshi, R. (2005). Vocabulary: A critical component of comprehension. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 21(3), 209-219. doi:10.1080/10573560590949278
Context-Text Model of Language
Robust Vocabulary Instruction aligns well with the Context-Text model of language; students are encouraged to think about new vocabulary items at the Word Group level, which sits within the Text level of the model.
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