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The Essentials of Vocabulary

What's in a word?

Kat Williams

on 11 December 2013

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Transcript of The Essentials of Vocabulary

What's in a Word?
More than a definition, possessing a strong vocabulary can enable a student to express themselves in ways they hadn't imagined. Have you ever tried to find the right word to convey what you were feeling? One great reason to build that word base
According to Greenwood & Flanigan (2007), 90% of the words a student gains over the course of a year are acquired through "incidental contact".

Don't get caught using a malaprop!

The most basic words comprise Tier 1. These are common, everyday words that a person may use several times in the course of a conversation. Examples include eat, friend, drive, time. These words are assimilated into a person's vocabulary by simple, language acquisition starting when a person begins learning to speak (Beck, 2002).
How Do We Gauge Which Words to Teach?
This can be an overwhelming question for teachers. Educators Beck, McKeown and Kucan have developed a three tier system to assist with this difficult task.
Introducing...Tier One
...and Tier Two
Tier two words are common, "high-utility" words, however, the majority of students will need assistance clarifying their definitions. Guess the examples used in this sentence!
...And finally...Tier Three
Tier three words are not often used, are specific to subject or content matter, such as scientific or historical terms, unless, of course, you are a logophile. In fact, the word logophile is so uncommonly used, that you may not even find it in a dictionary!
Flanigan and Greenwood take the Beck Three Tier model one step further, scaffolding four levels in "categorizing words for content area vocabulary instruction" (Flanigan, 2007).
Level 1
"Critical 'Before' Words"
Students must know the definitions of certain words before lessons involving text. These 'before' words are crucial in aiding the students to comprehend text.
Tagged as"Foot-in-the-door", level two comprises words that require a student's basic understanding.
Level Two
Level Three
"After" words - words that students connect to, perhaps from previous exposure or as as they are reading, and can later look up in a dictionary.
Level Four
Described as words "not to teach", level four consists of words students have prior knowledge of. They are easily defined by the students as they read text in context, although these words may not be relevant to the text itself. These are "known words".
The word "exposure" may connect to "photo", which may further connect to something visual, however, there are three complete definitions of the word that all connect to something other than photography.
Note the quote. This next part is specific to content area instruction.
For example, in this passage, level four words might be:
'text, student, words'.
Fun resources - Get to know your students (and their vocabulary) through New Media Literacies

In fact, Philippot tells us that a student's reading vocabulary may reach 50,000 words by the time they finish high-school. However, even though students learn these words, will they retain their meaning and will they use them? (Philippot, 2009).
Flanigan et al suggest a strategy they call "It's All Greek to Me".
Using a "root web", students construct meaningful knowledge and hopefully vocabulary retention, by utilizing this graphic organizer.
*In the textbook, "Content Area Reading", Appendix B includes affixes. This is a great tool to have on hand for this exercise (Vacca, 2011).
To build a student's vocabulary, using graphic organizers are great ways to not only help your students keep track of their learning, but to assess what words they know and are using in academic writing and presentations.

Or my favorite
Create "word of the day' activities utilizing these vocabulary-building specific websites. Students can access through apps and social media sites.
The Urban Dictionary
Merriam-Webster offers a daily ten word vocabulary quiz that you can post to FaceBook, Twitter, Pintrest or go old school and email your teacher!
The New York Times' Learning Network incorporates their word of day by citing how many articles it appears in, and includes hyperlinks. Students can combine a current event activity with vocabulary building and share their findings while using new words with their friends on Google +.
There are dozens of vocabulary building activites, make it fun ...
Like creating one-take vocabvids following Bridget Dalton's fabulous lesson plan on
the Literacy Beat website:
Beck, I. M. (2002). Bringing words to life. New York, NY:
The Guilford Press.

Dalton, B. (2011, May 3). Literacy Beat. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from www.Literacybeat.com: http://literacybeat.com/2011/05/03/vocabvid-stories-developing-vocabulary-depth-and-breadth-through-live-action-video/

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2013). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: http://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/

Flanigan, K. T. (2012, October). What's in a word? Using content vocabulary to generate growth in general academic vocabulary knowledge. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy , 133, 134.

Philippot, R. &. (2009). Fostering Comprehension in English Classes. New York, NY: The Guildford Press.

The New York Times. (2013). The Learning Network: Teaching & Learning With the New York Times. (The New York Times Company) Retrieved October 18, 2013, from Word of the Day: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/test-yourself-uproarious/?_r=0

The Urban Dictionary. (2013). http://www.urbandictionary.com. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from The Urban Dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=congressing&defid=7099619

Vacca, R. T. (2011). Content area reading: literacy and learning across the curriculum. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Have dictionaries available in class
Model words and provide clear definitions for students
Provide challenging quizzes and meaningful activities
Prompt word choices so that students can associate through synonyms
Use visuals
Provide reading opportunities that engage students in vocabulary building
hands on strategies...
“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
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