+ Narrowing the Vocabulary Gap: How to Help the Youngest Learners

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From Dr. Michael Graves (per Kevin Feldman’s newsletter):  here is a method to help build vocabulary in little kids.

Both observations of mothers reading to their young children, and studies with preschool and primary grade students, have repeatedly revealed a successful method of combining reading aloud with building of word knowledge.  It has been named  both “interactive oral reading” and “shared book reading.”

The method consists of  (first) selecting a number of short books, each containing 20 or so words that are not likely to be in your students’ vocabularies.  Then (second) working with each book over a five day cycle in the following way.

  • On day one, perhaps Monday, you will read the book once without stopping to define any words.
  • On days two, three and four, read it three more times.  Each time, briefly define about six unknown words as they come up in the reading.  This means that over the three-day period, you define about 20 words.
  • On the fifth day, review each of the 20 or so words you have talked about.  But (keeping the same meaning) put them in a different context.

Children with impoverished vocabularies need to add a large number of words to their oral vocabularies, since background vocabulary is a huge factor when learning new material in higher grades.

Research continues to document a key contribution of print skills to early literacy.   But vocabulary and other language skills also provide an important foundation. 

In a study of several hundred low-income students in 16 urban schools, the best predictor of reading comprehension by second and third grades was vocabulary.

Again: the predictive power of early print-related and phonemic awareness skills diminished over time — but vocabulary scores remained an important predictor.

These results support an early emphasis on developing meaning skills.

Thanks to  Kevin Feldman, whose newsletter can be subscribed to at literacy@lists.scoe.org. Read Dr. Graves’s post at http://vocablog-plc.blogspot.com/ .  Feldman also recommends Susan Ebbers’s Vocabulogic blog at http://vocablog-plc.blogspot.com/ .

Feldman adds that “TV can actually help IF it is of high quality.”  He suggests

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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