Following on from our previous post about literacy, a snippet of which is below, this blog attempts to answer the question of how we can improve students’ vocabulary.
|This means that for a student bought up in a word-rich environment, he not only hath, but will go on to exponentially receive in abundance.|
|This For a child bought up in word-poor environment, he not only hath not, but further opportunities for development will be diminished.|
How can we address this? What can we do to improve our students vocabulary?
Vocabulary is divided into three tiers:
Tier 1 vocabulary is the vocabulary that all students have and is high frequency in speech:
table, chair, happy, fair
Tier 2 vocabulary is more sophisticated and is high frequency in writing:
gregarious, beneficial, required, maintain, appreciative*
Tier 3 vocabulary is domain specific:
osmosis, trigonometry, onomatopoeia
We all know tier three vocabulary needs addressing, so we explicitly teach it. But what about tier 2 vocabulary? It is this tier of vocabulary that students are frequently lacking.
This leads to an odd situation. In a recent class, I had a group of students who could all, dutifully and correctly, identify, explain and pronounce the subject keywords of personification¯ and conjunction¯. However, when I suggested a particular poem gave expression to the futility of war¯, the students looked at me blankly: they didn't understand the Tier 2 word futility.
Being word-poor in Tier 2 vocabulary hampers progress in a number of ways. It hinders comprehension of more complex texts and speech. Furthermore, in so far as thoughts are dependent on words, it hinders students ability to express themselves in a more sophisticated, nuanced, and academic manner.
|So having just congratulated ourselves on teaching tier 3 vocabulary, it is time to consider how we can develop tier 2 vocabulary in our students. The result of this will be that even to whosever hath not¯ it shall not be taken away. Or to rephrase in tier 2 vocabulary: Even for whosoever does not possess it shall not be removed.|
In our final post we explore some quick and easy things you can start doing right away to improve vocabulary.