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Professional Development 12/10/14

Professional Development Workshop
December 10, 2014
Building Vocabulary for English Language Learners

Facilitors: Jenelle Fiori and Cinthia Rodriguez

1. Introduction
2. Discuss BICS/ CALP
3. Common Challenges for Content
Area Teachers
4. Where to Start: Tier Words
5. Differentiating Vocabulary for
6. Strategies for Developing
Vocabulary Skills
7. Activities Building Vocabulary
8. Review and Reflect

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Professional Development 12/10/14
Building Vocabulary for ELLs

What is Vocabulary?
-Vocabulary is the body of words used in a particular language.

Why is important for ELLs to build vocabulary?
“While without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.”
David Wilkins (1972)
-A student's maximum level of reading fluency and comprehension is determined by their
knowledge of words. This word knowledge allows students to comprehend texts. Building
vocabulary helps students in their reading comprehension by developing the ability to define a
word, the ability to recognize when to use that word, the knowledge of its multiple meanings, the
ability to decode and spell that word. While building vocabulary allows students to gain
comprehension skills, it also allows students to gain confidence in themselves and gain the tools
and skills necessary for comprehension.
2. BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills)/ CALP (Cognitive Academic Language

-Scientific research proves that vocabulary development in
children is learned indirectly through conversation among peers
(receptive vocabulary), listening to adults (receptive vocabulary)
and in speaking/ reading/ writing application (expressive

-BICS: Developmental conversational skills; usually developed
through face-to-face interaction
ie: slangs, idioms, gestures, curse words

-CALP: the use of language in academic situations
ie: vocab within the content area
3. Common Challenges for Content Area Teachers:
-We don’t have time/ It’s one more thing to put on my plate.
-Students are unable to understand the context or proper use of the word.
-Students do not have memory skills (rote memory).
-Students do not understand how to use a dictionary.
-How can I meet all student needs?
-That is not my job!
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“If mainstream teachers do not recognize this distinction between social and academic
language proficiency, they may not pay explicit attention to the level and development of
(academic) oral proficiency for ELLs. Instead, ELLs will be expected to acquire all aspects
of their L2 ‘by osmosis’”- Harper/ Jong; p 104
**Remember: an effective teacher knows his/ her students, their cultural and linguistic background.
This will allow teachers to better understanding of student mistakes, including code-switching,
prepositional use, sentence structures, etc. Thus, effective teachers integrate features of language into
the content area objectives.**
4. Where to Start: TIER WORDS
Within the English Language, there are about 171,476 words in existence. For English Language
Learners, it is best to group these words based on “tiers”. These three “tiers” of vocabulary are
grouped as follows:

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Professional Development 12/10/14
5. Differentiating Vocabulary for ELLs among the age levels
In any classroom, it is very important to differentiate to accommodate all background
experiences, cultures, languages, personalities, interests, and attitudes toward learning.
Differentiation should include background building, scaffolding, modified worksheets/materials,
visuals, tangible materials, realia, musical influences, etc. Additionally, lessons should include many
opportunities for students to utilize multiple language modalities, including speaking, listening,
reading and writing.
6. Strategies for Developing Vocabulary Skills
-Strategies to develop student vocabulary skills should work to target:


Root words
Word in Own Language
Parts of speech


Transitive/intransitive verb
Usually followed by...
Examples of usage
Word families

-Some useful, everyday strategies that can be used in any classroom may include:

! Flashcards
! Homemade dictionaries
! Simple sentences for vocabulary

Word Walls
Word(s) of the Day/Week
Hands-on Materials
Realia Association
Interactive Reader’s Notebook

! Association through

literacy/reading books
Semantic Webs
Graphic organizers
Dialogue journals
Writer Workshops
Story Maps
Personalized Word Walls

Strategy Samples:

Interactive Reader’s Binder

Literary Word Wall

Personalized Word Walls

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Research  on  Vocabulary  Instruction:  Voltaire  Redux    
James  Baumann,  Edward  Kame’emui,  and  Gwynne  Ash  
Handbook  of  Research  on  Teaching  the  English  Language  Arts,  pages  752-­‐785  
Three  Instructional  Objectives  and  Corresponding  Means  to  Achieve  Each  
 based  on  research  by  Graves,  Baker,  Baumann,  Kame’emui,  and  Ash  
1.  Teach  students  to  learn  words  independently  1.  Have  students  listen  to  live  and  recorded  oral  discourse.    
Read  to  them  and  have  them  listen  to  stories,  books,  plays,  songs,  poems,  fiction  and  nonfiction  
prose,     and  simple  conversation.    It  would  be  very  unwise  to  underestimate  the  power  of  simple  oral  
to  vocabulary.      
2.  Promote  wide  independent  reading  at  home  and  school.    Make  independent  reading  a  regular,  significant  
part     of  the  language  arts  curriculum.    We  believe  in  the  power  of  incidental  learning  of  vocabulary,  but  
incidental  word  learning  cannot  rely  on  accidental  reading.      
3.  Engage  students  in  oral  and  written  compositions  on  a  regular  and  sustained  basis.    Have  students  
themselves  in  writing  and  speech  daily.    Generative  processes  must  be  used  and  exercised  if  
vocabulary  is  to  become  expressive.      
4.  Teach  students  formally  and  directly  the  transferable  and  generalizable  vocabulary  learning  strategies  of  
morphemic  and  contextual  analysis.    It  is  likely  that  this  instruction  will  enhance  students'  ability  to  
acquire  word  meanings  incidentally  from  written  and  oral  texts.      
5.  Teach  students  to  use  regular  and  specialized  dictionaries  and  the  thesaurus.    This  instruction  may  be  
mundane,  but  skilled  and  timely  use  of  these  tools  is  essential  for  later  sustained  and  independent  
vocabulary  growth.      
6.  Provide  students  with  activities  that  allow  them  to  explore  the  richness  and  subtleties  of  word  meanings  
natural  contexts  (Scott,  Butler,  Asselin,  &  Henry,  1966),  and  provide  them  opportunities  to  make  
about  and  to  assume  responsibility  for  which  vocabulary  to  learn  (Fisher  et  al.,  1996).      
Teach  students  the  meanings  of  specific  words    
1.  Teach  synonyms  or  definitions  for  specific  words  through  rote  or  mnemonic  strategies.    There  will  be  
times     when  students  must  learn  labels  for  limited  numbers  of  words;  in  those  situations,  select  the  most  
efficient  and  cost  effective  approaches.      
2.  Provide  students  partial  knowledge  of  many  unknown  words.    Simple  definitional  strategies  or  
preexposure     prior  to  reading  or  listening  will  provide  students  a  foot-­‐in-­‐the  door  level  of  knowledge  for  
words  that     they  may  learn  more  deeply  and  fully  over  time  with  additional  subsequent  exposures.      
3.  Preteach  critical  vocabulary  necessary  to  comprehend  selections  students  read  in  basal  readers  and  in  
area  textbooks.    Deep,  rich  levels  of  word  knowledge  are  needed  in  order  to  affect  text  
and  costly  strategies  such  as  semantic  relatedness  or  definitional/context  methods  
must  be  employed  in     order  to  achieve  this  objective.      
Help  students  to  develop  an  appreciation  for  words  and  to  experience  enjoyment  and  satisfaction  in  
their  use  1.  Set  a  positive  model.    Demonstrate  how  word  play  can  be  interesting  end  enjoyable  by  
expressing  the  value  in    
possessing  a  versatile  vocabulary  and  by  demonstrating  how  word  learning  
can  be  interesting  and  fun.      
2.  Have  fun  with  words.    Play  word  games  linked  to  content  topics  and  ones  that  may  be  done  purely  for  
entertainment  and  enjoyment.      
3.  Promote  student  use  of  vocabulary  learned  at  school  in  nonschool  contexts    
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7. Activities for Building Vocabulary within the Content Area
a. Vocabulary Organizer (Good to introduction to unit vocabulary and

promotes dictionary/research skills; Grade 3+)

Directions: Use a dictionary and your Edge textbook to complete the vocabulary list below.
Define each word, make a sentence using the word, then draw they word.


Use it in a

Draw it


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b. Vocabulary Puzzle (Useful for just beginning a unit; Grade 3+)

Directions: On index large index cards, write a given
vocabulary word, its definition and an example. Cut out the
pieces and distribute to students. Allow students to go
around the room to find their teammates. Once students
have found their matches, ask each group to present their
words. Be prepared to write/paste these words on chart
paper to use as a visual.

c. Wheel of Vocabulary Fortune (Great for unit review OR introduction; All ages)

Directions: Have students spin the Wheel of Vocabulary
Fortune. Whatever the spinner lands on, the students must do
in respect to a given vocabulary word. This is great for review
and is differentiated for students who need constant
stimulation/hands on interaction.

d. Vocabulary Heads-Up (Great idea for interaction; All ages)

Directions: Give each child a list, clip board, pencil and one flash
card (on a headband). Allow students to go around the room
wearing the flashcards on their forehead. They must ask each
other one question to try to guess their vocabulary word. They
can take notes to help them remember their clues. This activity
can also be used for sight words.
e. Vocabulary Beach Ball (Tangible activity; Lower Elementary)

Directions: Write the current vocabulary words on the different panels
of a beach ball. Have students take turns tossing the ball to one another
and acting out the word that their right thumb lands on. Other students
must guess which word is being acted out.

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8. Review and Reflect
How has this PD module changed your thinking about building vocabulary for ELLs?
What are some ways you can incorporate vocabulary activities into your content area?

Baumann, J., Kame’emu, E., & Ash, G. (2003). Three Instructional Objectives and Corresponding Means to Achieve
Each. Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts, Research on Vocabulary Instruction:
Voltaire Redux, 752-785. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from
Bilash, O. (2009, May 1). BICS/CALP: Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills vs. Cognitive Academic Language
Proficiency. University ofAlberta. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from of bilash/bics calp.html
Hutton, T. (2008). Three Tiers of Vocabulary and Education. Super Duper Handy Handouts, (182). Retrieved
December 1, 2014, from
Jong, E., & Harper, C. (2005). Preparing Mainstream Teachers for English-Language Learners: Is Being a Good
Teacher Good Enough? Teacher Education Quarterly, (Spring 2005), 101-124. Retrieved December 1,
2014, from
*Also thanks to Pinterest for the many activity ideas**

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