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TEACHING VOCABULARY SUMMARY

Teaching Vocabulary Summary


Erin Cathey
Middle Tennessee State University

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TEACHING VOCABULARY SUMMARY

Teaching Vocabulary Summary


Introduction:
Learning vocabulary is the basis for understanding any language. The ability to connect words
with meaning brings sense into our realizations of the world. As in the life story of Helen Keller, when
she first connects that the symbols for w-a-t-e-r mean the cold, wet, fluid that she feels on her hand, she
explains, That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free (Keller, 1887).
Without this realization of meaningful connections, we are not completely conscious of what is really
happening around us. Of course, in our world today there are many reasons to study vocabulary.
Specifically, some feel that, An impressive vocabulary makes an impression (H.P., 1998). You also
need to understand what you hear in order to meet your basic needs for security and safety. The need for
a rich vocabulary is primitive and complex at the same time. When teaching English language learners
(ELLs), it is important to consider the difference between a students social and academic vocabularies.
There is a huge difference between the two, but often, the ability for a student to speak and interact
socially is misjudged for a students ability to understand the language of academics and instruction.
Second language acquisition theorist, Professor J. Cummins, explains this dichotomy in vocabulary as the
difference between basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS), and cognitive academic language
proficiency (CALP), (Shoebottom, 2011). We must help teachers realize that assuming that a student is
proficient based on his or her ability to communicate socially, is a common misconception and is not a
good indicator that a student has gained academic vocabulary proficiency. Therefore, it is important to
look at assessment data to really gauge how to better teach our students vocabulary. There are many great
vocabulary teaching strategies that can be used to make vocabulary more comprehensible and easier to
recall for English language learners.

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Summary of Findings- Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Vocabulary


Teaching vocabulary entails much more than simply introducing new words to a student for the
first time. Studies have shown that students need to read independently to expand word knowledge,
receive modeled language instruction from the teacher, receive word learning strategies, and develop
word consciousness through word-play activities that enhance learning (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2006).
These components will help a student learn vocabulary more effectively.
When a student reads independently, he or she will come across new or unfamiliar words in the
text. Without outside instruction, a person is forced to look at the context around the word to figure out
the meaning. This practice may allow a student to expand his or her knowledge of vocabulary words,
especially if the student uses a dictionary to look up the word meanings. Using a dictionary further
expands understanding of vocabulary because the student may need to understand if the word is being
used as a noun, verb, or adjective. There are also many words with multiple meanings in English and the
student could also have to determine which meaning in the dictionary best fits into the context (H.P.,
1999). This is honestly one of the main strategies I used when learning Spanish to expand my academic
vocabulary.
The vocabulary of academia is one of the difficult types for students to gain and yet they are
tested in this often unfamiliar language. For this reason, it is necessary for teachers to teach content
specific vocabulary to students (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2006) to make the content comprehensible. A
student also needs word-learning strategies to help them learn new vocabulary. By focusing on suffixes,
prefixes, and root words on a regular basis, students will begin to recognize the word parts and it will
serve to help expand their understanding of unknown words (Pikulski & Templeton, 2004).
When a teacher is able to foster an appreciation of words, or word consciousness, students will
begin to see language in a new light. Famous Writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, Words, so innocent
and powerless as they are, standing in a dictionary; how potent for good and evil they become in the
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hands of one who knows how to choose and combine them (Pikulski & Templeton, 2004). There is a
certain magic behind using word-play activities that helps develop a creative and innovative way for
students to begin looking at words. Free-writing journals are a great way to encourage experimentation
with words (H.P.,1999).
Other important strategies for teaching vocabulary include repetition of the word or words, using
technology, experiential learning, a variety of assessments, and meaningful contexts in which to learn the
new words (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2006). A teacher should use many different strategies and experiences
to teach vocabulary because the use of only one is not effective (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2006).

Suggestions for Teachers:


Teachers should try to incorporate as many of the strategies mentioned above into their lessons.
They should reinforce the use of the vocabulary words in multiple contexts and as often as possible.
Teachers should use visual representations of words whenever available as well as onomatopoeic
representations that reinforce the meaning of individual words. Teachers of ELLs need to teach idioms
and expressions (Diamond & Gutlohn, 2006) and phrasal verbs because many of these phrases do not
translate literally. Teachers should link spelling and phonemic awareness to vocabulary instruction to
increase language development (Pikulski & Templeton, 2004). By incorporating these components of
learning into vocabulary instruction, students will be able to more effectively develop and expand their
academic vocabulary and will therefore have better success in the content areas.

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References:
Diamond, L. & Gutlohn, L. (2006). Teaching Vocabulary. Retrieved on Feb. 15, 2012 from:
http://www.readingrockets.org/article/9943/.
H. P. (1999). How to teach vocabulary. Retrieved from:
http://www.redshift.com/~bonajo/vocabularyapproach.htm#lessons.
Keller, H. (1887). The story of my life. Retrieved from:
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html.
Shoebottom, P. (2011). Second language acquisition - essential information. Retrieved on Feb. 18, 2012
from: http://esl.fis.edu/teachers/support/cummin.htm.
Pikulski, J. & Templeton, S. (2004). Teaching and developing vocabulary: key to long-term reading
success. Retrieved on Feb 17, 2012 from:
http://www.eduplace.com/marketing/nc/pdf/author_pages.pdf .

MTSU Honor Statement


This assignment/assessment was solely written by me. In no way have I plagiarized (represented the
work of another as my own) or otherwise violated the copyright laws and academic conventions of fair
use. I know that violations of this policy may result in my being dismissed from Middle Tennessee State
University and/or appropriate legal action being taken against me.
Signed: Erin B. Cathey

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