Welcome back to those of you who read the first installment in this series on vocabulary instruction. Those of you who missed it, might want to go back to The Hidden Side of Strategic Vocabulary Instruction before reading this article.
Incidental learning of vocabulary requires support every day of the school year, even when you intentionally teach selected new words as well. Make sure you include both elements -- incidental learning support and direct instruction -- each day. The surest way to include incidental learning is to plan for it. It wont just happen:
Review Current Lesson Plans
* Identify prime places to insert incidental learning opportunities (independent reading time, discussions and teacher read alouds) every day.
* Look for snippets of 5-10 minutes or less.
* Add the additional purpose of vocabulary instruction into your plans for whole and small group discussion, read-alouds, and buddy -- or sustained -- silent reading time.
Beef Up Your Classroom Library
* Make sure you have a wide selection of books that are vocabulary-rich and fun; include both literature (fiction) and factual books (non-fiction).
* Classroom libraries are not the prime place for leveled readers.
* Engage students in skimming texts for unknown words and use that test as a guide: if a student doesnt encounter at least five unknown or Im kind of sketchy words in a chapter book (or three such words in a picture book), consider replacing the book with another one. If students love the book, make an exception to keep a balance. Remember there are many purposes for reading.
* Highlight a high-level vocabulary word on a random page and encourage students to find and define those words.
Read-Aloud Choices that Build Vocabulary
* Select a mix of read aloud books that is appealing, funny, and/or connected to content learning, for example Nightjohn, (historical fiction on the 1850s) by Gary Paulsen, to complement social studies instruction.
* Regardless of your purpose for selecting the book, review the text for vocabulary that might be unfamiliar to students.
* Flag unfamiliar words and model for students how to wonder, ponder, and think about unfamiliar terms by showing them how you do it (in a think aloud).
* Identify a strategy you can model for figuring out unknown words. Create micro-lessons (even smaller than minis) that teach that strategy. Be careful not to stray very far from the read aloud experience when inserting vocabulary asides.
Intriguing Words They Discover
* Set up a special wall or segment of your blackboard/whiteboard for Intriguing Words I Discovered Today or Our WOW -- World of Words Let students choose a name for the list.
* Ask each student to select a word he or she found during silent reading (see The Hidden Side of Strategic Vocabulary Instruction) and post the word with his or her initials (no definitions).
This list soon will grow to be too large to be useful. When that happens, begin harvesting words regularly. Youll learn more about how to do that in the next article. Stay tuned!