Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Topic: Vocabulary (2)

10-second review: Step one in increasing vocabulary is pre-teaching unfamiliar vocabulary before reading assignments in all subjects.

Title: “Building Word Knowledge.” Raymond Stopper. Teaching English, How To…. Xlibris. 2004.

Why Is Pre-Teaching Unfamiliar Vocabulary Important?
A basic component of the vocabulary program has to be pre-teaching unfamiliar vocabulary words that are crucial to the meaning of the chapter or reading assignment, not only in English class but in social studies, math, science, home economics, etc. Why?

Pre-teaching key vocabulary words before reading causes students to see words they might otherwise pass over because they do not know the meanings. A consistent program of pre-teaching vocabulary before reading in every subject would increase all students’ vocabulary significantly.

Pre-teaching the words might be done in the following manner:

1. Students read the word in context and try to guess its meaning.

2. Students look up the word in the dictionary or online. They note its etymology to see if the word’s origin helps them remember the meaning of the word. For example, “ambidextrous” consists of two roots, “ambi,” meaning “both” and “dexter,” meaning “right hand.” Since the right hand is traditionally considered the skilled hand, if people are “ambidextrous,” they are skilled with both hands. (Southpaws, please don’t take offense. There is a strong prejudice against left-handers in the English language.)

3. Using 3” X 5” index cards, students write the word and its pronunciation on the blank side and, on the lined side, they write two or three key words from the dictionary definition. Write only key words in the definition. Easier to remember.

If the word has two or more meanings, I usually suggest that students write the key words from the definition that fits the context of the word in this particular sentence. They would prepare another card if they met the word in another context with a different meaning. Don’t bother writing the sentence. Too big a drag.

Filling out word cards for pre-taught vocabulary should help students form the habit of doing the same with unfamiliar words they encounter in their independent reading and their reading in other subjects.

Next: The best vocabulary textbook on the market. RayS.

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