Ways to make academic vocabulary stick

Source: Making academic vocabulary stick.

Our students are vocabulary poor.

How often do we teach vocabulary?
How often do we assign vocabulary?
(we often assigned vocabulary, tested them at the end of the week – did they ever use it in their writing?)

Students lose time on tests, trying to decode words. Filling up their working memory.
Middle class students learn 5000 words per year, economically disadvantaged students up to 3000.

3 tiers of vocabulary:
Tier 1 – Students come to school with these words. Common daily use words. Not all students have the same words.
Tier 2 – Academic words used in most content areas, and in writing. They need to be explicitly taught.
Tier 3 – Content specific words. Usually defined in context, or in a glossary.

Students can learn 300 words per year though direct instruction – but will learn about 3000 words per year through academic conversation and reading.
60 words per subject per year. (300 words across the curriculum) Around 8-10 words per week.

How do kids learn vocabulary?

Tier 2 Words
Begin with ‘high frequency’ critical terms.

Into memory:
Short term
Long term memory – 5 systems:
Motor procedural – when you drive your car. Your car may automatically take you to school on Sat – this is an automatic routine!
Non-motor procedural – automatic memory process – this is where we want vocabulary!
Decoding while reading
Multiplication tables

Cognitive dissidence task – saying words, then saying the colour of the words.   (example of automatic)

Stages of getting words into our memory:

  1. Encoding – introduce and find meaning
    1. Pique interest, strong connection, use multiple memory pathways
    2. Prime their brain – word walls, bulletin board, words for this unit.
  2. Storage – rehearsals and engagements with the words
    1. Create a network path – rehearsal, exit card, write a definition
  3. Retrieval – students know the words when they can retrieve them



Strategy 23 – In the bag

  • Bring a plain bag – have students sign it.
  • Cut index cards into small sizes and add to bag.
  • When they have learned the words, shake the bag – how many words have they learned?
  • Exit slilps, entry tasks – shout out definition, synonyms, antonyms.

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