In chapter 10, Gunning states that vocabulary deficiency is the primary cause of academic failure for disadvantaged students in grades 3-12. This just saddened me. Fortunately, there is a solution. These children have simply not acquired as many words because they haven’t had the opportunity to read as much. Imagine being thrown into a book when you don’t read at all at home. How would you feel looking at the foreign words on the page? That’s how the kids feel, and teachers need to immerse them and really help them out.
There are four different stages of word knowledge:
- I never saw it before.
- I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know what it means.
- I recognize it in context—it has something to do with…
- I know it.
When assessing a child, you must know what stage they are at in order to get an accurate reading. There are also some assessments that can help you decipher which level they are at. It is also important that you teach only what the children need to know. If they already know something, there is no need to teach it again. This could cause them to tune out, and really miss the important stuff!
Vocabulary is a HUGE part of any curriculum, and I think it is something that I will certainly emphasize in my classroom someday. One way to help struggling kids is to have a class word wall for everyone. If someone is stumped by a word, we can add it to the word wall, talk about it, and figure out how to spell it or what it means. It’s a great way to make these words readily available for kids to use on a day to day basis.
When working individually with students, it’s important to make goals with them. Give them something to work towards. Some kids need that sort of motivation to really get them going, whether it’s intrinsic or extrinsic. As I mentioned before, it’s also important to build off of what they already know. Relate to the students’ lives and make them interested. Make it memorable for them. Things will stick better when there is interest involved. Graphic organizers of all kinds can also be helpful when building vocabulary. Finally, there is no better way to increase vocabulary than by immersing the students in text. The more they experience it, the easier it will come as well. Keep in mind the best interest of the students, and make sure you still make it interesting and fun! There is no reason any child should fail anything.