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Introducing New Vocabulary

I came across a great article on teaching vocabulary from Early Childhood Education Journal while working on writing lesson cards for two new Literacy Wings Kits (coming in 2011). The article is called Supporting Young Children’s Vocabulary Growth: The Challenges, the Benefits, and Evidence-Based Strategies by Mary Renck Jalongo and Michelle J. Sobolak. I have been thinking about how important it is to consider which words will be challenging in text and in what ways new vocabulary should be introduced while a new book is introduced.

We can't just assume that through reading and daily classroom activities students’ vocabulary will increase. Some students will need extra focus on vocabulary to help them catch up to their peers, especially children who do not get the extra vocabulary boost they need at home. According to research cited by Jalongo and Sobolak, data suggests that

. . . a child in a family from high socioeconomic status consistently received three times more experience with language and general interaction than did a child from a family on welfare. . . . The quality of speech heard in the home of families on public assistance was also less than that of working-class and high socioeconomic households.

The article helped me think more about the relationship of comprehension to vocabulary knowledge and to find useful strategies for increasing children's vocabulary, particularly for second language learners and young new readers with a limited vocabulary. But it is important to remember that “a literacy curriculum that is grounded in the research is not only for special populations, however. Vocabulary development can have a positive effect on the literacy growth of all students.” I recommend reading the article to help inform your classroom strategies.

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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