Best Practices for Vocabulary Instruction in the Middle School Classroom
This workshop will expand participants’ understanding of vocabulary development and the instructional techniques that are effective in helping students in grades six through eight expand their meaning vocabularies. Participants will learn how to assess students’ vocabulary knowledge and select words from a text that are most useful for instruction, including those with high-frequency Greek and Latin word parts. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to explore online resources for vocabulary development and assess their own current vocabulary teaching strategies. Packed with practical tips and resources, this workshop will appeal to educators who are interested in learning new ways to extend their students’ knowledge of words.
This is an introductory workshop for teachers, technology specialists, curriculum specialists, professional development specialists, or other school personnel. Participants are expected to have regular access to computers, and proficiency with email and current web-browsers.
This workshop will enable participants to:
Deepen their understanding of vocabulary development
Deepen their understanding of levels of vocabulary knowledge
Assess students’ levels of vocabulary knowledge
Select appropriate words from text for instruction purposes
Plan and implement strategies for direct instruction of vocabulary words
Evaluate Web sites designed for vocabulary building
Analyze the ways in which technology can be used to foster students’ vocabulary development
Note: The participant will need to work with a student in grades 6-8 in Sessions 1 and 4. If they are not currently teaching, they should locate a suitable student such as a neighbor's child. Additionally, if the choose Option A for the final project, the will need to teach the lesson they develop to a small group or full class.
Assessment and Course Requirements
This workshop is divided into six one-week sessions, each of which includes readings, an activity, and an online discussion among workshop participants. The time for completing each session is estimated to be four to five hours. The time for completing each session is estimated to be four to five hours. Participants are expected to be engaged in course activities for approximately 30 hours during the six-session course.
As a final product, participants will have the option of either teaching a lesson they developed in an earlier session and reflecting on the experience or creating an action plan for improving vocabulary instruction in their own classrooms.
Students will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their discussion board participation. Students are required to post a minimum of two substantial postings each session, including one that begins a new thread and one that responds to an existing thread. Postings that begin new threads will be reviewed based on their relevance, demonstrated understanding of course concepts, examples cited, and overall quality. Postings that respond to other students will be evaluated on relevance, degree to which they extend the discussion, and tone.
Session One: Understanding Vocabulary
In this session, participants will learn about the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. In addition, participants will learn about different levels of vocabulary knowledge and consider what it means to “know” a word. Participants will complete two readings about research related to vocabulary instruction, complete an activity designed to help them examine a student’s vocabulary knowledge, and share their observations about vocabulary instruction in grades 6-8 with fellow participants.
Session Two: Selecting Words for Instruction
In this session, participants will examine in depth and apply a specific set of criteria for selecting words for study. Participants will complete a reading that outlines a process for choosing high-utility words most appropriate for instruction and then apply this process in an activity in which they select words from a piece of text they are planning on using in their classroom. Participants will also complete another reading that outlines six principles of effective vocabulary instruction. Participants will then reflect on the advantages and challenges of selecting words for study in a discussion with fellow participants.
Session Three: Techniques for Direct Instruction
This session will emphasize ways in which teachers can provide direct vocabulary instruction to students. In this session, participants will complete readings that describe a number of strategies for direct instruction. In addition, participants will view video of one technique, List-Group-Label, in a science classroom. Participants will apply their knowledge about direct instruction to develop a lesson plan using Tier Two words previously identified in Session 2. Finally, they will discuss ways in which English Language Arts and content area teachers may collaborate to provide students with rich vocabulary instruction across the curriculum.
Session Four: Using Technology to Enhance Vocabulary Learning
In this session, participants will explore the role that technology can play in fostering students’ meaning vocabulary in grades 6-8. Participants will complete a reading about this topic and explore a variety of vocabulary-building Web sites. Participants will select one Web site and then explore it with at least one student. Using criteria for quality vocabulary instruction, they will evaluate the Web site and discuss ways in which technology may be used to foster students’ vocabulary knowledge with fellow participants.
Session Five: Creating a Comprehensive Vocabulary Program
In this session, participants will consider the elements of a comprehensive, high-quality vocabulary program in the classroom. They will complete a reading about how two teachers went about creating a program for struggling readers. They will also read a transcript of an interview in which a sixth grade teacher discusses the ways in which she approaches her comprehensive vocabulary program. Finally, participants will evaluate their own vocabulary instruction and discuss their observations with fellow participants.
Session Six: Putting it All Together
In their final session, participants will complete one of two options for their final project: teaching a direct instruction lesson plan from Session 3 and reflecting on the lesson or creating an action plan to change their vocabulary program.
Complete the final project and post it in the Discussion Board within the first few days of this session
Option A: Direct Instruction Lesson
Using the lesson plan template to guide the, design a lesson plan that uses direct instruction to teach 5-7 Tier Two words. (Session 3)
Teach their lesson to a small group of students or to their entire class. (Sessions 3-5)
Reflect on their lesson by responding to the following questions:
What were the strengths of the lesson? What went well?
What were the weak points? What didn’t go well?
How would they change this lesson if they were to teach it again?
What other strategies could they have used to teach the words the chose?
4. Post completed lesson plans to the Discussion Board.
Option B: Revising Their Vocabulary Program
Review the notes and reflections on the vocabulary program that they completed in Session 5.
Using the action plan template as a guide, develop an action plan in which the outline specific changes they intend to make in their vocabulary program based on the work they completed in this workshop.
Post their completed action plan to the Discussion