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    Isabel Beck's work-vocabulary development
    By Risa

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    LindaR and 'teach & learn'...
    As you might guess, a week long training held waaaaaay too much information to briefly put into words. As a matter of fact, I came out with my head swimming with information. Even now, I'm struggling to encapsulate a few of the ideas I'm implementing.

    (1) Isabel Beck (along with her co-writers) tells how vocabulary words can be categorized into three tiers. I found these web pages that give a more thorough explanation of Tiers. Some of them duplicate the information to a greater or lesser extent, but look through these to see what you can take from them:
    Choosing Words to Teach (Excerpt from Beck's Book-Ch. 2)
    http://www.fcoe.net/ela/pdf/beck8.pdf

    What kinds of words are most important to teach?
    http://www.ltl.appstate.edu/reading_resources/vocabulary_mini-lesson.htm

    Fully grasping Tier 2 words
    http://www.weac.org/News/2004-05/april05/read.htm

    Effective Vocabulary Instruction (See slides 14-19 for Beck's Info)
    PowerPoint made into a PDF file
    http://www.coe.usu.edu/ecc/images/pdf/presentations/vocabularyinstruction.pdf

    Some of the concepts that stayed with me (without going back to my notes):
    -Just having students look up words in a dictionary won't work to expand vocabulary. Dictionaries are intended to give succinct definitions in a very small amount of space. Students may often get more confused by turning to a dictionary when they have no previous connection with the word. (We use dictionaries to verify our ideas or even as a last resort)
    -Publishers often include 'Tier 1' words in their vocabulary lists. Teachers should choose Tier 2 words to teach.
    -Use a wide variety of activities (such as those listed on the web pages listed above) to help students develop a thorough understanding of the words.

    I explained the concept of 'academic language' as well as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 words to my students. I told them that our goal is to use more Tier 2 words in our daily conversations. Then, I explained how we would be implementing 'Word of the Day'. (I am choosing the words from their theme assessments as well as from the academic language we use on our state assessments.)
    (1) I write the word on the board.
    (2) We say it.
    (3) I use it in context of several different sentences.
    (4) We make a 'Tree Map' to list 'What it is'(Synonyms), 'What it isn't' (Antonyms) and 'Other forms' of the word.
    (5) Students try using the word in context.
    (6) I write one of their sentences with the word in context under the tree map. (I also use the term 'context' when I want them to use the word in a sentence: "Who can use that word in context?" "Give me an example of that work in context.")

    The 'fun' part: THE CHALLENGE
    Teacher vs the Students. Who can correctly use the term in context throughout the day? Each time one of us used the word, we added a tally mark.
    For the word, 'satisfaction', (satisfy, satisfied, satisfying) I used the word, or one of its forms, 23 times that day. My students used it 48 times! (I have to admit, sometimes they were a bit shaky in their usage, but if it was 'passable' I let it go. The fact is, they were eagerly trying to use the word ALL DAY! We kept integrating previously used Words of the Day, into our conversation, so when the time was right, I led them to understand the fine differences in their usage. Bit by bit, they truly have been starting to use the words correctly.) The challenge lasted for the day, but since we had the words on chart paper, we kept adding tally marks as they are used during the week.
    ---------------------------------------------
    (Beck also referred to the fact that students don't always use the synonyms properly, so this fit in perfectly with what we PT members were discussing in the summer.)

    For words with 'semantic degrees' we started out with a 'circle map' and just brainstormed all the ways to say 'happy'. Then I explained that words have very slight levels of meaning. I used a thermometer to explain the degrees or the intensity. As a group we tried ranking the words from least to most. I placed them along side the thermometer as they were ranked by the class. I also used stair steps and placed each word on a step. While discussing the word happy (glad, happy, cheerful, eager, thrilled, excited,) I also gave them 'elated' and 'ecstatic'. Next, we went into the varying degrees of 'rain' because we are working on a weather unit. (mist, drizzle, shower, rain, downpour)I place those on alongside a thermometer and on stair steps. I asked them which they preferred to help them remember the degrees of intensity. They came to a consensus that the stairs were most helpful for remembering the words, but that it helped to use the thermometer to remember the intensity concept. (Remember, these are 95 percent EL's!) So... we are now recording these words in our vocabulary notebooks on 'stairs', highlighting the 'Tier 1' word. Maybe I can show what this looked like, here... (We started our 'stairs' with the highest degrees just because it's easier to think ahead to how to space the words on the lines.)

    -----------
    downpour |----
    ..............rain |-----
    .................shower |----
    ........................drizzle |---
    ...............................mist |

    ---------
    ecstatic |------
    ...........elated |------
    ...................excited |-------
    ...............................thrilled |-----
    ........................................eager |--------
    ..................................................cheerful |-------
    ..............................................................happy |-----
    ..........................................................................glad |

    (Wow! I sure spent a long time on this post! Unfortunately (or not), I can't stay to elaborate more, but I'll add more as time permits.)

    Oh! I also am trying to remember to keep a running list of Academic Language we use in the classroom. Each time we use a term, I add it to the list, and a 'list monitor' adds a tally mark each time we use it.

    Sorry to have made this so long, but this work required detailed explanations... :s) (Please excuse the typos. I've already caught about 10 of them!)

    View the original thread this idea was posted on



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