What is academic vocabulary?
Academic vocabulary is the vocabulary critical to understanding the concepts of the content taught in schools. In identifying academic vocabulary not all terms are of equal importance. Some terms are critically important. Some terms are useful but not critical. Some terms are interesting but not useful.
Why teach academic vocabulary?
· The same student placing at the 50th percentile in reading comprehension, with no direct vocabulary instruction, placed at the 83rd percentile when provided specific instruction in academic vocabulary (Stahl and Fairbanks, 1986).
· Vocabulary knowledge is a significant and constant predictor of overall reading comprehension irrespective of grade level” Yonanoff, et al, 2005.
· An abundance of research supports the connections between vocabulary, particularly academic vocabulary and reading comprehension”- Iman, 2009.
How should academic vocabulary be taught?
The process of teaching academic vocabulary includes six steps. The focus of steps 1-3 is on introducing new terms and steps 4-6 offer ways to review the terms providing students with a deeper insights.
1. Provide the students an explanation, description (look like, smell like, sound like, feel like, taste like), examples and non-examples of the new term. If working with ELL students the teacher can first provide the description in the native language and a visual representation of the word.
2. Ask students to write an explanation in their own words. ELL students may write their definition in their native language.
3. Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, analogy, metaphor, or graphic of the term. This activity is critical for ELL students.
4. Engage students every other week in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms. ACTIVE
5. Every other week ask students to discuss the terms with one another. SOCIAL
6. Once a week involve students in games that allow them to play with the terms. GAME